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Friday, October 9, 2009

Free labor, diagnosis for Asus PCs damaged by Ondoy

Owners of Asus computers whose units were damaged by recent floods can get free diagnosis and labor at local service centers, the Taiwan-based computer maker said.

Asus, which claims to be the inventor of the netbook, will also give a 20 percent discount on spare parts, the company said.

The "special service," which runs until October 31, covers all notebooks, Eee PCs, motherboards, and video graphic cards, including accessories such as liquid crystal displays and adapters, the company said.

The "special service" is the company's way of helping its customers devastated by recent calamities, Asus marketing manager Jason Teh said.

Asus customers can visit service centers at Asus Royal Club: 14 United St., Bgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City; Asus World Megamall: 4/F Cyberzone, SM Megamall Building B, Mandaluyong City (+632 6382955); Asus World Virramall: 4/F Virramall, Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan City (+632 9943497).

RP cited for broadband wireless efforts

Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippines has made progress in the deployment of broadband wireless access service, Frost & Sullivan said.

“Some large Asian markets have made very little progress in licensing WiMAX [Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access telecommunications technology], while other markets such as Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore have seen considerable growth in wireless broadband subscribers using HSPA [high-speed packet access] data cards and dongles,” said Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Shaker Amin.

He noted that some countries are still in the initial stages of deploying wireless broadband services, mainly due to the lack of frequency allocation.

Phone companies in Japan, India and South Korea, he noted, are still investing heavily in the technology. While China prefers the homegrown TD-SCDMA third-generation standard over WiMAX, even as leading infrastructure giants in China such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE are among the largest WiMAX vendors in the world.

“Even grimmer still, important markets such as India and Thailand, both of which also hold great potential for WiMAX, have fallen behind in issuing WiMAX licenses and spectrum allocation in the 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) and 2.5GHz bands,” said Amin.

In its 2009 Asia-Pacific WiMAX Report, Frost & Sullivan conservatively estimates that the WiMAX subscriber base in the region, covering 17 Asia-Pacific nations, excluding China—could top 24 million by end-2014, with billings reaching nearly $6.4 billion.

These estimates, said Amin, could double if the Chinese government changes it position on WiMAX.

In addition to regulatory issues, weak operator support in some countries, high CPE (customer premise equipment) prices and competition from HSPA and LTE (Long Term Evolution) technologies continue to plague WiMAX development in the region.

Despite the odds, Amin believes that it’s now or never for WiMAX players. “With HSPA gaining momentum and LTE on the horizon, governments and operators must act quickly to take advantage of the features that mobile WiMAX technology can offer today,” he said.

“We believe that the key focus of WiMAX will be to provide basic data connectivity in underserved markets at around the 1Mbps level, and as a precursor or complement to HSPA and LTE technologies where spectrum is scarce,” added Amin.

Amin also believes that the region holds the best prospects for WiMAX services in terms of subscriber uptake and future innovation since the region is also home to many maverick WiMAX operators that are pioneering wireless broadband use among non-incumbent operators.

Bill penalizing video, photo voyeurs gets House OK

The House of Representatives, in plenary session, has approved a bill penalizing video and photo voyeurism.

Congressmen said the approval of the measure, to be known as the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, was spurred by the proliferation on videos of individuals caught unaware in obscene acts, the most recent of which were the sex videos of Hayden Kho of the Belo Medical Group.

Under the bill, violators will be penalized by an imprisonment ranging from six months to six years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000.

The bill provides that if a violator is a juridical person, it will result in the automatic revocation of its license or franchise, and its officers will be deemed liable, including the editor and reporter if it is in the print media; and the station manager, editor and broadcaster if it is in the broadcast media.

If the offender is a public official or employee or a professional, he or she will also be held administratively liable.

A foreigner guilty of the act will be subject of deportation proceedings after serving his sentence and payment of fines.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD Rep. Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City, principal author of the bill, said many individuals have been victimized by photo and video voyeurs who post on the Internet and different media the photos and videos showing the victims’ private parts and intimate moments.

“This is a clear violation of the subject individual’s dignity and right to privacy,” Puentevella said.

He said the approval of the bill is a right step in specifically punishing such dastardly acts.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. of Manila, another author of the bill, noted how the recent scandals have put the country and the people in a bad light before the whole world.

Abante said the passage of a law that is clear and stringent enough to deter the recurrence of such act is both relevant and timely.

Threat of next world war may be in cyberspace: UN

The next world war could take place in cyberspace, the UN telecommunications agency chief warned Tuesday as experts called for action to stamp out cyber attacks.

"The next world war could happen in cyberspace and that would be a catastrophe. We have to make sure that all countries understand that in that war, there is no such thing as a superpower," Hamadoun Toure said.

"Loss of vital networks would quickly cripple any nation, and none is immune to cyberattack," added the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union during the ITU's Telecom World 2009 fair in Geneva.

Toure said countries have become "critically dependent" on technology for commerce, finance, health care, emergency services and food distribution.

"The best way to win a war is to avoid it in the first place," he stressed.

As the Internet becomes more linked with daily lives, cyberattacks and crimes have also increased in frequency, experts said.

Such attacks include the use of "phishing" tools to get hold of passwords to commit fraud, or attempts by hackers to bring down secure networks.

Individual countries have started to respond by bolstering their defenses.

US Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Thursday that she has received the green light to hire up to 1,000 cybersecurity experts to ramp up the United States' defenses against cyber threats.

South Korea has also announced plans to train 3,000 "cyber sheriffs" by next year to protect businesses after a spate of attacks on state and private websites.

Warning of the magnitude of cybercrimes and attacks, Carlos Solari, Alcatel-Lucent's vice-president on central quality, security and reliability, told a forum here that breaches in e-commerce are now already running to "hundreds of billions."

But one of the most prominent victims in recent years has been the small Baltic state of Estonia, which has staked some of its post Cold War development on new technology.

In 2007 a spate of cyber attacks forced the closure of government websites and disrupted leading businesses.

Estonian Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts said in Geneva that "adequate international cooperation" was essential.

"Because if something happens on cyberspace... it's a border crossing issue. We have to have horizontal cooperation globally," he added.

To this end, several countries have joined forces in the International Multilateral Partnership against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), set up this year to "proactively track and defend against cyberthreats."

Some 37 ITU member states have signed up, while another 15 nations are holding advanced discussions, said the ITU.

Experts say that a major problem is that the current software and web infrastructure has the same weaknesses as those produced two decades ago.

"The real problem is that we're putting on the market software that is as vulnerable as it was 20 years ago," said Cristine Hoepers, general manager at Brazilian National Computer Emergency Response Team.

"If you see the vulnerabilities that are being exploited today, they are still the same," she underlined.

She suggested that professionals needed to be trained to "design something more resilient."

"Universities are not teaching students to think about that. We need to change the workforce, we need to go to the universities..., we need to start educating our professionals," she said.

Pointing out the infrastructure weakness, Carlos Moreira, who founded and runs the Swiss information security firm Wisekey, said legislation is needed to bring cybersecurity up to international standards.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

IT 'vital' in climate change fight: Ban

Information and communication technologies are "vital" in tackling climate change, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Monday, urging the industry to think up fresh ideas to harness technology and usher in a green economy.

Opening one of the industry's biggest fairs, ITU Telecom World, Ban said: "ICTs are ... very vital to confronting the problems we face as a planet: the threat of climate change."

He highlighted an example in which the United Nations has teamed up with mobile phone companies and other partners to transmit weather news to African farmers through text messages to their mobile phones.

Ban called on the industry to come up with more of such innovations.

"I am sure you in this room can think of even more creative ways to use ICTs to usher in a new green economy. I hope you share your ideas and make them a reality," he told government officials and the industry's executives gathered at the fair.

Ban also asked developing countries to "strive ... to be pioneers and innovators."

"Governments and industries that embrace a strategy of green growth will be environmental champions and economic leaders in the twenty-first century," he added.

According to the UN's International Telecommunication Union, some 450 exhibitors and 40,000 participants are expected to attend the five-day trade show.

iPhone will be able to run some Flash programs

The developer of the widely used Flash programing language has devised a way to translate its code to run on Apple Inc's iPhone -- a move that could dramatically boost the variety of applications for the iPhone.

Programs written with Adobe Systems Inc's Flash programing language currently cannot run on Apple's popular smart phone. Adobe has spent several years trying without success to persuade Apple to make technical changes to the device's software that would make it possible for Flash programs to run on the iPhone.

In the absence of an agreement with Apple, Adobe announced on Monday that it will introduce a tool that lets computer programmers easily convert software applications that they write in the Flash programing language to code that will work on the iPhone.

Flash is designed so that programmers can write one set of code that run on multiple types of computers and mobile devices, including ones using software from Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, Nokia and Palm Inc.

The iPhone has been the only major handset provider that has declined to collaborate with Adobe.

The new option that Adobe announced on Monday will allow developers to create a second piece of software that they can distribute through Apple's App store.

"It's basically an export capability," said Adrian Ludwig, a manager with Adobe's Flash group.

He said in an interview that Apple has yet to agree to work with Adobe to clear two key technical hurdles that would enable Flash applications to run on the iPhone.

"The ball is in their court at this point. We've been very blunt about what we need and what we are requesting," Ludwig said in an interview.

A spokesman for Apple could not be reached for comment.

Adobe said in a press release that it will release a public trial version of the tool for converting Flash programs into ones that will run on the iPhone later this year.

Philippine call centers escape wrath of Ondoy

The Philippines' outsourcing industry emerged unscathed from the destruction inflicted by storm 'Ondoy,' industry executives said.

Only minimal effects were experienced by the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), the country's biggest organization of call centers, said, citing stranded employees of three of its member-firms.

Companies such as TeleTech, ICT, and NCO said none of their equipment weredamaged since most their facilities were located in malls, CCAP executive director Jojo Uligan said in a phone interview.

ICT, which has a site in Riverbanks mall in Marikina City, was able to salvage its computers and networking gears by transporting them to the second floor of the building at the height of Ondoy’s downpour.

In the meantime, NCO also has a site in Marikina City but it occupied the second floor of Robinsons mall. It did not report any damages as well.

TeleTech, said to be the biggest call center operator in the country with 17,000 agents, reported two of its sites – in Robinsons malls in Cainta and Novaliches – were surrounded with water but the company said this resulted in “minimal disruption."

The company's “proprietary cloud-based delivery network minimized any business interruption to its clients through its highly reliable failover architecture and its ability to temporarily reroute its clients’ customer inquiries to other locations in TeleTech’s global delivery network," the US-based call center operator said in a statement.

CCAP’s Uligan said call centers in other flood-hit areas such as Laguna were also not affected.

Big player Convergys, which has call center facilities in the province, did not report any disruption or damages.

“If there were some damages, I guess it’s just some tables and chairs," Uligan said. “In terms of business loss, it was not that significant since the numbercalls just decreased by a few percentage."

Those trapped inside the sites, Uligan said, were discouraged from going home and were given sleeping quarters and food.

TeleTech, for instance, doubled the pay of its agents who chose to work while waiting for the waters to subside.

In Libis, Quezon City where a number of call centers are located, agents were also asked to render overtime service since most of their colleagues were not able to report for work.

Uligan said CCAP’s board will soon meet to finalize a disaster mitigation plan which their members can adopt.

“Although each call center has its disaster plan, our strategy will also involve pooling our resources," he said. “We’ve already drafted this a long time ago but Ondoy may have pushed us to finally finish it."

In a way, the great deluge gave the outsourcing industry, particularly call centers, the opportunity to test the robustness of their IT infrastructure.

“One reason why the call center did not suffer very much from this calamity is the fact that they merely rerouted the traffic to other sites," said Martin Crisostomo, executive director for external relations of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP).

BPAP, the umbrella group for all outsourcing firms in the country, counts CCAP as a member.
Crisostomo said it was actually the road network, rather than the country’s Internet infrastructure, which prevented call centers from operating in full capacity.

“The telecom infrastructure was not disrupted at all during the typhoon. And even if the power was cut off in the affected areas, the call centers had generator sets on hand," Crisostomo said.

He said some call centers such as Sitel, whose site in Julia Vargas St. in Pasig City was not flooded but had a huge number of employees residing in nearby areas, have also released the 13th month pay for its employees.

TeleTech is among those which initiated fundraising efforts by tapping its worldwide employee base.

Crisostomo said a Makati-based legal outsourcing firm, DSM, has also donated outright cash of P50,000 to each of its employees affected by the flood.