Stemming the Tide

With all the accounts of Phishing horrors and IT security advisories warning against it, FBI’s breakthrough against a US-Egypt Phishing scam is definitely a welcome in the war against identity theft.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said 33 people were arrested across the United States early Wednesday while authorities in Egypt charged 47 more people linked to the scam.

A total of 53 suspects were named in connection with the scam in a federal grand jury indictment, the FBI said.

Authorities said the sophisticated identity theft network had gathered information from thousands of victims which was used to defraud American banks.

While there are a lot that remains to be done, the headway provides at least some sense of justice to those paranoid about their privacy and financial information in a world becoming more and more interconnected everyday.

Straight from its Nest

Screenshot-PidginI’ve been dabbling with Linux functionalities again these days so I found the inavailability of Pidgin since the previous weekend somewhat a hassle. I’m used to being available for relatives and friends using YM that’s why I took notice. I let a day pass thinking it could have been a temporary glitch.

I decided to look at it more closely, however, when the problem was still there the dawn on Tuesday. So to anyone still in the dark here, read on.

Turned out, according to Celtic Wolf, that an update in the Yahoo Network last June 17 was the culprit.An update seemed to be order so it was off to Pidgin’s official site. There, a confirmation of the problem was posted right at the main page so everything was straightforward from there.

After a few clicks and copy-pasted lines at the terminal, Pidgin was back in action.

Over OCR

I’ve never given a thought on OCR stuff much before because I never thought of a situation I would end up actually needing it.

Just early this day, I actually needed to find a solution towards that direction.

More specifically, I have a PDF from school with lengthy code in it and I need to have both server and client codes running. While the intuitive step of having the program files is to copy and paste everything, it turned out that things won’t be easy as that. It turned out that the text turned out garbled when pasted in Notepad++.

As a previous endeavor has shown, my tinkering inclination actually had me try to have the garbage figured out–how values map to the other. After a while I gave up though. I thought I should have ended up typing the 6 page mammoth instead of ending up having to spend an entire day decyphering the thing.

The only thing left for me to try was the OCR solution. Not wanting to have additional software installed though, I spent a few clicks at Google and found a surprising solution. Surprising in the sense that I never thought I’d find something of actual use for MS Office’s OneNote, its Copy Text from Picture functionality was literally a lifesaver here.

OneNote's Copy Text from Image

OneNote's Copy Text from Picture

So after a few clicks on Adobe Reader’s Snapshot tool before getting the text from OneNote, I got what my codes. Well, sort of since there were a few glitches in the translation that I had to correct still.

I’ll happily take that over straining these fingers having to retype everything though.

Oh Brother

I find it funny that, in some ways, life seems to mimic the blogging episode. That is, the absurdities you encounter in either bad apple is enough to get you hammering down on the odd one out. I’m talking about my recent difficulty in getting my printer to work yesterday and it definitely got me writing about what I had to go through then now.

Getting me out of my blogging stupor would not be the rant-worthy incident, (though it really is,) but the sheer fact that I just got the piece of nearly 2 year old junk to churn out readable prints. That despite having to do stuff with the hardware… from cleaning to test prints to re-inserting the cartridges to switching it on and off to resetting the printer then doing a combination of the same routines again. That despite having to put up with the printer when I’m so used to getting hardware technical support guys tinkering with it at work.

And it felt like I hit the jackpot… like I discovered the hidden combination when, after spending around 2 to 3 hours of painstaking to get the printer working, it spat out a recognizeable test print! That despite having done so for what seemed to be like about 30 to 40 test prints of nearly no color at all to that which had no black at all. The latter was the real whammy then because I had to print a scanned PDF file in black ink.

Also I knew I had to sort things out because should the need for something for my daughter at school come up, I could only imagine how much my wife would rare to smash the printer against the wall. My daughter’s assignment this afternoon only proved that it was well worth the trouble as I’m the only guy in this house with the patience to put up with erring hardware.

And it definitely was more on the wise side of things to get this old timer going as it eventually saved me a few thousand bucks with me not having to get a new one. Not to mention the trouble of getting rid of this chunk of hardware.

I’m not pulling my hair because of the DCP-130C for now, thanks to the Internet primarily.* Should it finally choke on me permanently, I can’t really say I’m getting something from the same manufacturer though.

* Thanks to phayber_optik of TipidPC for having the unintuitive printer reset procedures covered.

A Video and Cake Hence

It seems a lot of geeks can’t get enough of the firefox 3 download day gimmick and as a consequence of the social surplus getting more and more out of people’s time these days, a video at YouTube now presents a parody of microsoft’s supposed predicament on the mozilla phenomenon:

Not bad for the first video I get to post here. The cake is shown here and thanks to minor of highfiber for the stuff by the way.

Diminishing the Slice

The Philippines ranks second to the last after Indonesia in terms of the average annual salary of IT professionals. That is if the ZDNet Asia IT Salary Benchmark Survey 2008 is to be believed.

Early this month, ZDNet Asia released an online article summarizing the results of the survey. There the Philippines ranked 6th among 7 countries where it was reported that IT professionals averaged an annual salary of $12,425. Indonesia placed last with its pros getting $7,709 annually.

Get more information from the detailed report here. Registration is required though.

7.5 Going 8.0

I’ve been using AVG Free for computer protection ever since I’ve had my own laptop at home. Back then, my primary consideration was cost. After doing a modest amount of research, I went for it. Right now, I have 2 notebooks here running the software for security and protection.

Since version 7.5 would be supported by updates until the end of this month only, I decided to make the jump on a lazy Saturday afternoon. At least that’s what the AVG advisory which came up after the most recent updates I ran in both notebooks said.

Anyway, after running the 8.0.1 installer, making the initial one-time setup, mandatory restart then finally the security database updates, here’s how it looks like on the task bar:

and the new UI for the software.

AVG Screenshot

A lot different from the previous version. The most immediately visible and definitely useful difference though was when I used a search engine using Firefox. Doing so displayed:

In this case it’s a Google search. The checked green star icons affixed beside each returned result affirms no surprises from the site. I’ve checked a similar result using IE in the same laptop as well and the same go signals appear there. Doing mouse-overs on the markers shows the following remarks from AVG:

Google Search 2

Pretty nifty and absolutely helpful for the not-so-technical experts if you ask me.

The Digital Age in Green

In expressing my reluctance to jump into Vista’s ship a few posts ago, the main point raised there is that there’s nothing much new brought to the table at the expense of the number of computers going to the obsolescence mill. Also included is a mention of the concept paper I did for an environmental management elective–one on e-waste.

Approaching the E-waste Issue

E-waste refers to the environmental issue of discarded electrical and electronics posing environmental and health hazards to the immediate environment where it is left or mismanaged. That is so because such equipments make use of toxic and hazardous components.

In the course of my research I’ve encountered a lot of materials to help address the problem. Given what I came across with, it has to be said that environmental groups have been creative and therefore effective at presenting the issue to the public. A very good case in point would be Greenpeace‘s Guide to Greener Electronics.

Guide to Greener Electronics takes a scorecard approach in benchmarking household names in “personal computers, mobile phones, TV’s and gaming consoles.” That is, given a defined criteria, Greenpeace ranks the manufacturers and presents the order quarterly. The latest results given last March shows Samsung and Toshiba sharing first place with a score of 7.7 and Nintendo still lagging the pack at 0.3.

Since I doubt object embedding can be done object embedding cannot be done here at wordpress, here’s the a screen shot of the ranking graphic they have for the said period:

Guide to Greener Electronics Ranking

Supporting Green Products–Who Would’ve Known?

U600 pictureWhile Samsung really hasn’t changed it’s score from last December’s evaluation, I find their resolve for greener products a coincidental bonus for my change of mobile phone last December. While my actual intention was to have something which gives me the capability to read PDF files, I didn’t want to give up what my Asus V66 essentially does for me, (camera, video recorder, mp3 player, radio, storage.) Just goes to show how minimalist, (or practical, or both) an IT guy I am I guess.

The need for the PDF viewer however, had me getting something so as to maximize my travel time during the weekdays for the past semester. At a time when I barely had time to rest because of the need for a strict time management*, it only made sense to tap into the time I spend for travelling (3-4 hours daily) to read up on school stuff.

Throw in a better camera and video recorder, more storage, a slimmer built and the fact that I “inadvertently” supported an environmentally friendly product and I’d have to say I’m pretty satisfied with how I spent my hardearned money on a new U600 then. That despite having a noticeably short battery life and an irksome glare when viewing the display under direct sunlight that is.

The image btw is linked from the GSM Arena section for the U600.

*I guess the fact that I didn’t actually have the time to blog about my little acquisition was the give away there. 😀

Flipside of More PC’s: Vista Factor

Here’s something I have written for more than a month now. Obviously it spent a lot of time in the heap of blogging todo stuff. Thankfully I can post a something substantial on the subject already.

A Technology Perspective

When there were noises about Microsoft Vista as early as 2 to 3 years ago, I knew it was not for me. Back then I was already pretty adept at the normal use of Linux just as I was contented with XP. Linux was not that resource hungry and demanding in terms of hardware requirements so the computer geek that I am, (oh the redundancy,) found the OS just right for me. XP on the other hand served other purposes for me such as:

  1. As a full-time developer, I am involved with a lot of proprietary technologies officially supported under windows that ditching the operating system would almost be synonimous with suicide.
  2. I have a notebook that other human beings who understandably find windows more intuitive, also use.
  3. The same users from (2) use the notebook for gaming—a realm that’s still seriously dominated windows.

Given my bias against a platform becoming more and more power hungry, what came out in inquirer.net early last February from Joey Alarilla didn’t surprise me at all. Thanks to an exposure in Linux and a concept paper on Electronic waste for an elective on Environmental Management the past semester, that is. In the inquirer article, Alarilla cites Greenpeace’s opposition to Vista saying that Microsoft “could effectively hasten the obsolescence of half the world’s PCs, especially in the absence of fully-functioning global take back systems for PCs.” The stand isn’t really surprising given that longer life of electronics and computers is typical of Greenpeace’s drive for responsibility among electronics and computer manufacturers.

According to Alarilla:

In the first place, many Filipinos don’t even have access to a basic PC, let alone one powerful enough to run Windows Vista… what’s worse is that this “forced upgrade” that could have a negative impact on the environment is not even the result of software innovation. We can already do many of the things Vista is touted to do with Windows XP and the service packs and patches that are already taking up a lot of space on my PC. I don’t think that our problem with bloatware can be solved by upgrading to new bloatware.

Many of us have dutifully upgraded with every new OS, even when we had doubts that it was worth the hassle. Isn’t it about time we learned to say no?

An Environmental Perspective

So what’s the negative impact of speedy obsolescence of computers with the advent of Vista on the environment? With the higher specifications it requires from hardware intended to run it, environmentalists see more users giving up a lot of computers to acquire those which can accomodate the power-hungry Vista. From an environmental perspective, the introduction of Vista will mean more of the same equipment adding to the problem of e-waste management–something I should add is practically non-existent in this country except for a few ISO-compliant companies which have the budget to spend on it.

Apart from the said corporations and industries however, Philippine society for the most part has no idea on how to go about with the proper disposal of computers which have reached their end-of-lives (EOL.) What would happen when the digital divide becomes less of a social issue and more of the same people who are currently deprived of access to Information Communication and Technology (ICT) equipment?

Perhaps a certain Chinese province called Guiyu provides a glimpse of a very possible scenario. In 2002, Basel Action Network (BAN) brought to international attention the environmental and health hazards caused by exporting disposed ICT equipment. The findings of the study document the “environmental injustice” in Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. In effect the worldwide attention resulting from Exporting Harm had the Chinese government implementing stricter measures to prohibit the export of discarded electronics as noted by this National Geographic feature on the topic. The latter read on the other hand, primarily focuses on Ghana, a country in western Africa.

As I have written in my concept paper:

A look at present sociocultural indicators among the lowest income members of Philippine society point to a seriously impending e-waste issue… A lot of the factors at Guiyu and Ghana are already present… the still prevalent primitive processing of solid waste and the lack of health precautions and measures among waste workers, and the presence of child labor in the waste trade are all too glaring parallels to ignore… the fact that there are good reasons to believe that given the tighter measures taken by China, the Philippines has already been the destination of illegal e-waste export.

And add to that a large coastline in an archipelago which the authorities have difficulty in securing and one will not find it difficult to understand where the environmentalists are coming from.

More Tech Trends

All PDI InfoTech articles for the week under way:

Low-Cost Laptops for Big Returns in Education

I first wrote about XO in this blog entry after having heard about it early this year. Apparently the laptop bannered as a serious economical alternative for students especially for those in third world countries will hit the U.S. and Canadian markets from November 12 to 26. For $399 the buyer gets one machine while the other one will go to a less-fortunate beneficiary to be determined by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project.

The cost of a laptop’s therefore still pegged at nearly $200. Though still far from the $150 reported early this year, OLPC hopes though to bring the price down at $100 after about a year.

The Philipine Broadband Scene

One of the signs of rapid technological advances I guess. As broadband usage popularity grows in the Philippines, the country is now projected among countries such as “Greece, Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Ireland, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia and Turkey” to be among the 10 fastest growing broadband markets. The PDI article citing the telecom industry analyst Ovum sees the growth of broadband usage in the country from “three million to less than 10 million” by 2011.”

ZTE

And speaking of broadband growth, a hot current events topic these days is the National Broadband Network, (NBN) the government dealt to Chinese corporation, ZTE Corp. Though it’s been a pretty dated topic, the recent Senate interrogations with those involved in the deal have been sour to say the least as flashes of personal attacks and tirades have all been there. And when bloggers had their say on the matter, you just know that the topic won’t go away soon.

Personally I am very skeptical with the deal and shares a sentiment much like what Senator Francis Escudero has to say in the PDI article on that bloggers’ take.

I can’t believe that the ZTE is the best deal we could get now. True, we live in an archipelagic country and this may be a major factor in the huge bill for a national broadband network, but since technology is getting faster and cheaper at the same time, we might as well look for the truly best deal. There must be other options that are more favorable to the Philippines and that should be protected from the government officials and their relatives who salivate for more money at our expense

One of the early criticisms on the project was from Raul Fabella and Emmanuel de Dios. One thing that captured my attention immediately was the government’s failure to provide a feasibility study before determining just how much the project should reasonablycost. For someone who’s been into several IT projects for a number of years already, the lack of a feasibility study to determine the minimum requirements of such a large-scale project is already glaring. Not only does that leave a wide-open window for corruption, it also presents the possibility of having the client, (in this case the Philippine government,) at the mercy of ZTE’s discretion. Read all of the contents of Fabella and de Dios’ paper, (in PDF format,) here.