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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.

IT to generate 5.8 million new jobs by 2013: IDC

Information technology will be an employment machine, generating 5.8 million new jobs in the coming four years, according to International Data Corporation (IDC) research released Sunday.

IDC predicts that the IT industry will be an engine powering economies out of economic doldrums, creating more that 75,000 new businesses in the next four years and adding jobs at a rate of 3 percent annually.

"Countries that foster innovation and invest in infrastructure, education and skills development for their citizens will have a major competitive advantage in the global marketplace," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

"In this fundamental economic reset, innovative technologies will play a vital role in driving productivity gains and enabling the creation of new local businesses and highly skilled jobs that fuel economic recovery and support sustainable economic growth."

US software colossus Microsoft sponsored the IDC research into the impact of IT in 52 countries that represent 98 percent of the global IT spending.

"IT spending growth is a good sign as we come out of the recession," Microsoft Corporate Affairs communications manager Scott Selby told AFP.

Employment growth in IT related jobs will be three times that of overall job growth in what Selby said is a "good driver of economic growth."

While the world has been in the gripes of a recession, it has also been in the midst of a "technology renaissance" flush with advances in software, devices, and Internet-based services, according to IDC.

IDC expects IT spending in the countries studied to grow at slightly more than three percent annually, three times as fast as the gross domestic products between now and the year 2013.

In what is good news for software powerhouse Microsoft, spending on software is predicted to grow faster than overall IT spending, rising 4.8 percent annually.

"Software is a driving force behind this IT growth," Selby said. "IT allows us to do more with less."

New technologies are also ushering in a new "cloud computing" paradigm in which applications are provided online as services instead of as software bought and installed on home or office machines, according to IDC.

Money saved by using software as needed "in the cloud" instead of buying, maintaining, and updating applications will likely be devoted to bringing new products or services to market faster and cheaper, according to Selby.

IDC estimates that cloud services could add 800 billion dollars in net new business revenues between the end of 2009 and the end of 2013.

"Over the past 20 years, we've seen transformative power in how investments in IT innovations foster economic growth," said Robert D. Atkinson, founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"Continued innovation and investment in information technology will help jump-start recovery from the current recession and will significantly contribute to the growth of employment and new businesses."

Emerging markets will reap the greatest economic gains from IT, according to Selby.

"Emerging markets are really going to take advantage of IT for years to come," Selby said.

"One reason is they will be able to leapfrog and enjoy benefits of innovations like cloud computing much more quickly."

Microsoft played up the prime role its software is playing in IT systems worldwide.

Monday, October 5, 2009

E-readers seen as holiday hit, presage tablet PCs

Electronic readers could be the hottest gift this holiday season as a new crop of portable media devices begins to join iPods and other music players as must-have tech accessories.

The number of readers bought will be closely watched by industry analysts in advance of the expected emergence of multimedia tablet PCs, which Apple and others are thought to be working on and which could alter the competitive landscape.

Falling prices and an ever-growing library of digital books are driving demand for e-readers like Amazon.com's Kindle and Sony Corp's Reader.

The light, thin devices now mainly appeal to book lovers, but many see them as the first iteration of a go-everywhere gadget that consumers will use to watch movies and surf the Web, as much as scan books and newspapers.

ISuppli, a technology and value chain research company, expects global sales of e-readers to top 5 million this year from about 1 million last year. It remains to be seen whether the current crop of readers morph into something with richer features, or tablets swoop in to define the market.

"There is tremendous potential for these devices to become more multi-function," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Holiday shoppers will be able to buy e-readers in stores owned by Wal-Mart and Best Buy. In May, Forrester predicted 2 million e-readers would be sold in the U.S. this year, but the research group now expects sales to far exceed that forecast.

However, the market is still small. Around 225 million portable music players are expected to ship this year, according to research firm In-Stat.

"More consumers read books on their iPhones and iPod Touches than own Kindles and Sony Readers put together," noted Forrester's Rotman Epps.

But e-readers are growing in popularity. A study by Retrevo, a website specializing in consumer electronics, found they beat the perennial favorite, MP3 players, on the holiday wish list this year, with 20 percent of respondents planning to buy an e-reader.

Amazon's Kindle is the dominant device, with an estimated 60 percent U.S. market share. The Kindle 2 retails at $299 and costs about $186 to make, according to iSuppli, giving Amazon a nice margin.

But the market is getting increasingly crowded. Sony, which pioneered e-reading devices but was eclipsed by Amazon, has been adding new models, including one for $199. Both will see competition from iRex Technologies, to be sold through Best Buy. Taiwan's Asustek, pioneer of netbook PCS, is also reportedly launching a reader, perhaps this year.

Tablets

The wildcard of tablet-style computers is looming on the horizon, analysts say, with the potential to disrupt a market that is far from settled. They are essentially laptops with touchscreens that can be swiveled to lie flat.

Much of the buzz about tablets has been generated by Apple, even though it has said nothing publicly about moving into a category that has seen its share of failures. Last week, reports emerged about a Microsoft Corp tablet called Courier, said to be in late-prototype stage.

Tablets offer the promise of Web browsing, video, music, and e-books -- but battery life has been a major obstacle.

The next batch is expected to break new ground. Archos, a French company, has unveiled a keyboard-less, touchscreen 9-inch tablet, and Toshiba has showed off the 7-inch Journe Touch, which can play high-definition video.

For now, analysts say e-readers continue to appeal to a particular slice of the market by offering an experience that many find equal or even better than reading a real book. They have long-lasting batteries and mimic the appearance of the printed page, easing eyestrain.

"There's a lot that could be done with e-reading devices down the line. The technology will continue to mature, refresh rates will improve, and we'll eventually see color in these devices," said NPD analyst Ross Rubin.

Taiwan unveils hydrogen-powered mobile phone chargers

Taiwanese researchers said Friday they have developed hydrogen-powered mobile phone chargers, in a development that could boost the island's efforts to become a player in green technologies.

The device can recharge a mobile phone battery in two hours without being plugged, according to scientists at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in north Taiwan's Hsinchu city.

"Hydrogen is a recyclable material. The device is energy-efficient and will help protect the environment," said Tsau Fanghei, a researcher at the institute.

"We will continue to improve the invention. We hope the hydrogen-powered device can replace current cell phone recharge systems in 2012."

Ma Hwong-wen, an environmental scientist at the National Taiwan University, said the invention appeared to be breaking new ground.

"It is new," Ma said. "Hydrogen, in theory, will produce no hazard to the environment."

The charger will be key to the Taiwan government's endeavour of carving out a space for itself in future energy generation, according to Yeh Hui-ching, director of the economics ministry's Bureau of Energy.

"The government hopes to acquire a slot in the global green energy industry's production chain with the hydrogen fuel cell technologies," Yeh said, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

Taiwan is under pressure to develop new energy sources, as it imports about 98 percent of its energy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to help in Ondoy relief operations

Below is a consolidated report of the interactive maps, private groups and business organizations where you can find information on how to help the victims of tropical storm Ondoy, based on the sites of INQUIRER.net columnist Manuel Quezon III, bloggers Frannywanny and Jane and Google map creators Serge Gregorio and Franklin Naval.

Rescue Operations

National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC)
+632-9125668
+632-9111406
+632-9115061
+632-9122665
NDCC Help hotlines:
+65 734-2118
734-2120
ndcchelpdesk@gmail.com

Philippine Coast Guard
+632-5276136

Air Force
+63908-1126976
+632-8535023

Metro Manila Development Authority (136)

Marikina City Rescue (+632-6462436, +632-6462423, +632920-9072902) Pasig Rescue Emergency Number (+632-6310099)

Quezon City Rescue (161)

San Juan City Hall Command Post (+632-4681697)

Bureau of Fire Protection Region III (Central Luzon) Hotline: (+63245-9634376)

Senator Dick Gordon (+639178997898, +63938-444BOYS, +632-9342118, +632-4338528)

Senator Manny Villar (+639174226800. +639172414864, +639276751981)

Philippine National Red Cross (143, +632-5270000)

Philippine National Red Cross Rizal Chapter operations center hotline: (+632-6350922, +632-6347824)

Rubber boat and chopper requests

NCRPO (+632-8383203, +632-8383354)

Private citizens who would like to lend their motor boats for rescue please call emergency nos:
+632-9125668
+632-9111406
+632-9122665
+632-9115061

You can also text (+632917-4226800 or +632927-6751981) for rescue dump trucks.

For those who are able to lend 4×4 trucks for rescue: Please send truck to Greenhills Shopping Center Unimart Grocery to await deployment, Tel No. (+632920-9072902).

Petron & San Miguel Corporation are lending choppers for rescue operations, call/text: (+632917-8140655) ask for Lydia Ragasa

Power supply concerns

Meralco (+63917-5592824, 16211, +63920-9292824) If you want service cut off to your area to prevent fires and electrocution.

Donations of heavy duty flashlights needed for rescue operations in Cainta, Rizal area. Contact Cielo at (+632918-8824356)

E-Donations

SMS: text RED to 2899 (Globe) and 4483 (Smart)

G-Cash: text DONATEAMOUNT4-digit M-PINREDCROSS to 2882

TXTPOWER.org: Paypal, Smart Money (5577-5144-1866-7103), G-Cash (0917-9751092)

Cellphone services

For Smart, text wis to 386.

For Globe, text find to 7000.

Maps

A group composed of Serge Gregorio and Franklin Naval has put up an interactive rescue map to locate victims in Marikina, one of the hardest hit areas by Ondoy.

To post a message for you on the map, use this web form: http://bit.ly/ondoymapresponse or email segregorio@gmail.com and franklin.naval@gmail.com.

Additional Ondoy Rescue Maps can be found at http://bit.ly/ondoylocator

Malls and commercial outlets

Aranaz Stores (Rockwell & Greenbelt) – accepting donations of any kind for Payatas communities

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (all branches) – canned goods, water, clothes, blankets, towels, medicine, and emergency supplies (no cash)

Luca stores (Rockwell, Shangri-la, Eastwood, or GA Towers) - Send your old clothes & donations (no cash pls)

Moonshine boutique (Rockwell) - accepting relief goods to help Ondoy victims in Marikina and Cainta.

Papemelroti stores (91 Roces Ave. / Ali Mall Cubao / SM City North EDSA / SM Fairview / SM Megamall / Glorietta 3 in Makati / SM Centerpoint / SM Southmall) – accepting relief goods (canned goods / milk / bottled water / clothes – NO CASH pls.)

Team Manila stores in Trinoma, Mall of Asia, Jupiter Bel-Air and Rockwell shall be accepting relief goods (Canned Goods, Ready-to-drink Milk, Bottled Water and Clothes) for distribution by Veritas.

Government and relief agencies

Akbayan – taking donations, call 433-69-33/433-68-31 to donate or volunteer.

Move for Chiz – asking for volunteers at Bay Park Tent, along Roxas Blvd., beside Max Restaurant and Diamond Hotel in Manila, or at Gilas Minipark at Unang Hakbang St., Gilas Q.C.

Worldvision Foundation – accepting donations/volunteers to pack relief goods in QC. For $ donations, BPI:USD acct #4254-0050-08

Philippine National Red Cross – visit their site HERE for various ways to donate.

Senator Francis Pangilinan is accepting donations @ AGS Bldg Annex, 446 EDSA Guadalupe Viejo. Contact Vina Vargas at (+632917-8081247)

WITHIN METRO MANILA

Mandaluyong/San Juan

La Salle Greenhills – drop off your donations (clothes, food, etc) at Gate 2 on Monday, September 28, or volunteer from 9am to receive, sort, repack the donations.

Xavier School – canned goods, bread, noodles. Please bring to Multipurpose Center (MPC). Accepted till Monday, Sept. 28.

Manila

Caritas Manila Office (Jesus St., Pandacan Manila near Nagtahan Bridge) – call +632-5639298, +632-5639308

Ministop Ibarra (Espana cor. Blumentritt, Sampaloc Manila) – Food (non-perishable goods only) Clothing, Medicines, Beds, Pillows, Blankets, Emergency Supplies

Muntinlupa

Hillsborough Village Chapel – Water, blankets, shoes, and clothes. These will go to families whose houses were washed out in the nearby sitios.

ParaƱaque

Operation Rainbow (Zac Faelnar Camara) at Ayala Alabang Village - needs Canned Goods, Ready-To-Eat Food, Bottled Water, Ready-To-Drink Milk/ Juice, Clothing, Blankets, contact (+632-4687991)

Playschool International (47 Ghana St., Better Living Subd., Paranaque) – open to receive donations (NO CASH, PLS) for relief goods. Please feel free to send your donations there. Teachers/staff will coordinate sending these to the centers.

Pasig

Miriam Quiambao – drop off point: One Orchard Road Building in Eastwood, or message http://www.twitter.com/miriamq for more details.

Relief Efforts for Pasig at Valle Verde 1 Village Park – contact +632916-4945000, +632917-5273616

Renaissance Fitness Center (2nd Floor, Bramante Building, Renaissance Towers Ortigas, Meralco Avenue) – Donations can be brought starting Monday, September 28/9am – 7pm. Contact Person: Warren Habaluyas (+632929-8713488) or email at luzonrelief@gmail.com

Quezon City

ABS-CBN through Banco de Oro account number 56300-20111; account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Incorporation (NOTE: This account # needs verification because on the ABS-CBN Foundation website, the account # is 5630060113)

Ateneo de Manila University – cooked or ready-to-eat food, clothes, medicine, blankets, water. Donations may be dropped off at the MVP, University Dorm, or Cervini lobbies. Also needed: volunteers for relief operations today, Sept. 27. Bring boots, shovels, large vehicles or small watercraft. For donations/inquiries, please contact (0908) 887-7166.

Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health is accepting donations of medicines. A center in Pasig has more than 1,000 evacuees, mostly kids suffering from colds and fever. Call Louie Montalbo: (0918) 936-2095.

Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC) – Relief goods for typhoon victims being accepted at 72-A Times St., West Triangle, QC. Tel (+632-9299820/22)

Erica Paredes (Katipunan), +63917-4741930 – they need bread, packed juice, sandwich filling (tuna, chicken, anything) You can help her make them, deliver the sandwiches to her house, or help her distribute! Call for more details.

Manor Superclub (Eastwood City) – will accept goods and other emergency items starting Sunday, September 27, at 10 am.

NoyMar Relief Operations – contact Clare Amador (+63928 520 5508) or Jana Vicente (+63928 520 5499). Drop-off for relief donations is at Balay Expo Center across Farmers Market Cubao.

Our Lady of Pentecost Parish (12 F. Dela Rosa corner C. Salvador Sts., Loyola Heights, Quezon City) – call +632-4342397, +632-9290665

Philippine Army Gym (inside Fort Bonifacio) or GHQ Gym (Camp Aguinaldo) – now distributing donations for Ondoy Victims.

Radio Veritas (Veritas Tower West Ave. cor EDSA) – call +632-9257931 to 40

Tulong Bayan, Cubao – needs clothes, salt and cooking oil in sachets: 0908-6579998, 0939-3633436, 9137122

Within the Philippines

Red Cross Load Donations – Right now the easiest way to make donations from the seat of your chair is via mobile phone load. The Red Cross Rescue and Relief Operations. To donate, text RED and send to 2899 (Globe) or 4483 (Smart). You can donate 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 300 pesos.

TxtPower – now accepts donations via SmartMoney 5577514418667103, GCash 09179751092 and Paypal.

Outside the Philippines

Worldvision Foundation – For $ donations, BPI:USD acct #4254-0050-08

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Online education expanding, awaits innovation

When Janice Barnwell decided to boost her career by obtaining a master's degree in business, the working mother chose an online university because of the convenience and the low cost.

The 44-year-old's educational experience exceeded her expectations, and her new employer paid for her to take four more courses online to sharpen her skills.

"At first I was very intimidated (by taking classes remotely). It's something I've never done," said Barnwell, who works as a wealth management liaison. "But it quickly changed for me because the interaction I had online with my classmates and professors felt real."

The online education sector grew 13 percent last year and had been growing at about 20 percent in previous years. Nearly one in four students take at least some college courses online, up from one in 10 in 2002. Two million students, most older than the traditional 18-22 year-old undergraduates, take all their courses online and two million more take one or more online course.

President Barack Obama pledged $500 million for online courses and materials as part of a multi-pronged plan aimed at expanding access to college.

Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults have a college degree, fewer than in many other industrialized nations. Only about 40 percent of Americans who start college graduate. The price of higher education, which rises by an average of 8 percent a year, contributes to the high dropout rate.

"All along that education pipeline, too many people ... are slipping through the cracks. It's not only heartbreaking for those students; it's a loss for our economy and our country," Obama said in a recent speech.

Jeff Conlon, chief executive of Kaplan Higher Education with some 59,000 online students, said traditional colleges could not meet Obama's goals for higher education.

"Obama wants to make us first again by 2020," he said.

"In order to do that, we need to create 63 million college graduates over that period. The higher education system as constructed will come up 16 million degrees short. There's not capacity in the system."

Proponents of online education cite a recent Department of Education study that concluded course work is better absorbed online than material presented in live classrooms.

Among the heavily marketed for-profit online educators, the leader is the University of Phoenix, a unit of Apollo Group Inc, whose enrollment rose 22 percent to 420,700 students in the quarter ending May 31, with revenues rising 26 percent.

Both Kaplan, a unit of Washington Post Co, and Phoenix are accredited universities. Employers increasingly see degrees earned online as equal to those received from brick-and-mortar schools, experts say. Some managers believe students who earn degrees online while also holding a job are likely to exhibit more self-discipline and determination.

Bells and whistles?

Richard Garrett of Boston consultant Eduventures Inc. said interest in online education may have plateaued for now, awaiting innovations that will transform the experience beyond screen imitations of the brick-and-mortar curriculum.

"We're still at a pretty rudimentary stage," Garrett said, noting educators rarely employ video, unique links, or other technological innovations.

"Will it be games? Will it be simulations? Will it be social networking? Will it be something we haven't yet come across?" he said.

No one has yet figured out how nursing students can practice drawing blood online, Conlon said. But there have been enhancements such as virtual laboratories where budding chemists can conduct experiments that might be too dangerous or too costly in the real world.

Most online course offerings tend toward vocational subjects like business, legal and health care training. Students needing hands-on experience go to Kaplan's campuses or its partners.

Most Kaplan classes are capped at 25 students because faculty can be subjected to communication overload. Students who might have been intimidated to speak up in classrooms often find their voice online.

Professors, most with doctorates, are hired for their teaching ability and not for their research, Conlon said.

The cost at Kaplan for a four-year college degree is around $65,000, compared to up to $150,000 or more at a private college. Online library access is provided by the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

By studying online, Barnwell saved on the time and travel to the university nearest her New Jersey home. Online tuition was less than $30,000, one-third the cost of the university.

Roughly half of the 4,500 U.S. brick-and-mortar colleges and universities now have online programs. Some have proven so popular that schools have had to restrict enrollment by on-campus students because they were taking slots away from off-campus students, said Jeff Seaman, who led a survey on the topic for the Sloan Consortium.

Online education is also making inroads in schools, with one million U.S. elementary and high school students, or some 4 percent of the total, learning online.

Some take remedial or advanced placement courses not available at their schools, and some are being home-schooled or live in isolated rural areas.

"You're able to learn at your own pace and you also can have help whenever you need it from the teacher," said Christopher Cox, 12, a child actor in Columbia, Maryland.

Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen predicted half of kindergarten through high school students will attend school online within the next decade.

This worries people like Laurie Fendrich who wrote a response to a Washington Post article on the subject.

"If we want our kids to end up sitting alone in isolated little rooms when they're 18 and 20, staring at computer screens instead of facing other real human beings, thinking in a way that turns thought into nothing but bits of information ... we could insert them into comfortable little cocoons in their homes from the age of, oh, say, seven."

Amazon settles Kindle lawsuit over '1984' copy

Amazon.com Inc has settled for $150,000 a lawsuit brought by a high school student and another consumer who claimed the online retailer illegally deleted from their Kindle devices digital copies of George Orwell's "1984."

The settlement, filed September 25, revealed that Amazon in September offered consumers whose books had been deleted a new free digital copy as well as $30.

The lawsuit was initially filed in July in U.S. District Court in Seattle and sought class-action status. It claimed Amazon did not have the right to delete digital content that had been purchased by consumers for use on their Kindles, the electronic reading devices made by Amazon.

This summer, Amazon acknowledged it deleted certain purchased e-books from the Kindles of some of its customers after learning that a third party who had posted the books did not have the legal rights to do so.

The reimbursement made it unlikely for a judge to certify a class-action, the plaintiffs said in the settlement.

Under terms of the settlement, Amazon will not delete such works unless the consumer agrees, unless a refund is requested or unless the work contains some harmful embedded code that would hurt operation of the Kindle.

Seattle-based Amazon will pay the plaintiffs' lawyers a fee of $150,000 to be donated to "a charitable organization that promotes literacy, children's issues, secondary or post- secondary education, health or job placement," according to the settlement.

Juvenile behind Obama 'slay poll' on Facebook

The US Secret Service said Thursday that a juvenile was behind a Facebook poll asking whether US President Barack Obama should be assassinated and no charges will be brought in the case.

"We identified the individual who posted this poll," said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. "We interviewed them with their parents present.

"There was no intent on the part of this juvenile," Donovan told AFP. "We're just characterizing it as a mistake."

Facebook quickly removed the user-generated poll, which was titled "Should Obama be killed?" and offered answer choices of "Yes," "No," "Maybe," and "If he cuts my health care."

More than 750 Facebook users had reportedly cast votes by the time the poll was yanked from the wildly popular online social networking community.

The poll was created over the weekend using a third-party application that lets users conduct their own surveys, Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told AFP earlier this week.

Facebook had to shut down the program to get rid of the Obama poll since surveys using the software were controlled by the outside developer.

The application will remain disabled until the developer assures Facebook there are policies and procedures for handling such concerns in the future, according to Schnitt.

Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included

For more than 500 years the book has been a remarkably stable entity: a coherent string of connected words, printed on paper and bound between covers.

But in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.

On Thursday, for instance, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,” which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

And in early September Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the television series “CSI,” released “Level 26: Dark Origins,” a novel — published on paper, as an e-book and in an audio version — in which readers are invited to log on to a Web site to watch brief videos that flesh out the plot.

Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading.

“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader,” said Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.” But, she added, “Can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”

The most obvious way technology has changed the literary world is with electronic books. Over the past year devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader have gained in popularity. But the digital editions displayed on these devices remain largely faithful to the traditional idea of a book by using words — and occasional pictures — to tell a story or explain a subject.

The new hybrids add much more. In one of the Simon & Schuster vooks, a fitness and diet title, readers can click on videos that show them how to perform the exercises. A beauty book contains videos that demonstrate how to make homemade skin-care potions.

Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.

In “Embassy,” a short thriller about a kidnapping written by Richard Doetsch, a video snippet that resembles a newscast reveals that the victim is the mayor’s daughter, replacing some of Mr. Doetsch’s original text.

“Everybody is trying to think about how books and information will best be put together in the 21st century,” said Judith Curr, publisher of Atria Books, the Simon & Schuster imprint that is releasing the electronic editions in partnership with Vook, a multimedia company. She added, “You can’t just be linear anymore with your text.”

In some cases, social-networking technologies enable conversations among readers that will influence how books are written.

The children’s division of HarperCollins recently released the first in a young-adult mystery series called “The Amanda Project,” and has invited readers to discuss clues and characters on a Web site. As the series continues, some of the reader comments may be incorporated into minor characters or subplots.

Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, predicted that “there is going to be a popular kind of literature where the author is seen as the leader of a large group and will pick and choose from these suggestions” by readers.

Bradley J. Inman, chief executive of Vook, said readers who viewed prototypes of “The 90-Second Fitness Solution” by Pete Cerqua or “Return to Beauty” by Narine Nikogosian “intuitively saw the benefits of augmenting how-to books with video segments.” Mr. Inman said readers then “warmed to” the fictional editions.

Jude Deveraux, a popular romance author who has written 36 straightforward text novels, said she loved experimenting with “Promises,” an exclusive vook set on a 19th-century South Carolina plantation in which the integrated videos add snippets of dialogue and atmosphere.

Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.

Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, which released “Level 26,” said he wanted the book’s text to be able to stand on its own, but the culture demanded rethinking the format. “Like everybody, you see people watching these three-minute YouTube videos and using social networks,” Mr. Tart said. “And there is an opportunity here to bring in more people who might have thought they were into the new media world.”

Readers of “Level 26,” which Mr. Zuiker wrote with Duane Swierczynski, have had a mixed response to what the publisher is marketing as a “digi-novel.”

“It really makes a story more real if you know what the characters look like,” commented Fred L. Gronvall in a review on Amazon.com. The videos, he wrote, “add to the experience in a big way.”

But another reviewer, posting as Rj Granados, wrote, “Do you really think cheesy video vignettes will IMPROVE the book?”

Some authors believe the new technologies can enrich books. For his history of street songs in 18th-century France, Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, will include links to recordings of the actual tunes.

But Mr. Darnton, author of “The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future,” warned that reading itself was changing, and not necessarily for the better. “I think we can see enough already to worry about the loss of a certain kind of sustained reading,” he said.

Mr. Doetsch, the author of “Embassy,” said the new editions should not replace the traditional book. He has written a forthcoming novel, “The 13th Hour,” that he thinks is too long to lend itself to the video-enhanced format. The new editions, he said, are “like dipping a novel into a cinematic pool and pulling it out and getting the best parts of each.”

Some authors scoff at the idea of mixing the two mediums. “As a novelist I would never ever” allow videos to substitute for prose, said Walter Mosley, the author of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other novels.

“Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow,” Mr. Mosley said. “And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on computers.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Typhoon "Ondoy" now threatens cyberspace


After devastating several parts of the country, tropical storm "Ondoy" (Ketsana) is now threatening to wreak havoc on cyberspace as well.

Computer security firm Trend Micro said cyber-criminals are exploiting worldwide attention on "Ondoy" by sending trojan programs disguised as news updates.

“Cybercriminals heartlessly exploited the calamity that unfolded in the Philippines. They rigged multiple URLs related to this news to point unknowing users to FAKEAV. Such SEO poisoning campaigns attract users all over the Web especially those who are trying to get information about their loved ones and fellow countrymen in the Philippines," senior threat analyst Joseph Pacamarra said in Trend Micro's blog site.

Users who click the links in the supposed news sites will be redirected to several landing pages where they are asked to download an EXE file, soft_207.exe.

The file, TROJ_FAKEAV.BND, does GeoIP checks that target specific regions or locations.

But Trend Micro said the new development is that the cyber-criminals use search engine optimization, such that their sites come out on top of search results.

"Although riding on tragic events is not exactly new, what is notable is it employed once again blackhat SEO to lead users to a FAKEAV as we had previously discussed here," Trend Micro said.

It advised users to be wary in clicking any URLs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Globe to restore mobile coverage Tuesday night

Cellular operator Globe Telecom, which has taken flak in recent days due to its poor or lack of mobile signals in areas hardest hit by typhoon “Ondoy," said it expects to fully restore its mobile coverage late Tuesday night.

The company’s technicians are working overtime to re-establish cellphone signals in the eastern part of Metro Manila and Rizal province, particularly in the town of San Mateo, Caridad Gonzales, Globe’s head of corporate and regulatory affairs, said.

“Our cell site near Sta. Lucia went underwater during the flooding. This is one of the reasons that caused some of the outage because it’s a big cell site that also serves a big portion of that area," Gonzales said.

Repair was delayed due to the difficulty in reaching the site’s location.

The company brought new equipment and is now almost done fixing the facility, she said.

Other sites were damaged by Ondoy, Gonzales said but she was unable to identify them. However, she said these are now being repaired as well.

Other than those areas directly ravaged by the typhoon, Globe said its service coverage in Metro Manila is now back to normal.

Rival Smart, meanwhile, did not report any signal disturbance and even stressed that it was the only telco whose communication signal remained strong during the typhoon’s aftermath.

In a statement, Smart said set up free call centers at the Barangka Barangay Hall in Marikina City, Ever Gotesco Mall in Pasig City, and at the Cainta Municipal Hall to enable affected residents to make free calls.

An additional free calling facility will also be set up in San Mateo, Rizal.

In addition to free calls, charging of cell phones are also accommodated at the Smart Libreng Tawag centers, it added.

Globe has also put up similar free calling stations in the affected areas.

Dell launches high-end, thin business PC

Dell Inc on Monday unveiled its latest high-end, ultra-thin personal computer, bringing some fresh design appeal to its enterprise models.

Dell called the new Latitude Z the world's thinnest and lightest 16-inch laptop, at 4.5 pounds and less than one inch thick.

However, the Latitude Z does not come cheap, starting at $1,999. Dell, the world's No. 2 PC maker said it is targeting the PC at what it calls "impression makers," such as creative professionals.

Thin and light is undoubtedly a priority for PC makers this fall, in both consumer and business segments. Technology advances are allowing PC makers to cram ever more performance into a shrinking form factor.

Dell launched its premium consumer ultra-thin PC, the Adamo, earlier this year.

"We're seeing thin and light spread throughout our portfolio," said Todd Forsythe, vice president in Dell's commercial client product group.

Dell said the Latitude Z is the first laptop to offer wireless docking and "inductive charging." It can be recharged without a power cord just by placing it in a special docking station, in the same way many electric toothbrushes charge. The docking station is sold separately.

The Latitude Z also comes with an always-on function that allows instant access to email and the Internet, and offers a screen frame that is touch-sensitive and can be used to launch applications and scroll through Web pages.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cybersecurity done the ant colony way


Sometimes it's truly curious who or what inspires us to achieve our best.

There are those sports teams who, sadly, sing "Wonderwall" by Oasis before entering the arena.

There are artists whose muses turn out to be more Pamela Anderson than Laurie Anderson.

And now, according to the Telegraph, some rather honest scientists from Wake Forest University confess that they have been inspired to create rather progressive cybersecurity software by staring at ants for a very long time.

I've never realized this when I've stood on a few hundred of them heading for my kitchen waste basket, but ants are apparently quite clever at defending themselves.

They use something called swarming intelligence.

It seems to be a little like the strategy the police use when confronted by protesters at an event like the G20 conference. Once an ant senses a danger, he is joined by more and more ants until the threat is repelled.

A team at Wake Forest was so inspired by this approach to antagonism that it wondered whether it could create security software in which digital "ants" could call for reinforcements the minute they sensed the unwanted presence of a disaffected Swedish 14-year-old.

Professor Errin Fulp told the Telegraph: "In nature, we know that ants defend against threats very successfully. They can ramp up their defense rapidly, and then resume routine behavior quickly after an intruder has been stopped. We were trying to achieve that same framework in a computer system."

The Wake Foresters believe that this new software will allow for much quicker detection and return to normal computer function.

Glenn Fink (what fine names this research team seems to enjoy) told the Telegraph: "Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat. As they move about the network, they leave digital trails modeled after the scent trails ants in nature use to guide other ants."

This Fink and Fulp ant idea seems rather clever to me. If only I could use it to repel people on the street who ask me to sign petitions, give money or offer directions to the Hustler Club.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

8th Philippine Robotics Olympiad at SM North

Some of the brightest students from over 300 public and private schools nationwide went head-to-head at the 8th Philippine Robotics Olympiad (PRO) Wednesday and Friday, showcasing a wide array of robots that could perform a variety of tasks – from singing and dancing to braiding and etching – and that also looked good too while doing the tasks.

Held at the SM North Annex in Quezon City, the PRO encouraged students to come up with robots that were not just functional but also aesthetically pleasing, with points awarded to robots that performed tasks with “a synergy of artistry, ingenuity, and scientific flair."

“The students have been able to bring a lot of creative elements into their work," President and CEO of FELTA Multimedia Mylene Abiva said. “This comes at a very good time for the country, because the Philippines has been privileged to host the World Robot Olympiad in 2010," she added.

FELTA is the main organizer of the PRO in partnership with the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (SEI-DOST) with support from the Department of Education (DepEd).

All the robots in the Olympiad were assembled from mostly just Lego blocks and Lego’s own Mindstorms robotics parts and software. Lego Mindstorms is a highly popular educational tool used to teach kids the basic concepts of robotics.

The system features a programmable central processor that can be linked to a variety of sensors and motors, enabling the construction of robots that are able to actively interact with their environment.

The Olympiad featured a grueling Iron Robot Triathlon for elementary school students and a Robot Match for high school students, featuring robots that could navigate obstacle courses with uneven terrain, throw balls, and carry light cargo.

In the Iron Robot Triathlon, Claret School of Quezon City brought home first place with a perfect score. Grace Christian College and Nemesio Yabut Elementary School won second and third place, respectively.

In the Robot Match, first place went to Philippine Science High School in Bicol. Second place went to the Science and Technology Center of Cebu (STEC), and third place went to Christian College.

For the Open Category, Grace Christian College and First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities won first and second place in the Elementary School category. For High School, Doctor Yanga’s College took home the grand prize with a top score of 93.44%, while second place went to Makati Science High School.

All the first and second place winners of the 8th PRO will be part of the Philippine Robotics Team, and will represent the country at the prestigious World Robotics Olympiad 2009 in Gyeongbuk Pohang, Korea, this November.

Friday, September 25, 2009

National finalists for 3rd Philippine Blog Awards announced

With Filipino bloggers scattered across the country and all over the world, not just one but three awarding ceremonies for the 3rd Philippine Blog Awards (PBA) will be held this year.

"This will reflect the theme which is One Blogging Nation," PBA official Juned Sonido said in a press briefing on Thursday, where he announced the list of national finalists.

In Luzon, the awards will be held at the Peta Theater in Quezon City on October 9. For the Visayas, the awards will be held at the Cebu Business Park in Cebu City on Oct. 18 while in Mindanao, it will take place at the Pearlmont Hotel in Cagayan De Oro City on Oct. 24.

Recognizing the diversity of bloggers, Sonido said a special category for expatriates residing in the Philippines and non-Filipinos who blog about Filipino-related topics has been created.

More than one-fifth of nearly a thousand blogs that joined this year’s contest made it to the shortlist. The 208 finalists are vying in 20 categories, as well as four special awards for design, foreign blog, Filipino abroad, and Filipiniana. The regional finalists, who are competing for 12 more awards, have yet to be announced.

Among the national finalists are:
[To see the complete list, click here]

"I think for most bloggers who got involved in this, (we) would like to showcase which one is the best in blogging, which one is noteworthy," Sonido said.

He said the blogs would be judged through their eligibility, content, and design. Judges for the winning blogs will be announced during the awarding ceremony, he added.

Acknowledging the rising number of bloggers, Sonido also encouraged them to be more responsible in their writing.

"I think it’s in the best interest of all bloggers to write responsibly. Kasi in the end … you are more open to legal suits if you don’t blog responsibly. Your reputation might get tarnished if you are not careful with what you write," Sonido said.

High shipping costs repel online buyers: PayPal

High shipping costs, security concerns and lack of convenience are leading many online shoppers in the United States to abandon their purchases, research conducted by PayPal revealed.

The PayPal Checkout Abandonment Study showed that 46 percent of US shoppers cited high shipping charges as the primary reason why they discontinued their online purchase. While nothing could have prevented one-third of shoppers from abandoning purchases, the survey found that providing shipping costs upfront might have influenced 40 percent of the survey respondents to complete the purchase.

Thirty-seven percent of online shoppers said they backed out of a possible online purchase because they wanted to compare prices in a different online store. Another 36 percent said they lacked money to complete the transaction while 27 percent said they wanted to look for a coupon.

Twenty-six percent of respondents in the PayPal survey said they wanted to shop offline while 24 percent said they couldn't find a preferred pay option.

To help merchants encourage shoppers to purchase, PayPal has announced a new Express Checkout feature – which includes PayPal Instant Update API. By integrating the new API, merchants can show order details earlier in the process including shipping options, insurance choices and tax totals.

"To get shoppers to complete their purchases, it is critical that merchants make the checkout experience easy and costs transparent," said Mario Shiliashki, General Manager of PayPal Southeast Asia and India. "Our new PayPal Instant Update API will help merchants get customers the information they need upfront to drive sales."

The survey also uncovered signs that the economy still has shoppers wary about clicking the "purchase" button. More than one-third of respondents abandoned checkout because they didn't plan for all of the expenses; while more than 25 percent left the site to search for a coupon. However, one-third of shoppers later returned to the same site to buy. Twenty percent of those surveyed eventually went on to purchase the items at a physical store or at a competitor's website.

“Besides the cost factor, merchants who aim to sell to a global audience need to remember that online shopping needs to be a hassle-free and safe experience for the buyer,” added Shiliashki.

The PayPal Checkout Abandonment Study was conducted by comScore among active shoppers who had recently abandoned a shopping cart. In the United States 553 people participated between May 12-15, 2009. All respondents were asked about their most recent abandoned session, regardless of the site involved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Angara seeks stricter policy vs Internet piracy

Sen. Edgardo Angara on Wednesday sought amendments to the Intellectual Property Code to battle the upsurge in Internet piracy.

In a statement, Angara said the Intellectual Property Code has not kept pace with advances made in the area of intellectual property rights infringement in e-commerce.

He said the proposed amendments in the IPC should give recognition to the rights of performers, phonogram producers and broadcasters as accorded authors of artistic and literary works "by acknowledging their right to control or be compensated for the various ways in which their works are used or enjoyed by others."

"With the Philippines' ratification of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), there is a need for amendments to the IPC to contain the additional obligations imposed by the provisions in said treaties," said Angara who chairs the Committee on Science and Technology.

"While our Intellectual Property Code was shaped with a consummate vision at the time of its enactment, its provisions have not kept pace with the advances made in the area of intellectual property rights infringement in E-Commerce.

He said that IPC amendments must address the technological measures provisions in Article 11 of the WCT and Article 18 of the WPPT; and the rights management information provisions (Article 12 of the WCT and WPPT) of the Internet Treaties.

Angara shared that since 1980, the Philippines has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which seeks "to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among States."

He said Senate Bill 880 seeks to impose more stringent penalties for rights-violators, while immediate judicial relief and alternative options are proposed to be accorded actual and potential victims of copyright infringement.

"The overriding goal of this proposal is to provide an Internet environment where it is safe to distribute and license protected material. Because in an increasingly global arena, nothing less than a global effort will ensure the effective protection and development of intellectual property," added Angara.

RP IT competitiveness drops, ranks 12th in Asia-Pacific

The Philippines fell four places to rank 51st among 66 countries worldwide in terms of IT competitiveness in 2009, results of new study by the Business Sofware Alliance Economist Intelligence Unit revealed Wednesday.

From its 47th rank in 2008, the Philippines slid to 51st this year as its score also dropped from 29.8 to 28.5. The study assesses and compares the information technology industryenvironments of 66 economies to determine the extent to which they enable IT sector competitiveness.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, six factors work together to create a sound environment for the IT sector: an ample supply of skilled workers; an innovation-friendly culture; world-class technology infrastructure; a robust legal regime that protects intellectual property; a stable, open, and competitive economy; and government leadership that strikes the right balance between promoting technology and allowing market forces to work.

The study said the Philippines' IT sector improved significantly in the IT Infrastructure category and advanced slightly in research and development in 2009. On the other hand, its score declined in support for IT industry development and in the human capital area.

The United States topped the global list with a score of 78.9, followed by Finland and Sweden. At the bottom of the list was Iran.

In the Asia Pacific region, the Philippine ranking fell two notches from 10th in 2008 to 12th in 2009.

"In today's economic climate, it is critical that the Philippine government continue to support the growth of a strong technology sector. The IT sector remains an important engine of economic growth. It is essential for the government to support innovation and take steps to stimulate technology sector output which can help attract investors and accelerate the country's economic recovery," said Claro Parlade, Director for software policy, Asia Pacific of the Business Software Alliance.

"Challenges for the Philippine government and other Asia Pacific countries remain. With broadband access becoming a prerequisite for many parts of the IT sector, economies with pervasive broadband penetration have a big competitive advantage over those where the infrastructure is lacking," Parlade said.

The Philippines ranked 42nd in terms of business environment; 58th in IT infrastructure; 44th in IT human capital; 61st in research and development environment; 47th in legal environment; and 45th in support for IT industry.

Among the key study findings for Asia Pacific is that coordinated efforts among governments, universities and IT firms are needed to improve the quality of technology training and expand the pool of potential hires.

Asian economies continue to produce large numbers of IT employees but lag behind North America and Europe in providing well-rounded technology education, it said.

Facebook to end Beacon tracking tool in settlement

Facebook is shutting down its much-maligned Beacon marketing program, launched nearly two years ago amid fanfare only to generate a storm of privacy complaints over the tracking of user activities at partner Web sites.

Facebook agreed to end Beacon and create a foundation to promote online privacy, safety and security as part of a $9.5 million settlement in a lawsuit over the program. A federal judge in California still must approve the terms.

Meanwhile, Facebook is teaming up with the Nielsen Co. to help advertisers grab the attention of the hordes that are spending more of their time at the Internet hangout. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, is expected to unveil the new marketing program, called "Nielsen BrandLift," at an advertising conference Tuesday in New York.

Facebook thought the Beacon marketing program would help users keep their friends better informed about their interests while also serving as "trusted referrals" that would help drive more sales to the participating sites. Sprinkled in with status updates and photos were alerts on what items their friends had bought or reviewed.

But users complained that friends could learn of holiday gifts they had bought at the online retailer Overstock.com or learn of the mindless movies for which they had purchased tickets through Fandango.

Users were able to decline tracking on a site-by-site basis, but not systemwide — at least not initially. Many users simply didn't notice a small warning that appeared on a corner of their Web browsers; the box disappeared after about 20 seconds, after which consent was assumed.

After an uproar, Palo Alto, California-based Facebook ultimately let users turn Beacon off, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized for it.

The service never really caught on, though, and Facebook said late Friday it agreed to end it as part of the proposed settlement.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2008 on behalf of 19 users against Facebook, as well as Blockbuster Inc., Fandango, Overstock.com Inc. and other companies that used Beacon. It claimed the defendants disclosed users' personal information for advertising purposes, without their consent.

"We learned a great deal from the Beacon experience," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a statement. "For one, it was underscored how critical it is to provide extensive user control over how information is shared. We also learned how to effectively communicate changes that we make to the user experience."

While Beacon was unsuccessful, out of the experience grew Facebook Connect, which lets the online hangout's 300-million-plus users access other sites using their Facebook log-ins and share with Facebook information on activities elsewhere.

Unlike Beacon, however, Facebook Connect gives users, rather than Facebook and advertisers, control over the information they share.

The multiyear partnership with Nielsen marks Facebook's latest attempt to persuade advertisers to spend more money promoting their brands on the site. Among other things, Nielsen will develop opt-in polls that attempt to measure Facebook users' responses to the ads that show up on their pages.

Facebook's huge audience already has been luring more advertisers to the site. The company is expected to bring in more than $500 million in revenue this year, according to Facebook board member Marc Andreessen. The rising tide of money cascading into Facebook is now enough to cover the 5-year-old company's operating expenses, a major milestone for startups.

Want to read all about it online? It may cost you

With their advertising revenue drying up, newspaper publishers spent much of the spring and summer debating whether to cut off free online access to some of the material they run in their shrinking print editions.

It looks like the talk will turn to action this fall, when some large newspapers are expected to put up Internet toll booths.

They'll be testing readers' willingness to pay for information and entertainment that mostly has been given away online for the past 15 years. That happened largely because most publishers could afford to subsidize their Web sites with profits from their print franchises. But now those profits have crumbled, just as the prices for online ads are tumbling, too.

A recent study by the American Press Institute found 58 percent of the responding newspapers are considering online fees. Of that group, 22 percent expect to introduce the fee before the end of the year. The findings drew upon 118 interviews of newspaper executives in the U.S. and Canada.

The free-to-fee transition likely will occur in tentative steps rather than bold leaps that would lock all online content behind a pay gate. Publishers are taking this cautious approach because they are still trying to devise online payment plans that will generate more revenue without alienating too many of their readers.

For instance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a newspaper with a weekday circulation of about 206,500, recently launched a Web site that includes coverage and commentary on sports, politics and entertainment that isn't in its printed product or free online edition. The service costs $36 annually or $3.99 per month.

Other newspapers that have talked up subscription plans remain reticent. Newsday of Long Island, New York, still hasn't rolled out fees for its Web site, even though the newspaper's owner, Cablevision Systems Corp., said it was going to do so this summer. Newsday spokesman Paul Fleishman declined to comment.

The conundrum facing publishers: It's hard to figure out how much, if anything, readers will be willing to pay. Internet search engines and digital communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook ensure people still will be able to find and share plenty of free content.

But running totally free sites hasn't been paying off for most newspapers. Even before the online market began to slump this year, Web ads were generating only a small fraction of the revenue that print ads do. The disparity has made publishers realize they need more ways to make money on the Internet, but few of them have been able to figure out how.

"This is like a four-dimensional chess game. It's really complex," said former newspaper editor Alan Mutter, who is now an industry consultant when he isn't writing "Reflections of a Newsosaur," a free blog.

The Associated Press also has been part of the online fee movement. The not-for-profit cooperative, which is owned by newspapers, is setting up a system that will track the usage of its stories. It's a crucial piece of a plan that could improve the AP's ability to run ads next to news stories and perhaps even lead the AP to charge readers to see major scoops or other "premium" content.

"The value of content has to rise," said Tom Curley, the AP's chief executive. "We are all looking how to make that happen."

Even as newspapers mull just how much to commit to charging readers, a competition is already brewing to provide the technology to enable it.

Four of the world's largest technology companies — Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. — have expressed an interest in developing an online payment system for publishers. Mutter also has been promoting his own approach to Internet fees, a concept he calls ViewPass.

Separately, more than 1,000 newspapers and magazines have signed nonbinding letters of intent to join an Internet fee system being assembled by Journalism Online LLC. It intends to begin collecting money on behalf of publishers before winter.

Backed by former leaders from Court TV and The Wall Street Journal, Journalism Online wants to run the cash register for a digital news smorgasbord. Readers will be able to buy stories from a wide range of participating publishers without having to repeatedly provide their credit card numbers and other personal information at each Web site. The content would be distributed on the Web and electronic reading devices, with each publisher dictating its own terms. As a commission, Journalism Online plans to keep 20 percent of the revenue collected through its system.

Although he isn't jumping on board with Journalism Online, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is sold on online fees.

News Corp. already owns the newspaper industry's most successful Internet subscription model in The Wall Street Journal, with more than 1 million customers who pay for online access. The annual rates vary from $103 for an online-only subscription to $140 for a package that includes delivery of the print edition too. Now, Murdoch hopes to make online fees pay off for his other publications, which include the New York Post and The Times of London. Murdoch hasn't provided a timeline or specifics about his plans, however.

The New York Times is considering charging online readers a membership fee, with more details promised in the fall. It's a road the newspaper has been down before, only to reverse course after management concluded that the online subscription it required to read the Times' top columnists was crimping its Internet ad sales. The subscription service, which cost $50 per year, was scrapped in 2007 after a two-year run. It had 221,000 customers when the Times tore down the toll booth.

These days, the printed versions of newspapers are suffering so much that publishers appear determined to find a way to get readers on the Internet and mobile devices to pay something, even if it's just a few bucks per month. The question is mainly which publisher will jump off the sidelines first.

"There's still a lot of 'wait-and-see' attitudes out there," said Randy Bennett, senior vice president of business development for the Newspaper Association of America. "I think a lot of publishers would like to see some empirical evidence of what happens to other publishers who dip their toes into the water."

In a worst-case scenario, imposing online fees would drive away so much of a newspaper's Web audience that publishers would lose more in Internet ad sales than they would gain in new revenue.

In a best-case scenario, newspapers charging their online readers would still retain enough of the audience for their Web sites to remain attractive marketing channels. What may be even more important, the fees might make readers more willing to pay for the print editions if the same content isn't on the Web for free, especially if print subscriptions include free or discounted Web access.

Preserving the value of their print franchises is one of the main reasons for publishers to charge for Web access. That's because newspapers still get most of their money from print ads, which accounted for $35 billion of the industry's revenue last year. Newspaper print ads are on pace to fall below $30 billion this year.

Online ads, in contrast, contributed just $3.1 billion in revenue last year. And while that category had been growing until this year, it wasn't fast enough to offset the erosion in print ads. From 2005 through 2008, the industry's annual revenue from print ads dropped by $12.7 billion. Meanwhile, newspapers' annual revenue from online ads increased by just $1 billion.

Journalism Online's co-founder, Steven Brill, believes newspapers can still hold on to most of their online readership by charging for only their best work — information, images and audio unlikely to be found anywhere else on the Web. This presumes publishers will be able to prevent the content from being copied and pasted or even just summarized at other sites, a potentially daunting task.

Some publishers still have no intention to charge for online access because they have concluded online fees are bound to backfire on the newspaper Web sites that adopt them, Mutter said. The American Press Institute study found 44 percent of the respondents don't think Internet fees will provide a significant lift to newspapers' future revenue.

"The guys who hold off (on Internet fees)," Mutter said, "could have a huge windfall in new traffic."

Mayweather vs Pacquiao: Twitter fans weigh in

A day after Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s complete domination of Juan Manuel Marquez, subscribers to the popular microblogging service Twitter urged boxing promoters to finally seal a money fight between "Money" Mayweather and the current pound-for-pound champ Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.

A Reuters article noted that Mayweather's victory over Marquez left a feeling of dissatisfaction after many noted that the American was several pounds heavier than his opponent. "Marquez weighed in at 148 moments before the fight but Mayweather, cynically although probably rather shrewdly, refused to disclose his own weight," the Reuters story said.

Clamor for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has grown steadily after the American's victory over the Mexican pugilist. Even Mayweather acknowledged that boxing fans want to see him fight Pacquiao but declined to commit himself to the bout.

"People say Pacquiao is number one. I don't have to rate myself. I know what I can do. Pound-for-pound is an opinion. I was a professional for 11 years, and I was a world champion for 10 years. I went away for two years, came back, I fought the number two fighter. I didn't rate him, they did. I am a critic of myself. I want to be the best I can be," he said.

In a Twitter thread Monday, film23jay @surroundsoundud noted: "I want [Mayweather] to fight Pacquiao. I want Mayweather to whoop his ass. I'm not a Pacquiao fan. He's overhyped."

Tcomputer RT @BoxingDawg also commented: "I know this will bother the Mayweather-haters out there, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best pound-for-pound boxer. I know Freddie Roach won't admit this, but the only boxer that can possibly beat Mayweather is [Shane] Mosley -- and not Pacquiao."

"With that, I cannot see Mayweather ever wanting to fight Mosley. He'll fight Pacquiao next. That's if Manny gets past [Miguel] Cotto," he added.

Pacquiaovs noted that there were "real danger signs for Manny Pacquiao from Floyd Mayweather." Another tweet from maniark read: "I have never seen a more complete fighter than Floyd Mayweather on early Sunday morning. Superb dismantling of Marquez!"

Enishiate, who watched the fight a day late, said he was dissatisfied with the bout. "Finally got a chance to watch the Mayweather/Marquez fight. Very anti-climatic but just shows how surreal Floyd really is."

ClintonV noted that while everyone is talking about Pacman-Mayweather, "Pacman has the small matter of Miguel Cotto to get past. He's bigger and can bang. Dangerous."

One Pacquiao fan, however, said he wants the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight to happen soon. "Just hope that our own Pacman shuts up Money Mayweather," posted Twitter fan champie08.

Facebook user welcomes Belo libel suit

Activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra, who was sued by doctor to the stars Vicky Belo for allegedly maligning her in his Facebook account, yesterday welcomed the move, saying it was “an opportunity to invite public attention to the hazards of cosmetic surgery clinics performing surgeries with untrained and unskilled medical practitioners and advertising such services as safe.”

“We hope to ring alarm bells at the Health Department against the proliferation of such colorum clinics, which is destroying the country’s medical tourism industry and earning for the country the moniker of being Asia’s No. 1 Chop Shop,” Guevarra said in a statement sent to The STAR.

Belo and the Belo Medical Group filed the suit against Guevarra at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Taytay, Rizal.

Belo protested Guevarra’s shoutouts referring to her as “Reyna ng Kaplastikan, Reyna ng Kapalpakan” (Queen of False Pretenses, Queen of Incompetence) and updates calling for a national patients’ boycott of Belo clinics in his Facebook account.

Facebook is a popular social networking site.

Guevarra is the counsel of Josefina Norcio who sued the Belo Medical Group for botched butt augmentation procedures using the banned substance Hydrogel.

Belo, previously involved in a video sex scandal, operates swanky plastic and cosmetic surgery clinics frequented by the elite. She also owns various offshore clinics and booking offices in Thailand, South Korea and the United States.

She, however, is not licensed by the Philippine Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (PAPRAS) to perform cosmetic surgery procedures.

The suit is the first Facebook libel case in the world where Belo does not even belong to the defendant’s network of Facebook friends, Guevarra said.

A previous Facebook libel case was, however, filed in the United Kingdom where businessman Mathew Firsht sued a former school friend over a false personal profile status on the site, which included private information about him and untrue allegations about his sexual orientation.

The libel suit against Guevarra was commenced through Dr. Belo’s general manager who managed to add herself to Guevarra’s network of 1,472 friends.

More than this, Guevarra seeks to defend himself all the way to the Supreme Court in order to elicit jurisprudence regarding internet-based libels.

Unfazed

Guevarra remained unfazed by Belo and reacted about his latest legal battle in his Facebook status update and referred to Belo as a “wannabe mortician.”

“A wannabe mortician masquerading as a cosmetic surgeon will never be able to stitch up the difference between formalin or botox, between free speech or slander when suing for libel a Facebook user for his shoutouts and status updates. Such surgical stupidity results in mistaking Facebook for Erasebook.”

For his part, Guevarra’s counsel J.V. Bautista pointed out the suit’s material defects, saying it would not prosper because there’s no such thing as Internet libel.

“The alleged defamatory statements are privileged communication and are per se, not libelous. Said statements of Atty. Guevarra fall under constitutionally protected exercise of free speech,” Bautista said.

“Finally, the analogous libel case of Alfonso Yuchengco/Pacific Plans vs. Philip Piccio, arising from a blog written by Mr. Piccio against Pacific Plans, was ordered dismissed by the Department of Justice which ruled that there is no such thing as Internet libel since Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code strictly provides that libel can only be committed by means set forth therein (writing, printing, radio etc.) and does not include the Internet. Furthermore, criminal statutes are construed strictly in favor of the accused.”

The STAR tried to contact Belo’s counsel Adel Tamano through his cell phone, but he was not available for comment.

The preliminary investigation is set on Sept. 24 at the Taytay Hall of Justice, Rizal before Asst. City Prosecutor Cheloy Garafil.