Friday, December 12, 2008

Breast-Enlarging Cellurar / Mobile Phone Ring-Tone

A Japanese scientist / part-time rock musician has created the mobile phone ring-tone that makes women’s breasts grow bigger. Revenge of the phone-hogging airheads?

By: Vanessa Uy

It surely sounds – if you pardon the pun – like a hoax, but a Japanese scientist whose main hobby is playing rock music really did invent a cellurar phone / mobile phone ring-tone that makes the breasts of women of childbearing age apparently grow bigger. It works on the principle of sending subliminal messages to the listener’s brain. The ring-tone subliminally presents the sound of a crying baby to the brains of anyone who hears it. Preliminary result of the study had shown that within 10 days, women of reproductive age listening to the prototype ring-tone on a regular basis up to 20 times a day manifested breast enlargement. On average 2 to 3 centimeters or more than an inch increase of the bust size was noted.

Dubbed the “Rock Melon”, the novel ring-tone had recently received extensive scientific scrutiny and peer-review studies due to the “inexplicable” result of breast enlargement. Even though the physiological effects of the “breast-enlarging” ring-tone might seem strange, other scientists studying the trials theorize that the ring-tone might be subliminally sending messages to the brain that caused it to send signals to the women listening to it to alter their hormonal balance. Thus the resulting increase in bust size.

Scientists in Japan are now searching / creating mobile phone or cellular phone ring-tones that stimulate hair growth in balding men, increase a person’s friendliness, increase memory and intelligence, even ones that deter shop-lifting in malls. Even though the Rock Melon ring-tone’s effects might only be “cosmetic”, it might also allow a side-benefit of making women more child-friendly by asserting their maternal instincts. Which could be very useful for professional nannies and part-time babysitters.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blood Mobile Phones, Bloodier Cellular Phones

First, there was blood or conflict diamonds, now the vital innards of our mobile or cell phones are now being made by raw materials fueling the on-going conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethical cell / mobiles wanted?

By: Vanessa Uy

After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the US Government / Bush Administration finally acknowledges the dangers of conflict / blood diamonds after their “intelligence annalists” found out that these “diamonds” played a vital part in funding al-Qaeda’s terror operations around the world. Weird being that a few years hence when only black Africans are suffering, the Republican Party-ruled US legislature don’t even give a damn about conflict diamonds.

Fast-forward to 2008, and the slave mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo have ignominiously became the cheapest supplier of vital minerals necessary for the manufacture of very cheap Chinese-made mobile phones / cellular phones. Since the world market demands the cheapness factor when it comes to the latest in mobile phone / cellular phone technology, social and ethical concerns with regards to manufacture and labor tend to fall by the wayside.

Coltan, a combination or aggregate of two mineral ores: columbite and tantalite. Columbite – the black mineral consisting essentially of iron and columbium / niobium. The other one is tantalite, a valuable source of the metal tantalum. These two transition metals are very useful as battery and ultra-miniaturized capacitor components in the latest model cellular and mobile phones. Given that tantalum capacitors are also used in the Hi Fi industry, the corporate world’s tacit support for the on-going armed conflict in Africa – especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo – is surely despicable. Especially when majority of “hapless consumers” are tricked into underwriting their callous disregard for human lives.

Dismantling the “economic system” that made the trade in “blood mobile phones” possible is not easy. Congolese rebel leader / freedom fighter and ethnic Tutsi Laurent N’Kunda has earned himself a legion of loyal followers that would gladly give up their lives in support of his cause. Even his official Website – especially those that can be seen internationally – portray him as if he’s an African R&B heartthrob. Though Laurent N'Kunda was very instrumental in providing safe-havens for Tutsi's fleeing from the Rwandan genocide back in April of 1994, the incidence of rape by his troops and slavery in the coltan mines certainly makes his brand of "nation building" open to much criticism. This is truly a case where one man’s terrorist is another one’s freedom fighter. Probably only an arrest and subsequent trial in The Hague could dissuade his supporters and bring him to justice, as opposed to a US government underwritten assassination operation, which could raise Laurent N’Kunda to martyrdom status.

But we the consumers can do our part too by buying only cellular phones / mobile phones that are ethically produced by socially responsible corporations, instead of choosing the latest and cheapest ones with a history of unethical business practice. Even though these “ethical phones” will be far from cheap, at least we are doing our fellow brethren a world of good. Just remember and be mindful of that “Instant Karma” that John Lennon used to warn us about.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Child-Safe Search Engines: Too Orwellian?

The threat of cyber-bullying, malicious sites and on-line paedophilia are real, but are child-safe search engines overprotecting our kids to the extent that they can hardly do anything interesting on-line anymore?

By: Vanessa Uy

The threats are out there all right, but don’t you find some – if not most of them - child-safe / kid-friendly search engines too Big Brother-y Orwellian for comfort? I do agree that no kids should be allowed access to websites deemed too inappropriate for their age group like hardcore pornography. But as of late, I do find some child-safe / kid-friendly search engine site blockers too overly zealous of their intended functions.

I first experienced this first hand after volunteering in a personal computer refurbishing charity group. Some PC s have child-safe site-blockers that don’t even allow blogs to pass through – even public safety / health related sites concerning allergy awareness. Less aggressive ones blocks blogs with Google adsense features, while some I just find their site blocking “antics” so idiosyncratically amusing.

A case in point is this bunch of donated PC from a US “grain belt” district equipped with a “supposedly” child-safe search engine blocker that deny searches to sites with the words “naked” and “breasts” in them. To the extent that cooking recipe websites titled “Amazing Chicken Breast Recipes” are blocked or denied access. So does astronomy / astrophysics sites with “Black Hole” / “Naked Singularity” subjects in them. Is modern astrophysics too taboo for practicing Creationists and Intelligent Design practitioners? A bypass feature / search block disable proviso is fortunately included in those bunch of donated PC s that drew my curiosity. Unfortunately you have to type a 64-digit long access code to disable it plus other things tantamount to breaking into / hacking into a 1995-era NORAD / US Space Command firewall.

Sadly, the said computers remain unused, set aside for an intensive “root canal” for it to be useful for everyday use. I hope that creators of these “Orwellian” supposedly child-safe search engines should try to make their products easy to bypass. After all, it’s bad enough for a recently donated PC to be compared to the Republican VP pick Gov. Sarah Palin. Will any of us ever fall in love with a PC equipped with an Orwellian / NAZI-book-burner search engine? I just hope that overzealous child-safe search engine blockers will never be installed in laptops intended for use in the global One Laptop Per Child Program. It would be tantamount to censorship and against the US First Amendment / free speech laws.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Refurbishing Old Computers versus One Laptop Per Child

Given that a 10 year old or so PC can be refurbished to be Internet ready for less than a hundred US dollars, is this a more cost-effective way to promote computer literacy to the world’s poor than the current one laptop per child program?

By: Ringo Bones

If the sight of seeing the plastic housings of old computers washing up on the remote beaches of some Pacific island, or the sight of poor people with no protective gear whatsoever breaking old PC s to extract the valuable metals breaks your heart. Then you should be reminding your local powers-that-be that there’s a much better way to deal with e-waste than just dumping them in some nondescript landfill to be scavenged under unsafe conditions.

There are a number of charitable organizations around the world who are busy refurbishing old computers to be used by their poorer brethren in the developing world. Some of them – like Caritas – even give computer literacy lessons to their refurbished PC recipients. Given that refurbished old computers are much cheaper than the laptops used in the current one laptop per child program, why aren’t they implemented more often?

The problem lies in the licensing of the operating system to be used in this refurbished PC s. Commercial operating systems software being installed in this refurbished PC s often costs 40 times as much as the “hardware” – i.e. the refurbished PC – that they are put into. While those in the laptops used in the one laptop per child are donated by IT conglomerates.

Older PC s can be power-hungry compared to newer laptops, that’s why they are only donated to regions with a reliable electrical grid. Also, refurbished older PC s can be prone to crashing because their decade old micro-processing systems are just on the edge if not already incapable of handling the contemporary Internet browsing capable operating systems.

But the laptops used in the one laptop per child had already spawned their own set of problems. Due to bureaucratic procrastination, the one laptop per child could be superseded by Internet access-capable mobile phones ones these phones come down in price. These Internet-capable mobile phones are way more energy efficient than laptops. If the one laptop per child program implementation won’t speed up, a time will come sooner – rather than later – that they’ll be calling their program “One Internet-Capable Mobile / Cell Phone Per Child”.

Friday, May 30, 2008

CeBit 2008: Greening of the IT Industry?

Ever since the Internet revolution helped spread the message of saving our environment, concerns were voiced over the rather large carbon footprint generated in keeping the net up and running. Is the time for a solution now neigh?

By: Vanessa Uy

Environmentalists around the world could trace the roots of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in the fledging Internet circa 1995. It is the only place where the scientific validity of the existence and threat of global warming survive, despite the attempts of the GOP lead US congress attempts to cast doubts on the existence of global warming. But the information campaign to reverse the threat of global warming threatens to devolve into hypocrisy when you consider the Internet infrastructure’s overall carbon footprint. Especially when it comes to energy needs.

There had been measures to reduce the Internet’s carbon footprint over the years, but none matching the variety provided by this year’s CeBit. From search engine providers use of photovoltaic power generating technologies and hydrogen fuel cells for large-scale power generation to power their mainframe servers. Also using water-cooled microprocessors to reduce the Internet’s carbon footprint down to the individual user level. Water-cooled microprocessors really seems a way forward when it comes to reducing a PC ‘s power consumption since –at present – 40% of a contemporary design PC ‘s energy needs is spent on cooling the microprocessor. And since water is a more efficient cooling medium compared to moving air, this could well be a very viable solution. This year’s CeBit offerings are indeed hell-bent on saving our environment.

Fortunately for us denizens of the net, it’s much easier to design and build carbon-neutral electric power plants to power the World Wide Web. As opposed to privately owned cars – which for the foreseeable future at least – seems to be addicted to petroleum. But the Internet’s electricity requirement’s carbon footprint is not the only threat to our environment posed by the rapidly evolving technological infrastructure of our information-based society. Pre loved PC ‘s can also threaten our planet by being a source of plastic and toxic metals pollution. And the environmental pressure group Greenpeace has been very vocal about this over the years. But this too has solutions, companies that manufactures PC ‘s has been providing environmentally friendly recycling schemes over the past few years. Like refurbishing old computers so that they can still be used in poorer neighborhoods, which is really good when you consider the alternative like obsolete computers leaking toxic chemicals to the groundwater supply. Considering what has been achieved so far, computers are looking to be one of the greenest mass-market items ever invented – with a little help of environmental awareness of course.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Free Rice Dot Com: Saving the World’s Poor One Grain at a Time?

As the UN’s Top Brass still being busy formulating equitable ways to solve our current food crisis, a humble online vocabulary game has been slowly saving the lives of the world’s starving poor. Is this the model of a brilliant solution?

By: Vanessa Uy

The recent problem of the skyrocketing food prices of our staple foods has increased further the burdens of our impoverished brethren. It even resulted to widespread riots and civil unrest that caused poor nations on the brink of anarchy. As the world’s powers-that-be formulate solutions, an upstart online vocabulary improvement game has been doing its part in feeding the world’s poor.

Colloquially known as “free rice dot com” after the game site’s URL, this online vocabulary improvement and tutorial game has proven its popularity to school kids across the world. In America, it not only serves as a way of improving one’s SAT scores or other vocabulary tests, but also donates 20 grains of rice to the humanitarian relief organizations currently in operation around the world every time the player gets a correct answer. Talk about being able to help others while helping yourself improve your vocabulary. Now that's what I call philanthropy.

I just hope that free rice dot com will serve as a model for online humanitarian relief sites that also entertain its users, players, and donors. World hunger should not be the intransigent (i-n-t-r-a-n-s-i-g-e-n-t) problem that it needs to be. So, what about that online game about being a UN chemical munitions inspector doing your job while evading enemy fire and shooting back at hostile troops?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Are Search Engines Really Advertising Engines?

Despite being maligned as “profit first” corporate entities, does the leading search engine companies / service providers hinder rather than help us achieve our intellectual and creative aspirations?

By: Vanessa Uy

Everyone who knows me probably think that I am genetically predisposed to be forever cynical when it comes to capitalism. Despite the recent press releases acknowledging that a typical search engine’s business model is 99% dependent on their advertising revenue, I still view search engines and their ilk as a non-violent tool against totalitarianism rather than a 21st Century incarnation of the materialistic self-complacent provincialism of Main Street.

Ok, I’ll admit that the term search engine is really a misnomer and the term “advertising engine” is more apt. Despite of this, companies who run them – like Google for example – seem to be trying their best to be exemplars of corporate social responsibility. Google’s recent newsworthy renewable energy program has allowed every eco-warrior a sigh of relief that they can never be called hypocritical every time they use the now more eco-friendly Internet. Plus the company’s motto: “Don’t be evil.” Reinforces everyone’s perception that they are immune from the behest of the Bush Administration when called upon to violate their client’s civil liberties.

Search engine companies have really made the Internet – as of late – a more user - friendly alternative to the “old school” library despite my overwhelming propensity of preferring the tactile feel of physical paper. And if you think that a majority of blogs are overwhelmingly too opinionated, you can easily start your own blog which pertains on that dilemma. Or you could just harbor a low opinion with regards to search engine companies.

But if you’re a good student of the “human condition” like Friedrich Nietzsche, then you can easily run circles around the “false information” posted on the Internet. Especially about David Beckham being an 18th Century Chinese goalkeeper

Friday, February 15, 2008

The One Laptop Per Child Program: The Politics and the Bureaucracies

With two major competing programs known so far. Will the current one laptop per child program really help children in developing nations prepare for future I.T. jobs, or will the two competing programs devolve into a commercialism turf war similar to the VHS and BETAMAX War of the early 1980’s?

By: Vanessa Uy

Despite over-extensive press coverage, a lot of us “nettizens” never seemed to have lost interest on the promises and the problems surrounding the one laptop per child program. As of late, there are two major programs all rivaling the merits for their raison d’être like fiscal sensibility, technical feasibility and sheer practicality. The two programs are currently field tested on a scale to accommodate the need of a typical school in Nigeria to gauge the success – or failure – of the program.

One “version” of the program is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte. One of the aims of his one laptop per child program is to provide a bridge that would span the gulf of the existing “Digital Divide” that exists in developing countries. Another aim of Nicholas Negroponte’s program is to promote computer literacy in the poorest parts of the world. The computer laptops used in Nicholas Negroponte’s pilot scheme costs a little over a hundred US dollars each, they’re Internet / Mesh Network capable and can send video and still pictures to the Internet via it’s built-in webcam. If it succeeds, the program would serve as an irrefutable proof of the modern computer’s feasibility as an educational tool even in developing countries. One of the program’s more intransigent problems is the endemic lack of a steady supply of mains / grid electricity in developing countries. This problem can be solved by using a rip – cord operated generator similar to those used in those portable radios that are distributed throughout Africa during the 1990’s to help broadcast information in preventing the spread of HIV / AIDS. Though equipping the laptops with such generators would increase their price, there are also plans for solar / photovoltaic chargers for the laptops built-in batteries. Despite of the problems, the hands on / try something / creativity promotion proviso of the laptops has been one of the most redeeming qualities of the program. By training their problem solving skills, the laptops have become a very positive educational influence to the students despite of Nigeria’s rigid “old school” tradition of educational hierarchy that new knowledge and skills should flow only one way – from the teacher to the students.

The other one of these one laptop per child program that rivals Nicholas Negroponte’s is being run by the Intel Corporation, and is called the Intel PC classmate program and is tried on an another school in Nigeria. The Intel PC classmate program according to Intel is about investing in school kids (Tapping the knowledge economy?). The laptops that are provided by Intel to the students currently costs 350 US dollars each. The reason Intel’s laptops are more costly is because of the extensive use of solid - state flash memory technology in their laptops. At present, solid – state flash memory technology is much more expensive than conventional data storage devices like hard drives and CD / DVD burners. But solid – state flash memory devices can work much more reliably than their “conventional” counterparts in the arduous conditions typically found in the environment where the laptops could be used like dust, moisture, and the shock forces produced when the laptop is “accidentally” dropped. The Intel Corporation says their program is investing on Nigeria’s children by “grooming” them to acquire skills as future I.T. employees. Thus making the children’s job prospects in the future much more secure.

From my point of view, both programs are really visionary in tackling the current problems that can be encountered when developing countries try to improve their educational system. Will the promise of both programs remain but a dream when faced with the harsh realities of the high cost of upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure of developing countries just to make them Web 2.0 compliant, and what about these countries electrical grid infrastructure? Plus, let’s not forget that most developing countries like Nigeria is still currently trying to upgrade their existing “conventional” educational system just to provide basic literacy skills – which includes the English language by the way – which are a pre – requisite to computer literacy.

Even though both of the one laptop per child program is already 5 years old. Both of the programs original “mission directive” was to alleviate the “lack of qualified teachers” problem in developing countries by allowing financially disadvantaged kids access to the vast stores of knowledge that’s available on the Internet. Despite of current technical problems like status of the local telecommunications and power grid infrastructure, plus the politics of censorship that’s recently discussed by this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The greatest benefit that the one laptop per child program will be to the environment because unnecessary air travel will be kept to the absolute minimum. This is so because NGOs and program overseers can track the progress of there respective “pet projects” on-line because the kids are uploading the video documentation of the program’s progress. Who knew that something that started out as an educational program is now a part of the solution in reducing our overall “carbon footprints”?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

High Definition Multimedia Content Anyone?

Does the latest generation of downloadable high definition (HD) multimedia content worth viewing and hearing in our dedicated HD-ready home theater set-ups?

By: Vanessa Uy

Nowadays, HD (high definition) multimedia content (audio and video) that can be downloaded from the net via your own home PC is of such quality that most of them-if not all- deserve to be viewed and heard in your existing HD-ready home theater system. If you’re like me – as most of anyone in the audiophile community- who thinks that your PC and home theater system should not mix (i.e. share the same outlet) because the former can degrade the performance of the latter must face a somewhat insurmountable problem. How to send that high definition movie -with the attendant surround sound data- that you legally downloaded from the net, from your PC to your home theater set up?

There are a number of systems in which you can deliver/send that HD content you have downloaded from the web. One of them is a relatively new technology - which uses your mains/ac line to send your data. Consumer devices that utilize this principle of sending data only came to the market near the end of 1997. So the ones currently available in your local AV/computer store not only works better, it’s likely to be cheaper as well thanks to almost ten years of progress. This has the advantage of avoiding the clutter that can be created when installing the necessary data-transfer cables. The problem with this system is that if you own a state-of-the-art home theater system, you probably bought with it a very good dedicated mains/ac line filter to maintain the consistently good performance of your home theater system while protecting it from electrical interference and lightning strikes. The same mains/ac line conditioner blocks the digital data that you intend to send down your mains/ac lines. Another way to send your multimedia data while avoiding the clutter of additional cables is via WIFI or wireless data transfer systems. The current generation of WIFI systems can easily handle the bandwidth required in sending HD multimedia content but will be easily vulnerable to signal interference especially if you use your mobile phone while using the WIFI system. If you want to maintain signal integrity while transferring HD multimedia data, Ethernet networks are a good choice. A word of warning though because these systems involve additional wiring if you are squeamish about the clutter factor. The latest “Cat 6” or category 6 high speed Ethernet connections are a good choice and could be a very good investment because of it’s future proof status. This is due to the fact that it can handle data transfer speeds of 10 Gigabits per second and anything faster is yet in the far off future.

I just hope that the circa-2007 PC and AV convergence will bear the fruits of a better audio and video quality that doesn’t cost the earth. Unlike the divergence of 10 or 15 years ago were hi-fi manufacturers have the luxury of producing and selling obscenely expensive AV equipment with impunity. Since all of our present media formats are digital in one form or another, convergence is inevitable due to the fact that digital data is both robust and universal.

Will “We7” Save the Music Industry?

Will Peter Gabriel’s “We7” make music downloads equitable for musicians, music lovers and record label executives?

By: Vanessa Uy

Slated to be launched on June 2007, Peter Gabriel – supported “We7” not only promises to please musicians and record label executives but also provide a legal and legitimate music download service that’s free of charge for those who have acquired a taste of Napster’s “poisoned fruit.” The music downloads on “We7” are free in the sense that music lovers and/or fans don’t have to pay a single cent to the site. The site itself uses the revenue created by the adverts on the site itself to pay the musicians and record label executives according to how often their “works” are downloaded. Another “Bolshevist” feature of this site is that users are encouraged to share the music that they downloaded to other music lovers so that they will also “fall in love” with “We7”. To me this is a far better proposition than Digital Rights Management or DRM.

Sound quality issues aside, the downloadable music phenomena on the web has the advantage of worldwide accessibility that is quantum leaps ahead compared to traditional music distribution systems like record stores-even specialist ones. For example: the freak commercial success of Ed McMahon’s “Star Search” alumnus Tracey Spencer during 1989 has been a boon to music lovers everywhere who are into the politically-correct-side-of-altruism message. But a follow up of something similar has been slow in coming. The posthumous success of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to American MTV audiences in 1998 was much delayed due to the slowness of traditional music distribution systems back then. Even though a handful of adventurous music lovers has been enjoying the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in the US since the mid- 1980’s. If you seek to introduce a more adventurous variety to your musical taste, its much easier today via on- line music downloads. The Turkish-German R&B sensation Muhabbet became well known via the Internet. Muhabbet means to talk to each other in Turkish, has gained enough fame for his talent to be noticed. And now, Muhabbet has become UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador. Interested parties can contact Muhabbet at

I just hope that “We7” doesn’t forget the sound quality aspect of their site because as a legal music download site, sound quality can serve as a unique selling point for a site that supports the welfare of hardworking musicians and others in the music biz. As Peter Gabriel is a humanitarian-at-heart, the extent of “We7’s” benefits could put a major dent on extreme poverty. But for now, on line music download services like “We7” provides a level playing field for musicians anywhere in the world who are very talented but still lack the recognition they rightfully deserve.

Computer Therapy for Dyslexics

Now, treating dyslexia could only be a mouse click away courtesy of a concerned parent and a computer program of his own design.

By: Vanessa Uy

A decade or so ago, personal computers and surfing on the web were seen by conservative right wing Luddites as detrimental to the intellectual development of children. Now, the humble PC might serve as an important tool to cure the most prevalent form of learning disability: dyslexia. Dyslexia on average affects 7% of children around the world. The jury is still out on the exact cause, but current research points out to genetic markers that alter the brain’s biochemistry. This makes dyslexic children’s progress in their reading and writing skills a little more difficult than average.

Dybuster, a multimedia computer program designed to serve as a therapy for children with dyslexia. Originally developed by Markus Gross of ETH Zurich for his own dyslexic child. After achieving good results with his own child, Markus Gross did a “field” trial of Dybuster to a group of kids afflicted with dyslexia. On 20- minute sessions each day at home, the kids did their hands-on trials to the various skill levels of the Dybuster. When the kids go back to school the next day, a follow-up and evaluation of any changes to their rate of learning progress is done.

Dybuster shows statistically good results even after just 3 months of regular use. Positive training effects can be ascribed to the program say’s the educational experts evaluating Dybuster. The kids who tried out Dybuster fell in love with the program’s ease of use and the “fun factor” that it provides. Most of all, the kids are very grateful to the improvement in their reading and writing skills.

The beta version (trial edition) of Dybuster could even run on a relatively old PC on Windows 98, the type of computer commonly donated by aid agencies to schools in poor communities. So Dybuster could help lots of dyslexic children here in the Philippines.

The Computer and Hi-Fi Convergence

For as long as I can remember all of my audio buddies subscribe to the idea that computers are computers and hi-fis are hi-fis, and never the twain shall meet. Did recent technological progress and environmental issues conspiring to change even the staunchest audiophile's views?

By: Vanessa Uy

Back in May 2007, BBC’s Click featured a story on the computer industry’s efforts to improve the sound quality of their offerings. To me, this is a long time coming. Even if the computer industry only focus their R n D funds on surround sound, it’s still okay with me. The good news is that the computer industry reached a consensus that any form of data compression is detrimental to sound quality. To us audiophiles, this ranks with the world community’s consensus on the realities of global warming and climate change. From a telecommunications engineer’s standpoint, our current Internet infrastructure is presently the most efficient way to send digital multimedia data. It also has the potential to better itself in all aspects of quality as time goes on. Is the computer industry’s concept of high definition (HD) sound means just acceptable sound quality to us hardened audiophiles? Look at Sony’s SBM (super bit mapping) technology, we (the audiophile community) even wholeheartedly embraced it despite a failed promise in making CD sound as good as vinyl LP. All of this could kick- start a renaissance to most of the consumer electronic industry, but first let’s take a look back.

Back in September 1996, Audio magazines Corey Greenberg wrote a somewhat controversial article titled: “Shut the Hell Up Geeks” which was deemed offensive by the Personal Computer/internet enthusiasts at that time. For better or for worse, this article is only one of the few instances when the feud between audiophiles and computer enthusiasts got journalistic coverage. This feud, to me is even bigger than that between Bon Jovi and Metallica, which started in 1989 and reverberated throughout the Rock world till this day. I read Corey Greenberg’s article about three years ago, right about the time when I became interested in the audiophile universe. At this point in time, PCs came with CD “burners” as standard. And every time I copied/cloned a consumer grade original CD to CDR, the clone always sound inferior to the original. This only serves to prove that Corey Greenberg is right in pointing out the computer industry’s ignorance about the concept of sound quality. Note: I used Lunachicks CDs as a test case for copying. Their not locally released here. As Quentin Tarantino said back in2004 on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: “It’s not piracy when you copy/clone music or movies of mine that is not locally released in your neck of the woods.”

In a few years since then, the computer industry has started to see the light – albeit slowly- on the merits of good sound quality. Creative, the company who brought PC audio recording to the masses with their “Soundblaster” has started a concept called Xfi or extreme fidelity. If this succeeds, the audiophile community can now buy the latest PC audio recording/playback systems in confidence knowing that ills like listening fatigue will be a thing of the past. Creative’s audio guru Darragh O’Toole, speaks out against the practice of data compression and its detrimental effects on digital audio sound quality. Data compression’s most obvious manifestation is the muted transients on recordings full of percussive sounds like cymbals and drums. I’m just glad that Creative: which is primarily a computer company supported Darragh O’Toole’s ideas instead of censuring. I wonder if Creative’s senior staff: are now composed of people who lived through the vinyl LP heyday and are nostalgic for the good sound quality for a consumer medium that it represents.

The 64,000dollar question is: “Why should we audiophiles – as a whole – give a damn?” If you live in a country like the Philippines, where the Estrada administration single-handedly bankrupted every specialist shops like mail order music stores with very good insurance coverage during the late 1990’s. Then the answer is a big resounding “yes.” Our local audiophile community is now feeling the guilt to that “preaching-to-the-choir movie” An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. To us its very over indulgent to hop to a plane to Hong Kong, just to buy locally unreleased albums/CDs by Lunachicks. Even though in the last three years I’ve planted about a thousand trees, I still choose to keep my carbon footprint as low as humanly possible. If this audio renaissance/convergence or whatever between the computer industry and the audiophile community is for real and not just a public relations stunt to patronize audiophiles and musicians. Then I may yet buy my first Internet downloaded album (I’m a Luddite-by-choice due to its present unacceptable sound quality). And in energy terms, this might only cost me a few watts from my photovoltaically charged batteries.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Dot Asia Domain Name: Kickstarting the Region’s Economy?

The age of Internet domain name real estate has finally arrived, will you be the next I.T. billionaire?

By: Ringo Bones

There’s a new domain name in our “Internet Town”, it’s called dot Asia (.asia). One of the latest lines of domain names that’s named after an actual geographic location. Looks like we used up all of those little Pacific Island nations as a source of domain names.

Interested customers to the auction have 6 months to register, so register as soon as humanly possible because these things go out fast. Registration for “dot asia” opened on Tuesday October 9, 2007. Protection wanted from cyber-squatters?

Back in August 9, 1995, nobody knew that the dot com boom that started then will eventually go bust five years later. Now, Internet entrepreneurs are more wary on the promise of easy money. Even experienced Internet domain name developers are forever mindful that their “South Sea” domains like Tuvalu’s dot tv and Tokelau’s dot tk might mimic the “South Sea Bubble Burst of 1720”.

To me, the IT / Internet / computer industry – after recovering from the dot com bust of 2000 - has done so much good to those fresh out of college looking for gainful employment, especially those living in the impoverished parts of the world. The industry could essentially fulfil the promise of the Clinton Global Initiative of keeping every batch of fresh graduates securely employed by creating new jobs – like domain name developers – every 5 to 8 years. If all goes well, this mission would be a piece of cake for the industry.

Domain Names: The Internet’s Real Estate Bonanza?

From the 1990’s “Dot Com” boom to the bubble bursting in 2000, are domain names the magic bullet that will restore investor confidence on the Web?

By: Ringo Bones and Vanessa Uy

Touted as the “Real Estate Market of the Future” in the middle of the 1990’s, domain names are now a billion-dollar industry, not only for the major search operators like Google and Yahoo but also to a new breed of Internet real estate developers. Domain names have since become the “bread and butter” of the on line marketing and on line advertising business. Having outgrown the “dot com” slump of 2000, domain name – the real estate of the web – have been delivering far greater returns compared to it’s real world counterpart as reported on For those of you who have the resources to invest in the domain name development business yet don’t know what it is, here’s a primer.

Domain name refers to the first part of a URL - (URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator – the unique address of any Web document that can be keyed in a typical browser’s OPEN or LOCATION / GO TO box to retrieve a document) – on to the first / where the domain and name of the host or SERVER computer are listed. This is usually arranged in reverse i.e. name first, then domain. The domain name gives you the information on who (the origin of) “published” the page i.e. made it public by putting that page on the Web.

In the 1990’s – when the Internet evolved from a mere “academic curiosity” to a telecommunications medium with a promising economic viability – the exclusive right to use Internet domain names became a highly contested issue. Enterprising individuals knew that there’s money to be made in these unique sequences of letters that are divided – by convention – into segments separated by periods that correspond to the numerical Internet Protocol Addresses that identify each of the millions of computers connected to the Internet. Because domain name labels enable packets of information to be sent to their specific destinations across the Internet, the commercial implications are not lost to the world’s various advertising agencies.

Domain name development profits does not only fill the coffers of unscrupulous entrepreneurs, but can also benefit an impoverished country because all countries are designated a top-level domain name on the Internet usually as a suffix to that country’s Internet Address. For example .be for Belgium, .hk for Hong Kong, .ph for the Philippines, .za for South Africa and so on. A number of these domain names have been featured on stamps. During the last few years of the 20th Century, a relatively poor Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu hit the jackpot when it received the .tv domain name, although initially Tuvalu’s citizens didn’t realize that they owned the most recognizable suffix of all, .tv.

Back in 1999, the .tv domain name gained “humanitarian / philanthropic” status when Jason Chapnik – a Canadian businessman- walked into a Tuvalu parliament meeting and pleaded his intentions to buy their domain name. After further negotiations, by the year 2000 Tuvalu decided to sign up with Chapnik to form a new company called Dot TV that’s currently based in Pasadena, California. Tuvalu owns 20% of Dot TV and received US$50 million from the lucrative deal which the country – via structured settlement – receives quarterly payments of US$1 million each over a period of 10 years. Tuvalu recently received a payment of US$18 million that instantly doubled the country’s GDP.

This sudden windfall of revenue allowed Tuvalu to achieve an economically independent status. Ever since gaining independence in 1978, Tuvalu could hardly afford the US$20,000 UN membership fee. It wasn’t until September 5, 2000 where Tuvalu could finally afford being UN’s 189th member nation. The domain name revenue enabled the various islands of Tuvalu the ability to upgrade their public infrastructure like roads, schools and water purification facilities. The upgrading of Tuvalu’s main airport to accommodate larger planes has allowed the country to export food for the first time in history.

Despite of the recently found wealth, the global community is now wondering whether Tuvalu can cope with the challenges of sea level rise due to global warming and the increased typhoons brought about by climate change with “dot com” funds alone. Is Tuvalu now in the front line for the global community’s battle against sea level rise?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Game Consoles Surfs the Web

They’re not just for playing video games anymore. The latest generation of video game consoles allows you to go to the web and even download the latest video games.

By: Vanessa Uy

By the time you read this, probably all video game consoles hitting the shops this summer will have web surfing capability. I’m coveting these “toys” for their high- resolution graphics and on shoot ‘em up games, where the tech guys finally learn how to make bullets fly the way “Mother Nature” intended, but our priorities may vary.

Nintendo’s Wii can download additional games from its own web site, so going to and fro to the computer shop might become a thing of the past. Microsoft’s XBOX LIVE web site supports the XBOX 360. The XBOX video marketplace web site is already available to US subscribers. More “mature” XBOX 360 users/owners can download your old favorite movies from the 1990’s via the sites back catalogue. Sony’s PS3 is also on line capable with it’s T9 predictive keyboard (an ergonomic nightmare for anyone over 25 years of age). The PS3’s open- network internet- browser can download movie trailers, a majority of which unsurprisingly produced by Sony Pictures/ Sony Media Corporation. As always download speed is slow via standard ISP lines. But I can safely conclude that this represents the serious attempts of the major video game console manufacturers to make their latest machines way better than their previous incarnations. By adding the ability to a new generation of video game consoles to go out into the wild blue yonder of the web may justify their somewhat exorbitant asking prices. I wonder how much of a price premium does it entails to make one of these babies sound as good as a Linn LP12 Sondek turntable.

Who Wants SPAM

No this is not the tinned meat variety that World War II veterans have grown to love, but the electronic/digital alter ego of the junk mail that litters our household mail- boxes.

By: Vanessa Uy

Even after 7 years into the 21st Century, fistfuls of junk mail are still being sent to our household mail- box. They are about credit card application offers, Publisher’s Clearinghouse type sweepstakes, and the most hackneyed of all is the “You may have already won millions of dollars!” type of junk mail. My eight- month- old e-mail account so far has been spared by the brunt of SPAM, the junk mail’s supposedly more evil digital twin brother. Is my on line life a charmed one? It’s still too soon to tell.

Calling SPAM as an e-mail version of junk mail is probably apt a few years ago but now, they had evolved into something that could seriously inconvenience our enjoyment of the technological fruits of the worldwide web. Traditional guises of SPAM are: An exiled Nigerian businessman who needs your help “unfreezing” his bank account. The improbable low cost surgical phallic enhancement. Viagra or other sidefil type drugs. These are the most common forms of SPAM that litter the inboxes of millions of e-mail accounts around the world, especially those that are active for more than three years according to BBC’s Click – a weekly program on what’s new on computers and computer related developments. More recently, creators of SPAM e-mails had “hijacked” important and or legitimate topics like an effective acne cure targeted at teenagers. This “show of desperation” could work because topics about acne are a “link bomb” to complexion conscious teens. Despite of this, should we be afraid of SPAM?

The truth is we should be especially those of the latest incarnation of SPAM e-mails. Pump and dump SPAM advertised stocks reaching your inboxes are more likely to be riddled with “malware.” Thankfully, our fears can be dealt with in a rational manner. An effective course of action would be is when you receive a suspected SPAM e-mail on your inbox is never ever click it. Clicking SPAM e-mails is like triggering an anti-personnel mine; the results are devastating especially to your e-mail account. If you are “unlucky” enough to have clicked the latest generation of SPAM e-mails, it takes over your e-mail account to send more of itself around like a virus. The latest generation of über-SPAM can access e-mail accounts by brute force methods. So as a precaution, don’t click or double click suspected SPAM messages.

For further protection, you can always download open-source/free anti SPAM software on the internet. Most of the existing anti SPAM software is distributed on-line for free by software companies. Just make sure the software / operating system you are using to run your computer – or the one in use in the internet café - are genuine. Company provided open source software doesn’t work with their pirated counterparts. Current SPAM filters in use is still effective for most of the existing SPAM variants out there, but they need constant revamp due to the constantly evolving nature of the SPAM threat. To me, SPAM is just one of the unfortunate by-products of the relatively lawless nature of the worldwide web and should be treated as such.