Monday, January 03, 2005

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: January 03, 2005]

Fearless Forecast

In 2004, we saw tremendous leap in advancement in terms of technology, particularly in consumer electronics. Even prices have gone done considerably. Imagine, back in 1996, a 500Mb hard disk drive would cost you P5000.00; today, you could get a whopping 80Gb hard drive at the same price, even lower in fact. That’s about 160 times more hard disk space for less money!

Last year alone was a record sale for digital still cameras worldwide. Consider this: I had an early model Kodak digital camera that cost P17,500 back in 2001 and sports only a 1.2-megapixel resolution. Two years later, a 6-megapixel Taiwanese-made digicam sells less than P10,000. Incredible.

That goes to show how fast technology is and its getting cheaper too. Do you even remember playing a VHS or even a VCD, now that DVD is king in home theatre entertainment? Well, hold on to your LayZ-boy armchair as 2005 unleashes some of the best that is yet to come. Take note that the following list is not a prediction nor is it a fearless forecast of mine of what you should expect. These have already been announced a year or two ago, and 2005 is the year the following will finally see the light of day.

1) 64-bit Windows XP: The arrival of 64-bit CPUs dedicated for home computing is the very reason why Microsoft would be releasing a 64-bit Windows XP operating system. AMD, the chipmaker who first introduced 64-bit computing for x86 compatible computers and along with all those PC users who already went 64-bit, are anxiously awaiting for this updated OS from Bill Gate’s team, which it promise to deliver by early 2005.

2) 64-bit applications: And with the upcoming release of a 64-bit Windows XP, applications for the new OS won’t be far behind. The next generation of video games will run on 64-bit computers in 2005, that’s for sure.

3) PCI-Express: The old PCI card format for computers, which replaced the older ISA card architecture back in the 90’s, is also aging in terms of technology and speed. Manufacturers are now slowly by surely equipping motherboards today with PCI-Express slots. This only goes to show that PCI-Express is now the next generation of PCI card standard for upcoming computers. Say goodbye to AGP graphics cards as well.

4) Blu-ray DVD: Sad to say the truth, but our current DVD player hasn’t yet reached the final standard of the DVD format. Blu-ray DVD players (as against today’s player with red laser) started sprouting out in store shelves in Japan in late 2004; expect these new DVD format to hit worldwide in 2005. Now the thing is, there are two competing Blu-ray DVD formats. It’s Betamax vs. VHS all over again.

5) Wireless USB: At home, I have twelve, yes 12, USB wires connected to a single PC. The promise of the wireless USB, now arriving in 2005, will definitely free me of all these spaghetti wires, finally.

6) Intel Sonoma Chipset: Centrino is old news. Intel will be bringing the Sonoma chipsets for the next generation of notebook PC come 2005.

7) Thinner and Cheaper Laptops: Like digital still cameras, laptops are best sellers in 2004. And with the widespread deployment of wi-fi around the globe, laptops will be the gadget of choice for the urban tech warrior, for the thinner and cheaper models that is. (see MyGadget of the week)

8) 3-G Mobile Phones: The biggest hype in mobile phone technology is actually here. The only problem is, local telcos are still cashing in on their investment with 2G and 2.5G. It’s a wait and see attitude out there. The first telco to provide 3G to the Filipino people may either end up a winner or a loser; it’s a Catch-22 thing, really.

9) Dual-core CPU’s: Technically hard to explain in one paragraph what a multi-core CPU is, but believe me this next generation of processing chip is costing both Intel and AMD plenty of man hours just to come out with a CPU model that would get things running for future desktop computers. The two giant chipmakers literally burned out trying to reach the 4GHz clock-speed (too much heat emanating from the chip), and dual-core chip technology may just be the answer for their current never-ending need-for-more-CPU-speed dilemma.

10) 802.11g/802.11n: Forget about 802.11a. What most of us are using right now is 802.11b, meaning we get about 11Mbps wireless network connection speed inside coffee shops and airports. With 802.11g, which is also now a standard in many areas, you’ll get 54Mbps, about five times faster than the previous standard. Now, it’s 802.11n with connection speed that can go more than 100Mbps, and could probably even reach 320Mbps. Wait ‘till they finish off all the alphabets.

11) Wi-Max: the next wireless by-word next only to Wi-Fi. You’ll be hearing more of this term in the coming year as broadband wireless internet (between your Wi-Fi access point and network provider) becomes the norm in many areas around the world.

12) “Kei” cars: Small cars are British invention that made it big in Japan. And with fuel prices hitting record highs, it’s about time to reconsider the size of the next car you’re buying. Choose from Honda Jazz, Kia Piccanto, Toyota Echo and its ilk.

Now, my only question is: How come when international fuel prices go up a dollar, local pump prices go up a peso almost immediately, but when the same oil prices go down more than a dollar or so, local fuel companies have a hard time pulling down prices? And if it does go down, this oil cartel makes it seem that we owe it a lot for the measly 10 cents it deducted. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Maybe country club membership is really taking its toll for these oil company executives. A Sunday without golf? Keep those pump prices high!

MyGadget of the Week: Balance CN4301 PC Notebook

A re-branded ECS A535 and available only online at the Walmart website, this is one of the cheapest wi-fi ready notebook you can get for less than P35,000.00. Highs: wi-fi 802.11b ready; large 14” LCD screen; large 256Mb RAM; 4 USB v2.0 slots; large 40Gb hard drive; fairly fast 1.1GHz mobile AMD 4 processor; acceptable size and weight; with all the features selling at an average price of $600.00, this notebook is a real steal! Lows: bad battery life; available only online. MyVerdict: Price will double if you pay tax and handling; the best way is, have it delivered to a relative in the U.S. if you know that one of them will be coming back to Manila anytime soon.



Monday, December 27, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: December 27, 2004]

The Best of 2004

Here are some of the best consumer electronic products that came out locally in 2004. Believe me, I would love to put more but because of limited space, I could only put in 24 products, and divided them into two categories: consumer products and personal computer peripherals, which is really my favorite category.

You may contest some of my choices but that won’t make them any less great than what they really are right now. So, check if you got yourself the gadgets, gizmos, and devices that made the past year another wonderful year for all techies out there.
And with all the amazing developments that happened this year in consumer technology, I can guaranteed that 2005 will be no different.


Consumer Products:


1) Sony Ericsson P910i:
Constantly chosen as the perfect mobile phone for executives, the Sony Ericsson P910i is the only mobile phone you should be using right now.

2) iMac G5: Beauty, elegance and power. What more could you ask for from a desktop computer?

3) Creative Zen: The new Zen brings multimedia appreciation to the next level. This is the next wave in portable digital entertainment.

4) iPod Mini: Beauty, elegance and storage space. What more could you ask for from a portable digital music player.

5) Sony Ericsson S700i: another classic design that brings class to mobile phones. This goes to show that fashion phones should not be just a fad.

6) Kodak EasyShare DX7590: the professional look design is already a killer. The camera performance is stunning as well.

7) ECS G553: do you want a Centrino notebook at a price that won’t burn holes in your pocket? You don’t have to look any further, the ECS G553 is the PC notebook model for you.

8) Nintendo DS: Once again, Nintendo redefines the world of handheld video games. A real hot item in time for Christmas, however, prices are a bit still too steep for the DS; wait a couple of months for the heat to dissipate before you get one.

9) Olympus C-310z: This is probably the best entry-level 3mp digital still camera with a Japanese brand at truly a affordable price.

10) iPAQ H6340: a GSM phone in your PDA? HP provides one in this iPAQ model.

11) Sony T3: With a lightning-fast processing power the T3 is also Sony’s thinnest and hippest digital still camera to date.

12) Compaq v2023AP: The 14-inch wide screen display is one thing that made this laptop a steal, the full-packed feature and its price is a sure winners as well.

PC Peripherals:

1) Creative EMU 1210m: With the new affordable EMU sound card series, Creative is now really bringing the recording studio to our homes, finally.

2) HP Scanjet 4670 Vertical Scanner: Classic and innovative, its HP’s one-of-a-kind scanner. Get one now before it reaches the end of its life.

3) ECS 915P-AL Motherboard: This motherboard is ready for the next generation of computer peripherals both for upcoming CPU’s and PCi-Express cards.

4) Logitech Formula Force GT: Drive like a racing pro, even at home. Safely too.

5) SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Notebook: No need to wire the notebook to an external USB soundcard. The Audigy fits inside a laptop’s PCMCIA slot and delivers the same highly renowned Audigy 2 ZS sound.

6) TDK DVD Writer: The name alone is a trademark for good quality storage media. This multiformat writer is the way to go for your CD and DVD burning needs.

7) 3Com OfficeConnect: high-quality, highly-secured 802.11g access point running at 54Mbps, this is the Wi-Fi unit for the SOHO.

8) Matrox Millennium P750: Pure multimedia viewing performance is what the Matrox Millennium P750 is all about, even perfect for multiple monitor applications.

9) HP PSC1315: This low-priced multifunction device is perfect for the home PC, with HP quality to boot.

10) Umax MaxVision A4: It’s now time to get away from CRT-based monitors.

11) Gigabyte 3D Rocket Cooler Pro: Pushing the CPU beyond its gigahetz clock needs the best cooling fan, and the Gigabyte 3D Rocket Cooler Pro is perfect for the job.

12) Windows XP Service Pack 2: No matter what they say, Windows XP is really a fine operating system, as long as you know how to handle its quirks. Pack it with Service Pack 2 and you’re definitely ready to go securely online again.

Monday, December 20, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: December 20, 2004]

E.G.G. is Hatched

Finally, Netopia’s Extreme Gaming Grounds, or simply E.G.G., opened at the newly built Promenade Mall within the Greenhills Shopping Center. In fact, I was the first tech journalist who broke the story in this column last August about this one of a kind gaming place, and the first-of- its-kind digital entertainment center not only in the Philippines but in whole of Southeast Asia as well.
This new gaming facility features 60 fully loaded PC terminals with Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors all running at a clock speed of 3.20GHz. Each PC on every terminal will have a high-resolution LCD monitor and theater quality audio headsets.

“We want this to be a totally different experience for the Filipino gaming community,” says Raymund Ricafort, president of Digital Paradise Inc., the company that owns Netopia and E.G.G.

“As we developed the mass-based market for Internet café retail, we already realized the growing need for niche marketing, essentially hi-end gaming,” adds Raymund.

And hi-end indeed. The gaming center itself is a combination of extreme gaming computers, ultra-modern facilities, as well as world-class interior design.

For non-PC gamers, networked video game consoles are also available at the lower floor, where the registration counter and the refreshment bar is also located. Currently, there are at least four Microsoft Xbox video game consoles that can be networked together and each viewed on a 41-inch plasma monitors. Staff at E.G.G. says Sony PlayStation 2 consoles will also be offered anytime soon at the game site.

On the second floor, 60 new terminals of Intel Extreme Edition PC’s are placed on a circular arena-type multi-level platform. Plus, on the center are two large overhead Plasma screens, a set-up that now makes on-line gaming a true spectators sport.
The use of Extreme Edition processors from Intel is apt enough to provide the power that modern video games need right now. Meaning, online games like Halo 2 and the upcoming Worlds of Warcraft, which could only be rendered flawlessly on hi-end computers, will be perfect in this kind gaming center. The E.G.G. center in Greenhills cost about P14-million to build, and according to Netopia, there will be a total of six E.G.G. centers to be constructed across the country in the next two years. Cebu will be the lucky city where the next E.G.G. will be laid sometime early next year.

Also at the launch of E.G.G. are Ricky Banaag, country manager of Intel Phils; Lai Yit Loong, Singapore country manager and director for South East Asia of Intel Technology Asia Pte Ltd; Steven Huan, CIO for Netopia Internet Café and Digital Paradise; and Ray Espinosa, SVP of ePLDT, Netopia’s broadband provider.

Low-priced PC’s

Hewlett-Packard or now better known as HP, has launched a people’s pc of sorts in China at a price of 3,999 Yuan (about P27,000 or US$483). And I thought, at that price, our own People’s PC was expensive.

The world’s number 2 PC maker is said to match that of a similar PC model rolled off by China’s biggest PC maker, Lenovo, which only recently bought IBM’s personal computer division.

The HP model is part of the company’s Pavillon series and will feature a processor from AMD and a FreeDos operating system. Take note that, not even a Linux OS could guarantee a low priced computer; just short in saying that, Linux, is not actually free as many was made to believe. Yes, today, you have to pay even for an open-source OS like that from Linux, especially for favorite flavors coming from Red hat and Suse. Still, Linux is much cheaper than having Windows XP. That I personally guarantee.

The US$483 PC in China is actually cheap despite the local currency conversion. Bare bone PC’s (read: equipped with just the basics for it to run) are usually priced at around US$600 or P34,000. Still, in peso terms, the price is quite expensive for a basic PC. Actually, at that price, you can already get a mid-end to near hi-end white box PC locally. It just goes to show that buying or building your own PC in the Philippines is not that expensive. So, why on earth was I complaining about our own People’s PC initiative? With a price of P17,500 (US$310), which includes everything that makes a multimedia PC run smoothly including a 14-inch CRT monitor and a Linux operating system, the price is a steal.

In reality, the P17,500 price could still be pulled lower. My Manila Standard colleague Chin Wong already wrote about it in his Digital Life column and proved that the price set by the local People PC initiative is a bit deceiving.

The People’s PC should have the spec the same as the one chosen by HP for its China marketing strategy. Use an AMD CPU, instead of a Celeron from Intel, and a motherboard with a chipset not manufactured by Intel as well; go for VIA or SIS instead, and that P17,500 will definitely go down to the P15,000 level, or even lower. A truly inviting price for which CICT Chairman, Sec. Virgilio Pena initially aspired.

In fact, I also heard from Microsoft that this is way to go for a true People’s PC. My source also said that the software giant is cooking something big come 2005 that would definitely benefit a large portion of the Philippine population and finally bring a PC to their home.

Could this be a PC loaded with a Tagalog or Cebuano Windows XP version perhaps? Who knows? It could also be that Microsoft might finally even throw in its popular operating system for free this time. We just have to watch out for that, whatever it is.


MyGadget of the Week: Creative Zen

It’s today’s ultimate portable media center where you can listen to music, view photos, and even watch videos.Highs: Multi-format media player; USB 2.0 connectivity; long paying hours; hi-resolution LCD display; large 20Gb internal drive; Windows OS. Lows: Like any other hi-end portable media player, it has a prohibitive price.
MyVerdict: The next generation Zen is a trendsetting device that would redefine the meaning of digital portable multimedia.



Monday, November 29, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: November 29, 2004]

PocketPC: Here they come!

They’re here and the it’s the next wave in personal computing revolution and evolution.


No, I’m not talking about the ordinary personal digital assistants, better known as PDA, that use the Microsoft Windows Pocket PC format. What we have here are literally desktop-powered personal computers that could fit in your pocket. Sure, PDA nowadays acts like mini-PC as well; their computing power is even a hundred times more powerful that the computer that sent the first man on the moon. Still, there is a new breed of pocket PC out there that is just waiting for tech-hungry consumers to devour.

One such device is the OQO-01. This model is the first fully functional Windows XP computer that could actually fit in your pocket. Powered by a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, it is powerful enough to perform complex applications similar to that of a desktop PC or notebook.

The OQO-01 also boast a 20Gb hard disk drive, 256Mb RAM, color transflection display, integrated wireless (Wi-Fi), ports for FireWire and USB, and slide out querty keyboard. All this in a device that weighs only 14 ounces and is probably just a bit larger than a typical GameBoy Advance.

The other pocket PC gadget is the new Sony Vaio Type U. This upcoming Vaio has a 5-inch SVGA touch screen display and will be able to play music like a portable digital music player. Along with that, it will be bundled with headphones and a remote control, as well as software and photo and DVD-viewing applications. All these features will be powered by a 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M 733 processor, 512Mb of RAM, 20Gb of hard disk space on a 1.8 inch hard drive, integrated wireless capabilities and finally, for its operating system, Microsoft Windows XP Professional. The Vaio U will not be just a multimedia powerhouse but will also perform standard PC tasks as well, such as sending email and Internet surfing.
Its touch screen display can be used as a tablet, using the stylus for taking down handwritten notes. A fold-up keyboard is also available for word processing.

Both devices are the first generation of true pocket computers and are very expensive (estimated at US$2,000). However, these new breed of pocket PC initially lays down the foundation of what lies ahead in terms of computing portability in the coming years. It is quite exciting, really.

Say goodbye to VCR

It was one of the greatest battles in consumer acceptance, probably next only to the fierce competition that ensued between Pepsi and Coke for consumer taste that lasted almost a century.
The Betamax vs. VHS story is the stuff of legends. And now the legend will finally see the end of days. You can thank the DVD for that.

The Betamax was the first commercial VCR to hit our homes back in the 70’s, and the Filipino living room was never the same again.
In my case, I remember my Tita Baby, who was married to a Japanese at that time, brought home our first VCR in the late 70’s. We had to spend and additional P700 (expensive in 1978) to change the RF unit to make it work locally. Nonetheless, the extra cash meant nothing because we have a Betamax machine. It was the heart of our entertainment room and a conversation piece among visiting relatives as well. We recorded Chips and Charlie’s Angels from TV and watch them anytime we want. We rented so-called “Betamax-movies” like Porky’s and the Valley Girls (a teenage Nicolas Cage a punk?) from Betamax video shops that mushroomed like lechon manok. And when everyone was sound asleep, my cousins and I would sneak out and watch Ron Jeremy and Traci Lords do their stuff with only the TV screen and the annoying blinking 12:00 LED lights on. Yeah.

At the same time, another format, the VHS, had already taken the world. Still, Betamax was king of VCR, well, at least here in the Philippines. It would take another 10 to 15 years before Betamax raised the white flag and let the VHS take over the country.

Now, even the VHS has surrendered to market pressure. Last year, US electronic retail stores began pulling VHS machines out of their shelves. Last week, British electronic retail stores started doing the same; this signals the end of more than 30 years of romance between consumers and the once ubiquitous VCR.

There was another battle that went on when the VCR came into being. Several big Hollywood movie companies sued Sony in the early ‘70s on copyright infringements when their Betamax machine had the feature to copy movies and record TV shows. Sony even got the ire of many companies who had commercials on TV but were eventually skipped when viewers started viewing the recorded TV programs. Of course, we all know who won that particular battle. Now, with DVD all around, it’s the battle against piracy that everyone in the industry is more concerned about.

Here’s a funny anecdote: When my youngest kid saw my vinyl record collection, he innocently asked me: “Dad, how on earth would this thing fit inside the CD player?”

Now, I wonder, what would my grandchildren ask me when they see a videocassette?

A real cellphone virus

Last April, I wrote in this column about a virus that could infect mobile phones through the use of Bluetooth and even gave simple rules on how not to get it. Four months later, everyone was in a panic because a lady reporter broadcast the news on TV, and the Carib virus eventually became the hottest topic in town. So hot in fact that it gave additional revenues to cellphone repair shops claiming that they can get rid of the virus even if the phone was not infected at all. No, the Carib virus was not a hoax; only the people who made money out of it were the bigger problem. Oh well, that’s what people get for not reading Manila Standard.

Anyway, here’s a new cellphone virus that attacks Symbian-bases cellphones (read: cellphones used buy most of us). Called Skull, it’s a Trojan horse that infects cellphones, kills off systems applications, and replaces the icons with skulls, thus the name skulls.

It is said to have disguised itself as a theme manager mostly for Nokia phones, and it’s the latest threat to mobile devices after three other malicious programs were discovered this year, namely Mosquito, Cabir and Delf.

How not to get infected? Simple. Like the things you do for your PC or notebook against malicious programs, do the same with your cellphone. Never ever download any applications form unsecured sites, nor open or accept any executable programs that you don’t understand or those with dubious origins. Same goes with Bluetooth transfer. Stay alert. Stay clean. That’s all there is to it.

MyGadget of the Week: Sony Ericsson P910i


The P900i is the flagship of Sony Ericsson. Full of great features and functions, this is the ultimate must-have cellphone. HIGHS: Smooth audio and video playback; great sound; enhanced display; fast processor. LOWS: Crammed querty keyboard; no backlight as well; 0.30 megapixel camera-phone? Come on. MyVERDICT: One of the best and most expensive mobile phones around got a facelift. Many may not be amused by it; still, it’s the ultimate phone to have

Monday, November 22, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: November 22, 2004]

Smart and Globe networks hacked?

Last Wednesday, one of my closest colleagues in the IT press, Erwin Oliva of Inq7.net instructed me to send an SMS to Smart through the 211 number, the gateway to many service from that telco. He told me to text the following message to that number: “FLT RB9.”


After a few seconds, the network responded, as it always does when you send a text to 211. But the response was a bit unusual. I myself was surprised at the text message I got.

The answer was, as it appeared on my mobile phone: “Greetz to PATz, Luvchris, Verum, fed-X, hEps, ch! m3ra, TriSha22, powerb0xx, clown, AFed-Xa, Bryle, royX, Crayden at as mega wannabee hacker groups dean. Mabuhay and masang Pilipino!”

This, my friend, is an obvious breach of Smart’s network. And this did not only happen on Smart. The same message will appear to Globe’s 2333 number, according to a concerned hacker who, at the same moment, posted this network anomaly in his blogspot.

Erwin and I tried sending the message to Smart until Wednesday evening and we got the same hacker’s response. By Thursday, the SMS response I got from Smart using the "FLT RB9” message was; “For Naia flight schedules, please call (02) 8771109. Thank you.”

Obviously, the news posted on Inq7.net’s Infotech page online about the breach of network security at Smart got to the attention of the people concerned and fixed the problem immediately. For Globe’s part, the whole hacking thing may not even have affected their network at al, contrary to the claim of the blogger’s post. Every time we tried texting Globe’s 2333 with “FLT RB9,” the network only with an “error message.”

So, was there hacking involved in this unusual incident last week? You betcha! And believe me, we haven’t seen or heard the end of this yet.
(Addendum: I received word from a Smart executive a few days after this incident and said that the telco is “just a network provider; actually, it was the content provider’s server that was hacked.”)

Life goes on for the underdog

Sun cellular may be too embarrassed to disclose the actual number of its subscribers but the 24/7 promo surely made a lot of things go this underdog telco’s way. Aside from offering unlimited text messages and mobile calls between Sun cellular users, the company now offers enhanced content delivery via video streaming. Postpaid and prepaid Sun Cellular users can now download and view as array of video clips (music videos, news, etc) on their handsets at affordable rates.
This new service will hopefully help the fledging mobile phone upstart to lure customers to its mobile phone service. Sun Cellular executives are mum on the real numbers of their subscribers but industry analysts are estimating that the telco now has about one million users all over. This is still far from Smart Communications 17 million and Globe Telecom’s 11 million.
Nonetheless, if you look at it, the total number of people in the country with mobile phones is already overwhelming, at almost 40 percent of the total population. The number of text messages passing through the telco’s networks is even more staggering- around 170 million a day. And you know what? The letter “k” is the most expensive letter of them all. I’m sure you know why. K?

Market Market! On the Internet

One of the biggest dotcoms is finally here. eBay, the world’s premier online auction marketplace, has announced the launch of eBay Phils. or eBay.ph, a new localized Web site designed to allow individuals and small business in the country to trade goods and services over the vast network of the Internet.
Frederic de Bure, managing director of eBay Hong Kong and Singapore, helped launched eBay.ph at a press conference held last Wednesday at Gilligan’s Island in Makati. He will also manage eBay Phils. His main responsibilities include daily operations of the local site as well as international business in new markets.
“There are a large number of Filipinos directly trading on eBay, and this is one of the reasons we decided to localize the site.” Say Frederic.
Founded in 1995, eBay became the leading platform for online trading, with more than 34 million items available worldwide at any given time plus more than 3.5 million new items added each day, raking in $805.9 million in the third quarter of 2004 alone.
Today, more than 125 million people around the globe are registered with eBay and trade in more than 50,000 categories.
Here’s a couple of fast facts about eBay: users worldwide trade more than $1,060 worth of goods on the site every second; and the most expensive item sold on eBay to date is a private business jet for $4.9 million

MyGadget of the Week

HP PhotoSmart R607: The PhotoSmart R607 is a small and light 4-megapixel still camera from computer giant HP. HIGHS: Sharp photos; adaptive lighting technology feature; fast screen preview; easy to navigate; easy to use software; good battery life. LOWS: 16Mb internal memory is too little; proprietary rechargeable battery. MyVERDICT: the R-series cameras are one of the best you can get from HP’s digicam product line. HP has finally arrived.

Monday, November 15, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: November 15, 2004]

Technology Development in South Asia

Asia has always been the center of numerous advanced developments, particularly in the area of information technology. This kind of growth had spawned world-class economic power among our large Asian neighbors, as well as advancing tigers nearby.

In Singapore alone, we've seen how the continuing progress in information technology helped push the economic markers up the scale of development, putting this island state in a position to be followed as well as envied.

Singapore's well-established economic structure, its peace and order situation and firmly placed modern infrastructure are among the city's magnets for continued foreign investment.

So, it is not surprising that enterprise software company Oracle Corp. opened a $6.62 million facility in Singapore as a center to assist the development of technology solutions in south Asia.

The center, dubbed as Advance technology and solutions Center (ATSC), was set up with the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board and produced 17 software engineers currently working on several technology projects, not only for Singapore but for the whole Asian region as well.

"Oracle see great opportunity in bringing its vast expertise to bear on building solutions with strong industry and national impact, but these require skills that have to be specially cultivated and developed in a committed manner," emphasized Derek Williams, executive vice president for Oracle Asia Pacific.

Williams himself gave the keynote address to a group of Southeast Asian journalists gathered at the Oracle press conference at the Conrad Hotel in Singapore in late October.

ATSC is the first technology center of Oracle in South Asia. For now, ATSC, with a staff of 17 US-trained solutions engineers headed by Rishi Naya, Oracle ATSC manager in Singapore, directs the development solution on the areas of software security, sensor-based technology (RFID), enterprise grid computing and collaborative computing.

While many of the projects done under ATSC are currently focused on Singapore-based comapanies, there are also other businesses around the region that ATSC is working on.

ATSC is reportedly both a research and development laboratory that focuses on product development and a center that intends to create technology for the Asian region.

Such development in the field of software technology is what many Asian nations actually need today, specially developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and of course, the Philippines. These countries have a large small and medium enterprise market that many software and hardware companies could no longer ignore.

If such technology development under ATSC will lead to a lowering of software prices around the region, then well and good. It will certainly be best for all.

In China, Oracle has a major development center that directly caters to the establishment of low-cost oeperating system based on Linux. Dubbed as Asianux, this Linux "flavor" came out from the open source community in a joint partnership development between Red Flag Software Company of China and Miracle Linux of Japan. As a result, Oracle Corp. invested in accelarating the adoption of the operating system for Intel-based PCs and networked computers by elevating Asianux into its own Unbreakable Linux support program, and has become the first enterprise software vendor to complete full certification on Asia's first and only standardized Linux operating environment, primarily targeting the Asian market.

ATSC has been in operation since mid-2003. While many of the trainees are from Singapore, Oracle said it would continue to train other software engineers across the Asia-Pacific region in due time. And with our talent and skills in this field, Filipinos will be among them, that's for sure.

Oracle's Own Call Center

What used to be Oracle's Internet Sales Division is now called OracleDirect, which I recently found out while visiting the Oracle office in Singapore.

OracleDirect provides direct sales support, customer service and the usual technical support in a call center-like facility located at the upper floors of the Millenia Tower in Singapore.

Employed with around a hundred people, the center engaged in providing Oracle's customer support that covers practically the entire Asian region, which includes Greater China, Southeast Asia, South Korea and Japan.

This means that the customer service personnel have to know multiple languages to cater to varied customers. Yes, some of them speak in Filipino as well.

It struck me most that this call center is not loacted in the Philippines supposedly a haven for call centers. Is it because it has to cater to Asia and not the English-speaking US mainland?

Then I think it's about time Filipinos start learning to speak languages from its own continental region, most especially Chinese. Imagine just a portion of China's population needing customer assistance; it's a market that we should tap into, not some time in the future but right now.

Incidentally, Oracle does have a small call center locally that provides support to the company's educational services in the region.

In all, OracleDirect has contributed 38 percent of revenues generated from its software licensing in the region alone, says Karim Mohamed, Oracle director of business development in Asia Pacific.

If Singapore, which is basically an English-speaking city state, can provide customer phone service support around the Asian region, I could not see the reason why the Philippines can't. Trust me, the world market is not the U.S. of A alone.

MyGadget of the Week: Bose LifeStyle 35

The Bose LifeStyle 35 is a high-end multi-speaker surround sound equipment perfect for toady's home entertainment system. The experinece will never be the same. HIGHS: Inteligent Adapt IQ feature; universal RF remote control; all format audio/video disc player; incredible true surrpund sound. LOWS: Pricey (what would you expect?) MyVERDICT: If the LifeStyle 35 is too high for your credit limit, you might as well get a low-end model, as long as the Bose brand is still embedded on the unit. Don't forget to leave money for the widescreen TV.

Monday, November 08, 2004

MyTechBox [Manila Standard Interactive: November 08, 2004]

For the people, by all means

When Hitler came into power in the 1930's, he promised a volkswagen or people's car for every German to drive. In one of his big hypnotic march-to-victory rallies, he even rode in one, showing off the arrival of what he believed would be his driving force to keep Germany in power. It turned out in fact, that the people's car, now known as the Volkswagen Beetle, actually maintained Germany's economic power all throughout the last century but without the help of the holocaust-crazy lunatic. However, the Volkswagen of today has become more of a luxury car, competing with the likes of Mercedez Benz, BMW, and Volvo. really, have you seen the funky new Beetle driven in the streets of Manila by someone earning the minimum wage? Not even in a low-end Kia, I presume.

The idea of people's this and people's that is nothing new. Mao Zedong also promised a people's everything, eventually creating the People's Republic of China. In the end, the communist just couldn't deliver what its people need. It took western economies to bring China to where it is right now- the fastest-growing socialist state in history under what I call "controlled capitalism." Have you seen Pudong district in Shanghai lately? It's a city out of Groening's Futurama.

Same situation in Russia. It took the communist state more than half a century to realize that people's food is a McDonalds burger, people's clothes should be a pair of Levi's jeans, and people's radio is a three-ounce Sony Walkman.

Oh well, we're in the golden age of capitalism. Money fuels everything right now, even the way this planet turns. The true communist ideology may still find a place in humankind's continuing evolution. Maybe, just maybe, sometime again in the future, but evidently, not in our lifetime.

People's PC? Well, almost

Two weeks ago, Intel Microelectronics and the Commission of Information and Communication Technology (CICT) provided the final details on the nationwide rollout of the People's PC Program last September by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Paul Otellini, Intel Corp. president and chief operating officer.

The low-cost PC hardware will be equipped with an Intel Celeron D Processor 315 (2.26MHz), Intel D845GVFN motherboard, 128Mb DDR memory, 40Gb hard drive, 15" CRT monitor, 56k modem, 52x CD-rom drive, casing, keyboard, mouse, and multimedia speakers. Price is at P16,000.00 (exclusive of VAT) and can be bought from participating PC vendors across the country.

To distinguish the machine from other PC hardware, the Peoples's PC logo/sticker will also be visible. Unfortunately, the operating system is still an option though, adding to the total cost of the PC.

With VAT and, say, Windows XP Home Edition, the most popular OS around that the avaerage PC user can easily run, the cost would shoot up to as much as P23,000.00. Now, there's your real People's PC. Should I say more?

So what's the use of having a People's PC if it's empty of any legitimate program, you ask? Well, of course, there is always an alternative. For now, buyers of the People's PC have to contend themselves with Linux flavors in case they couldn't wait - or run out of cash - for an operating system for the PC to run. One readily available is our very own Bayanihan Linux, a free open source operating system developed locally by the Advance Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Now, Linux on a People's PC? Used by the average Filipino? Get a grip.

The project is a commendable effort though from Intel, and especially from CICT, headed by Chairman Virgilio Pena, who strongly expressed hin intention of pulling the hardware price further down to P15,000 and attempt to convince software giant Microsoft to bring in a low-cost operating system in the country.

What Microsoft did, but not to us

A month ago, Microsoft announced a yearlong pilot program that would bring Windows XP to a greater market, mostly in developing countries. The new Windows XP Starter Edition will be available in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, as well as near-super powers Russia and India.

The new version is a stripped-down version of the original Windows XP and the price would be considerably lower, even less than $40, as market analysts would want us to believe.

The so-called localized version will do away with home networking and the multiple accounts on a single PC functionality. The display resolution is capped at a maximum of 800x600 pixels, and believe it or not, a limited number of programs to be opened at once. Talk about limiting multi-tasking on a gigahertz-powered PC.

Anyway, the Starter Edition will not be available over the counter, but rather would be bundled in new entry-level PC's, or what our government now calls People's PC. Perfect, right?

Unfortunately for this country, Microsoft forgot we're still a developing country (damn Rockwell and Greenbelt!), and hard to believe, many can't still afford a P5,000 operating system, much more a P23,000 People's PC.

Hopefully by 2005, by the time the Windows XP Starter Edition becomes a standard for low-cost PC in developing countries, the Philippines will be included in the list.

This, I think, is Bill Gate's punishment for Filipinos for pirating Windows.

MyGadget of the Week: Sony Ericsson K500i

The latest Sony Ericsson phone is directly aimed at the young, hip, and trendy.
HIGHS: Sleek design; enhanced interface; tri-band; large screen; great Java games LOWS: 12Mb internal memory is too little for a feature-packed phone; again, no memory expansion slot; no Bluetooth. MyVERDICT: An affordable downgraded version of the inspriring K700i without comprimising features and quality.