Auditor-General report 2011 : When can Malaysians expect Transparency in IT spend

How much does Putrajaya Spend on IT?As a tech blog in Malaysia, I thought it’d be interesting to see the latest Auditor-General’s report faired in terms of IT spend from the government. IT spend is a tricky thing, and most don’t understand just how tricky it is, particularly around big IT spend by governments–they often fail. In fact, one of my favorite blogs is dedicated solely to IT failures, aptly titled–IT Project failures.

However, even the Synopsis report of the AG report is a harrowing 87 pages long. It’s not just the length that puts of me off, but rather the sheer dry-ness of the language that is used. Interestingly, not a single diagram exist in the documentation filled with enough monotone text to put even the most ardent auditor to sleep, and I’m no auditor so I nearly dozed off after the 2nd page. I had to take a different approach if I was to get a synopsis of the synopsis, fortunately I work in IT (not auditing or law), and I know of function in Adobe Acrobat that let’s you quickly search a document–it’s called the FIND function, and I was a deadly ninja in the art of the FIND.

So, armed with the FIND function on Adobe Reader, I combed through the document looking for the word ‘system’ and where it tied with an actual IT system too see just how well our government was in delivering IT systems in 2011. Below are just a few paragraphs pertaining to the AG’s report and below are 2 prime examples of the the magnitude of IT failures from Putrajaya. Continue reading

Sumptuous Erotica and Barisan Nasional

Alvin and Vivian interview on youtube
In case you’ve been under a rock for the past week let me fill you on some details:

Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee–both Malaysians started a little porn blog called Sumptuous Erotica attracted headlines both in Malaysia and across the causeway. However, unlike other couples who’ve been caught with their pants down before, both Alvin and Vivian seem indifferent to the controversy surrounding them, more importantly they seem quite confident that they’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for to anyone.

On the face of it–they’re right. Whatever you think Alvin or Vivians parents have against their children posting pictures of themselves naked online…that’s a matter for them to settle, not for you to be a busy body about. Continue reading

Software piracy in China : Can the Yankees really complain?

Did you know the term ‘Yankee’ is thought to be derived from the Dutch name Janke, which means “little Jan” or “little John,” a nickname that can be traced back to the 1680s, when it was used as a slang term for pirates. Yes, you heard that right, the Americans were regarded by the Europeans as Pirates. At least that’s what Matt Mason, author of The Pirates Dilemma suggest.

Matt isn’t just an author of a book, but also the Executive Marketing Director of BitTorrent, so when he says something–I listen. Things like:
[box icon=”chat”]

But the term really gained steam during the Industrial Revolution. Europeans began using the term to refer to all North Americans as a result of America’s national policies towards European intellectual property. America only industrialized as rapidly as it did by counterfeiting European inventions, ignoring global patents and stealing intellectual property wholesale. Lax enforcement of the intellectual property laws was the primary engine of the American economic miracle writes Doron S. Ben-Atar in Trade Secrets. The United States employed pirated know-how to industrialize. Europeans saw America as a nation of bootleggers, which was a little unfair, as every major European country was also heavily engaged in piracy and industrial espionage at some point in the 18th century. Piracy was, in fairness, the only way the U.S. could keep up.

Of course, fast forward a couple hundred years, and now you see US companies accusing other countries, particularly China and other Asian nations of doing the exact same thing the US did to try to bridge the economical and technological gap it had with Europe. One would argue that part of the China miracle, is their lax enforcement and ignorance (or arrogance) of patent laws, but in all fairness within this space of of gross patent apathy, there exist large pockets of innovation that would otherwise be impossible if intellectual property laws were strictly enforced and followed.

Consider a very specific example of the ‘drop down’ menu in the iOS. When I bought the iPhone4 for my wife 2 years ago, the only way you could get the ‘fancy’ drop down menu that enable/disabled 3G and Wi-Fi was by jail-breaking your iPhone. Now it comes standard with iOS from Apple, so you could in theory argue that the worlds best design company got their que from the pirate market–but you never hear apple admitting to this. Continue reading

Malaysian kickstarter success story

Just the other day, I walked into an MPH bookstore and saw something that looked oddly familiar. It was a book titled “When I was a kid” and I couldn’t help but think I’ve seen this somewhere. It took me a while, but suddenly it hit me–this was the book from kickstarter.

A couple of months back, I wrote a post for a kickstarter initiative by a friend of mine, in that same post, I touched on some other kickstarter initiative from Malaysians. One of those initiatives was by a guy name boey who wanted to write a rather interesting book based on his life. I remember thinking it to be a really unique style of story telling, and I was really thrilled to see it on shelves in Malaysia–but not just because I’m a book lover.

This was proof that crowdfunding works–sometimes, and that it can work in Malaysia–sometimes, but it can work. I must admit, kickstarter is getting some bad flak at the moment. Take the pebble for example, millions of dollars were raised for it on kickstarter, only for it to be hit by delays. My own experience with Igor was hit by multiple delays and till today I don’t have a CD with name on it–yet!

Kickstarter has come out with some mechanisms to protect investors but insist their merely a store and hold no liability or responsibility for failed projects. What people fail to understand is that when you fund something on the internet, it’s just like funding something elsewhere–there is always a chance things don’t work out. Just because it happens on kickstarter is no guarantee it’ll succeed, and people who don’t appreciate this shouldn’t be funding projects online.

Anyhow, congratulations to Boey, it’s nice to see a success story and it’s even nicer when that success story happens in your own backyard. You can purchase the book at MPH online, or simply click the picture below:

When I was a Kid by Boey

Cyberbullying in Malaysia

Tributes are pouring in for Amanda Todd, a teenager who committed suicide after posting the video above describing how she was tormented by bullies and struggling with depression. Amanda’s story was told little by little via post-it notes and it full detail about the extent of the bullying and torment and just how this poor 15-year old girl had experienced her version of hell on earth.

The story isn’t a typical one, but one that exist in a nuance variety even in Malaysia. Amanda was tricked into exposing herself in front of a webcam by an unknown person. Soon she was blackmailed and finally, photos or her were circulated to her entire school. What followed next was every bit as predictable as it is sad, she was ostracized by her friends and tormented by bullies, she even tells of how she switch schools–multiple times–even moving to a school in a different city!!

Yet, the bullies and torments followed here (aided and enabled by social networks), and Amanda must have reached her limit and at some point she eventually chose to take her own life.

Youtube has taken down the videos, but I felt Amanda’s story should be left for the world to see, as a stark reminder to all of us to look after our children, and I just hope you get to watch the embedded video before even this gets removed. I believe out of respect for Amanda–we should listen to the story she so desperately wanted to tell. Continue reading

Apple’s new Slide-To-Unlock patent : Why it doesn’t matter

Apple Slide to Unlock

Apple was just awarded a 3rd patent for it’s Slide-to-Unlock feature, and while the internet is still abuzz with it, I just fail to see any reason to get excited.

Yes, Apple looks to be greedy and is apparently more than happy competing with HTC and Samsung in courtrooms rather than the open market–but we all knew this already.

Yes, Apple is patenting something so generic it may apply to ALL slide gestures on an unlock screen? — but we all knew the patent system in the US is whacky and open to abuse.

Yes, Apple is protecting it’s patents and Android manufacturers are defending or at least responding. –nothing new here.

What’s more important is this — which idiot is using Slide-to-Unlock on his smart phone?

Why Slide to Unlock is a Bad Idea

If you have a smartphone like an iPhone (which you’ve spent a couple thousand ringgit on) you’re going to use that smartphone as more than just a phone. It will contain your emails (both personal and private), your browsing history, your contact information and most importantly–your high score to Angry Birds. Do you really want all of this data to be accessible to someone by simply ‘sliding’ their finger across your phone screen?

In the past, when phones were JUST phones, the biggest worry you had were losing your contact information and someone making long distance phone calls on your bill. Those days are LOOONG gone.

A smartphone has far more data on you than regular phone, because it has more services (facebook, Google..etc) and has more memory–therefore you don’t delete any data. Remember the days when your phone could only store 20 sms’s and you had to delete them. Your children will never experience the need to delete anything because they’re running out of ‘space’.

These days, your phone is almost an extension of you, on a regular iPhone you have nearly every personal and private detail of you:

1. Information of your contacts (including emails and phone numbers–possibly even photos)

2. Facebook, GMail, Twitter, LinkedIN and other social network login credentials (and all the information in them)

3. Your photos (some of which may be ‘very’ personal)

4. Your whatsapp and sms message trails (not such a big problem when all you could store on your phone were 20 sms, but when you store all messages to someone for a period of 2 years–that’s a lot of private information)

All this additional data requires additional security

That additional data requires additional security

In my opinion you require at the very least a 4-digit pin, and probably even a 6-digit pin for most people. This may not completely protect the data on your phone, but it does help slow the attacker down. No one can access your phone without expending some effort and time– and in that time:

1) You can attempt a remote wipe on your phone, wiping out all data;

2) You can call up your phone company and have them cancel the number and your sim card.

3) You can change your passwords to GMail, Facebook..etc, preventing the phone from accessing these social networks.

4) Change your Google Play/Amazon App Store/iTunes credentials so the attacker can’t buy apps and songs, sticking you with the Bill.

A 4-digit password entered by hand takes some time to brute force or guess, a 6-digit password would be completely unthinkable. I’m not sure of any hacks to bypass the Pin Entry, but even if such hacks exist they require time and effort, and that gives you enough time to limit the damage a lost phone can do.

Now if you don’t password protect your phone, but instead rely on Slide-to-Unlock, an attacker with your phone can easily access your GMail/Facebook logins and change the passwords–preventing YOU from accessing your own data. The attacker could begin a shopping spree on your iTunes account  footing you with the bill. The attacker could start posting stuff on Facebook/Twitter in your name, and if those were malicious and slanderous enough, get you in a lot of trouble.

Is it negligent to use Slide to Unlock only?

It is negligent to not protect your phone with at least a PIN, but from a legal perspective I believe it isn’t. Just like not protecting your Wi-Fi is not a good idea, but it isn’t exactly negligent either. We have to accept that smartphones and Wi-Fi connections have become a necessity for daily life for some, and most of those have no idea of good security practices and even technology in general.

That being said, while you can’t be held responsible for what someone else with your phone or Wi-Fi connection, rest assured that if you don’t take the neccessary steps to protect these things, someone will attack it, and you will be paying the price for it.

SEO Tips for Malaysian Bloggers

A lot of my search traffic comes from Google, in July I had slightly more than 8,000 visits to my site with just over 6,000 of those coming just from Google. So it made a lot of sense for me to look into some Search Engine Optimization to help boost those numbers. In September, I had more than 10,000 visits with more 8,o00 from Google, which of course begs the question who are the lovely people giving me 2,000 hits/month without going through Google.?

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization or more commonly know by it’s acronym SEO, is the process of optimizing your site so that search engines like Google know exactly what is on your site, what topics you’re writing about and what keywords are present in a page. This allows the search engine to display your site as a result for people searching for topics and keywords most related to your articles.

In Laymans terms it’s making your site understandable for Google to analyze.

Google doesn’t employ thousands of workers to categorize every site on the internet, Google automatically ‘tries’ to figure out what your site is about through a mixture of sophisticated algorithms and feedback from search results. SEO is about trying to help Google figure this out by adjusting certain elements of your site to fit what Googles algorithms are looking for, of course SEO isn’t just about Google, but the general concept is the same. Continue reading

Why Apple is really suing Samsung

I’m not the biggest fan of Apple, I consistently compare my Galaxy S3 (which is great) to my wifes Iphone 4 (which is not so great). So when I first heard the news that Apple was suing Samsung for a ridiculous amount of money because of things like ‘slide to unlock’, ‘pinch to zoom’  and even ‘bouncing effect while scrolling’, I thought it was just a signal that Apple was afraid of someone stealing it’s dominance in the Smartphone market.

However, out of sheer coincidence I came across the 2007 keynote address for the iPhone by Steve Jobs. This was the original keynote for the original iPhone (5 years before the iPhone 5), and I was astounded. It was like attending a history lesson for one of the most defining moments in technology. One of the great things about the keynote though, is it ‘enlightened’ me on the lawsuit, and allowed me to see the lawsuit through Apples–or more specifically Steve Jobs–eyes, and it’s only through his eyes did I understand why Apple was suing Samsung, I still don’t agree with it, but I can definitely see why Apple is going through great lengths to make life miserable for Samsung and Google. Continue reading