Saturday, December 31, 2005

Taegukgi

I was having a drink with friends when the discussion moved to war movies. Why is that when people mention war movies, the discussion almost always gravitates to "Saving Private Ryan?" Ok so it is a well-made film, and granted that the first 30 minutes are indeed a harrowing and riveting experience, but after the Normandy beach sequence the movie doesn't seem to make sense.

Take the reason why the character of Tom Hanks decided to stay and sacrifice his entire platoon for Pvt. Ryan. Why was it a choice between leaving him behind or staying behind? Why not instead haul that spoiled brat home?

And what was that flashback scene anyway? How can the story be told from the point-of-view of Ryan? He wasn't even at the Normandy beach!

Take away those two plot points and the movie falls flat. And I don't care if it was a Spielberg film. Sometimes I feel that I am being manipulated and led astray when senseless scenes are placed simply to tug on emotional heartstrings.

Now I contrast this with a little-known but nonetheless critically-acclaimed South Korean film titled "Taegukgi." The movie is about two brothers who are dragged into the Korean War, told (in a more coherent manner) through the point-of-view of the younger sibling. The relationship of the two brothers is what drives the story forward. There is however no less action. If you take "Ryan's" Normandy scene , create maybe 4 or 5 such scenes, and spread them throughout a 2 1/2 hour movie, and you have a sense of what "Taegukgi" is. "Ryan" shows that war is an affront against man's unmeasureable value (one entire platoon sacrificed for one man---which I still find stupid because they could have dragged his stupid ass home). "Taegukgi" simply shows that war is inhumane, barbaric, and senseless. War causes relationships to falter. Morals are compromised. Friendships are forgotten. And there is bloodshed galore. Torn limbs. Bloodied stumps. Dark gushing blood. And up close in-your-face battles.

I was pleasant surprised with this film. It is a further testament of the quality of Korean cinema (look for another memorable if not shocking film called "Oldboy" if you are not convinced).

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pocket PC

Yesterday I got myself an HP iPAQ h6300. Fascinating device it is, being a wireless PDA cum phone. Now I can surf wirelessly through hotspots if in malls, or through GPRS if no hotspots are available.

One advantage is that I can post to blogs (using a freeware called PocketBlogger) and respond to mails wherever I am. I can now transcribe comments and thoughts almost immediately after the experience.

Friday, December 16, 2005

King Kong opens lower than expectation

Found some news in Variety that King Kong opened with $9.7 million in U.S., well below the studio's expectations. In contrast, the movie did well in Asia (Philippines included).

My take on this? Wait until the weekend, but I don't think this will be a massive blockbuster to the likes of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Why?

First, fan base is not strong. King Kong does not present a whole new rich universe that fanboys can build a strong foundation on.

Second, the story is well-known. Beast falls in love with beauty and meets tragic end atop Empire State Building. No surprise there. Unlike other movies which showcase both story and effects. True, Revenge of the Sith's story sucked but we all wanted to see the fall of Anakin, right?

So basically people will just see it for the special effects and aside from Kong, all the other effects are nothing we haven't seen before.

Don't get me wrong, I saw it last night and the movie was awesome. In comparison to the original version, the first Kong-Ann relationship was . . . well . . . kinda creepy. Almost perverse. This new version has a more tragic atmosphere. You knew that Kong was going to die for Anne, and as he becomes more and more enamored for her, the more you feel sorry for the poor guy. Peter Jackson's version is more respectful of the original and I look at it as more of an "interpretation" rather than a "remake." I still think it'll make a lot of money, but I don't think it'll make for an explosive weekend.

Lets see if the numbers will prove me wrong . . .

Setting up a home network

A lot of folks were surprised when I mentioned that I was an IT executive and that I setup a home network on my own.

Actually, I myself was surprised that it was so easy to setup a home network. I thought I would be spending my entire day figuring everything out. But it came out to be a simple process.

The key component in the whole home network puzzle is the router. Plug all your PCs into the device and you are up and running! If you are running a wireless network, and you are damn serious about security or worried that someone is leeching your internet connection, you will find some tips below.

1. Change the admin password immediately. The admin password is normally "admin" and many people know this. So if you don't change it, people can connect and reconfigure your router.

2. Do not broadcast your SSID. The SSID is how people identify your network. If you don't broadcast it, people will have to figure out the SSID themselves to connect.

3. Enable encryption. By enabling encryption you require all clients to enter a complicated string of alphanumeric characters to connect to your network.

4. Limit the number of IP addresses. For example, if you have only 2 PCs in your house, then you can limit the number of IP addresses to 2 or 3. If you specify a higher number, say 5, then it basically means that an extra 3 PCs can connect to your network.

Now if you do not care about other people leeching your internet connection, then tips 2 to 4 can be disregarded. Some people I know do this, especially if they are on leave.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Discussion on prostitution

Right now I am embroiled in a heavy discussion on prostituion in Philippines. You can read the thread here. But in case this link goes dead here is the gist.

Apparently I had offended some ultra-conservatives with my other website
Men's Fun in the Philippines. The poster, a semi-retired Fil-Am from Florida named Kurt with the handle "gihigugmataka," wrote that:

If this were a men's forum , I would agree with you 100%. But it's not. At least in the past , this has been a family forum. We have some very young members who do not need access to this type information.

There are several other low life topics we could discuss and post reference to in order to juice up our forum. How about some good gay sex dens ? Or maybe some of you would like to tell the rest of us the best places you have found to buy illegal drugs. And please don't forget about the needs and desires of our female members. Please list the countries where they can go to find the best male action at the most affordable prices.----PUKE !

Just a side note.---What sane individual knowing of HIV (AIDS) and one of the ways in which it is contracted , would frequent this sort of establishment ? Especially in Manila of all places.


When another conservatist supported him, Kurt further wrote that

I was beginning to think I was the only one with any decency left. It really pains me to read of such things. I am sure that given the opportunity , most of the gilrs in this profession in the Philippines would choose differently. I will never forget the night that a woman tried to sell me her 14 year old daughter. She wanted $60. ---SICK !!!!!!!!!!

I truly feel sad and angered when people take such a narrow view of life. This person had better face up to certain realities in life. One of which is that you can find porn anywhere in the net. All you have to do is google porn or sex. If you want to ban porn in the net, you might as well ban the whole internet.

So what's wrong with sex anyway? Why do people think it is filthy, vulgar, immoral, and unfit for intelligent conversation? Sex and drugs are two different categories. Sex drives are natural. Sex brings life. Sex provides natural pleasure. Sex can make you live longer, bring down blood pressure, release endrophins that make you happier. Drugs on the other hand can kill you. They can cause irreparable damage, both physically and psychologically. Why equate the two?

And also, what is it in prostitution that makes men and women cringe with disgust? When you strip out all the pre-conceived notions, all the Christian moralities, and break it down to its fundamentals, prostitution is basically a profession. Henceforth, lets not refer to them as "prostitutes" but instead as "sex workers." A sex worker offers a service, and the customer pays for the service. Please, do not muddle the discussion by bringing in a situation wherein some young girl is forced against her will by some pimp---that's slave labor and possibly pedophilia. And like some jobs, it could be an unpleasant experience. And like some jobs, the worker feels that she deserves something more or something better. True, the sex worker exposes herself to all sorts of health risks, but if she is careful, the risks can be no greater than a factory worker. A doctor or nurse probably expose themselves to far greater health risks.

And where does Kurt get the impression that Manila is a risk in terms of HIV or even AIDS? According to Avert, North America has about the same infection rate as that of Southeast Asia, and consider that Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos are part of Southeast Asia and that according to UNAIDS, Philippines has one of the lowest AIDS rates in Asia. In short, it can be surmised that a person is more likely to get infected with HIV in the U.S. than in the Philippines. Furthermore, to say that HIV is a sex-related disease simply shows how narrow minded some people can be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2006 geek predictions

Ok here's my prediction of the 2006 on gadgetry (in no particular order):

1. iPod 2.0

Ok so the iPod Video came out but people complained on the small screen. Next year you will see a bigger better screen in the iPod while still maintaining the same form factor. How will they do it? Simple. The screen will fill the back of the unit!

2. Flash based laptops

Imagine a laptop as thin as an ipod Nano. Ok maybe not that thin but thinner than the existing laptops because there will be no hard drive.

3. Mac Mini media center

Apple's latest G5 sports a user-friendly media interface called Front Row. Using a tiny remote control (the size of an iPod shuffle) you can control your pictures, music, and DVDs. Now imagine that in a Mac Mini using your existing TV as your monitor. Plus the ability to plug in your iPod. Plus running Intel microprocessor to bring the cost down.

4. Google (or Yahoo) Office

I've ranted this enough already. Imagine a web-based office suite. No need for Microsoft Office in your PC

5. Mobile VOIP

Some phone manufacturer will develop a VOIP-based phone. You are walking around the mall, talking over Globe or Smart network, phone will be able to detect a wireless hotspot and convert the call from GSM to IP. Now instead of just loading Globe/Smart you also have to load internet hours.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Music piracy

I read a piece of interesting news today. A U.S. court refused to overturn a $22,500 judgement against a Chicago woman who was caught downloading music illegally. This looks like a precedent against peer-to-peer file traders and may be the first step for the music industry to go for the consumer performing "illegal" music downloads.

Personally I don't see the logic of this whole argument on music piracy. Ok I know it is illegal to "steal" music, whether it is from your bricks-and-mortar Odyssey music store, or if you are able to hack into a legitimate online music store (like iTunes) and download their music. But hey if I bought a CD and I ripped an MP3 version and I posted the copy on the web for all to download, why is this wrong? How different is this from lending my CD to my friends? I bought it so I damn well can do anything with it. I can decide to use it as a frisbee or a coaster.

And if there are online distributors (like Kazaa and Napster) who provide peer-to-peer transfer, why is this illegal? All these companies do is perform a service no different from a matchmaker---they link someone who is willing to share with someone who wants to listen.

Actually what I am wondering is why can't some lawyer win with this argument? Why do I keep on hearing news that online music distribution sites like eDonkey, Kazaa, Napster are shutting down or redesigning their systems?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sony's Debacle

Apparently, in their efforts to restrict piracy and unauthorized duplication of music CDs, Sony had bundled several of their CD titles with a software that prevents duplication of the music CD. In other words, you can play the CD on a CD player or on your computer but the software prevents you from importing the songs as MP3, AAC, or what not.

Comes out that the software is a rootkit. In other words it installs itself onto your computer in such a way that even the OS cannot detect it. The danger, obviously, is that no anti-virus or anti-spyware tool can control this software. This software is reportedly so badly written that it can make your PC unstable. To make matters worse, there are reports that this software installs itself EVEN IF YOU DON'T AGREE TO THE EULA! And the final nail on the coffin? There is a report that there are two trojan malware that takes advantage of the software's weaknesses. Already class action suits are being filed against Sony.

Sony is really on a downward trajectory. Ever since founder Akio Morita passed the baton, Sony has been making a lot of bad management decisions. Their foray into the movie industry has been met with disaster. Their PSP, though definitely eye-catching, has not achieved the same critical mass as, for example, the iPod. Samsung and LG are knocking on their doors. And now their debacle with digital rights management has brought them shame and anger from the tech community.

As for me, a company as arrogant as Sony to think that we are all thieves and pirates does not warrant my business. Am going to dispose of all my Sony stuff---my Ericsson phones, to begin with. What's Sony anyway but just an expensive brand name? It no longer equates to quality. And with this latest debacle, it no longer equates to honest and customer care.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hipstir

I checked by Hipstir account. So far 3 friends and 4 profile views. Well it was languishing with 2 profile views until I added pictures. Still nobody finds me attractive enough to warrant a response. Either that or they are too scared because of my voracious appetite!

Anyway, got a call from one of the Hipstir girls. She is apparently into heavy phone sex. Quite wild. Full of obsecenities and dirty words. Maybe I'll record it and post it here.

But I am still wondering what's the catch. I mean she posted her number in Hipstir. She advertises herself as a "sex goddess." No such thing as a free lunch I would say.

And then she asked for a sex video of me playing with myself. Interesting. I am not inclined to provide any video of myself in such compromising acts. Lets see how it plays out.

Firefox

I am and have always been a fan of Firefox. If you aren't using this as your browser, then you are missing out on a lot of features. Two of the features which I now cannot live without is TABBED BROWSING and AD BLOCKING. These two alone are worth the download.

What is newsworthy is the fact that Firefox is now eating up Microsoft's market share. The goal of Firefox is to achieve a 10% market share of the browser market by the end of the year. Right now they are about 8% or 9%.

Big deal you may say? Consider that at one point Microsoft's IE virtually held 99% of the browser market.

Personally I can't believe that Firefox's market share is 9%. In fact, I THINK IT IS MUCH HIGHER. Almost all of the tech guys I know use Firefox. Based on Sitemeter, the browser share of my other blog is 71% IE and 23% Firefox!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Off to Singapore

Am writing this in my cozy hotel room in Ritz Carlton, Singapore. Will be here for just a few days. I would have brought this girl but she couldn't get her passport ready in time, despite my repeated reminders. Too bad. It would have been nice to go home to a pretty girl, waiting in bed, naked, and ready for some hot loving . . .

Or waking up an taking a shower together . . .

Or eating breakfast in the room (c/o room service) wearing the hotel robes and nothing underneath . . .

And then doing it all over the hotel room . . . the couch . . . the dresser . . . in the tub . . . inside the shower . . .

Sigh . . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

More computer predictions . . . Microsoft going down?

Back to the Windows versus Mac debate. Some people have commented that the strength of Microsoft Windows is with the applications it runs. And Apple Mac is not the preferred platform because it cannot match Microsoft in terms of applications.

Presently this is true. But consider this . . .

For those who use Yahoo mail, notice that there are now formatting tool bars when you compose mail.

For those who rely on Encarta, do you also realize that there is an online encyclopedia called wiki? And that this is updated real time?

There is a coming paradigm shift on what we call a "PC workstation." Now we have applications running on the device. Soon we will have applications running through a site and accessed through the internet. The PC will cease to become a processor and will now shift to a presentation and user interface device. In fact, this is the advantage that Google and Yahoo have, and this is why Microsoft is playing "catch-up" with a new web platform called Microsoft Live. Very soon we don't need to have applications on the PC; we can run it off the web.

Furthermore, there is the open source applications. People who equate Microsoft with stability should look at the open source community. For every Microsoft application, there is an open source application. I have already ditched Microsoft Office for Openoffice. I don't use IE; I use a far-superior Firefox. My email application is not Outlook but Thunderbird. I use Skype and GAIM for instant messaging. I will admit that the only open source application that SUCKS big-time is GIMP. Until they figure out a platform for photo manipulation, I will stick with Photoshop.

Lets take another look at how the PC is evolving. Many of us use the PC to play music. Some of us even play DVDs. While I am typing this blog, internet radio is streaming jazz music. The consumer PC is now moving away from the typical home computing applications to become a media center, where people can listen to music, watch movies, record from TV, play radio, and view a slide show of pictures taken from digital cameras. The PC is no longer a geek techie device, but will soon become a true consumer device like a DVD player or a toaster.

What does this all mean? It means that a PC has to be user-friendly, stable, easy to use, intuitive in such a way that a non-techie should be able to operate. Does this sound like Microsoft Windows? Let me put it this way---ever try to explain to a non-techie user (like your grandmother) how to use Windows (like when to click, double-click, or right click)?

And what about the applications? Who cares---I can run it off the web.

My feeling is that this is where Microsoft is worried about. They need to provide a stable intuitive environment, and this is where Apple has the advantage. The fact that Microsoft is the perennial target of hackers and malware does not help their case either, and hence alternative OSs (Mac OS and Linux) are on the rise. Now to run office applications over the web, all you need is the browser . . . and that Firefox is eroding on IE's market share is not helping Microsoft's position.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

MP3 and ALE

Just last night I decided to try out Apple Lossless Encryption (ALE) and imported two of my CDs into the ALE format. For this test, I imported Jamie Cullum's two CD album into my iPod using the ALE format.

First of all, the size of the file ballooned to about 20Mb, almost 8x more if encoded using MP3. To those who know MP3, it is a "lossy" compression algorithm. What the algorithm does is it "strips" the notes and sounds which are theoretically speaking beyond the range of human hearing. So supposedly it only stores the music which could technically-speaking only be heard.

However, maybe its me or the "placebo effect," but when I did play the music encoded in ALE, the music sounds slightly better. While it is hard to describe an audio experience using words, the music sounds "wider," and the "live" experience seems more enhanced. You hear more distinct notes plus some slight nuances on the vocals.

Unfortunately, as you can see, music encoded in ALE will consume a lot of disk space. I intend to use this compression method only for music worth an enhanced listening experience---most especially my jazz albums.