Friday, January 29, 2010

PCOS field test fails

Field tests conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday morning failed due to weak cellular site signals in two areas in Taguig City. A said the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine at the Makarlika Elementary School failed to transmit counted votes to the municipal board of canvassers and the poll body's central office. The report said that according to Comelec officers, the PCOS machine could not transmit the votes because 3 telecommunications companies -- Globe, Smart and Sun -- had weak mobile signals in the area. It added that the election officers changed SIM cards for 40 minutes, but still failed to complete the transmission. In a separate report, the field test conducted at the Taguig City Elementary School yielded the same result. The report said the PCOS machine, using SIM cards of the 3 mobile network providers, also failed to transmit counted votes to the central server at the Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila. The counting machine, however, was able to initially transmit votes to the city canvassing center.

Critics dampen hype over Apple's iPad

Tech experts and gadget fans dampened the early hype on Thursday over Apple's new iPad, saying the touchscreen computer tablet is not the must-have device the company claims it is. Hours after Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled its latest creation, computer and technology bloggers were divided on whether it would after all transform the way we spend our leisure time. Users eager to judge for themselves will have to wait two months before the iPad is shipped worldwide at an entry-level price of 499 dollars. Jobs showed off various features which include browsing the Web, checking email, working with spreadsheets and charts, playing videogames, listening to music or watching video. While some critics predicted it would become the best-selling electronics device of 2010, others complained it has no camera or USB, can't multi-task, can't be used as a phone and doesn't support Flash. "The iPad isn't going to be a phenomenon with either netbook users or power users," tech blog Mashable wrote. "The iPad isn't the transformational device so many Apple enthusiasts were hoping for. It won't turn all the content industries upside down, it won't be your primary computing device and it's not even a bigger, better iPhone." Still, many critics were enthused, some pronouncing it would signal the end of the road for the likes of e-book reader Kindle. Apple said the basic iPad would be available worldwide in late March from upwards of 499 dollars, and the 3G version in April in the United States and selected countries from 629 dollars. The device is "unlocked," meaning buyers can pick preferred telecom service providers. It has a 9.7-inch (24.6-centimeter) color screen resembling an iPhone, is 0.5 inches thick, weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) and has flash memory of 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes. Screen images flip between portrait and landscape modes depending on how an iPad is held. Mobile game applications for iPhone also work on the iPad, and developers are adapting software to take advantage of the extra screen "real estate." It has a picture frame mode for presenting slide shows of stored photos and Google Maps coupled with geo-location software. Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day said it is "more than a smartphone, less than a notebook, but just the right personal device for everyday users." "I think it's a home run," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "It becomes a viable alternative to a netbook and I get the 140,000 applications in the App Store. It is a pretty compelling value proposition." Jobs, who underwent a liver transplant last year and was making his second public appearance since September, touted its ability as an electronic reader of books, newspapers and magazines. "You can have black-and-white, color, video in your books -- whatever the author wants," he said. Claudine Beaumont, technology writer for Britain's Daily Telegraph, hailed its sleekness, reading software and virtual keyboard. "It won't replace your laptop, but I think it may have sounded the death knell for notebook computers," she wrote. Apple shares gained 0.94 percent to close at 207.88 dollars on Wall Street, but slipped a tad in after-hours electronic trading. But Michael Hiltzik, a technology columnist for the Los Angeles Times, said it was like an iPod that was too big for your pocket but too small to contain your entire music collection. "The iPad resembles a scaled-up iPhone -- without the phone," he wrote. On the tech blog of Britain's Guardian daily, contributors were generally critical, one complaining that it was an overpriced device "with an ugly lump aimed at a niche that doesn't even exist."

Review of automation software to start February

An official from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday the public review of the automation software will start early February after it is certified as “functional for use” in the May elections. Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told that the poll agency is awaiting the certification and source code report on the automation software from international agency Systest Labs. Systest Labs, which tapped a team of 15-20 IT personnel to hold the source code review since October , is expected to submit its full report and certification of the automation software from February 4 to 6, Larrazabal added. The automation software contains source code or programmable instructions that will be installed on the poll machines to define operations such as counting, canvassing and electronic transmission of voting results from precincts to canvassing centers. “We are in the process of finalizing the guidelines for the conduct of the source code review, which we expect to be done on the first week of February,” said Larrazabal, who also chairs the steering committee on automation. “Developers from political parties, poll watchdogs and other groups can join the source code review for the automation software in February after it gets certified by Systest. The law requires that the automation software has to be first tested and certified as functional by an international agency,” he added. Larrazabal added the source code review will be done under a controlled environment at the Comelec main office to prevent leakage and protect the intellectual property rights of Smartmatic-TIM. “The review for the source code must be done in a controlled environment meaning the area is fully secured and any part of the software cannot be copied and taken home by the reviewers,” the poll official added. The Comelec is set to meet on February 1 with representatives of different political parties to finalize the requirements of reviewers and the conduct of the source code review, said Larrazabal.

What unified communications can do for your business

With the continuous production of new communication technologies, to run a business well, means having to cope with the latest IT trends that shape how enterprises and individuals communicate and transact. One trend to look out for is the increasing enterprise demand for Unified Communications. Businesses that ride this trend can enjoy more flexible and cost-efficient means of collaboration between co-workers, since it combines all other communication tools and services, thus, affording end users freedom from relying on just one medium or having to buy multiple systems. “Tech-savvy companies should see the benefits of this technology clearly—efficiency, economy and increased reach and presence. Using UC services or now referred to as NexGen Services will help your company promote better connections internally with employees and externally, with clients and partners,” Cyril Rocke, president of DataOne, Asia Inc., says Having an integrated or unified communications service becomes increasingly important as businesses and its people become progressively mobile. Enterprises will need to expand costs. For most, this will mean integrating multiple applications, platform and service providers which could translate into higher expenses and maintenance headaches, if not managed properly. Enter UC, which provides a solution by incorporating the various communication channels into one. This means having to deal with just one provider who can manage all the various communication platforms utilized by an enterprise. Flexibility is also assured allowing connectivity with anyone, anywhere at anytime with a choice of using the preferred medium be it wireless phone, netbook, PC, PDA or other mobile devices. Partnering with a new generation telecom provider like VoiceOne enables companies, even start-up enterprises, to enjoy the benefits of UC especially with its NexGen Trunks, WebTalk, and other voice services. “As communications technology advances, we aim to be an enterprises’ provider and partner, as well as the preferred bridge between them to allow business to increase, keeping them up-to-date with global IT trends,” says Rocke.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Poll machine fails test after Comelec uses defective SIM card

A poll machine failed a test on Wednesday after it used a defective subscriber identification module (SIM) card, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said. A Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine failed to transmit data to waiting servers during a field test held at the Aguho Elementary School in Pateros on Wednesday, the Comelec said in a press briefing. Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal clarified that it was the SIM card – which is used to identify subscribers in a telecommunications network – and not the poll machine that had a defect. “The concern there was not actually the system but the use of the mobile network," Larrazabal told reporters. The poll machine worked after the defective SIM card was replaced. "We changed the SIM card and it was able to transmit, which is to say that the system works," he said. He refused to identify the telecommunications company that provided the SIM card. The poll body used signals on the GSM network – the same kind used by cellular mobile phones for voice calls and text messaging – to transmit data, Larrazabal said. Satellite transmission or Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) was used for areas that had no available cellular signals, which included some parts of Bakun town in Benguet, Naga City in Cebu, and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. Larrazabal quickly pointed out that all the other field tests were successful, dismissing concerns that the failed transmission may result in failed elections. “That's why we do field, lab tests," he said. “We do other tests on the system to be sure that we are ready for elections." The test involved “feeding" 10 pre-shaded ballots to the machines in each area, Michael Dioneda, regional election director for the National Capital Region, said. Samples of the ballot boxes that will placed under the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines during the May polls. Photo courtesy of GMA 7 reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez The same test also monitored transmission of test votes to Comelec’s central servers and to other servers as well. The transmission roughly took two minutes, Dioneda added. “Ang tinetest natin doon siyempre ay iyong pinaka-importante, ang transmission. Kailangan makita natin na yung pagbibilang noong machine ay siyempre sound at yung kanyang pagta-transmit ng data ay maayos at matatanggap natin nang buong-buo ang datos sa pinagpadalhan natin," said Jimenez. (The most important thing that was tested is the transmission of the votes. We needed to see if the machine counts votes accurately and if we will be able to transmit and receive data properly.) The Comelec on Wednesday held field tests in Pateros (Pateros Elementary School and Aguho Elementary School); Taguig (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Taguig and Taguig National High School); Bakun, Benguet (Cabutotan Primary School and Beto Elementary School); Naga City, Cebu (Alfaco Elementaru School and Bairan Elem); and in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (Bacdulong Elementary School and Bandala Elementary School). The commission chose diverse areas so that it will be able to determine whether the machines would be able to cope in different types of environments, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said. "We can simulate how it will be considering the peculiar characteristics of each of the locations," he said. The Comelec has decided to repeat the field test on Friday, January 29, in Taguig and Pateros, Larrazabal said. This time, however, the test will be opened to the media and to the public. "Some members of the joint congressional oversight committee wanted to observe and some civic organizations also wanted to observe the field test," he said. The poll body will also test the machines by conducting mock elections on February 6 using real voters.

Why old media loves Apple's newest thing

The cream of the New York publishing industry rose to the occasion of the Apple iPad launch, then sat in the shadows for almost an hour as chief executive officer Steve Jobs extolled the gadget's utility for just about everything – gaming, networking, browsing, watching videos – except reading. The legendary Kindle-killer of the book trade's imagination made no appearance among the iPad's multiple personalities. But then Mr. Jobs introduced the print brigade. As the executive previewed a nimble, full-colour application of the influential newspaper, it became obvious how important the iPad was to him and his competitors. Although it may not be designed primarily as an e-reader, the device Apple introduced in San Francisco yesterday was greeted as the potential lifesaver of a drowning industry. Five of North America's largest trade book publishers – Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette – joined yesterday's party as pioneer suppliers of Apple's new iBook store, clearly hoping the new service would do for their business what Apple's iTunes store did for a music business brought to its knees by piracy. But those with the most hope invested in the new iPad are newspaper and magazine publishers who are struggling to open new revenue streams as print advertising shrinks and readers seek free content on the Internet. “It's the best chance especially newspaper and magazine content publishers have, said Kaan Yigit, a Toronto-based new media analyst. “A predictable, good-looking platform that's more intimate to the consumer and is more ready to replicate some of the features of the printed paper,” he added. In addition to unveiling its new iPad app this week, The New York Times announced the creation of a new “reader applications” division focused on developing “a digital reading experience similar to a print platform.” In December, five of the biggest magazine publishers in the U.S. combined forces to create a digital storefront, called Next Issue Media, to retail electronic versions of such heavyweight titles as Time, Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Better Homes and Gardens. The announcement included a video previewing an electronic version of Sports Illustrated on a tablet that resembled an unbranded iPad. At the same time, consortium member Hearst Corp. acted on its own this month to introduce Skiff, which it called “the first e-reader optimized for newspaper and magazine content.” Among others, startup Plastic Logic also released a long-anticipated next-generation e-reader at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And Bonnier Group, which publishes magazines such as Parenting and Popular Science, also launched a demo of its vision for research and development of digital issues. “I think the entry of these tablets into wide use will revolutionize the magazine business in a way that will be happy for us,” Condé Nast editorial director Tom Wallace said in an interview at the time. “It is going to change dramatically the way magazines are made, the way magazines are marketed and the way magazines are consumed.” Given the dramatic success of the Amazon Kindle over the past three years, book publishers are already familiar with the drama. Their enthusiasm for the iPad is based largely on the hope the new gadget will give them more clout in negotiating prices and release dates with Amazon. This week, industry newsletter Publishers Lunch reported that New York's “Big Six” trade publishers had persuaded Apple to adopt a new pricing model that will restrain and potentially eliminate Amazon-style discounting of electronic titles. Rather than selling e-books wholesale, according to the newsletter, publishers are attempting to negotiate a deal in which they retain ownership of the titles and license Apple to distribute them on a commission basis. Distributors would pay only for the books they “sold” at a fixed rate independent of the retail price. “While some consumers might resist publishers' pricing under this model, it is a way of offering e-book owners access to new high-profile releases simultaneous with hardcover release,” it said. Ownership of e-books is already a hot issue within the industry, with almost all players hoping to enforce some form of “digital rights management” in the distribution of their products. This often means that “buyers” of e-books are unable to lend, trade or resell the titles, as they are with print books. The new digital cornucopia is wonderful, according to Darren Wershler, professor of communications at Ontario's Wilfrid Laurier University. “But I'm profoundly distrustful of anybody who comes along and offers to consolidate all that for me,” he added. “I don't want them making choices about what I'm reading, where I can get it, what format it's in, which machines I can look at it on. All of those things are a real problem, and nobody ever talks about them.” Apple did win plaudits yesterday by embracing an open software standard for formatting e-books, called “epub,” that makes it possible to read them on any devices that use the same standard. By contrast, Amazon uses a proprietary format for Kindle, which forces customers to shop at its store exclusively. The iPad also has the sex appeal notably lacking in the Amazon reader. “The Kindle looks like it was designed in a Russian tractor factory,” Mr. Wershler said. “The aesthetics of the thing are horrifying.” But Apple clearly has bigger game in mind than the traditional reader who values a good page-turner in crisp black and white. Whatever ultimately emerges from the tablet revolution would likely be unrecognizable today, according to Mr. Wershler. “To call what we're reading on our phones and our computers today e-books is like calling a car a horseless carriage,” he said. Amazon has done “a great job” priming the market with the Kindle, Mr. Jobs said after an hour's chat about the iPad's talent in music and drama. “But we're going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further.”

Books on iPad Offer Publishers a Pricing Edge

With a few notable exceptions, the print world welcomed Apple’s new iPad on Wednesday, eager to tap into the 125 million customers who already have iTunes accounts and are predisposed to buying more content from Apple. In negotiations with Apple, publishers agreed to a business model that gives them more power over the price that customers pay for e-books. “We have learned that it is never wise to stand between a consumer and a preference” for how they get their content, said John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin Group, the book publisher. The iPad may offer an even more attractive prospect: the chance to reset the downward spiral in e-book prices. When Steven P. Jobs announced the new iBooks app, he said five of the six largest publishers — Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster— had signed on to provide e-book content for the new tablet. In negotiations with Apple, publishers agreed to a business model that gives them more power over the price that customers pay for e-books. Publishers had all but lost that power on’s Kindle e-reader. With Apple, under a formula that tethers the maximum e-book price to the print price on the same book, publishers will be able to charge $12.99 to $14.99 for most general fiction and nonfiction titles — higher than the common $9.99 price that Amazon had effectively set for new releases and best sellers. Apple will keep 30 percent of each sale, and publishers will take 70 percent. One book publisher did not sign on to the iPad: Random House, the world’s largest publisher of trade books. Stuart Applebaum, a Random House spokesman, said the company would “look forward to our continuing conversations” with Apple. In the short term, authors and publishers will most likely earn less from book sales on the iPad. On the Kindle, Amazon subsidizes the $9.99 price by paying publishers a higher wholesale price equivalent to what booksellers typically pay for print editions. But publishers were concerned that Amazon, as the dominant player, would eventually demand lower digital wholesale prices. The agreement with Apple gives publishers leverage to negotiate with Amazon on future pricing. Publishers acknowledge that digital content should be priced lower than the print content. “We listened to what consumers have said,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster. Amazon and others are likely to continue selling e-books through the Apple app store even after the iBooks app arrives. No publisher wanted to discuss publicly what would happen if Amazon and others continued to charge $9.99 for new releases. But once Apple begins selling e-books at a higher price, publishers could withhold titles if Amazon continues to discount books to $9.99. Antitrust attorneys suggested there could be legal complications if Amazon claimed that publishers were colluding to set prices, or dictating prices to retailers, which is illegal under a 2007 Supreme Court decision. Newspapers had mixed reactions to the iPad. Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations of The New York Times Company, said the combination of iPad and app “joins the best of print with the best of digital.” The Times has not struck any deals with Apple yet, making it too soon to say whether the newspaper would charge for the app or solicit subscriptions on the iPad. But Christian A. Hendricks, the vice president for interactive media at McClatchy, which publishes The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star, said, “We haven’t seen tremendous interest as far as demand for newspaper subscriptions on it.”

Mobile Habits Changing As Smartphones Go Mass Market

Park Sung-ha is a self-admitted tech geek who never left home without his Samsung mobile phone, iPod Touch multimedia player and a separate Cowon multimedia device for playing videos. All this and a mini-laptop are in his bag. So it was perhaps inevitable that the 33-year-old Seoul office worker would thrust himself among a herd of gadget lovers flocking toward the massively hyped iPhone, the instant it was made available by local wireless carrier KT. After getting his hands on Apple's do-it-all smartphone, however, Park finds himself included in a much larger demographic than the so-called ``nerd community,'' with the average consumer developing a thirst for high-end phones. It's now easy to spot people fighting for room on a crowded commuter train to watch movies, browse the Web and play games on their ultra-cool devices. Others are found in coffee shops squinting at the screens to reply to e-mails or post Twitter updates. ``It seems like the 1990s all over again, when people were scrambling to buy personal computers and learn how to use them,'' Park said. ``I am seeing a lot of people around me, who previously didn't care much for mobile-phone features other than the shiny displays and digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) television, pay hefty amounts in early terminations fees to switch to the iPhone or premium handsets. I never recall so much excitement among mobile users, although many of them will need some time to learn all the new activities.'' Although not even a month off the new calendar, it seems apparent that 2010 will finish as the year of the smartphone. Muted for years, these computer-like handheld devices are finally going mass market here ― KT sold nearly 300,000 iPhones just two months into its release and other stand-out products like Samsung's Omnia II and Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry are being picked steadily off the shelves. And with mobile operators preparing to launch a slew of new smart handsets from next month, many of them powered by the Google-backed Android operating system, the local market appears to be on the cusp of a smartphone explosion, which will only be fueled as prices continue to fall. Of course, garnering the most attention is the potential release of the next new iPhone, which may or may not be called the iPhone 4G, a possibility for the second half of the year. According to the figures by the country's three mobile carriers ― SK Telecom, KT and LG Telecom ― the number of local smartphones users barely scratched 300,000 coming into last November, or perhaps, "B.I." (Before iPhone). Driven by the popularity of iPhone and Omnia II, the number of smartphone users has tripled in the past three months and is now estimated to approach 1 million. Industry watchers believe that the number of smartphone users will have a chance to hit the 4 million mark by the end of the year. SK Telecom, the biggest carrier, is aiming to sell 2 million smartphones in 2010, a number its bitter industry rival, KT, intends to match. LG Telecom, the smallest carrier, has also set a goal to sell around 700,000 smartphones this year. In a recent survey of about 1,300 employed adults by Job Korea (, a job information site, more than 80 percent of the respondents who didn't own a smartphone at the moment said they were planning to buy one. About 63 percent of the potential smartphone owners, who were able to give out multiple answers, said they were most attracted by the wealth of content enabled on the devices, while around 44 percent of them picked mobile Internet connectivity. Stressed Out Index Fingers While many mobile users are bracing to splurge on smartphones, others are lucky enough to be hired by companies who buy the devices for them. The tradeoff, of course, is that work will be brought home more frequently. Companies seem intrigued by the idea of their employees having one-stop devices that handle voice, e-mail, Web browsing, multimedia and simple office applications, which may contribute to more efficient workflow. Another advantage of smartphones is that they enable companies to design and use their own software, such as group e-mails and in-house communications programs, much like how computers are used. Kolon Group recently gave out ``Show Omnia'' handsets, similar devices to Omnia II, to its 8,000 employees, joining a growing line of organizations, including the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp., Samsung Securities and the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), who are equipping employees with smartphones. The idea seems to have come from Internet companies like NHN, Daum and KTH, which were the first to arm their employees with iPhones or Omnia-IIs as they compete to convert their desktop offerings for use onto mobile devices. There is a particular interest for the ``mobile office'' in the financial service sector too, with Shinhan Bank revealing that it is considering several smartphone models to hand out to its 15,000 employees. ``Our thought was that the companies that hop on the smartphone bus late will lose that much opportunity for innovation. We believe that the smartphones will help the company enhance productivity and help our employees maintain their edge in creativeness,'' said a Kolon official. The success of smartphones is critical for local mobile operators, who are milking their subscribers for more data revenue to make up for the decline in voice sales and get better returns on their massive third-generation (3G) investments. Smartphones, which provide larger margins than conventional phones, are also crucial for handset vendors like Samsung, which are being increasingly pressed to deliver products that can compete with the iPhones and BlackBerries of the world. Although Samsung is now the No. 2 handset vendor behind Nokia, with a worldwide share north of 20 percent, its share in the smartphone market struggles to touch 5 percent. According to market researcher Bernstein Research, Apple's iPhone accounted for only 8 percent of the handset industry's revenue through the first six months of 2009, but 32 percent of the sector's operating profit. Apple's size of its mobile industry profit was about a double of that of Samsung's, the research group said. Although the super-slim iPhone and Omnia II are aesthetically pleasing enough to qualify as fashion items, the key strength of these phones are their wireless Internet capabilities and the range of ``apps'' they support. This is the area where the iPhone has its clearest advantage over its competing products, with the wealth of programs available on Apple's App Store heralding the death of the hardware-oriented mobile-phone game. This also means that companies like Samsung and Motorola won't have a chance to produce a true ``iPhone killer'' before establishing competitive developer networks of their own, although the growing Android community might give them a fighting chance.

Giving Mobile Ads a Makeover

Google, Apple and Others Seek to Push Beyond Banners, Text Messages Google, Apple and several start-ups are trying to break the mold in mobile advertising, hoping to persuade marketers to spend more on a format that the technology industry has been hyping for years, with little to show for it. Until now, mobile advertising mainly consisted of small banner ads tucked into the corner of a mobile Web page or text-message ads that often resembled spam. As a result, the mobile-advertising market remained relatively small, even as mobile phones proliferated. Google, Apple and others are putting money into changing that. In November, Google announced a $750 million agreement to acquire AdMob Inc., a company that sells a variety of mobile ads, including some that show the location of a retailer's closest store on a map or allow mobile-device users to download music or watch a commercial between levels in a game. This week, Google is also expected to launch a new type of mobile-search ad for high-end phones like Apple's iPhone, says a person familiar with the matter. People who search for pizza, for example, might see a search ad with a phone number that they can click to call a nearby pizzeria. Apple, meanwhile, bought mobile-ad company Quattro Wireless in January. On Monday, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said the company acquired Quattro to offer "a seamless way for our developers to make more money on their apps, especially those that are providing free apps." An Apple spokeswoman declined to elaborate. Amid much fanfare Wednesday, Apple introduced a multimedia tablet-style computer called the iPad. priced at as much as $829 for high-end models with 3G wireless capacity. Marketers are carefully watching the iPad, which can run software applications similar to iPhone apps, along with other new products, as they look to broaden their strategies beyond first-generation mobile ads, such as text-messages ads. Volkswagen started testing text-message ads in 2008 and hired digital ad shop AKQA to develop a mobile-advertising strategy for the brand last year. The company built a mobile-specific Web site and even launched its new GTI hatchback via a mobile game. Now, the auto maker is building applications on its mobile Web site that allow VW owners to schedule service appointments or pay their bills and for prospective buyers to track incentives, said Charlie Taylor, Volkswagen's general manager of digital marketing, in an interview. Best Buy's chief marketing officer, Barry Judge, wants to use mobile to make standard ads more interactive. A print ad or billboard, for instance, might give consumers an address they could text-message for more information. Best Buy also is thinking about how to use mobile marketing to enhance customers' shopping experiences, such as by building new applications or including special codes on its products to provide more information about them. "This is going to be a big area. It may dwarf what the PC Internet does," Mr. Judge says. While the Google-Apple race heats up, start-ups like FourSquare and Loopt, are trying to sell marketers on new ways to target customers on their mobile phones. Mobile social-networking service Loopt is developing a service that can target offers to the cellphones of people who walk into a specific store a certain number of times, says Loopt Chief Executive Sam Altman. "Advertisers want to reach people near their doorway, and when they are at that critical moment about making a decision," he said. FourSquare, a software application that allows users to tell their friends when they have "checked in" at various locations like a restaurant, is looking at ways to charge for a similar service that sends special offers to people who regularly check in at an establishment or are nearby. Today, more than 600 venues are using a free version of the service, FourSquare says. Tristan Walker, FourSquare's head of business development, says the company may develop a paid offering, and is looking at ways to give marketers more data about the types of people who visit their stores, like which store they visited just prior. "You could potentially turn it into a Google-like ad model where people bid on the latitude and longitude of where they want their ads to appear at certain times of day," he says. All the activity comes as mobile ads have yet to live up to what the tech industry says is their huge potential. Spending on mobile ads in the U.S. remains small–just $416 million in 2009, up from $320 million in 2008—according to market-research firm eMarketer. That's a fraction of the $22.4 billion U.S. online advertising market. Growth has been slower than expected as many mobile Web sites have yet to generate significant traffic and marketers have had a tough time creating campaigns. EMarketer predicted last February that mobile-ad spending would be $760 million in 2009, growing to $2.4 billion in 2012. The research firm now estimates that mobile-ad spending will reach just $1.1 billion by 2012. "The growth has been disappointing," says Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, the group within WPP working to develop the ad company's digital offerings. "The only large numbers on the table are the prices of the acquisitions—not the amount of revenue they're generating." In an interview last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said serious growth in mobile advertising will take time. "It's probably the case that the real impact on mobile [advertising] will come from products that aren't yet built," he said. In particular, he cited potential advertising opportunities around new software applications, like augmented reality software, which gives people information about what their phone is pointing at, acting as another pair of eyes. Apple could be another wild card."The relationship that Apple has with developers [of apps for the iPhone] is a really tight one," said AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui, in a recent interview. "I don't really have a clear view of what that's going to mean, but I do think it will be very different." AdMob and Google are continuing to operate as independent companies as they await word from the Federal Trade Commission, which is reviewing the deal on antitrust grounds. Google has said it remains confident "the FTC will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile-advertising space will remain highly competitive after this deal closes."

Apple's Jobs unveils new tablet computer, the iPad

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday revealed the culture-changing company's latest must-have device, a touchscreen tablet computer anointed the "iPad." "We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product," said Jobs, who underwent a liver transplant last year and was making just his second public appearance since September. The long-awaited iPad has a 9.7-inch (24.6-centimeter) color screen and resembles an oversized iPhone. It is 0.5 inches (1.3 cms) thick, weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kgs) and comes with 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of flash memory. The cheapest iPad model, with Wi-Fi connectivity and 16GB of memory, is $499 while the most expensive – which includes 3G connectivity and 64GB of memory – costs $829. "I think it's a home run," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "It becomes a viable alternative to a netbook and I get the 140,000 applications in the App Store. It is a pretty compelling value." Apple said it would start shipping the Wi-Fi version of the iPad, which has a virtual keyboard but can also dock with an external keyboard, in late March. The 3G version will reach the market in late April. The iPad is "unlocked," meaning buyers can pick preferred telecom service providers. Dressed in his trademark blue jeans, black turtleneck and sneakers, Jobs walked around the stage and sat on a couch at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater as he unveiled the hotly anticipated gadget. He showed off various iPad features which include browsing the Web, checking email, working with spreadsheets and charts, playing videogames, listening to music or watching video. Jobs, who appeared thin but healthy, said Apple was launching an online "iBookstore" for the iPad and touted its abilities as an electronic reader of books, newspapers and magazines. "You can have black-and-white, color, video in your books – whatever the author wants," he said. "We think the iPad is going to make a terrific e-book reader, not just for popular books but for textbooks as well. "Amazon has done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle," Jobs said. "We are going to stand on their shoulders." Jobs said the iPad has support from five big publishers and Apple will "open the floodgates for the rest of the publishers starting this afternoon." Some technology analysts believe the iPad will render other e-readers obsolete, while a number of publishers are counting on it to sell digital versions of their publications. The New York Times, Time magazine and National Geographic were among the partners whose content was displayed on the iPad on Wednesday. "We want to make something that combines the best of print and the best of digital," Times digital operations vice president Martin Nisenholtz said as he showed off an early version of an app for the device. "We are incredibly psyched to pioneer the next stage in digital journalism." Besides serving as an e-reader, the iPad runs almost all of the applications available through the Apple App Store for the iPod and iPhone. "If you are thinking about buying a Kindle, you are probably reconsidering that decision. If you are a developer, you have one more reason to develop applications for Apple," said Interpret analyst Michael Gartenberg. Apple simultaneously released a kit for software developers to tailor applications for the iPad. Jobs said he expected the device to carve out a place between the laptop computer and the smartphone. "Do we have what it takes to establish a third category of products in between a laptop and a smartphone?" he asked. "We think we've done it." The iPad is "so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone," he said. He said it has about 10 hours of battery life. Analyst Rob Enderle of Silicon Valley's Enderle Group said the iPad could be "disruptive for a lot of markets." "I have a hard time believing after seeing this that folks are going to want an e-reader that just does plain text and doesn't do format or color," he said. Enderle believed iPads could also pose a threat to hand-held gaming systems and eventually videogame consoles. Gameloft and Electronic Arts showed off slick games they had crafted with just a few weeks of preparation, saying the iPad opens countless "new doors." "We are going to be able to bring all of the other great EA games for the iPhone from the App Store to this device in no time," said Travis Boatman of EA's mobile studios. Apple shares gained 0.94 percent to close at $207.88 on Wall Street, but slipped a tad in after-hours electronic trading. Ranging it at $500 to $830, the newly announced 1.5-pound iPad doesn’t seem to bring much new to the table, despite Apple calling it magical . Here’s a run down of the specs, prices, details of the iPad. Let me know if you find any of the magic. If you want to compare sizes in a chart, check this bad boy out . Pricing WiFi only models are: $499 – 16GB $599 – 32GB $699 – 64 GB 3G models are: $629 – 16GB $729 – 32GB $829 – 64 GB Specs Height: 9.56 inches (242.8 mm) Width: 7.47 inches (189.7 mm) Depth: 0.5 inch (13.4 mm) Weight: 1.5 pounds (.68 kg) Wi-Fi model; 1.6 pounds (.73 kg) Wi-Fi + 3G model Display 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology with 178-degree viewing angle Touch has been reengineered for the iPad to make it “extremely precise and responsive” 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi) Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating Capacity 16GB, 32GB, 64GB flash memory Processor 1 Ghz Apple A4 chip Sensors Accelerometer Ambient light sensor Battery and Power Built-in 25Whr rechargeable lithium-polymer battery Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music Charging via power adapter or USB to computer system Input and Output Dock connector 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack Built-in speakers Microphone SIM card tray (Wi-Fi + 3G model only) Buttons and controls On off, sleep wake switch Mute Volume up and down Home button Built in Apps Safari Mail Photos Video YouTube iPod iTunes App Store iBooks Maps Notes Calendar Contacts Home Screen Spotlight Search Gaming The iPad will run “almost all of the apps” designed for the iPhone. You can run any of them in normal size or your can expand them to fill your screen. Only two games designed, rather redesigned, for the iPad have been shown off so far: First-person shooter NOVA and Need for Speed: Shift.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Is it a slate tablet or a thin and light notebook? It’s both. The new Lenovo IdeaPad U1 hybrid notebook offers has a removable multi-touch screen with a separate ARM processor that runs on Lenovo’s customized Skylight operating system. But when connected to its traditional clamshell form, you’ll have a full PC with an 11.6-inch HD LED screen running on Microsoft Windows 7. This high-tech hybrid notebook will be available by June, according to the China-based computer giant.

Twitter to hold 'Chirp,' first conference for developers

Twitter on Monday announced plans to hold its first conference for developers interested in making applications to synch with the wildly popular microblogging service. "We're happy to tell you that Chirp has now officially launched!" members of Twitter's "Chirp Team" said in an email message. Speakers at the two-day event will include Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone. The first day of the conference on April 14 will take place in the Palace of Fine Arts theater in San Francisco's Marina District and be devoted to topics including business strategies, geolocation services, and streaming content. The second Chirp day will be a 24-hour, nonstop hackathon at Fort Mason where developers will get to adapt applications to Twitter's software platform. The Chirp team promises attendees a "sneaky peak" at Twitter features poised for release and an after-party to be missed "at your peril." Twitter said there will be 800 tickets for the event, with the first "wave" of 100 tickets made available on Monday. The sign-up cost for Chirp was $469, according to an official website.

Palace allows Schutzengel Telecom congressional franchise to lapse into law

A NEW telecommunication company is set to enter the market after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo allowed a bill that grants it the franchise to operate to lapse into law. A Palace document showed that Republic Act (RA) No. 9857 lapsed into law on Dec. 20, 2009. The law grants a franchise to Schutzengel Telecom, Inc. to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain telecommunication systems in the country. The law is the consolidated version of Senate Bill No. 3387 and House Bill No. 6612. The Constitution provides that any bill ratified by both houses of the Congress will automatically become law even without the president’s signature 30 days after receipt by the Palace. The owners of the firm were not disclosed in the text of the Republic Act as well as in the Senate and House bills. Officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) were not immediately available for comment. Allowing a new firm to operate would maximize the potentials of the telecommunications sector, the introductory note of the Senate Bill read. "The industry has so much potential for growth, and the competitiveness of the industry players also appeals to other interested parties to avail [themselves] of what this growing market has to offer," it said.. But while the newly enacted law has given Schutzengel Telecom a franchise, it required the firm to secure the necessary licenses from the NTC for the construction, installation, and operation of its facilities. The law also stated that the franchise would be valid for a term of 25 years from the date of effectivity of the law, but may be revoked if Schutzengel Telecom fails to commence operations within three years upon approval of its permit by the NTC, operate continuously for two years, or start operating five years after the effectivity of the law. The new law also required the telco to list at least 30% of its outstanding capital stock on the local stock exchange within five years from the commencement of operations, to encourage public participation in utilities. Schutzengel Telecom had been reported as asking the NTC for a license to construct, install, operate and maintain a 3G or third-generation mobile telecommunications system in the country. A 3G license allows a telecommunication firm to offer services such as a faster mobile Internet and video streaming, among others. There is only one 3G slot left, and Schutzengel Telecom is competing with existing firms who already have 3G licenses, namely Globe Telecom, Inc., Smart Communications, Inc., Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. and Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprise, Inc. Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. is also seeking to get the last 3G license from the NTC. — Gerard S. de la Peña

Philippines Has the 12th Most Number of Twitter Users

Sighted online by Blogie: 1.08% of Twitterers are Filipino, making the Philippines #12 biggest population of users. twitter-users-worldwide-december-2009The rankings were compiled last December 2009, and list countries by how much percentage of the total number of Twitter users they take up. Though Twitter is an American-made service, international usage is growing, according to Sysomos: As Twitter matures, it is becoming more international… less than 51% of Twitter users were from the US in December 2009, down from 62.1% in June 2009. Brazil saw the greatest user growth, rising from 2% of the total in June to 8.8% in December. So the Brazilians have increased their user-base by around 1% a month last year. In terms of activity however, London is King: US users accounted for nearly 57% of tweets, however, showing they are more active than users in other countries—which makes sense if you consider that more experienced Twitter users are more engaged. Broken down by city, London had the most Twitter users, followed by Los Angeles, Sysomos found. But New Yorkers were the most active tweeters, accounting for some 2.4% of all posts.

Globe unit secures govt nod to expand remittance service

A unit of GLOBE Telecom Inc. has obtained regulatory approval to expand its remittance network using the telco’s sub-distributors nationwide. In a statement, the Ayala-led telco said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recently approved the request of G-Xchange Inc. to use Globe’s sub- distributors as GCash outlets. GCash is an “electronic wallet” that allows users to send and receive cash and make payments—including bills, donations and online purchases—through text messaging. With the approval, the number of remittance-enabled GCash outlets rises to 18,000 thereby making it the largest remittance network in the Philippines. At present, there are about 3,000 GCash cash-in cash-out outlets nationwide. Traditionally, the GCash is offered at Globe Business Centers, rural banks, pawnshops and other remittance partners. Now, the service will be available in more loading stations including sari-sari stores, gift shops, pharmacies, Internet cafes, boutiques, food establishments, photocopying stations, school supply stores, bakeshops, rice dealers, farm and poultry supply stores, gas stations, multi-purpose cooperatives, cell phone shops, and various stores nationwide. GCash has about 1.2 million users and has an average transaction value of P5 billion a month. Ernest Cu, Globe president and chief executive said the expansion of its network would provide a vehicle for financial inclusion of more Filipinos. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) recently released a study showing that 1.6 million active mobile-banking users in the Philippines are unbanked. The study reported that 26 percent of active users have incomes below $5 per day. On average, unbanked mobile money users spend $1.9 more a month. Rizza Maniego-Eala, president of G-Xchange said the expansion of Gcash would cut the delivery cost of remittances and access to various financial services. The CGAP report also showed that the average inbound remittance is about $300 and typically costs the sender between $7 and $15, or between 2.5 percent and 5 percent of the value remitted. In contrast, remitting money via GCash or Smart Money of Smart Communications Inc. costs less than 2 percent of the value.

Broadband speeds seen to grow tenfold

Internet connection speeds in the Philippines are expected to grow at least tenfold in the next five years as growing demand for broadband services encourage industry players to invest heavily in the sector. Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc. said the dramatic growth in broadband takeup, reported to number two million subscribers today from almost none three years ago, would not likely slow down in the next few years. “We’re in this high growth stage for broadband, similar to what the telephony industry experienced in the late 90s,” Globe head for carrier services Gil Genio said in a briefing. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in five to ten years from now, broadband connection speeds would be at 5- to 10 megabytes per second (mbps) for every user.” The expected increase, at the low end of 5 mbps will be about 10 times faster than the 512 kilobytes per second the average Filipino user has, he added. The company on Monday briefed reporters on the company’s tie-up with a consortium of telecommunications companies from seven Asia Pacific countries for the construction of the $400-million Southeast Asia-Japan fiberoptic cable (SJC) system. The underwater cable system, which will span from Singapore to Japan, will be faster than any other Internet system in existence. Out of the SJC’s 17 terabytes per second, Genio said the company would have an initial share of 30 gigabytes per second (Gbps), which would more than double the company’s current bandwidth capacity of 21 Gbps. He said the additional capacity, which could be beefed up further to nearly 960 Gbps, would help the company lower costs, increase connection speeds and improve the quality of services. Earlier, Globe said it had invested about $60 million for the construction of the SJC and infrastructure that would connect the Philippines to the system, which is expected to open in late 2012.

Ongpin-owned telecom bags permanent permit

TELECOMUNICATIONS Technologies Philippines Inc. (TTPI) has secured a permanent permit from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to operate landline service in areas in Metro Manila and Nothern Luzon. In a decision, the regulator issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the Ongpin-owned telecom company to install, operate and maintain a local exchange carrier (LEC) system in the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Kalinga Apayao, Nueva Viscaya, Ifugao and Quirino and in National Capital Region-A, which includes the cities of Manila and Kalookan, as well as the municipality of Navotas. The NTC said the CPCN is coterminous with TTPI’s legislative franchise. In Metro Manila, TTPI interconnects with Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Bayan Telecommunications Inc., Digital Telecommunications Phils. Inc. (Digitel), Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Co., Bell Telecom and Globe Telecom Inc. In Northern Luzon, TTPI interconnects with PLDT and Digitel. The NTC said the CPCN is subject to the condition that TTPI should pay within the prescribed period annual supervision and regulation fees and all other fees and charges that the regulator may impose pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations. The regulator also said that TTPI should start providing LEC service within the areas within 12 months from the date of its acceptance of its authority, unless the period is extended by the NTC. Earlier, the regulator extended TTPI’s permit to operate as inter-exchange carrier (IXC) in parts of Metro Manila and in Batanes, Cagayan Valley, Ifugao, Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino. An IXC is a public telecommunications entity providing transmission and switching facilities that connect the networks of two telephone companies that are not located within the same numbering plan area, or if so located have no common or overlapping service area. The company intends to carry its own subscribers’ traffic from the major metropolitan centers in Visayas and Mindanao to other LEC operators. The company’s network within its service areas in the north eastern Luzon and Metro Manila will be linked primarily to Cebu and Cagayan de Oro through the National Digital Transmission Network (NDTN) of the Telecoms Infrastructure Corp. Philippines. The NDTN consists of 1,348 kilometers of submarine fiber optic systems, 852 kilometers of land cable and 56.2 kilometers of microwave radio. Its capacity is 2.5 gigabits per second using synchronous digital hierarchy multiplex technology.

Sun Cellular posts 10-million subscriber count in 2009

DIGITEL Mobile Philippines Inc. (DMPI), operator of the Sun Cellular brand, registered more than 10 million subscribers in 2009. Information provided by the Gokongwei-controlled mobile phone operator indicated that the number of Sun Cellular subscribers increased by about 2 million last year from 8.2 million in 2008. “Sun Cellular holds the distinction of being the fastest growing mobile network provider in the country with more than 10 million subscribers supported by its over 5,000 cellular sites nationwide,” it said. The company intends to add 5 million to 6 million new subscribers every year. Sun Cellular was introduced in 2003. Three years later, its subscriber base reached 2.3 million. The brand pioneered unlimited call and text messaging services for subscribers. It has been upgrading its services by continuously expanding network coverage through aggressive network rollouts. Digitel is the listed phone firm of conglomerate JG Summit Inc. In 2007 the cellular firm claimed it took the No. 2 spot in overall postpaid subscriptions and was No. 1 in postpaid acquisition for the year. “Sun Cellular is the leader in postpaid growth with seven out of 10 postpaid subscribers choosing [the brand],” it said. The company capped 2008 with 4,000 cell sites to support the needs of its subscribers. Sun Cellular is currently the third-largest mobile phone operator. Smart Communications Inc. is still the leading cellular firm in terms of subscriber count with 40 million registered at end-2009. Smart is a wholly owned unit of phone giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. Globe Telecom, the joint venture between Ayala Corp. and SingTel, has yet to report its subscriber numbers. As of end-September last year, Globe had 23.1 million subscribers. Mobile telephony has reached over 80 percent SIM (subscriber identification module) penetration level; however, taking out incidences of multi-SIM usage, penetration on a unique subscriber basis is around 79 percent as of end-September 2009. It is expected that the mobile market will continue to see growth, albeit at a slower rate compared with the high double-digit growth rates back in the earlier years. The third-quarter performance of the cellular firms was adversely affected by the effects of the global recession. However, they anticipate the usual boost in the fourth quarter last year as a result of holiday spending.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

People don't have to rely just on Twitter, Google and Facebook to relay information

Decades ago, when the Department of Defense was creating the predecessor to today's Internet, one of the main goals was to create a communications system that could endure catastrophic disasters. The Internet was designed to have no central point of failure, allowing anyone to run his or her own communications channel. This was a system that could withstand a nuclear attack. Today, the services built on top of that network have done a great job in enabling communications, perhaps none more dramatically than Twitter. During the days since the Haiti earthquake, the popular social networking and microblogging service has been used for rescue efforts and for fundraising to help stabilize and rebuild the country. So it was big news when Twitter was offline for 90 minutes Wednesday morning. Technology pundits promptly began hand-wringing -- the weaknesses of having a single point of failure to critical communications had been revealed again! Could we trust Twitter? Did this mean the Web couldn't help us fulfill our most basic obligations to those in need? Not at all. There's no reason that organizations or individuals who want to use the Web to relay critical information have to rely on Twitter or Facebook or Google or any other giant of the technology industry in the first place. We've just forgotten a bit about how the Internet was supposed to work. Rescue organizations and charities should simply be able to use the Web sites they already have to deliver those messages. And wasn't that the promise of the Web in the first place? Weren't we going to stop relying on individual companies as gatekeepers for communication? When blogs took off a few years ago, wasn't it with the promise that we'd all be able to share our voices without having to ask any company for permission? Why did we give that up? Maybe it's because they made it look so easy. Twitter has done an impressive job of growing to handle its enormous number of users, while keeping its service simple. The company has even shown a reassuring sensitivity to the civic and social obligations that come from running such a popular communication service. Companies such as Facebook and Google have stepped up, too. Their hearts appear to be in the right place, and they're doing real work to help people communicate. But the Web is bigger than any one site or any one social network. In my own work, I run a nonprofit that strives to connect government policymakers to the expertise of ordinary people using the Web. We'll naturally make great use of Twitter and Facebook and all the other services, but it'd be unforgivable to pick only one of them as a platform for civic engagement. Telling people the only way to talk to the White House is on Facebook is like saying you can only call your senator by using a particular phone company. And that's the key lesson to learn from Twitter being down while people are depending on it for communication: Some needs are too important to put in the hands of any single company. Communicating in real time about emergency information is clearly one of them. Fortunately there's good news. Smart inventors have already made cutting-edge technologies that let any site deliver messages with the same immediacy as Twitter or Facebook. Now the challenge is reminding all of the social institutions, media organizations and government agencies that they need to use their own communications infrastructure just as much as they participate in services such as Twitter and Facebook. The reality is social networks come and go. Ten years ago, otherwise-sensible companies were paying millions of dollars to America Online to buy "AOL keywords." These were shortcuts to parts of the AOL service, which dominated U.S. Internet access at the time. In fact, many of us have allowed companies to become intermediaries to all our communications, whether it was AOL 10 years ago or Facebook today. But we don't need to ask gateways for permission to publish. We can run our own Web sites, at our own Web addresses and keep control over how we communicate. Think how ludicrous it would seem for someone to decide, say, to offer emergency services as an AOL keyword called "911" instead of having people just dial their phones? That sounds absurd, but you can see advertisements today that essentially say "Find us on Facebook at!" Now, Facebook probably won't fade away entirely, like early networks such as Friendster. But those Facebook addresses are just like AOL keywords 10 years earlier. And it is conceivable that the organizations and companies who communicate on Facebook today may want to become more independent. Whether due to emergency or just the everyday requirements of doing business, they ultimately will stop depending on a single point of contact for their communications. This is, after all, how the Web was designed to work. We already see governments and civic organizations using the Web as effectively as the best corporations and media. In the United States, we have a White House that's got an iPhone application and a State Department that's asking us to define democracy by responding on Twitter. Judging by how much technology has affected society already, those first experiments will soon evolve into full-fledged platforms for citizen participation and charitable action. And let's hope they won't have to worry if any one Web site goes down. Because we'll have a web of independent but connected communications systems, just as the Internet was always designed to be.

Twitter cuts feature on site over security flaw

Twitter has temporarily disabled one of the features on its website after a security researcher warned of a programing flaw that left the login credentials of its users vulnerable to hackers. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in an email that the company had temporarily cut off access to a feature that lets users display Twitter updates on their websites by using Flash technology. "Our team has disabled the Flash widget while we look into the problem," Stone said. Mike Bailey, a senior security analyst with Foreground Security of Orlando, Florida, said that the problem exploits a widely known vulnerability in Adobe Systems Inc's Flash programing language. Adobe has told programmers how to address the vulnerability, which was first discovered in 2006, Bailey added, but noted the operators of many websites have failed to respond to those warnings. The microblogging site's huge popularity has made it a prime target for hackers looking to spread malicious software to Twitter's millions of users. "As simple as the attack is, I've been finding them all over the place," Bailey said. Officials with Adobe declined to comment. A hacker last month briefly hijacked the Twitter site and redirected it to one that claimed to represent a group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army. That high-profile attack -- by a perpetrator who stole credentials to the account that Twitter uses to route its traffic -- did not compromise credentials of any Twitter users. Bailey said his analysis of the Twitter site showed that it could have been vulnerable to attacks for more than a year, but that it was impossible to know whether hackers had actually exploited the Adobe flaw. He is scheduled to discuss his research on the Twitter flaw at the Black Hat DC security research conference in Washington, which begins on February 2.

Anti-child-porn, anti-cyber-boso laws could lead to massive freedom curbs

La Salle research findings show need to balance morality issues with human rights The newly enacted Republic Act 9775, the Anti-Child Pornography Law, could be misused or even abused to curb Filipinos’ right to use the Internet and deprive them of other civil liberties. This is the carefully weighed warning made by scholars at De La Salle University’s Institute of Governance, who have made urgent policy recommendations that must be considered by those drafting R.A. 9775’s implementing rules and regulations. The La Salle Institute of Governance (LSIG) released the findings of the research project on January 15. R.A. 9775, a consolidation of a House and a Senate bill, was passed on October 13 and signed by President Gloria Arroyo on November 17. The law creates an “Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, with a membership composed of the heads of the Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Information and Communication Technology, National Telecommunications Commission, Council for the Welfare of Children, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, Optical Media Board and National Bureau of Investigation” and include representatives from child-focused nongovernment organizations. The Council is tasked by the law to “promulgate the implementing rules and regulation within 90 days of the effectivity” of Act. This means R.A. 9775’s IRR must be promulgated by February 17. Those who are drafting the IRR would benefit from the LSIG study “Patrolling the Internet: Mapping the Policy Terrain.” the experts drafting the IRR should heed its recommendations. Groups concerned with the protection of children, foremost of which is PREDA, headed by a Times columnist, Fr. Shay Cullen, praise the law. Fr. Shay says R.A. 9775 is “the first major step forward in protecting children from being sexually exploited through the making and distribution of images of them being sexually abused. The law is hard hitting and among other things prohibits the possession, making, distribution, display, and the attempt to access or transmit on the internet or by cell phone any illegal images depicting sexual activity with or of children or their private parts.” It is, says Fr. Shay, “one of the few pieces of anti-child pornography legislation in the world that requires by law Internet Server Providers [ISPs] to install filtering software that will block access to web sites though the Internet that contains illegal images of children as defined under the act.” The La Salle study shows that in many countries, like Britain and many others in Western Europe, ISPs do use filtering software voluntarily. In addition, “all operators and business establishments have to know and report to the police within seven days any violation of the act in their premises.” The law strictly outlaws any attempt to knowingly access with reasonable knowledge any child pornography with or without the intent to publish, sell, distribute or broadcast the images. Under R.A. 9775 the Internet Service Providers must reveal, when asked by the police, the identities of the offenders—their clients trying to access child pornography over the Internet through their servers. Many ISPs and the association of Internet cafes oppose the required installation of filters and the imposition of the duty to monitor—or spy on—and report child-porno addicts. As the LSIG study documents it, some industry people see this provision of the law as an invasion of privacy and a form of censorship. The La Salle study tells us of a scenario, brought up at a roundtable held for the research study by Wynthrop Yu, chair of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, in which a person’s name is on the “blacklist” submitted by the ISP. That person only wound up visiting the porno website for something else—not the porno—or in error. But the government agents are now justified to do surveillance on the person’s usage of the Internet and perhaps of other matters about him. While generally in favor of throwing out pornography, especially child pornography, from the Internet, the authors of the La Salle study recommend that the authorities must carefully balance morality issues with human-rights protection. We believe this is an extremely valid point, especially remembering that in our country anti-communist and anti-dissident police and military groups have violated human rights to the point of murder.

Twitter users respond to Jason Ivler’s arrest

The two-month hunt for Jason Ivler, the prime suspect in the murder of Renato Ebarle, Jr., came to an end yesterday morning. During a search conducted by National Bureau of Investigation operatives, Ivler was discovered and detained in his mother’s Quezon City home, but not before a tense shootout with the police. The clash left two police officers injured and Ivler with two gunshot wounds. On the web, we asked for your reactions on Ivler's arrest. Compassion and justice Some showed compassionate towards Ivler, including @briandavidz who tweeted, “Was it just me, or was the operation mishandled?" In a similar vein, @hellohellocarlo commented, "How inhumane what they did to Ivler, they should have not dragged him in handcuffs." He continued, “they already had Ivler walking, they should have just placed him in a police car calmly.” But most were thankful that Ivler was caught and justice was served. Keeping his message simple, @atalyer tweeted "Face the music, Ivler." Meanwhile, @lenskiecruz pointed out Ivler's illegal possession of a gun during the gun ban period preceding May's elections. And @jetboyboogie thinks Ivler has been watching too many movies to think that he could win in a shootout with the police. A case of mistaken identity Still others remembered another Jason Aguilar, who was mistakenly detained and deported from Qatar. @chebaldemor remarked, "I hope this is the right guy this time." Coming to Aguilar’s defense, @nerveending noted, "Ivler and his mom must also be held liable for Jason Aguilar's deportation and job loss." Maternal love Jason Ivler’s mother, Marlene Aguilar, who has been charged with obstruction of justice didn't get off so easy either. @bluearden tweeted, "While I don't question maternal love, it's disconcerting to know that Iivler's mom kept her fugitive son and armed him with an armalite." Providing a @alanagrao said, "A mother will always be a mother; but a good mother is somebody who will not tolerate the wrongdoings of her child." And @whilyn exclaimed, "Shame on his mother! We expect mothers to love their sons, but to that extent?!" Kudos to capturing the culprit and the footage But despite some questions about how the NBI handled the situation, tweeters like @onewit and @akosigodz praised their efforts. @one-wit added that he hoped the bureau would apply the same dedication and passion to other cases. The cameramen who braved the gunfire to capture footage of the action also received accolades from tweeters. "Kudos to the brave cameraman who maintained focus and kept camera rolling despite the gunfire," tweeted @dailymanila . Awaiting his day in court Jason Ivler is now in stable condition at the Quirino Memorial Medical Center. However, as he awaits his day in court, it seems that netizens have already given their verdict.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tablet PCs

We know what desktops are for, we know what laptops are for, we know what smartphones are for. All-purpose tablet PCs, though, have never really taken off, namely because ... well, save for niche uses (like in hospitals, hard-hat job sites, or as e-readers), it's not all that obvious how they might fit into our day-to-day lives. That's the problem Apple hopes to solve this coming Wednesday. Now, you'll have to indulge me here, because I've taken quite the roundabout way to framing Apple's all-but-certain announcement Wednesday of an all-purpose, $1,000-ish touchscreen tablet that (if the Wall Street Journal's reporting is correct) is intended to be shared by the entire family. Here's the plan: I'm going to go through each of the main PC categories and tick off their key characteristics, advantages and disadvantages (as I see them, anyway), finishing up with tablet PCs. The grades I've assigned are relative to the respective categories, and of course, broad generalizations are the name of the game here. Most of the pros and cons I've listed below will be obvious, but something interesting starts to happen when we get to tablet PCs: the advantage and disadvantages begin to get pretty nebulous, and that's the challenge and/or opportunity that Apple will face in a few days. All set? Then here we go ... Desktop Portability: None, zero, nada; it sits on your desk, and that's about it. Grade: F Display: As big as you can stand, and you could even add a second (or a third) display if you like. Grade: A+ Input: Again, you can get as big and roomy of a keyboard as you wish, complete with dedicated function keys and a numeric keypad, plus your favorite ergonomic mouse. Grade: A+ Performance: Bleeding edge, provided you can afford it. Grade: A+ Best for: Heavy-duty number crunchers. Hard-core gamers who crave cranking up their graphics settings to the max. Music and video editors dealing with gargantuan files. Laptop Portability: Your average 4- to 5-pound laptop will fit nicely in a small backpack, perfect for toting to the office or surfing on the sofa. But take it on, say, a three-hour hike, and your 5-pound notebook will feel more like 15 at the end; also, using a 15-inch laptop in coach on an airplane could be an awkward proposition. Grade C+ Display: A 13- to 14-inch laptop display will do the job just fine nine times out of 10, but starts to feel cramped once you've opened more than a couple of windows; you could always add a second display, but if you do, there goes the portability factor. Grade: B Input: Laptop keyboards are, for the most part, nearly as comfortable and roomy as desktop keyboards, but typically the function keys must buddy-up with the numeric keys, and unless you're prepared to bring along (and have the space for) an external mouse, you'll have to make do with a touch-sensitive trackpad or those little, eraser-sized nubs in the center of the keyboard (ugh). Grade: B Performance: The smaller the size, the more compromised the performance: that's the inherent trade-off when it comes to tech. Don't get me wrong; there are some wicked-fast laptops out there (although you may have to pay more or prepare to lug around more weight to get one), and if you're simply surfing, watching a streaming Netflix movie, or working on your Master's thesis, a laptop will meet your needs with speed to spare. That said, a desktop PC will almost always be more powerful than a similarly priced laptop, and if you're editing a three-hour HD movie, you're gonna want a desktop to do it. Grade: B+ Best for: Almost anyone performing day-to-day surfing, multimedia, and/or Office duties, from executives and corporate road warriors to students and casual, lounging-on-the-couch home users. In short: they're great, all-purpose devices, which is why almost every home has one. Netbook PC Portability: There's a world of difference between carrying around a 5-pound, 13-inch laptop and a 10-inch, 2.5-pound netbook, believe me. No, you can't fit a netbook in your pocket, but the smaller and thinner ones will fit in a (largish) purse, no problem, and they're also perfect for use on the seat-back tray table on a jetliner. Grade: B- Display: While a 13-inch laptop screen feels pretty much like a desktop display, a 10-inch netbook screen looks like, well ... half of one. For on-the-go info snacking or checking e-mail, netbook displays will do the job, but you'll have to do a lot more scrolling on your Web browser, and working on a big Excel spreadsheet would be a royal pain. Grade: C Input: You'll still get a full QWERTY keyboard on a netbook PC, but they're typically slightly smaller than a full-sized laptop keyboard, and they take getting used to. Again, a netbook QWERTY is fine for tapping out a quick e-mail or updating your Facebook status, but I wouldn't want to write a novel on one. Grade: C Performance: Once again, the size-to-performance ratio comes into play. Yes, there are some impossibly-small netbooks out there, but they're often powered by smartphone-calibre processors that'll start wheezing the moment you tee up a YouTube video. That's the trade-off. Grade: C- Best for: Road warriors and tech fashionistas who want to surf, fire off a few e-mails, and perform some light Office chores on the go, all in a compact, 2- to 3-pound package. Smartphone Portability: Small enough to fit in a pocket; goes anywhere and everywhere (well, besides underwater). Grade: A+ Display: Even with the latest, high-resolution 3.5-inch displays on newer handsets, the screens on smartphones are—let's face it—awfully small. They work in a pinch for mobile-optimized apps and Web pages or the odd YouTube video, but watching a full-length movie or scrolling around a lengthy PDF can be pushing it. Grade: D Input: Those tiny BlackBerry keypads and virtual QWERTY keyboards come in handy for firing off text messages, updating Facebook, or tapping in a username and password, but if you need to compose a lengthy e-mail, well ... kill me now. Grade: D Performance: Smartphone processors have come a long way in the past few years; indeed, have you played one of those new 3D games on an iPhone 3GS lately? That said, it's not like the processors in laptops and desktops have been standing still, and the smaller you go with a gadget, the more you sacrifice in performance. Grade: D Best for: Almost anyone who wants to check e-mail, zap off some tweets, watch a quick video, or play a teeny, tiny game without having to lug a laptop around. (Oh, right—you can make voice calls on it, too.) Tablet PCs Portability: Most tablet-sized devices fall somewhere between laptops and netbooks in terms of size, with dedicated, single-purpose tablets (like the Kindle or the Sony E-Reader) considerably smaller and cheaper than all-purpose, full-power tablets (such as those made by the likes of HP). In general, though, tablets aren't as hefty as your average laptop, but they won't fit in your pocket, either; you've still got another gadget to carry around. Grade: B to B+ Display: Again, there's a wide range here, depending on whether you're talking about a single-purpose device or an all-purpose tablet. An e-reader tablet with a 5- to 10-inch display might be perfect for reading a book or flipping through a virtual magazine, but for all-pupose use, a 10- to 11-inch screen on a tablet can be as limiting as it is on a netbook. Grade: B to C Input: Well, once again ... it depends. If you're a doctor on your rounds and you've got the right interface software running, a touchscreen tablet PC might be even better than an actual keyboard. But for the average user trying to perform average, day-to-day desktop duties, tapping on a display with your fingertip or a stylus can't hold a candle to a tried-and-true keyboard-and-mouse combo ... that is, short of some kind of revolution in tablet interface design (which we may or may not see from Apple come Wednesday). Grade: A+ (for "vertical" applications in medicine, architecture, design, and so on) to D (for everyday use ... as of today, anyway). Performance: Sorry to repeat myself, but ... it depends. For single-purpose e-readers, tablet performance might be pretty limited, but that's perfectly fine when it comes to perusing a book. On the other hand, some all-purpose tablet PCs have the same power under the hood as a laptop ... but the same girth, as well. Grade: C- to B+ (but, depending on what you're using it for, C- -level performance might be all you need). Best for: Well, here's where things get interesting. Tablet PCs have never really taken off as a category, and it's easy to see why. For general, all-purpose use—and absent a truly remarkable touchscreen user interface—there's practically nothing a tablet can do that a laptop PC can't do better. But for specific, niche uses (or "vertical markets," as we call them in the biz), a tablet PC might be just the thing; say, for an architect that's making notes and sketching designs on a job site with a stylus, a doctor tapping checkboxes during rounds (as I mentioned above), an exec delivering an impromptu presentation at Starbucks, or a sunbather reading the latest John Grisham thriller poolside, well ... in those specific cases, it's hard to beat a tablet. And that's precisely the problem ... ... that Apple is facing on Wednesday morning. From what we've been reading (Apple iself, of course, has been mute up to this point), the big brains in Cupertino want to position the iSlate/iPad/iTablet (or whatever it'll be called) as a device for the entire family, to be shared in the living room, and apparently for all-purpose uses like flipping through virtual magazines, checking e-mail, surfing the Web, and watching videos—all of which you can do perfectly well on a garden-variety laptop (or on an iPhone, for that matter). So ... given that, why would anyone want to cough up $1,000 (if the speculation is right) for an all-purpose touchscreen tablet (rather than, say, a $250- to $500-ish, speci

Attacks from file-sharing networks to escalate

IT security company, which said that it accurately predicted the rise in global epidemics in 2009, has forecast that the new year will be dominated by six trends that will continue to post challenges to consumers and security firms. Russia-based Kaspersky Lab said it was right on the dot when it predicted that infectious programs would emerge in 2009. True enough, it said, sophisticated malicious programs with rootkit functionality, Conficker, web attacks and botnets, SMS fraud, and attacks on social networks made headlines in the past year. Roel Schouwenberg, senior malware researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement that malware will further become sophisticated in 2010. “Third party program vulnerabilities will continue to be the target of choice by cybercriminals with Adobe continuing to be the main target. And finally I believe that with the introduction of real-time search, black hat SEO and social networks will become an even bigger focus of cybercriminals,” he said. For 2010, researchers and analysts from Kaspersky Lab came up with a list of six predictions which they said will be the year’s greatest threats and newest attack vectors: 1. A rise in attacks originating from file-sharing networks. Kaspersky Lab said this year will see a shift in the types of attacks on users, from attacks via websites and applications toward attacks originating from file-sharing networks. 2. An increase in mass malware epidemics via P2P networks. The security firm said that in 2009, a series of mass malware epidemics was “supported” by malicious files that spread via file sharing networks such as TDSS and Virut as well as the first backdoor virus for Mac OS X. 3. Continuous competition for traffic from cybercriminals. Kaspersky said it foresees the emergence of more “grey” schemes in the botnet services market. These so-called “partner programs,” it said, enable botnet owners to make a profit from activities such as sending spam, performing denial of service (DoS) attacks, or distributing malware without committing an explicit crime. 4. A decline in fake anti-virus programs. The decline in gaming Trojans witnessed in 2009 is likely to be repeated for fake anti-virus programs in 2010, Kaspersky said. The fake anti-virus market has now been saturated and the profits for cybercriminals have fallen, it noted. 5. An interest in attacking Google Wave. Attacks on this new Google service, it said, will no doubt follow the usual pattern: first, the sending of spam, followed by phishing attacks, then the exploiting of vulnerabilities and the spreading of malware. 6. An increase in attacks on iPhone and Android mobile platforms. Kaspersky Lab said the first malicious programs for these mobile platforms appeared in 2009, a sure sign that they have aroused the interest of cybercriminals. The increasing popularity of mobile phones running the Android OS combined with a lack of effective checks to ensure third-party software applications are secure, will lead to a number of high-profile malware outbreaks, it said.

43,000 flying voters ere discovered because of AFIS

Forty-three thousand double or multiple registrants have been discovered by the Commission on Elections in two regions in the country and the poll body is expecting the number to increase. Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the double or multiple registrants were discovered by the Information and Technology Department in Regions 4A and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He said the multiple registrants were discovered because of the biometric system and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) being used by the Comelec. We have to thank the application of the biometrics because of the capture of the face, thumbprints, and signature, these were all stored and using the AFIS these were discovered,” said Sarmiento. He said the Comelec en banc has already authorized the ITD to remove from the official list of voters the double and multiple registrants. “This is without prejudice to the filing of appropriate election offenses charged against these double and multiple registrants,” Sarmiento said. Under the Omnibus Election Code, he said, the penalty for multiple registrations is one to six years imprisonment without probation and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. “The fact that they resorted to these double registration is by itself a violation of the OEC. So they can vote but without prejudice to the filing of appropriate charges the evidence warrants against them,” Sarmiento said. The poll official said Comelec is expecting the figure to increase in the coming days as the cleansing process continues. “This is ongoing. Now this will be implemented nationally, not only in the four regions. To think that in the four regions only we already have more than 43,000 so this means more will be discovered by the ITD,” said Sarmiento. Meanwhile, the Comelec and the Department of Education have signed an agreement assuring public school teachers who will serve in the May 2010 polls proper compensation and training for the country’s first ever nationwide automated elections. The agreement provides, among others, up to P200,000 in compensation in cases of election-related deaths or injuries of DepEd personnel. Public school teachers who will serve in the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) are expected to get P4,300 for their services after the Comelec agreed to compensation demands by various teachers’ organizations that consider poll duty as extremely hazardous. “Our teachers need to be fully compensated as they perform central roles in this political exercise," Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said. The DepEd estimates a total of 280,000 personnel, or 50 percent of its total work force, to serve in the upcoming elections. Under the agreement, members of the Board of Election Inspectors including the chairman will get P3,000 each, plus P300 transportation allowance. Another P500 will be given for the inspection, verification, and sealing of book of voters and P500 more for the inspection, verification, and sealing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. Likewise, team leaders (school heads, principals and education supervisors who are not members of the BEI) who will supervise certain precincts will receive P3,000. Janitors and messengers who will be assigned in certain precincts will get P1,500 while members of the board of canvassers in the municipal, city and provincial levels will get P5,000. The DepEd and Comelec also assured that the training of teachers for the operation of the PCOS machines will start in March. According to Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, all the machines are expected to be delivered before February 14. However, the poll body has to first conduct laboratory tests on the machines to ensure their proper operation. “Before the training starts, we have to assure that the machines have passed the lab tests. Smartmatic (the winning bidder for the poll automation contract) already conducted tests on the machines but we have to test it again,” Melo said. DepEd Undersecretary Franklin Sunga said the department will also set aside P30 million as part of the teacher compensation deal for election-related death or injuries that may be sustained by DepEd employees in the performance of their duties. Heirs of the deceased personnel shall receive P200,000. Meanwhile, the Comelec will take over from the city and municipal mayors operational supervision and control of Philippine National Police units from April 10 to June 9, 2010 as part of overall efforts to ensure peace and order during the elections. The Comelec has furnished all mayors with copies of its en banc Resolution No. 8731 providing for direct operational supervision by the poll body over PNP units through its Director General. Operational supervision and control, the power to direct, oversee and inspect the police units includes the power to employ and deploy units or elements of the PNP through the station commander.

Mayen Austria, Jason Ivler top local Google searches Mayen Austria, Jason Ivler top local Google searches

A suspect in the road rage killing of a Palace official's son and the rumored girlfriend of basketball star James Yap were among the most searched terms by local Google users for the past 7 days. According to Google Insights for Search, the top two breakout search terms among Internet users in the Philippines this week were Mayen Austria and Jason Ivler. Also ranking high among local Google searches is the UPCAT (UP College Admission Test) 2010 resullts. Austria, a female fan of James Yap, made headlines recently after an alleged confrontation between her and Yap's wife, Kris Aquino. Newspaper reports earlier said Aquino confronted Austria for calling Yap and confiding her love troubles. Aquino later told The Buzz that she was having problems with her marriage and had asked Yap to give her space. On the other hand, Ivler became the subject of intense online interest after his arrest last Monday. The initial report of his arrest was the most read story on for the past 5 days and generated 7 pages of comments. Ivler is accused of killing Renato Victor Ebarle Jr., son of Presidential Chief of Staff Undersecretary Renato Ebarle Sr., during a traffic altercation on November 18. He was arrested in the house of his mother in Blue Ridge A Subdivision in Quezon City last Monday after evading police for the past 2 months.

Twitter has begun rolling out location-based trending topics

The product is officially called Local Trends. In a statement to us, Twitter (Twitter) said the following: “We’re rolling out local trends to 1 percent of users today, but we’ll share more information when it reaches a larger audience hopefully sometime next week. We’ll keep you posted when that happens.” The new feature in all of its glory. Scroll past them for more information on the new Twitter feature. Currently, only a few users have access to the feature (I don’t have it yet), but it should be rolling out to everybody soon. Here’s what we can tell you: - Local Trends allows you to set a specific location, so that you can see the trends around you. Most of the time, this would be your home. However, it looks like you can change it on-the-fly if you’re traveling, for example. - Clicking on Local Trends gives you a list of different cities and countries in which you can view trends. It’s a limited list so far — only 15 U.S. cities are supported. - You can access these trending topics from, on the right-hand column. - A full rollout should occur sometime next week, if testing goes smoothly. We think this is a logical and smart move, especially in the wake of the rise of location-based service such as Foursquare (Foursquare). We’ll have more analysis soon.

Low-tech radios connect some Haitians

Low-tech radios connect some Haitians In the brutal aftermath of Haiti's earthquake, Jean-Robert Gaillard turned to his low-tech radio for solace and for a lifeline. When the earthquake hit, the 57-year-old from Petionville, Haiti, found most of his normal lines of communication -- his cell phone, the Internet, even his ability to walk down the street and talk to someone -- severed by the disaster. But Gaillard used a neighbor's generator to power up his radio and connect to a handful of amateur radio enthusiasts in the United States -- many of whom were eagerly listening to radio static for calls like his. Unlike many other people in Haiti, Gaillard was able to contact family members in the United States soon after the January 12 earthquake hit to tell them he had survived. In those first hellish moments, that connection seemed like a miracle. "It relieved the tension of my family members," he said, speaking by Skype from Haiti on Tuesday, which he says wasn't possible until more recently. "They could hear my voice. They knew that I was OK." Much has been made about the role flashier technologies like Twitter, Skype and text messaging have played in helping disaster victims find loved ones and communicate with international aid workers. But it is worth noting that, when all else fails, the low-tech hum of a radio frequency is sometimes the only line of communication that's open. Enthusiasts of amateur radio -- or ham radio -- are quick to use this as evidence that international aid groups and governments should rely more heavily on radio in disaster situations. Ham radio signals bounce off of a layer of charged particles in Earth's atmosphere, called the ionosphere, and, depending on the conditions, can work at times when other modes of communication fail. But amateur radio is best viewed as one of many communications options in the wake of a disaster, said Keith Robertory, manager of disaster services technology at the American Red Cross, who has been helping in Haiti relief efforts from Washington. The best communication technology in a disaster, he said, is whatever happens to work at the time.

2010: Innovation or interruption?

The "real-time Web" is booming. From Twitter to Facebook to new search engines that discover information posted just seconds ago, it seems the 2010 Web will be fueled by our desire for instant gratification. But between Facebook status updates, Tweets and new mobile applications that deliver breaking news on our phones, will we be driven to distraction in 2010? The interruptive Web: What's new? We're one paragraph into this article and I've already been notified that I have five new Twitter updates, received one breaking news alert and seen three new e-mails pop into my inbox. What's new? After all, e-mail, instant messaging and text messages were distractions devised more than a decade ago. Has anything really changed? Yes: The network itself has become faster and virtually omnipotent. Ubiquitous connectivity and the need for speed One factor that's dramatically different at the end of this decade versus the beginning: Ubiquitous connectivity. McDonalds is set to introduce Free Wi-Fi in its U.S. restaurants in January, while Google is providing free wireless Internet at selected airports this holiday season. Meanwhile, Virgin America, American, Delta, United and other major airlines have ensured that the skies are no longer digitally disconnected. All now provide Wi-Fi on their flights. Verizon is running attack ads against AT&T -- and AT&T is counterattacking with equal force -- over which company provides the best 3G coverage. Take note: This isn't about which company has the best network coverage, since it's already taken as read that cell phone reception is fairly ubiquitous at this point. Rather, the phone companies are warring over who has the kind of high-speed connectivity that will let you watch YouTube videos while you're hiking the Appalachian Trail. Shifting expectations All this connectivity raises our expectations of an immediate response. Colleagues, friends and relatives become accustomed to the idea that we're always on and available. Few sanctuaries of digital disconnectedness remain, and consumers aren't mourning their loss. Our addiction to being constantly connected to our online communities and the world's information is insatiable. At the time of writing, for example, a BlackBerry outage is resulting in hundreds of complaints per minute on Twitter. Writes one disgruntled BlackBerry owner: "feeling disconnected. when will service be restored?" Real-time apps: Productivity boon or bust? Capitalizing on our constant connectedness and our desire to live in the now, so called "real-time" applications have dominated the Web startup landscape in late 2009. Desktop applications like TweetDeck and Seesmic let users consume scores of Twitter and Facebook updates throughout the day. News reading tool Google Reader now delivers breaking news within moments, not minutes; collaborative tool Google Wave lets users work together in an environment where every letter they type is shared with the group instantly. Hitting the "enter" key to send a complete thought is much too slow these days. Mobile versions of these apps, meanwhile, follow you everywhere you go. Speed and connectivity may be satisfying, addictive and in high demand, but is our collective neophilia making us less productive? Multitasking myths Exploring the real-time Web, psychologist Jim Taylor points out that while instant gratification is highly compelling, it's likely to create yet more digital distractions. It's true. Studies show that multitasking -- the kind of behavior that real-time applications foster -- hurts productivity. A summary of research by the American Psychological Association states that "Multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more errors." The mistakes sneak in because of "switching costs" when rapidly changing tasks, the studies suggest. Surprisingly, "chronic media multitaskers" perform the worst in testing of their multitasking abilities, according to a 2009 report. In other words, those who consider themselves proficient multitaskers perform the worst on the tests. 2010: Innovation or interruption? In short, Web companies are rushing to satiate our desire for instant gratification, pushing real-time updates to us anywhere, anytime. And yet the studies show that these constant interruptions make it harder for us to process the information -- to digest it, come to conclusions and take action. Could the "now Web" do us more harm than good? As a technology optimist, I'd like to believe we'll spot this problem and confront it. In my recent column 10 Web Trends to Watch in 2010, I proposed "content curation" as one antidote to information overload. By allowing our friends or teams of professional editors to comb the Web and extract the gems, we'd receive more relevant information at less frequent intervals. Technical solutions seem plausible, too: Filters that separate the wheat from the Web chatter. If all else fails, of course, we can turn off, something I hope you'll get a chance to do over the holidays.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Click Fraud Gets More Elaborate with 'Real' Purchases

A Harvard Business School professor has identified a new breed of click fraud that not only simulates clicks on a Google ad - but also seemingly generates a 'real' customer purchase on the advertiser's website. Professor Ben Edelman, who has researched such related issues as invisible online ads - sleight-of-hand tactics used by some websites to sell more advertising than they have space for - calls this new form of fraud even more insidious as it gives the perpetrator the ability to impose charges in a way that is harder for the advertiser to notice. "The retailer may think it can detect click fraud by a low sales conversion rate," says Edelman. "But here, the traffic converts. Based on that high conversion rate, they might even decide to raise their bid [in Google's advertising auction system] and have no way to realize that it's all a ruse." (via Forbes). No Ordinary Click Fraud This is how the fraud works, according to his blog: spyware on a user's PC monitors the user's browsing to determine his or her likely purchase intent. Then the spyware fakes a click on a Google PPC ad promoting the exact merchant the user was already visiting. If the user proceeds to make a purchase - which is reasonably likely for a user already navigating to the merchant's site - the merchant will naturally credit Google for the sale. "Furthermore, a standard ad optimization strategy will lead the merchant to increase its Google PPC bid for this keyword on the reasonable - albeit mistaken - view that Google is successfully finding new customers. But in fact Google and its partners are merely taking credit for customers the merchant had already reached by other methods." Much of the culpability for this fraud, Edelman says, can be attributed to a search engine that Google uses to broker ads. In the scheme that Edelman tracked, these ads were passed on to more than seven other shady affiliates that perpetuated the fraud through the search engine. Among other measures, Edelman is urging Google to cut its ties with this search engine as well as make restitution with affected advertisers. Garden Variety Fraud The war against more straightforward click fraud does not seem to be advancing either as new statistics show an increase in this activity. Anchor Intelligence says the average attempted click fraud rate jumped from 18.6% in Q3 to 25.7% in Q4 - the highest attempted click fraud rate recorded by Anchor in all of 2009. Fraudsters looking to take advantage of the surge in holiday ad spend online was the main culprit. Separately Click Forensics also released figures for Q4. It found that the overall industry average click fraud rate was 15.3%, up from 14.1% for Q3 2009 and down from the record 17.1% rate reported for Q4 2008.


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