Yearly archives of “2012

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Why the SKMM Rm200 smartphone rebate is a bad idea

The Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) or better known by its bahasa acronym SKMM, has recently announced that the government will be offering a ‘rebate’ of RM200 of a list of ‘selected’ smartphones for youthsaged 21 to 30 years old. The program called the ‘Youth Communication Package’ or Pakej Kommunikasi Belia (PKB) has come under tremendous scrutiny from both the general public, and even members of the ruling government as well.

A press release from the SKMM further elaborates:

Youths who qualify for the RM200 rebate will be able to purchase ‘selected’ 3G smartphones costing up to RM500 from selected dealers and agents appointed by service providers. With the rebate, they are expected to pay no more than RM300 to own a new 3G smartphone. “The idea is to spread the incentive across to those who do not yet use smartphones. We really want to help those who cannot afford to change phones to upgrade from their old 2G phones to a basic 3G smartphone.

The Malaysian cyberspace was immediately set abuzz when the announcement was made. The twitter outburst over the scheme is primarily on the price cap of Rm500 because when the Prime Minister announced this back when the budget was tabled, there was no mention about the RM500 price cap on the phone. Even UMNO youth chief Khairy got in on the action–requesting the government not limit the price of the phones, even after the SKMM ‘clarified’ why it was offering the rebate to only those purchasing phones under Rm500. (apparently we don’t offer rebates to the rich)

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No Surprise Malaysia scores low on Science

This is a tech blog, so let’s talk about tech.

Let’s about the technology behind the term geo-engineering. According to wikipedia  “The concept of geoengineering (or climate engineering, climate remediation, and climate intervention) refers to “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming”. The techniques of geo-engineering are based on science, but applied on scale that exceeds even my imagination.

Techniques of geo-engineering include things like injecting metallic substances into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sunlight and thus reduce the earth temperatures, or on the more audacious side of the spectrum we have engineers proposing we install cooling pipes into the ocean to mix the cooler deeper water with the warmer surface water to cut-off (or at least slow down) a hurricane. Slowing down a hurricane might sound ludicrous to you, but if you understand the concept behind the creation of a hurricane, you’ll soon realize the solution is solidly based on science, and all it boils down to is an engineering challenge on a never-before-seen scale. It also helps that the company pioneering the hurricane halting technology is currently applying for a couple patents and is supported by the big thinker himself–one Mr. Bill Gates.

It has its sceptics and critics, but then again there were many sceptics when President Kennedy propose to send a Man to the Moon and bring him safely back in 1969. Till this day, some still are sceptical that the United States actually sent anyone up to space in 1969, and even more are critical of the amount of government funds spent on the Space Program–just nobody tell Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

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SKMM Study: The Best and Worst Telco in KL

Who doesn’t absolutely hate that feeling you get when a call gets drop, or for some reason you just can’t seem to make a phone call on your network. Recently an elderly couple in America died while trying to phone for help--they had 9 drop calls in succession, which just goes to show just how important communications are in our time.

Malaysian wireless reports on an SKMM study done in the first half of 2012 to compare dropped and block call rates for the 3 major telcos in Malaysia. At the moment it’s still unclear why neither YES or uMobile have been studied but the study is a move in the right direction towards providing concrete data on call quality for Malaysians to make inform decision about the telco. Incidentally, SKMM also offer a form you can fill if you’ve experienced a dropped call–for some unknown reason the form is hosted on Google Docs, one can only think SKMM didn’t want to fork out cash to host the form  on their own servers.

First off, I’d like to point out that while I can see the report and search for direct links to the PDF version of the reports online. I can’t seem to locate any link to the report from the SKMM website, which is strange, it also appears that only Malaysian Wireless has reported on this particular study. With other blogs seemingly unaware of the study.

In essence, the study is rather simple:

According to the MCMC drive test report, the assessment was conducted with following criteria:

  • Tests were carried out in moving vehicles (Drive Test).
  • Call duration lasts for 60 seconds, with 10 seconds interval between calls.
  • Phones were set on roam-free environment between 2G and 3G networks that simulates the experience of user in making voice call using phone supporting both technologies.
  • The results of the study only reflect the behavior of the networks on the locations and time of the measurements.

Although, the methodology isn’t clear, and there are missing details, the study is a great starting point to confirm if the telco you’re currently on is providing you top notch quality. The 2 key measurements from the study were the drop call rates and blocked call rates, defined as follows:

a. Dropped Call Rate (DCR)
Dropped call means a call where a connection succeed, that is, the network is accessed, call set up is successful and traffic channel has been assigned, but is disconnected due to abnormal call release. Dropped Call Rate is calculated based on the percentage of number of dropped call over total number of call attempt.

b. Blocked Call Rate (BCR) 
Blocked call means a call is not connected after call attempt due to unavailability of free traffic channel. Blocked Call Rate is calculated based on the percentage of number of blocked call over total number of call attempt.

So the best telco based on these definitions is the one with the lowest DCR and BCR.  A high BCR means calls don’t get connected in the first place, and a high DCR means calls get disconnected once they’re connected. A good telco should strive for the lowest possible numbers on these 2 parameters. While the study was conducted nationally in each and every state, I thought KL would be a good place to dissect the data and provide a benchmark for the nation, if you’d like to know how your telco fared in your home state, head on over to Malaysian wireless who have all the details broken down by state.

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Science in Malaysia : Myth #1 Homework

As I read more about the sad state of affairs of Science Education in Malaysia, I can see glaring areas for improvement, and some areas that surprise me. All of this data is readily available in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that is actually a benchmark our very own Malaysian Government uses to gauge the success of the National Education blueprint. It’s a wonder that while me make it priority to score in the top third of this benchmark, no one for either side of the political divide seems to bother to read the report–merely taking the final score and politicizing it.

If they actually took time off to read even the one report for science–albeit the 520+ page long report. They’d find some rather interesting data.

Take for instance the controversial topic of Homework. There’s a huge Malaysian inclination to load our children with homework, with the noble aim to familiarize themselves with the subject matter and hence improve their test scores.In fact, in all countries surveyed by the TIMSS study, Malaysian students are given the most homework. The MOST!!

Yet we score in the bottom third of the study. Too much homework is bad, but just how much is too much?

The actual data from the TIMSS study, suggest that the optimal amount of science homework to give a child should be no more than 45 minutes per week per subject. You heard that right–in fact, across all the countries in the study, anything more than this and the test scores start to DECREASE.

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Malaysia signs ITU

About 2,000 delegates representing major telecommunication industry players, experts and representatives from nearly 200 member countries of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) assemble here to discuss the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) at theWorld Conference of International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT). Shouldering the responsibility as…

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Science Education in Malaysia — it just sucks!

Putrajaya we have a problem. While the economy maybe growing and the KLCI trending upwards, Malaysia’s number 1 resource is most definitely trending down. In fact there may be a time when it disappears completely and we’ll have to either import it, or live without it.

I’m not talking about oil, I’m talking about our scientist and engineers. The way science is thought in schools today, soon the quality of Malaysian school leavers will be so poor–they will no longer qualify for University Science degrees. There will come a time, when science will be relegated to the same annals as Shakespearian literature, something only a few of us take seriously, while the general population lives in complete ignorance of it.

Think I’m joking? Consider the following question.

Twins are born. One is a boy and one is a girl.
Which statement is correct about their genetic makeup?
a . boy and girl inherit genetic material from the father only.
b . boy and girl inherit genetic material from the mother only.
c . boy and girl inherit genetic material from both parents.
d . boy inherits genetic material from the father only and the girl inherits it from the mother only.

Only 69% of Malaysian Form 2 students got the correct answer. Let that sink in….just 69% of Malaysians 14-year olds know the answer to this ridiculously basic question.

Which means 30% of Malaysian students have no idea where your genetic Material comes from. To put this in perspective the percentage of students who got the very same question right were 79% for KAZAKHSTAN, 84% for Palestine and 95% for Japan. To top it off, Thailand score 77% (on top of beating us in Football yesterday). Even BORATs home country is kicking our ass in Science.

If this isn’t sending alarm bells throughout the country, I don’t know what will.

Only 67% of Malaysian students knew that the chemical symbol for Carbon Dioxide is CO2, losing out to countries like Ghana!! I have to be fair and ask–What the fuck is going on in Malaysian schools? Carbon Dioxide is a well known gas, we’re not talking an exotic isotope of Bismuth or some heavy element, we’re talking about just plain ol’ regular carbon dioxide–and a full 33% of Malaysians don’t know it’s chemical symbol.

These were also the ‘simpler’ question. On the more difficult questions relating to things like gravity, Malaysian students plummet out of sight. Only 18% understood gravity completely, and just 10% understood things like chemical reactions.

This is no laughing matter, this is no time to joke, but it is embarrassingly poor and definitely something to be utterly ashamed off.

As a Tech Blogger and science geek, I cannot even begin to articulate my frustrations at the situation, this was what I read from the full 532 page report from TIMSS on the sad and pathetic situation of Science Education in Malaysia.

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Does the government have a right to shut down telecommunications services?

Press.Tv reports that Pakistan has suspended mobile phone services in several major cities to prevent terror attacks on minority Shia groups as they celebrate the holy month of Muharram. The rationale behind the suspension is that the terrorist use mobile phone services to detonate bombs and as a result the suspension of mobile phone services would help prevent such attacks. Meanwhile, Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the militants’ umbrella group, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed that suspending mobile phone services will not hold them back from carrying out their deadly attacks against the Shia Muslims.

This is ultimately a case of the government having too much power, the real threat of terrorist using bombs somehow resulted in a government issued communications blackout throughout the country–which does little to prevent the terrorist who are hell bent on killing.

I’m guessing that cellphones are picked as detonators for their ubiquity and range, however if you remove the cellphone from the equation you still have hundreds of possible detonation mechanisms, including timers (like the ones from early Mission Impossible shows), walkie talkies and even just a person standing by the bomb and detonating himself with it.

While many of us are of the opinion that a government should do everything to protect it’s citizens, we often fail to to realize that the mechanisms the governments utilize to protect us has a cost–a cost usually paid for by the very people they are supposed to protect.

A full blown mobile service block, doesn’t just block the terrorist–they block everyone. From a father frantically trying to locate his daughter, a hospital trying to locate next of kin in an emergency, or even a blood bank trying to contact its donors. This sort of carpet block is not an effective solution and the cost of it usually far outweigh the benefit, with the benefit being ZERO if the terrorist find some other way to detonate the bomb in spite of the block.

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Data guys versus Lawyers and Politicians

Presidential Election predictionsNate Silver is currently the internet darling of the big data folks, not only did he accurately predict the correct outcome in all 49 states for the US presidential election, he correctly pointed out that Florida would be a toss up before eventually leaning towards Obama. That’s like predicting a coin-toss would end on it’s side. While all of that may seem remarkable, this isn’t a story of a boy-genius but rather the dawn of a new age–an age driven by data.

Nate isn’t alone on this,  The Slate reports that 2 different pundits got the entire analysis spot on as well, not to mention a 3 man team in North Carolina armed only with robo-callers who also made a spot-on prediction. This isn’t some savant ability that Nate has, this is just pure hard core science at work, and the people that use the science are the ones making the accurate predictions, while the people that ignore it–are left behind.

And just who got left behind? The usual opinion writers, like Ann Coulter who predicted Romney would win by a 273-265 margin, Newt Gingrinch who predicted an ever igger margin for Romney and of course Jim Cramer who predicted such a insane number that it probably isn’t even worth typing here–but I’ll type it anyway. Good ol’ Jim predicted Obama would win by a whoooping 440-98 margin, off by more than a 100 point margin…but at least he got the winner right, and I’m sure predicting the stock market isn’t anything like predicting an election, and 100 points means nothing in the stock market.