Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hoax-Slayer

The internet contains a wealth of information. As the usual tagline says, “everything is at the tip of your fingertips”. You can literally type a word in the google, click enter and feast on the array of hits that will come up.

However, one can’t help but wonder about the quality of the information that can be derived from the internet.

My very recent online discovery is this website that collates internet hoaxes (usually perpetrated through email) and separates the real from the bogus ones. Just seeing the list of hoaxes on the sidebar made me shake my head – and these were just the general categories. As I clicked on the different links, I saw some that I have received in my own inbox – about viruses, chain letters, you’ve-won-millions-of-moolah-scams and even those warnings against modus operandi of criminal minds that actually made me a trifle scared.

This made me think about filtration of information from the internet. Is there a way for the internet to filter its information so that users will receive only those that are real? If there is, do we want this kind of innovation? Personally, I think there’s value to human discernment and more so, to its exercise by receipt of the intermittent hoax in your email.

Me in Media

A few months ago, I read that today’s youth are members of the Me Generation (Yes, Generation X finally grew up). In this new society, individuality is the rule. They have their own opinion and they’re not afraid to post them. Fashion is about finding that online shop that carry unique t-shirts. Music is not conventional but of the distinct sounds of indie bands. The so-called Me Generation is the product of e-media, the merging worlds of technology, the internet and traditional media. While the culture of the previous generation was formed by what was in the radio and television, the Me Generation create their own playlist and download the show they want. They have on-demand supply of their wants – a personalized media powered by the internet. What more, their personalized media can be shared, if they choose to, with the rest of the world. Yes, mainstream still exist, but minestream has become too numerous to disregard. Welcome to the new world order.

Photobucket Marauders!!!

I just don't understand why I can't bring myself to post my pictures online even for my friends. Well, I just found out recently the benefits of not posting any pictures on MySpace, Photobucket etc. I saw a feature recently about a number of companies stealing other people's pictures to save on their ad campaign! Well, this is not really a new "cyber-crime" since a lot of complaints have already surfaced before about thieves who use the content of other people's blog for profit. But plagiarizing another person's work is one thing; using their faces in a deodorant ad is quite different. Imagine seeing yourself as a "before" shot of a complete stranger... Spine-chilling!

Constructive notice

My childhood best friend got married 2 months ago. I wasn’t invited. I knew about it because I checked my Friendster and hers was updated – a new primary photo and new civil status. I also viewed her newly uploaded folder entitled “Wedding.”
Although I haven’t seen nor spoken to her for more than 10 years, I still felt betrayed for not being invited and informed. We live 5 villages apart and there’s always the cell phone. Do I really have to find out via Friendster?
**
My friend Rose has a boyfriend named Miguel. They have been going out for some time but their relationship had been on the rocks lately, on the rumors that Miguel is cheating on Rose. Miguel was denying it, claiming he and the girl were just friends. After a big fight, they stopped talking to each other, without breaking up.
After a few days of not talking, Rose checked her Friendster to blog about her life, only to discover that she no longer has a boyfriend. Miguel’s status 24 hours ago is “Single.”
**
Friendster is really a great way to find out how the world is getting on without us. It is not as if we could tell our friends to inform us properly before they make changes in their lives.
Perhaps I should file a case against my college debtors and post a shout out saying “To (name), just letting you know I am suing you in the MTC of Cainta. XOXO” How’s that for notice? Maybe that would teach them.

Letting Go

Martin Tytell was a man who had a love affair with typewriters. He talked to them and handled them with care. He used his Adlers, Remingtons, and Smith-Coronas (typewriter brands) until the print on the keys were faded. He had such an expertise with them that he was able to do with typewriters what the Japanese are able to do with paper origami. He could make musical notations, make reverse carriages and type in Arabic and Hebrew. During the WWII he was able to customise typewriters for the military. Mr. Tytell's story leads one to realize that our attachment to our Macs, HPs, Compaqs or Dells is but an incident of our human tendencies to get too involved - even with inanimate objects. We form such a bond with our things that we find it hard to accept when it's time to replace them. Change - whether from antiquity to technology or from technology to another technology is dreaded yet anticipated. When the affair is over, we are thankful for what has been and though we may not admit it, we are eager of what's to come- knowing that it will be different and hopefully better than what was.

Manual Manual Manual

As a law student, I have been the recipient of a lot of advice. Read cases in the original, don't cram, study, study, study.
For most professors, nothing beats their method of writing their own digests down. There is something about doing it in your own handwriting that helps stick the case into your mind.
It doesn't stop there. As a lawyer, or as an employee, you must know how to use a typewriter. When the electricity is out and you need to submit a pleading or a report tomorrow, you will still be able to churn out that paper in time.

Fairy Tale #1

Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to pretend she was a spy. Crouched betwixt the folds of darkness, our heroine lay: quiet, dangerous, and desperately in need of a toilet.

One day, she came out of the darkness when she fell in love with a handsome boy, Boy, who likewise fell in love with her, or so he said. They lived in relative peace and harmony, until that fateful day when the wannabe-spy girl asked what Boy’s Friendster password was. We will never know what Boy’s reasons were, but he gave her the password, albeit with slight hesitation. Lo and behold, when Pandora’s (in)box was opened, it was not Hope that lay at the bottom, but Gloria in her naked .jpg glory, and some romantic e-mails.

The story of the incident that followed need not be told. Suffice it to say that it involved throwing around a lot of F-words such as Friendster, fork and flamethrower.

The moral of the story is: Don’t pretend to be a spy.

Pretend to be an assassin instead.

A! Alligator begins with A!

For the nth time, her mom thanked technology.
Sashi commenced her pounding on the keys randomly.
“B!” (A tiny voice echoes, “B”.)
“Bear, begins with B!”
(“B”, there the echo goes again.)

The pounding continue until her favorite letter appeared.
O! Ostrich begins with O!
As a consequence, any letter “O” amidst other Greek (to her) symbols
would never escape her confident exclaims of, “O!”
Then “R” and “A” joined her list.
“And to think, she’s barely 22 months old”, her mom proudly thinks.

(Insistent pounding in the background is heard.)
P! Penguin begins with………….
(Voice fades away.)

“Isn’t life simply beautiful?”, someone whispers,
as the whisperer slowly and blissfully dozed off.
Or was it me?

It's Mine, ALL MINE!!!

Buying music has had its day. So has renting movies. I can still remember a time when, after hitting the supermarket, weekend thrills included renting a VHS tape at Video Bug. While I'm not even sure that renting movies was a legitimate enterprise, back then, there was a kind of value system that went with the practice—you had to pay for something and return it on time. And if one was truly benevolent, one could accommodate the request on the tape's back flap please rewind. Many people these days seem to think that if you can download it, it's yours. That notion that if I can find it online, it's mine—in fact, the harder it is to download, the more it is mine, the more right I have to it. Truth is, many of these things on the Internet is copyrighted material, only it's been cycled out so many times that it became public domain—eventually. And with the almost total anonymity of surfing, who cares? Well, the people whose hard work went into these "freebies", of course, but aside from them—everyone loves the freedom of the Internet. It's like having an invisibility cloak, taking and doing what you want. I believe that technology is a mirror that reflects us and what we value. So I wonder what all this wanton taking, getting, and owning—says about us.

Internet Heroin

I am going to be writing two blog entries tonight because of a unique online phenomenon known as World of Warcraft, the most prominent example of a MMORPG, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. For the last two weeks, ever since the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, I have been sleepwalking through my real life, tired and restless. And thus, for the last two weeks, i have been putting a lot of things off, like writing blogs for my electives, all of which seem to require me to write them. But it's okay really, it's a good excuse to log out my level 80 undead rogue and do something else. But it seems like every second i'm not logged on is a second wasted, a second that could have been spent questing to increase my Ebon Blade rep, or farming Borean leather to get my Leatherworking skill to 440 which, if you think about it, is absolutely essential because it allows me to get three good pre-raid epic items virtually free.

I guess this just goes to show how mesmerized i am by the process of levelling a character then gearing him up. The ego-trip satisfaction of PWNING other people in BG PVP action or topping the DPS charts. So, in the end, i suppose that the appeal of these things is the desire for greater and greater power, which is what, at their core, most RPGs are structured to provide. But the thing is that, since it massively multiplayer, the process becomes a massive rat race, everyone racing to be the first and the strongest which, if i think about it, reminds me uneasily of the real world.

Which is probably also why i got burned out a few months back and stopped playing. But that's a fodder for another blog post i guess.

digital preservation

I just finished reading issue #78 of the highly acclaimed Fables comic book series from DC’s Vertigo Studios. I’ve followed the series from issue #1 – but I didn’t buy a single comic book. While I would love to support the writers and artists responsible for my favorite graphic novels, my sentiments on the matter fall in the face of more practical considerations. Comic book collecting is an expensive hobby in the Philippines – the market is so small that the goods are always overpriced, even when you can find the books you want. And the way comic books are released these days doesn’t help the situation; take Marvel’s Civil War series, a “crossover event” which unfolds in multiple issues of 50 different comic books. There is simply no way that I can afford all that, even assuming these books were available in this country.

And so I turn to “scans”; these are available online, downloadable without charge and often comprehensive in their selections. While people have no doubt been scanning their comic books ever since scanner technology became commonplace, these scans used to be available only to the few who knew where these scans could be found on the web. Thanks to the synergy of a few relatively recent technologies (Google search, P2P software), comic scans are now available to all. There are groups, like DCP (Digital Comics Preservation), who systematically scan comic books and make them available online. I must say, though, that reading scans on a monitor is a poor substitute for having a real comic book between your hands. But, as a poor Filipino comic book fan, I make do with what I can get.

Loss of the Right to Privacy as a Trade-off

We all know how ICT has made the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry possible, giving tens of thousands of Filipinos jobs in call centers all over the Philippines. While we are familiar with the many blessings ICT has bestowed upon us, I can’t help but wonder that there is surely a sacrifice that we had to make somewhere along the way.

One such sacrifice, I discovered, is the loss of the right to privacy, particularly in the workplace. This discovery was made in my days as a call center agent, when the company I worked for installed software that would allow management to record and monitor every stroke of the keyboard and every click of the mouse of every desktop computer in the office. Although management had assured us that the data gathered by the software would only be used to evaluate our performance and identify possible areas for improvement, I could not help but feel wary of the other uses of such an application. I don’t know if it’s just my nature to be suspicious, but it can’t escape my attention that the potential for abuse is huge, especially in the wrong hands.

Why I continue buying books

Even though e-books have been readily available in the Internet for a while now, I still don’t ‘dig’ it. I understand that reading e-books is relatively cheaper, environment-friendly and convenient than buying books. It also minimizes clutter in your house.

My apprehension is not totally unfounded. In fact, I’ve tried reading e-books during the summer. This experience actually strengthened my belief that books still rule. Why?

Reading from a computer screen for long periods of time causes eye strain. This is a real bugger if you’re reading a long book; the eye strain will prevent you from continuing. I learned from experience (of reading cases) that I can read for longer periods of time when it’s on paper. Also, you can’t curl up in bed while reading from a laptop. Even if you do, it just seems unnatural.

Plus, it’s easier to locate where I stopped, which parts I liked and how much more pages I need to read when I’m holding a real and tangible book.

The thrill and ritual of going to a bookstore, reading a book’s gist in the back cover, gathering all the books that interest me and finally deciding on which one (or two) to buy is non-existent. So is the pleasure I derive from smelling its pages after removing the plastic.

Merely looking at my book collection neatly stacked in a shelf makes me happy, giddy even. I have yet to feel that way when I’m looking at my e-books alphabetically arranged in a folder in D:.

These are the reasons why I continue to scrimp on some things and make a monthly trip to the bookstore.

Games and Patches

Is it just me or is it the trend these days for gaming companies to release their games half finished and then patch them up later when consumers inevitably discover the bugs? I recently bought 2 games to waste my time on: Neverwinter Nights 2 and Far Cry 2 respectively. The main reason for my buying these games was that I was finally able to get a decent internet connection at my place and I really wanted to be able to play online with people around the world. Imagine my dismay when upon installing each of these games, i found that I couldn't even connect with other players on-line which was the main reason I bought the games in the first place!
First, lets talk about Neverwinter Nights 2, after arriving home after a grueling day at OLA, all i wanted to do was enjoy the latest RPG that I've been longing to try ever since I've upgraded my video card. I installed the game and so far so good... the installation completed then a message box prompting me to download the patches popped up so i thought, "ok... how long could this take?" I left my computer to catch a quick nap and when i woke up 3 hours later it still was not done. So i thought well three hours probably means that it was almost done so i waited... and waited... and eventually fell asleep... the next day about 12 hours later the game was still patching itself! a total of 21 patches have been installed and 1.5 gigs of data had been downloaded and my game still wasn't running! I searched the forums to see if i could play the game on-line without the patches and what I found was that the game was so full of bugs that the game kept on crashing when played with other players on-line. So i was almost tearing my hair out in frustration. This experience was then repeated when I bought Far Cry 2. After installing the game I was relieved that I was able to immediately go play online and after the first day I felt really good about purchasing the game. On day two however, I found myself getting kicked off the game after some 20 minutes of online play and so i thought well may be the servers are just full and so i decided to play the next day. The problem still persisted however and upon searching the forums I found that a program within the game called punkbuster had been responsible for kicking out players online and that i wasn't the only one experiencing this problem. I had to wait 3 weeks from my purchase for the company to finally get around to making a patch for this problem.
So my gripe is that gaming companies are in such a rush these days to release their games that they fail to make sure that their games are all in order and bug free. This wasn't a problem with games I used to play back when a pentium 1 with 2 gigs of hard disk space was considered the ultimate gaming rig. Gaming companies these days just seem to want to get the money now and patch the game later.

SCpedia

In Republic v. Cagandahan (G.R. No. 116676, Sept. 12, 2008) the Supreme Court granted the Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate of the private respondent who allegedly is suffering from Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Aside from addressing an issue that stemmed from novel facts, what makes the decision blog-worthy is the Highest Tribunal’s (mis)use of Wikipedia.

I just can't believe the Supreme Court quoted Wikipedia the way it did! While a lot of us have experienced the convenience of looking up stuff in Wikipedia, I think that it should not be used as an authoritative source. The Supreme Court researchers who drafted this decision are plain lazy. I mean no offense to them but I think that such use of an unedited resource of language is unjustified.

connecting people

Girlie started blogging how her ex-boyfriend Boy-C cheated on her with Chikie. Girlie had some tact that she never mentioned their names online. She used to air-out her emotions through these entries, but these soon turned into heated statements. Chikie cries to Boy-C. Boy-C reprimands Girlie. Girlie blogs some more.

Information technology can do anything now. It has empowered people. It has been a vehicle to create E-lebrities and businesses; and a medium to destroy relationships and reputations.

Like anything else providing power, it can be abused. Text all entries in your phonebook how the guy begged you to come back. Call unlimited to ask about the newest gossip. Blog to destroy your most hated people.

Human interaction has become more complicated with ICT. Just when we thought it would make our lives easier...

Giulia Pineda
01-64304

e-burol

I don't like going to wakes. It is depressing and there is something about the sweet scent of flowers that put me off. Then there is the lighting, the incandescent bulbs make the beige floors look even more jaundiced. And the music. Gary V crooning "they don't knowwww...." became a staple right after Rico Yan passed away. So when I heard about e-burol, i wondered to myself if there was also someone out there who disliked wakes as much as I did.

Turns out its the total opposite. The guys and gals over at St. Peter Life Plans developed the e-burol service primarily for the overseas workers or those in the provinces who cannot come to the wake to see off their loved ones. They hooked web cams within their chapels where the wakes are held and they stream the footage over the internet to be viewed in a secure website.

I can imagine why this type of service would be appealing to the cash-strapped mourner... but i can't help but wonder just how accessible it really is. Is internet access cheap enough for an e-mourner? The neighborhood web cafe might be a cheaper alternative but then the quality and privacy of the experience would be seriously compromised (as if e-burol isn't cold enough). And what of mourning hours? will the net cafe really let you join the wake in the wee hours of the morning? I also wonder if the service can be extended to having a video conference between the ones actually in the wake and those viewing it online. Will the website come with a writeup about how the deceased died? Can they choose their own background music? Can you make abuloy via paypal?

And last but certainly not the least, paano na yung kape?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pablo Banila, Here's Your 5 Minutes of Fame.

If you are a regular Multiply user, his name would probably ring a bell. His avatar saying "Pablo Banila has a crush on you!" would have probably popped up in your viewing history. For me, it wasn't a big deal until my friend made a blog entry about how Pablo Banila should get a life. For a moment there, we fell into his trap. We concluded he is a psycho, a freak, while we were getting all high with the thought of someone actually "stalking" us.

Just a few weeks ago, Pablo Banila finally dropped the bomb. He is not a cyber-stalker. According to people who know him, he is actually one heck of a computer genius. Pablo Banila, Paolo Bantolo in real life, graduated from the Philippine Science High School and went on to study Computer Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman before transferring to New York University; he is currently a graduate student at California Riverside. He certainly did have a life! So how did he manage to view millions of social networking profiles everyday (every hour and every second)? He actually did not. His bots did it for him.

He emailed Inquirer's 2bU after an article in the said newspaper came out, explaining his real deal. At one point, he mentioned: I'm simply exploiting the legal loophole of the viewing history as a problem of function. He further claims that he is merely exercising his right to view public profiles, giving emphasis on PUBLIC domain.

On the other side, there are numerous reactions from the general public. There are some who are outright annoyed, others went on about their lives. So where does this go to now?

Paolo Bantolo certainly made a good point in his project (socio-cultural and psychological aspects - goes on to say he was discriminated the same way as Blacks, Muslims, and homosexuals are being discriminated and how people react entirely different when he puts images of young, attractive females as his Multiply headshot). However, I personally think he cannot attack the concept of the viewing history as a problem of function. As he put it, public domain is public domain. That in itself does not make it an arena for influx of unrestricted information. People do not lose their right to privacy just by jumping into the public domain. The viewing history was put there for users to know who they are faced with. On the other hand, I would have to agree though that what he did was not a form of harassment nor of stalking.

True indeed, he did not pose any "credible threat" since he, I mean, his bots just viewed homepages, not blogs, photos, etc. (well, probably people were taken aback with his "scarecrow headshot") but he certainly still gives off the creeps and bad vibes!

More info about the Pablo Banila hype here and here.

*sorry for the long post!*

By the power of eBay-skull…

There was a time when awesome things were only allocated a finite amount of time to occupy the general consciousness, and after that finite time, they’d be largely forgotten, replaced by other awesome things. They will, invariably, maintain a few true believers as dedicated followers, whose number is directly proportionate to the awesomeness of the awesome thing, but these fanboys are the exception to the rule. Take He-Man, for example. Time was, we only had a few months, or a couple years at most, to hope to collect the Masters of the Universe (and pray for that as a job description when we grew up). After that, He-Man would be replaced by something else, like Ninja Turtles, and the dream would be over. No more He-Man. But today, this previously finite “awesome time” no longer has to be so limited. Because of countless online merchants peddling awesome wares from our childhood in their unopened, mint boxes, the dream can live on. Now, grownups the world over can order a twenty-five year-old plastic figure of a stupendously muscle-bound, minstrel-haired man in furry briefs to fill the void left by an unfulfilled childhood. Yikes.

Misallocation of Resources

The popularity of E-Governance in the Philippines has truly been an interesting subject. I mean, for a third world country like ours to focus so much on providing government services through the internet is quite flabbergasting. We could invest our resources in the rehabilitation of our infrastructures or for the revival of the Philippine agricultural sector in order to jumpstart our economy to meet global competition… but our government is more attracted to providing internet access to remote regions. Seriously… isn’t that the private sector’s business?


The Philippines has approximately 14 million Internet users (about 15.1% of the entire population). How many of those individuals actually use the Internet for constructive purposes aside from Facebook or pornography?


I am a bit piqued that we are needlessly misallocating our limited resources for projects that are uneconomical for the present needs of society. There are more urgent issues that must be addressed before the government attempts to “bridge the digital divide” with regard to governmental services. If the government could only focus on other pressing matters (such as education and the economy), maybe the traditional systems of governance would be more than sufficient to meet the needs of society.

Self-Soothing

Having a baby nephew at home one can’t help to wonder if Robert DeNiro’s character in “Meet the Fockers” was correct in training the baby to self-soothe. One of the reasons why we train babies to self-sooth is to supposedly toughen them up for the real world, yet in a world of cellphones and instant messages is self-soothing still as inevitable?

One of my closest friends, Anj, has been mothering me for the past few months, enduring endless “cries for help.” Well, she doesn’t normally reply, she knows that I just want to vent my frustrations. When I feel exceptionally down, one mass text to gather the group is all I need. Everyone is so accessible nowadays that you need not be alone when you are in fact alone.

What is self-soothing then? Absence of physical contact or absence of even that of a mere emotional contact to help you get through one of those days (or months for that matter)? I personally think it's the latter, just knowing that someone's there is enough of a comfort to me.

Long Distance Players

Internet-based Telephony has helped tremendously in allowing people to enhance both their personal and professional connections anywhere in the world, since a long-distance call would be much less expensive than one placed through a traditional call set-up. A blocmate, for instance, can appease the demands of her parents to come home more often to Davao during the school year simply by keeping in touch with them through Skype. An uncle who is into the mail-order business can expand his enterprise through VoIP into markets he could not have imagined tapping into 10 years ago. A Frenchman who stayed with my family for two years as an exchange student regularly updates us on the latest accomplishments of his one year old daughter. Friends are earning extra spending money as on-line English tutors for Korean students. Having placed a number of internet calls myself, I wonder for how long will this awesome form of technology be available to us so easily at no extra cost, just like the time when you could SMS all you want and not worry about paying a piso per text. It will probably come as no surprise if telecommunication companies are now lobbying for regulations to severely restrict such services that may cut into their share of the international call market.

A Good Friend

For all my misadventures with everything that’s techie, I have enjoyed the benefits of information technology.

After I have made ends and tails of the entangled lines and jacks
of the phone, the modem and the wireless broadband router
which my charming toddler routinely dismantles for fun,
the internet has, then and now, always been a constant source of help and comfort:
(1) when researching the effects of every chemo drug my son Miggy would take when he was diagnosed with leukemia;
(2) giving Miggy something to be occupied with when he had to stop school for a year because of intensive chemo;
(3) communicating re: the benefits, procedure and other details of harvesting and storing my youngest son Anzo’s umbilical cord stem cells in case we might need it;
(4) giving Anzo a headstart on how to work all these gadgets;
(5) or just simply allowing Jam, my tween daughter, to indulge in all things Twilight-y.

SMS, AOL and Yahoo, and now Facebook, have helped me tremendously, allowing my family and friends to virtually hold my hand through the most trying times.

Yahoo and Google also come in handy in my constant struggle to survive law school.

Yup, as untechie as I am, information technology has proved to be a good friend to me.

But no, Virginia, Wikipedia may certainly not be your friend when you’re writing SC ponencia.

Head in the Clouds

I do not usually read magazines but during this last semester break, I found myself with nothing to do one day and, for one reason or another, I got my hands onto a Newsweek magazine. I flipped through the pages and found an article that caught my attention. The title was “Living in the Clouds: Is Computer Software Becoming Obsolete?” Now what the hell was the connection with computer software and clouds!

So I read the article to feed my curiosity.

Apparently, it is about "the biggest buzz phrase of 2008, [but] little understood until 2009” – cloud computing, and no, it’s not just counting clouds. According to the article by Brian Braiker, at its most basic, cloud computing is the ability to use software and data on the Internet (a.k.a., the cloud) instead of on your hard drive. It’s like a lease for another company’s (the ones who offer cloud computing services) software.

This is another great innovation in technology made possible with relatively cheaper high-speed internet access to almost anybody in the world. An advantage, of course, is the free space one will be able to get on his/her computer. Another is the possibility of access from virtually anywhere (with internet connection) of any software needed. However, I do not know how confidential information will be handled by using such services, and the issue of security still needs to be clarified, at least for me.

Indeed, technology is changing fast. The law has to keep up with the changing times to remain relevant and refrain from keeping its head in the clouds.

---
Rivera, Jan Michael A.
02-16779

Late Bloomer.

Back during highschool, we didn't have a computer at home. I would do my projects at a computer shop (imagine how much I've spent for those hours of computer rental) or by using a relative's computer. It would be a delight for me to use one at my school's computer lab, even though they are only equipped with MS Office and we were required to make DOS applications using blah-codes. And of course, the students always loved the ponyChat during class even though it's merely an intranet chat utility.

In college, my parents (finally) realized the need for a computer so we got one. However, this still was not enough because internet connection already became a necessity at that time. Dial-up. Yes, that crap helped me make through. I literally became stuck in front of the computer, clacking the keyboard away. IRC, mailing lists, Ragnarok, LJ, and the list goes on. I even got to learn HTML codes just by reading and asking online friends. Yes, I did make friends who, surprisingly up until now, remain good real-life friends.

Now, I've got a laptop and a (ubercool!) DSL connection at home. It was very much dictated by the necessity of emails, mailing lists and employment. Of course, it was also due to the fact that I am one of many Filipinos who have relatives and friends living and working abroad and that keeping in touch with them is something to keep in mind.

Yes, I was a "late bloomer" to the world of internet but hey, I was still able to learn a lot for the past years. I just realize however, that no matter how much you try to catch up, there will always be something new to learn. There will always be a new development in every field. There will always be something interesting to read about. Maybe that is why it has already become very much embedded to the point of calling it a necessity.

Law & ICT... literally

8:30 AM, last Thursday...
I’m sleeping soundly.
My cell phone rings.
Still half-asleep, I groggily roll-over to see who’s calling.
The name of my OLA supervising lawyer is flashing on the screen.
Realization hits and I’m wide awake in a second.
I have an 8:30 hearing. It’s 8:30. I’m still in bed. Crap.

Fortunately for me, this story doesn’t end tragically. I make it to court with time to spare since the judge was even later than me. How different would this story be if cell phones were never invented? Would my supervising lawyer find his way to a payphone? Would he have change to make the call or would his phonecard (remember these?) have a sufficient balance to make a call? Would there even be a payphone around? Would he have my home number? Would I have had a phone in my room? And the questions can go on and on. Not exactly a legal or policy issue in ICT but a straight-out illustration of the interaction between the legal profession and the wonders of information and communications technology. Special thanks to Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone.

Adobo

A couple of years ago, my friends and I sat for a d├ęgustation in a quiet restaurant in downtown Makati. The place was reserved for ten people, mostly seasoned chefs, and cooks in their own right. We enjoyed a sampling of the Austrian chef's signature dishes, most memorable of which was his chicken adobo. I learned later on that it was cooked with bittersweet chocolate.

Talking us through the dish, the chef said that this was the most challenging because unlike Europe, Asia, and most parts of the world, Philippine cuisine is strictly regional. Searching keyword "adobo" online listed millions of different recipes. It's done differently in Ilocos, Bicol, Cebu, Pampanga, even Sulu. Finally, he cross-referenced all the recipes and found that the common ingredient is vinegar.

I found out recently that this chef added his own chocolate adobo recipe to the long list online, waiting for the next culinarian to continue its evolution.

Boon and Bane

My sister and I were wondering what’s responsible for the difference in the academic performance of her children to our academic performance when we were young. It seems that we performed way better back then, modesty aside. It was puzzling considering that they have everything they need within their reach through the internet.
As we were discussing, we noticed in the study room that her children who were “doing their assignments” over the internet were chatting, surfing the net or blogging at the same time. During our time, distractions were limited to the television (with a few channels at that) or to playing outside (which was restricted to an hour or two) or to videogames. Now, the tool that aids students to “get things done faster” serves as a distraction at the same time. It’s not as if parents can restrict their children from going online as they have the convenient excuse of “researching over the internet”. It appears as though the time saved because of the accessibility of the internet for assignments is used for other activities. No more tiring trips to the library, no more painstaking jotting down of notes. But at what expense?

Orthogonal Terwilliger Accordion


So I go to
http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends and check the latest zeitgeist of the American people. What do I find? Apart from the usual “Brooke Burke Bikini” there’s a curious search term “orthogonal terwilliger accordion” near the top of the list.

What the hell.

After a few minutes of research, I find out that this is because of Google SearchWiki which is “the feature allows anyone searching whilst signed into their Google account to modify the search results page. Search results can be bumped up the rankings, so that when you next search for the exact same term, your chosen page appears at the top of the page. Sites can also be added to the top of the rankings, if you find a site that best suits your search terms.” (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/238167/google-turns-on-the-searchwiki.html)

Google is departing from its roots – search results based purely on algorithm. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had always been steadfast in their resolve not to pollute the Google’s vaunted search results with well, human input.

And then this.

IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT.


Magic Jack

For years, keeping in touch with family and friends in the United States had been tricky. Snail mail took forever to get where it was supposed to be, if it even did, while long-distance phone calls cost a small fortune. Today, thankfully, we have electronic mail and instant messaging.
But wait. There’s more! Introducing “Magic Jack,” a Universal Serial Bus (USB) based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The unit is about the size of a matchbox. It connects directly to any computer’s USB port, and for a small fee and with Internet access, you are free to make unlimited phone calls to anywhere in North America, with no hidden charges and no frills attached.
Relocating to Manila after spending much of my formative years in the United States was not easy. Although I know the Philippines is where I want to be now, I am guilty of sometimes still referring to America as “home” maybe because it has always been hard missing the family and friends I had to leave behind. But communications technology has afforded me a means to be a phone call away from them and somehow, get that feeling that I was right back “home.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The YouTube University

I first heard about YouTube from my colleagues in my former job. They were sending me links which lead to funny video clips stored in the website that really made me laugh. The videos were hilarious but the idea of putting up such kind of website never impressed me. I thought it was just an idea of a fledgling techie who, for want of a better idea, comes up with a website for video storage. But one day, when I was surfing the net, I've decided to tinker with the search bar of YouTube, entering any word I could think of. Eventually, all sorts of video clips appeared before me. I suddenly realized that YouTube is more than what I first thought it was. YouTube actually contains tons of educational materials for all sorts of discipline. From a video recording of a class lecture in linear algebra, or a lecture in a robotics class, or an interview of a US Supreme Court Justice regarding torture down to a demonstration on how to prepare sinigang na hipon.

Of course, YouTube also contains filthy videos that deserves not to be seen. But nothing in this world which is not susceptible to abuse anyway. It really depends on the user and not on the tool.

YouTube really is a work of a genius. In fact, it was hailed in 2006 as the best invention by a popular magazine.



Raymond R. Roque
06-78143

Lawyers with Loyalties

I once asked he-who-shall-not-be-named, what life was like for a Lawyer. Its funny how he replied by first giving me a lopsided smile. “It wasn’t easy at the start” he said, referring to the long hours and the non-stop work. Then he began talking about Filipino lawyers working for International companies but who were still living in the Philippines. He went into detail about how the growth in telecommunications has provided a way to supply the international demand for brilliant lawyers who don’t want to leave their country of origin, which is a wonderful thing considering that when it comes to one’s career, opportunities become limited when one has a family to think about. Because of concerns about uprooting the family, most people forego advancements in their careers to protect and maintain the comfortable lifestyle their family has gotten used to. But because of the continuous growth of technology, which facilitates easy access and communication between different societies, it has opened many windows of opportunities to a great number of brilliant people, while at the same time addressing their most cherished and personal concerns.

ICT Advocacy

I have always dreamed of bringing the world closer to the people of my home province, Ifugao.
To show a world that would broaden the minds of my fellowmen, to make them be able to discover the diversity of life. To help them gain knowledge from the plethora of sources presented by the internet.

Yet it has been frustrating and it has shown me that my capacity is limited. I always fall short of getting the approval necessary from the provincial government. While I have gained the support of our governor (as we tirelessly raise it in policy deliberations), our Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) always shoots down my proposal.

This however has not disheartened me. Currently, I am looking for means of bringing ICT to our province. I am trying to look at government agencies (i.e DOST) to consider infusing ICT programs in their projects, for technical support as well as infrastructure development. Its hard since I juggle such advocacy with law school but simply put, I just can't let my people be left behind.

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Baguilat, Raymond Marvic C. 06-78921
Ice
2nd Blog Post 26 November 2008

Steal This Post!

Last month, Radiohead released In Rainbows as a ten track digital download packaged in a ZIP file. It was the first album ever to be sold on an "honesty box" system; that is, purchasers were laden with the task of deciding how much they thought the album was worth. Surveys show that over a third of the buyers paid nothing at all, while a majority of those who did pay shelled out an average of $6 with the odd fanatic or two paying up to $60, somewhat evening out the numbers. 

While the album's commercial success remains questionable, the payment system did remind me of the research analyst turned "bagel man" mentioned in Dubner and Levitt's Freakonomics.  He would bring bagels and doughnuts every morning to several office blocks and leave a payment box which he would come back for later in the day. Although he got paid only 89% of the time, it shows that given the chance, most people will choose to be honest even when no one is watching. Perhaps the anonymity in online piracy doesn't outweigh moral or economic incentives as much as we think. But don't take it from me--I've got Azureus, Limewire and Soulseek on right now.

restricted

It’s ironic…
As my “friend list” in my multiply site grows…so does the urge to restrict those people who can read my posts. I have gotten into trouble a few times because of what I have written in MY site. Things got out of control and were blown out of proportion that I cried because a friend got upset with what I wrote around the time of my campaign last year. It frustrates me when I find myself censoring my posts in my own site just so I wouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings or so that I wouldn’t be misunderstood. The more people who have access to my site and posts the more I feel that I have to be wary lest I be misunderstood. Cyberspace is said to be an effective tool for facilitating communication...but, how come the more people i am connected to, the more vague and less accurate my posts get?

It restriction the price of connection?

Facebook advocacy

If you want something done these days, you can't afford to ignore the power of the Internet to get your message across. I was again reminded of this in my environmental law class today when the professor announced that he wanted to learn how to use Facebook. Apparently, he was told that he will need this in mobilizing people from all over the world to address the raging issue of climate change.

It used to be that you had to spend good money just to be able to communicate to people from around the world quickly via courier or international direct dial service that was not too accessible. Now, all you need to have is access to the Internet, be it via your own broadband or dial-up connection or a rented PC with Internet connection, and you can already exchange ideas, documents, pictures, and other files real time with someone from another time zone. I think that if there is one thing that this decade will be best remembered for, it is the pervasiveness of digital communication in almost all spheres of human activity.

So don't be surprised if the UN Secretary-General himself wants to add you as a friend.

The World (Wide Web) Is Not Enough

Fancy a life of international intrigue and espionage? Then get back to Superpoking and wall-posting on your Facebook account. The Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, has recently launched a series of ads on the popular social networking site for the recruitment of future would-be spies, asking its 124,000,000 users if they would take to a "career in world events". 

Among the skills sought in a potential candidate are communications, data ordering, and even "attention to detail"--which is pretty routine to a seasoned Facebooker. Between managing one's friends lists, organizing media and applications, and rifling through countless posts and messages, running a Facebook account has become an exercise akin to "collecting and analyzing global intelligence." The techie is no longer typecast as the socially inept recluse holed up in some basement whittling the hours away on an IRC trivia channel. Technological awareness has become inextricably linked with social adeptness, and it would seem that MI6 has taken notice. 

The MI6 Facebook profile provides links to some mock scenarios which simulate real-life recruitment tools. Turns out I'm better suited to an administrative desk job than field work as an operational officer/agent. Not quite as espionage-ey as I was hoping.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Information Communication

The Chatroom. The petri dish of "missed connnections".

A cute-ish guy (his screen name says “cute-ish guy”) with today's link of New York Times beside his name pings me twice. I close the window—he’s too forward, I’m not ready to talk. Besides, I am hungry. I walk to the kitchen and get a banana.

He sends me a monkey icon. I pace the room. Is this a sign? I am eating a banana and he sends me a monkey icon. Is he the one?

I struggle with the idea.

Finally, after the third ping, I type back with a hesitant “Yes?” My hands are shaking, nervous at the prospect. The screen says “cute-ish guy is entering text” He spends a good 10 minutes trying to emancipate the thought from his head onto the screen. He knows I am watching the screen, waiting. Oh, the impotency of it all!

All this time, I am practicing witty opening lines in my head:

1. You can do it!
2. Excited huh?
3. It starts with one hello.

He gives up.

I do not attempt.

*Actually, “cute-ish guy” is the author’s hubby-in-fact. He finally calls and asks “Ano gusto mo, Jollibee or McDo?”

A Horror Story

When things are going well for a considerable period of time, complacency normally sets it. Nowadays, we take for granted the numerous comforts (and discomforts) that form part of our daily lives—ice cold water, instant communication, the word processor, the light bulb—and forget that things have not always been as they are. Fifteen years ago, I thought beepers were proof that the human race is on the brink of a major evolutionary change. I have no idea that fifteen years later the technology that could allow Red One to talk to his fellow Biomen through his wrist watch in full color and audio would already be available.

Now let’s talk about the complacency part. Recently, I lost my 3-month old laptop and PDA in circumstances that sound like a bar exam question on transportation law: I boarded a bus, fell asleep (probably snored, was dead tired), then an unidentified bad person chanced upon my moment of weakness and took my entire bag—I still can’t believe it, my entire bag--from me. When I got home, I wasn’t worried about replacing the laptop or the PDA as they are quite ubiquitous and relatively cheap in this day and age. What got to me was the data I just lost. Years' worth of notes, pictures, scandals (i.e. footage of me singing in the shower), unedited keyboard tracks I just recorded, contacts, etc., have been taken from me. I became lax and violated a cardinal principle in tech-fu: data loss is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.


After my parents consoled me, I grieved for the chattels that I lost and fell asleep.

The following morning, I was changed man; transformed into a backup evangelist, a preacher of redundancy. I have learned the folly my ways and have engaged in sharing to others the moral of my story: backup, backup, backup. And forego sleeping when using public transportation.

Beyond Purpose and Potential

Some months ago, the Nintendo Wii found a purpose beyond just simply fun and games in the life of a friend, who had encountered a life-changing accident some three years ago. Doctors told us that he would probably never walk again, but this we just refused to believe.

After over a year of painful rehabilitation only to be able to sit up and recover partial use of his arms, we were beginning to lose hope, but we held on and sought answers in places never though of. After long hours of research and countless consultations, we held our breaths and turned to the Wii as an alternative form of rehabilitation.

Today, almost a year after our friend began swinging, shaking, and stepping in all directions imaginable using the Wii and its component parts, he is able to get up and about even, albeit aided. Medical experts are in awe at his progress and have attributed a lot of this success to persistent rehabilitation and yes, our little experiment of using the Wii.

Lesson learned? Well, technology must not scare us. Instead, we must see beyond what it patently offers us and use it ingeniously to achieve its true potential.

Diskettes

When I was young, I would get very excited when my mother would take me to work with her or if we had to fetch her from work. Me and my siblings can get to use the computers they had at work. The floppy disks used back then were the 5 1/4 – inch ones. Each disk would have a single game. I loved the one with the Family Feud game.

I have gone through the different types of storage devices through games. The 3 ½ disk, and then, the oh so shiny, CDs. I was very amazed with the interactive educational CDs. There were more colors, the pictures were less pixilated and there are more than one game inside that CD! Now, diskettes are seldom used. Raised eyebrows will meet you whenever you buy them in computer shops. It IS the cheapest and the most hassle-free device to use in submitting requirements to anyone who doesn’t have internet access. You don’t have to burn the file on to your disk and you don’t have to wait for it to return. Although the diskette is usually subject to file corruption, we still make do.

Seeing leopard prints through a window

Barely two years ago, I came across a site/forum that claimed that they were able run macOSX software on the PC. At first I wasn’t that interested, because I already knew that you can indeed run macOSx on a PC thru a software, but what caught my interest was the claim that they can run it natively[1] on a PC and that it was giving the Macs a run for their money, even in terms of performance[2]. Dubbed as the Hackintosh[3], the project boasts of an almost seamless integration of the Mac OS on the PC.

The idea of having both a Mac-based and Windows-based system in a single machine was too hard to resist.

Initially I thought that it was not-so-legal to perform such a project. But after countless hours of browsing the forums, I was quite shocked to learn that Apple in fact grants license (through a developers kit that can be bought from their site)to developers and enthusiasts , allowing them to legally install a copy of the Apple software in a PC.



[1] Without the aid of another software

[2] Based on benchmark tests performed by the development groups

[3] A pun on the words “hack” and “Macintosh”