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Internet Censorship is an invasion of privacy

internet censorship

With the on-going debacle about the Kangkung saga dying down, I thought it would be a good opportunity to write specifically about internet censorship and its implications to ordinary Malaysian citizens. As you may well know, many Malaysia Netizens reported of difficulty accessing one particular post of the BBC website that dealt with the Kangkung issues, causing many to cite that Telekom Malaysia was actually censoring the internet–but what does internet censorship actually entail for Malaysia?

Let’s first take a step back, and understand how and Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Telekom Malaysia, Maxis or Digi operate.

How The Internet works

The best analogy of an ISP is that their the postal service. They route messages from one part of the world to another, in much the same way as Pos Malaysia routes letters across the country. Now, if you send a letter from Klang to Taiping, the letter is always within Pos Malaysia’s hands. However, if you send a letter from Klang to California–then our local postal service will route the letter to the US Postal Service, before the letter eventually reaches its destination.

So using the Postal analogy, imagine you live in Malaysia and your mother lives in California–and your only way to communicate with your mother is via snail-mail. Also, your mother (being the loving women that she is) ALWAYS replies to every letter she gets–100% of the time.

So initially you write a couple letters to your mom, the first letter says, the weather in Malaysia is great–and she responds accordingly, the second letter tells your mother you just ate the most delicious assam laksa in Penang–and she responds again. Finally you send a letter to your mom, making fun of Najib and his Kangkung–to which you receive no response—strange!

So you send the same letter again, and once again–no response.

Was it a general fault or Internet Censorship

Then you think of a ingenious test, you’ll send two letters to your mom, one to tell you about your first day at work, and another to discuss the kangkung saga. To which your mom only responds and ask you about your day at work without referring to the Kangkung issue at all.

Finally you decide to spruce things up, instead of saying kangkung, you’ll refer to it as ‘Dads favorite vegetable from the longkang’, and finally your mom responds saying how hilarious she’s found the whole issue.

Now in keeping with the Postal analogy, you need to figure out what happened to the Kangkung letters, and you’re left with 3 possible explanations.

1. Coincidence. Yes, it’s possible that only the Kangkung letters were lost (these things happen), but quite unlikely. You’re unconvinced that this was mere coincidence.

2. A general failure of the Post Service: This is impossible, as a general failure at the Post office would not result in just specific letters to your mom getting lost, rather it should result in all letters to your mom getting lost.

3. Postal censorship: The only real logical explanation is that someone from the post-office was peeping into your letter to determine if you were talking about kangkung–and then censoring it accordingly. Not only is this illegal, but it is a gross invasion of privacy.

But that’s exactly how internet censorship in Malaysia works. TM utilize a method called deep packet inspection, that looks into the contents of the data it’s routing and censors accordingly. That’s why the day the BBC was censored, other post on the website were accessible with the exception of that one specific post about kangkung–TM had to determine which page you were visiting, and take appropriate action (appropriate being a loosely used word here), and the only way they could take this action is if they looked at the detailed information of the digital envelopes that were travelling on its network bound for the BBC website.

Internet Censorship is a invasion of privacy

So if we don’t stand for someone at the Post Office opening each envelope to peer inside its contents–why do we stand idly by and allow TM to do the same with our internet traffic–which is nothing more than digital envelopes.

The bottom line then is that Internet Censorship for the most part–is nothing more than a gross invasion of privacy. For the only way the government or an ISP can censor you, is by looking into your digital envelopes to determine the content of your communications.

Now I wonder how Dr. M thinks about someone reading his private correspondence–and whether he’ll support that as much as he supports internet censorship.

Study shows Malaysian students can’t solve problems

PISA Results

The latest PISA 2012 results are out, and it comes with a twist. Instead of testing the usual ‘knowledge’ of the students, PISA crafted a new exam meant to test the creative problem solving skills of students in various countries.

Edweek.org further explains:

The assessment, which was the subject of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) report released Tuesday, defined creative problem-solving as the ability to “understand and resolve problem situations where a method of solution is not immediately obvious.” Worldwide, a representative sample of 85,000 students took the exam, including 1,273 U.S. students in 162 schools.

The OECD introduced the exam based on the belief that today’s high school students will enter an economy in which on-the-job problem solving has gotten progressively more complex because computers have replaced many of the human employees whose jobs once consisted of completing simple tasks.

“In modern societies, all of life is problem solving,” states the report “PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem-Solving: Students’ Skills in Tackling Real-life Problems,” the fifth of six OECD reports on the 2012 assessment, which also tested math, reading, and science and collected information on students’ communities, lives, and schools. ”Complex problem-solving skills are particularly in demand in fast-growing, highly skilled managerial, professional, and technical occupations.”

Now we all know how badly Malaysians are doing in Science in Maths, this new test would further refine that view to see if students could actual apply the knowledge they had in real world situations–such as calculating the cheapest route from point A to point B via various train tickets. PISA feels these more accurately reflect the ability needed in the real-world, and I agree.

The bad news however, is as imminent as Haze in June. Malaysia students perform ridiculously poorly in this test, averaging a very low 422–far away from the OECD average of 500, and astronomically distant from our  Neighbour Singapore where the average score was 562. Basically the ability for our students to solve problem is missing, not surprising since problem solving isn’t really something our education system is geared towards.

Looking into the finer details leads us to an even more startling discovery, under 2% of Malaysian students were top performers in all 4 domains (Problem Solving, Reading, Mathematics and Writing) compared to nearly 46% in Singapore. Meaning the top cream of the crop in Malaysia, is almost average in Singapore. It gets worse when we compare ourselves in Shanghai–because nearly 57% of students in Shanghai manage to be top performers in all domains.

The perspective is this, if you threw a stone randomly at students in Shanghai, you’re likely to hit a student who would be in the top 1% of Malaysian students–in other words you’d get an ‘elite student’ in Malaysia by  just randomly selecting from a group of Chinese students in Shanghai.

Of course, PISA isn’t the full way we should benchmark our education system, but we must at least acknowledge our ridiculous failures, a lot of well to do Malaysians are voting with their feet and leaving Malaysia so that they could at least provide their children a decent education in Singapore, Australia or even the UK and US. Malaysia it seems has no future, and what makes it worse is that we seem oblivious to it.

MH370 crashed our romanticized perception of technology

As our thoughts and prayers remain with the passengers of flight MH370, I think that as the search enters its 3rd week, it’s a good time to reflect on just how much our perception of aviation technology has changed as a result.

It’s quite important to differentiate between what REALLY happens and what we THINK happens, an in some cases the gulf is so large, that our perception of what happens borders on science-fiction. Take for example, our perception of the US Secret Service. Years of Hollywood movies have led us to believe that if anyone even thought about firing a weapon at the President, Secret Service agents would immediately throw their bodies in the line of fire, evacuate the President and then take out the bad guy. That however is mere fairy tale–no different from the Giant Robots in Transformers or the Aliens in Star Wars. If you look at History and reality, you’d find that some years back, an Iraqi Gentleman not only had the time to throw a shoe at President Bush, but enough time to TAKE OUT A SECOND SHOE and throw it again at the President–were it not for the Presidents quick reflexes, he would have ended looking like David Beckham after a night out with Ferguson.

So the gulf between what we think the Secret Service CAN do, and what it ACTUALLY does, is quite enormous. More…

Is it Root-er or Rao-ter : The age old question for the pronunciation of the word router

dir-615

Here’s an age old question, is it pronounced router (as in rao-ter) or is it router (as in root-er).

A lot of people seem to think it depends where you are, if you’re in the US, it’s rao-ter, and if you’re in the UK it’s root-er. But the internet is global, it doesn’t care where you are, it doesn’t matter which culture you’re from, there can only be one answer to this question, and it must be location agnostic.

So here’s the answer it’s RAO-TER, and here’s why.

If you find it you get to name it

In Science and Engineering there’s just one simple rule. If you discovered it, or designed it, or engineered it–you get to name it. Consider car brands like Ford, Ferrari and Lamborghini, all of them named after their founders. Of course no where is this more apparent than with the French car names, especially car brands like Peugeot that’s pronounced completely different from how its spelt, and that’s true of nearly anything French (Baguette, Croissant…Crepe?)

Obviously as Malaysians, we’re all aware of this–but we hardly give anyone a stare when they say O-Rang-ooh-Tan, instead of OrangUtan (correctly pronounced: Oh-rung-uh-tung).

And it’s the same with other things as well. Gasses like Xenon, Argon even Helium are called Noble gasses–quite strange considering they seem to have done nothing out of the ordinary. But if you put that in context with British colonial culture and suddenly things make sense, Nobility in Britain didn’t mix with commoners, they didn’t eat in the same places, they didn’t live in the same places, and they surely didn’t marry commoners. Noble gasses similarly don’t mix with anyone else, and the fact that we call them noble gasses is paying homage to the British who discovered them.

Similarly, the planet Uranus was the first planet to be discovered. Planets like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen with the naked eye. Uranus needed a telescope, and the first guy to discover it was British, and being a good servant of the King, the Astronomer decided to name this newly found planet after his king–George. So for a short while, we had Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and George!

The British thought this was fine–but the rest of the world was like WTF!

Fortunately, the world decided that naming planets after Roman Gods was a good idea, and renaming George to Uranus made sense, however in paying Homage to the British, the moons of Uranus were named after something quintessentially British–characters from Shakespearian plays.

So who found the router

So if you want to determine whether it’s Rao-ter or Root-er, you simply have to reference the culture that invented the router, and that’s the Americans. The modern router is built off the Internet Protocol which was developed by the US Department-of-Defense.

Hence, the Americans invented the router, and we should use their Pronunciation…Rao-ter.

Conclusion

As a last note, it’s important to think when will Malaysia get to name something. We paid for the Petronas Twin Towers, so we got to name it, but would you rather have a tower named after you–or technology?

The greatest scientist were acknowledged by bestowing their names onto SI Units, units like Ampere, Volts, Newtons and even Watts. These great discoverer will be remembered for near eternity–but someday Carnegie hall  will no longer stand.

Tun Dr M supports Israel via his website

Tun Dr M, our beloved former Prime Minister, openly supports Israel–well sort off.

Today on his blog chedet.cc, he called on everyone to boycott Israel, stating quite clearly in his latest post that;

I think the whole world in the interest of justice should boycott doing business with Israel. This is truly a pariah state which is immoral and beyond the pale of human laws.

Now of course, you’re wondering if Tun Dr M supports Israel or not? Well in actual fact it’s both, because while his words say he opposes Israel, his actions, specifically those of his website suggest otherwise.

Tuns website is hosted on GoDaddy, which is quite a popular web hosting company, possibly the biggest in the world. What Tun probably isn’t aware of, is that GoDaddy was acquired by 3 private equity firms back in July 2011, leading the charge in that buy-out was the private equity firm KKR and Co, which stands for Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts, which if you can’t tell by their names–were 3 Jewish Americans.

Now of course, there’s a huge difference between a Jewish American and an Israeli, but in this particular case, the firm KKR and Co were actually listed as the Biggest private equity investor in Israel in 2013, including one deal where KKR bought over a tire company in Israel for a cool $500 Million USD, or roughly Rm1.6 Billion. In fact the CEO of GoDaddy today is a KKR executive–so KKR pretty much is running the Web hosting company that chedet.cc is hosted on.

So in effect, Tun Dr M, has procured his web hosting from people who then use that money to invest into Israel. In other words, he’s indirectly supporting Israel.

Which brings me to my next question. If Tun Dr M, with his vast resources and time (I’m guessing he’s retired) can’t figure out how to boycott Israel, what chance do any of us have. Ever use Waze lately, well your usage of Waze indirectly contributed to it’s price US$1.3 BILLION dollar price tag, that Google paid to an Israeli company. I mean–do you really think you can boycott Israel? I’ve written about this in the past, it’s nearly impossible to boycott Israel these days, because they’re so wired into the technology that fuels the global economy. Big tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Intel all have a major presence in Israel.

Israel is contributing to the global economy via its phenomenal technological growth. Unsurprisingly, Israeli school children score an average of 516 on the TIMSS ranking for science, while Malaysian school children score an embarrassing 440. In due time, we could boycott Israel and they wouldn’t even notice.

So before you think about boycotting Israel, why don’t we focus on getting our house in order, so that the next time we intend to boycott someone, they’ll feel it.

10 Things you need to know about kangkung censorship

Internet users in Malaysia were reporting issues trying to access a specific page on the BBC UK website that was a hilarious post making fun of our ‘beloved’ Prime Ministers Kangkung remarks. Apparently the issue became so bad, that users took to social media –only to find that they were not alone. In fact, so many Malaysians were complaining that they couldn’t access the post, that the official twitter handle of the BBC News tweeted to its followers asking them if they had issues.

Now, I for one, experienced no such disruption–but then again I use a VPN, and quite frankly, so should you!

However, there are a couple of things you need to know about internet censorship, and this debacle in particular.

More…

What kind of Porn do Malaysians watch

Let’s be honest–Malaysians watch a lot of Porn.

On the outside, we may espouse our ‘Asian’ values and culture, but the cold-hard data suggest we’re as horny as the Japanese. In one of my past post, I showed how we have evidence of someone using the Government internet connection to download porn.

Today however, PornMD the self-proclaimed “biggest porn search engine” released statistics as to what Malaysians were searching on their site. The results aren’t that surprising, although I was quick shocked to see Tudung on there–apparently some people find it kinky.

Check out more on PornMD here, or head on over to this report from Quartz that explains how a lot of South-East Asians love Japanese Porn. While you may consider Malaysians vile for searching for terms like Tudung and Rape on a porn search engine–consider though that at least we’re not Pakistan, whose users searched for a far more disgusting “Girls peeing on Bed”–WTF!

PORN-MD-MALAYSIA

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that the most downloaded torrent in Malaysia was a piece of Hentai, however a reader named Darkon commented that although the downloaded file was named Hentai Ouji, it was merely regular Japanese Anime, which wasn’t categorized as porn. Good one Darkon!

Much ado over a tweet

ETP Roadmap former prime minister tweetIn case you’ve missed it. The official twitter page of the ETP, @etp_roadmap, recently made a serious blunder. In a tweet sent out at 1.00pm on the 6th of January, they tweetedFormer Prime Minister Najib Razak: Energy and Food Subsidies are no longer sustainable”. Now of course the word Former was included and it was only a full one hour later (or an eternity in twitter time) was the tweet deleted and an apology issued.

Now obviously everyone jumped on the matter and soon people were making fun over what was obviously a silly but not uncommon mistake. What I find particularly disturbing is the manner in which Pemandu is getting flak for this. Surely this is something to joke about, share with your friends and have a laugh, but to attack someone over a typo is ridiculous.

The pro-government bloggers are the ones leading the charge, using this as a platform to launch their claims that Pemandu is Anti-Najib and Anti-Government, that Pemandu are over-paid consultants that aren’t worth the chairs they occupy in Putrajaya, and I’m OK with that. Any government agency that utilizes public funds is open and fair game to constant scrutiny, it’s how we make them accountable.

But to take out all their frustrations on a single tweet–and then to call for the resignation (or firing rather) or the person in charge of the twitter handle is wrong. We’ve seen members of the media take their fair share of flak, but to attack one single person behind the ETP twitter handle is just wrong–particularly since this was an obvious mistake, and an apology was issued–if you want to continue attacking Pemandu go ahead, but don’t attack the individual running the handle, that person was just doing their job, and in every job–people make mistakes. This was a harmless mistake.

We’ve seen a lot of these personal attacks, and I’m fine when people personally attack politicians. It comes to the territory when you’re a politician, but when you’re just a ‘cari makan’ guy or gal working for a government agency, being villified and attacked by bloggers from around the blogosphere can take it’s toll on you. Just a few months ago, the entire pro-BN blogosphere had set their phasers to kill and trained them onto a single girl from Pemandu, posting up her private photos from facebook on their blogs, making accusations that she was a drunkard, and vilifying here because she had a foreign boyfriend. I mean–to attack someone personally, and use the vast attention their blogs get to do it–that’s just bullying. It’s a bunch of bloggers who have some serious traffic hitting their blogs everyday–using that influence and platform to attack a single individual that is just a employee of a government agency is distasteful, dastardly and downright bullying. If they took pot-shots at policies implemented by Pemandu, or questioned the salaries the Pemandu folks get, that’ll be fine, but to invade the privacy of one individual you don’t agree with, and then publicly (VERY publicly) launch what I can only describe as a concerted attack–on one single girl….c’mon la, have some fucking courtesy.

People need to standup for these guys, I’m by no means a fan of the government, but you need to make the distinction between THE government and government servants, the latter are just people like everyone else trying to do their jobs and get on with life, attacking and bullying them will get you nothing expect disrespect.