Saturday, February 22, 2003

The two Datuks

I blogged this from Penang. My conjunctivitis is being relieved. Sigh...

It was a good lunch with CM Tan Sri Koh Tsu Khoon and the two Datuks he invited to the gathering set up for software developers in Penang.

The Datuks are of the breed who earned their honorifics for the impact they created in their professional careers. One is P.Y. Lai and the other is New York-based Kelvin Wong. The two Datuks were generous in sharing their experiences with our IT hopefuls. Among those who turned up were Jobstreet CTO Dr Albert Wong and semicon specialist (ex-Intel) Dr SH Tan.

I will develop the story for my next instalment in Malaysian Business.

Paper says Mahathir makes Singapore people angry

Thanks Gerald of Singapore for pointing me to this article by a Singapore Straits Times writer: We sayang you too, Dr Mahathir.

It says Goh Chok Tong is one of the best loved, if not the most liked, politicians in Singapore. Many say he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. By taking potshots at Goh, Mahathir has made Singapore people angry because "when you hit the office of the Prime Minister, you hit out at all of us as well." Why? "Because we put him there."

I wonder beyond the politicians and their verbal acrobatics there's still room for people-to-people and business-to-business relationships?

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Friday, February 21, 2003

War and Morality

Middle East Online: Blair sticks to moral justification for war on Iraq. He will meet the Pope.
London Times: The Pope made a new plea for peace yesterday, undermining Blair’s attempt to make a moral case for war with Iraq.

The Pope said 48 hours before his audience with Blair: “Neither the threat of war nor war itself should be allowed to alienate Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any other religion. All religions should strive for peace. War is always a defeat for humanity. It is a tragedy for religion.”

I would rather believe the Pope on morality.

Sanning in blurred vision:

BBC News on Google - Blogger deal:
Bill Thompson: Is Google too powerful? Blogging is not journalism.
Giles Turnbull: Fame or misfortune beckons for weblogs?
Alfred Hermida: Weblogs give a voice to Iranian women

Thursday, February 20, 2003

I am f*cked.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Local IT industry braces for war

NOT MANY realise that when Bush-Blair wage an Iraqi war, the fallout could reach our shores, and the local IT industry would be the first to get the impact.

To say the least, local IT industry has been in the doldrum, and a downward spiral since the September 11 attack. 2002 IT spending in Malaysia clocked in about RM7.2 billion. The prime industry driver has been the public sector, especially from education. This year, we expect to see the entire supply chain clinging precariously onto the government. Competition will be very keen. Only those with track records and solid networking will thrive.

Industry players say the growth rate could maintain at 10%, bringing the cake to about RM8 billion. (Download: Outlook by PIKOM). If war erupts, the calculation may go astray.

Here are some questions our journalists and industry players asked:

Best-case Scenario: (i.e. Quick war; US forces welcomed in Baghdad with flower garlands; Saddam out; Iraq disarmed; everyone happy except Osama; etc.) How might the IT industry here be affected? Will there be no more than a temporary hiccup?

Worst-case Scenario: (e.g. conflict widens into entire Middle East; world community polarised; North Korea takes advantage; war drags on, maybe into 2004; etc.) What might be the long-term effects for Malaysia and the IT industry?

Who will get it worst? Which segments of the IT industry would be most affected by a war? Would the industry be depressed across the board, or would some segments actually benefit from increased demand due to a war? If the latter, which segments might those be?

Technology flow: Would there be any wartime restrictions on exports of US technology and travel of staff between affected countries and the US? If so, what form might these restrictions take, and how onerous might they be? Could they affect the flow of new technologies to Malaysia? Could they slow down our agenda in MSC?

Those are real issues as local IT industry braces for war. According to local players here (Star In-Tech: Feb 20), the IT industry is expected to turn around quickly after a war, buoyed by a combination of relief and the need for businesses to re-equip and upgrade their IT infrastructure.

But with one caveat: A recovery could still be restrained by concerns of a potential terrorism-gripped aftermath to the war.

People Star In-Tech interviewed includes Harres Tan (Group CEO of HT Consulting (Asia) Sdn Bhd and Pikom chairman for international relations), T.F, Chong (Hewlett-Packard Sales (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd managing director). I offered my two cents' worth as well (in the print version for now).

We have yet to hear of contigency plans, or see the parachute after you press the "seat-eject" button.

Now, you still want war? Stick to your gun and fight!

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US 'plans new nuclear weapons'

"[Not achieving a nuclear test ban] would have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration, of any decade, of any time and of any party." President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961.

BBC News: "A leaked document suggests that Washington is beginning detailed planning for a new generation of smaller nuclear weapons.

"The Los Alamos Study Group claims the plans would challenge the foundations of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which limits the development of new designs for nuclear bombs."

"The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the plans clearly fit in with the wider Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes in the future when the US feels itself to be threatened."

Click here to download html document (120kb.)
Click here to view press release and summary

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

War on Iraq: Beneficiaries and Losers

I received email questions from a journalist friend, this is one of them:

Do you agree with the suggestion, made by Newsweek, that if war on Iraq were declared and the current uncertainty thus lifted, it would be beneficial for the world economy?

I thought a war, any war for that matter, benefits nobody but the war merchants and arms manufacturers. It’s the best time for them to bankroll their R&D incubated over the short years. That’s why war has become cyclical.

More on this tomorrow, but here's how the war deck stacks up, so far:
US - TURKEY: US needs Turkey as a launchpad to prepare a northern front against Saddam Hussein. A high-risk poker game ensues. The Turkish government has delayed a parliamentary vote authorising US troop deployments. No parliamentary sanction unless US guarantees a financial deal "to provide compensation for the cost of the conflict". US tightens arm-twisting.

CNN: Launching attack from Turkey looks less likely. Financial Times: US may present new resolution this week. ABC Online: The United Nations (UN) Security Council has begun an open meeting to enable other UN member states to express their views about war on Iraq.

FRANCE - NEW EUROPE: President Jacques Chirac outburst, sharply critcising eastern European countries, that are seeking EU membership, for signing letters (a scoop by Wall Street Journal: United We Stand) to back the US position on Iraq, a stance he termed "childish" and "dangerous". Chirac said: "You have missed a great opportunity to shut up."

Independent, UK: New Europe strikes back. IHT: Chirac's outburst exposes contradiction within EU.

IRAQ AFTER SADDAM: Despite making the "moral case" for overthrowing Saddam Hussein by military action, Tony Blair refused to specify what sort of regime might follow the dictator's ouster in Iraq.

Talk of humanity, it's wishful thinking to place hope on the US as the benign messiah coming down to liberate Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam. Nobody crows how much the Iraqi people have suffered under the decade-old economic sanction, upon whom the world prescribed.

Read Robert Fisk:
( 1 ) Facing disaster, the Arabs are like mice
( 2 ) People worldwide tired of being lied to by Bush, Blair

Meanwhile, if humanity is no less universal, here's something to chew on.

( 1 ) Death toll from suspected Ebola in Congo approached 60, still counting. Africa remains very much the dark continent.

( 2 ) In UK, stats released Feb 14 show patients waiting for admission into hospitals at the end of December 2002 stood at 1,056,600. Tory spokeman said it was evidence of the government’s failure on health policy. “One million plus patients have a right to know why.”

The scorch of war burns best on alien turf, never on one's own backyard. Those 'moral case' humanity fighters should labour to search their souls.

Hackers captured 8 million credit cards account numbers

Hackers gained access to 8 million credit card account numbers by breaching the security of a company that processes transactions for merchants. Card issuers affected: Visa (estimated 3.4 million), MasterCard (2.2 million) and American Express (can't give specific figures).

The issues: ( 1 ) All three card companies have "zero-liability policies" protecting customers from fraudulent uses of their cards. ( 2 ) None of them would identify the third-party processor or say exactly when or how the unauthorized intrusion occurred. According to Dan Gillmor, ( 3 ) news reports gave the impression that the card companies would not call the account holders proactively to offer remedies.

He said: "It's also amazing how lax security continues to be among the card issuers. Nothing seems to change."

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Monday, February 17, 2003

25 years of BBS, thanks to 2 hackers caught in a snowstorm

(Computerised) Bulletin Board System (BBS) is about online community, thanks to two Chicago hackers - Ward Christensen and Randy Suess - who got stuck in a snowstorm in 1978. They came out with an idea to put a computer on the phone line so people could leave messages in time like this. They put their system up in two weeks.

Call that the days of a hobbyist's art. Imagine, a single 173K storage on an 8-inch floppy disk, 300-baud modem, 8-bit processor running at a megahertz or so. Oh yes, memory was running at 64kb.

BBS celebrates its 25th birthday on February 16. Read about the fathers of BBS.

Misinformation and spin-doctoring

WE HAVE several of these.

Singapore-Malaysia Spat: Goh Chok Tong called Dr Mahathir "a very good spin doctor". Before that, a nameless Ministry of Foreign Affairs officer termed him "an entertaining storyteller". Singapore Straits Times said Mahathir's tit-for-tat was a hint that he had a stockpile of memories that could be tapped to embarrass Singapore.

Gulf War I (1991): US embassy in KL said a Feb 5 Guardian article implying that the country acted o­n misinformation about Iraqi troops prior to the 1990 Gulf War was inaccurate. The issue was raised by Malaysiakini when it interviewed US Ambassador Marie T Huhtala. "It's not fair", writes Frank J Whitaker, Press Officer of US embassy.

Gulf War II: A reader accused Malaysiakini's editorial on Iraq being one-sided and contra to US. Editor Steven Gan answers:

"The editorial is focused o­n the current US policy o­n Iraq with the aim of
highlighting its double standards... There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is oppressive, ruthless and brutal. My point is that any change to the regime, however vile it is, should be decided by the Iraqi people, not by Washington.

Cowboy 1: George Bush: Iraq, and whoever 'happens' to be there, is about to be annihilated.

Cowboy 2: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's offensive remarks about European allies are making it difficult for Washington to win compromises on Iraq

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More on Google - Blogger deal

Before the buyout, Pyra/Blogger founder Evan Williams (picture) was working by himself from home (He hasn't had a car in three years, but just bought one yesterday), with his fair share of struggles like warding off hackers and bandwidth constraints.

Now, Williams is feeling simply great as he will have access to resources (not just money, and servers, and bandwidth, and traffic, and the index, but incredible brains) to "build on the vision I've been working on for years.''

Dan Gillmore has uploaded a full-length story on the Google-Blogger deal in his Sunday column. He made yet another important statement on weblog:

Part of that vision, shared by other blogging pioneers, has been to help democratize the creation and flow of news in a world where giant companies control so much of what most people see, hear and read.

Weblogs are also becoming a valuable communication tool for groups of people, and have begun to infiltrate the corporate, university and government spheres.
New York Times reports it. Nick Denton suggests a new name: Bloogle.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Google buys Blogger's maker...

IT TAKES a blogger to break a big news on Blogger.

Dan Gillmor - Weblogs are going Googling - reported Sunday: Google has bought over Pyra Labs, a San Francisco company which developed Blogger, the nano publishing tool I use to update this blog.

Immediate response among bloggers has been exhilarating. Nick Denton, who uses rival software Movable Type, expects Blogger-powered sites to show up in Google search results minutes after the post, rather than days for now.

Both Gillmor and Denton, however, have concerns on how Google will manage the Blogger software and Pyra's hosting service. This may present some tricky issues. Denton says the search side of Google indexes weblogs from all of the major blogging platforms, including Movable Type and Userland Radio. Any hint of proprietary favoritism would meet harsh criticism. Gillmor posed the same question to Google earlier, but there wasn't an early answer.

Joi Toi, another Moveble Type user, wonders whether the buyover is good news for people using other blogging software. Writers at Guardian's OnlineBlog, which uses Blogger, promised to run a full story today.

It's only half a year ago when Gillmor said journalism was being revolutionised by the latest technology: He said: "We have gone from Old Media, through New Media, to We Media: The idea of using the power and the knowledge and the energy of people at the edges."

Guardian recounted how other bloggers responded to Gillmor's observation:'s Glenn Reynolds: "I think we've moved profoundly from the older period in which news was a lecture. Now the job is that we tell you what we have learned, you tell us if you think we are correct, then we all discuss it."

Ben Hammersley, Guardian: "On the internet, everyone is the same size - and by allowing experts in their field to correct others, and be corrected themselves, almost in real time, blogs release the voice of the readership. They give an alternative."

I reckon Blogger sites may even be used to enhance Google News which now returns bland results that are often too US-centric.

* * *

Just heard over CNN as I blogged: NATO has ditched France (19 minus 1 - Germany and Belgium cracked!) to reach a compromise on the impasse they tried to resolve at a protracted meeting which lasted 13 hours on Sunday. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the coalition has approved defensive planning for Turkey in case of war against Iraq.

Is Gulf War II postponed or accelerated? Watch this space.

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