Friday, January 21, 2011

The unfairness of the Internet

I have managed my company's network for more than seven years and we always have excellent Internet connection until some guys from my own department discovered BitTorrent.

BitTorrent is a file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of files. Protocol may sound hitech but it just means rule or standard that enables communication between computers.

Using tools available from the Internet to monitor my network usage, I noticed that more than 70% of my network resources were used by BitTorrent causing my network to suddenly crawl.

Although each computer in the office is connected to the network with just one cable, a very active bittorrent user could easily get 10 to 100 times more bandwidth compared to an ordinary user. This is possible because a bittorrent software could open up 10 to 100 connections as compared to users who are connected with just one when downloading files.

The usual download is made via single connection to a single machine; BitTorrent makes many requests over different connections to different machines, it allows users to get more network resources in the expense of the ordinary users. This is completely unfair that I decided to install a network management and monitoring tool to control the network usage. From then, majority of my users were satisfied with the network's speed.

My office network is just a microcosm of the Philippine internet network. When my network slowed down, the users demanded an upgrade in bandwidth. No amount of explanation was enough for them because they believe that the only reason why our network is slow is the bandwidth that we have. It did not occur to them that they're suffering slow internet connection because of the two abusive users that congested the network with movies, music and porn 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Users demanded that I throw in more bandwidth before I manage the network. Of course the bandwidth is a factor but with Bittorrent running in our network, the bandwidth is immediately consumed as soon as it is available. What's funny is that the first to raise violent reactions when I announced that a network management scheme would be implemented were the users that would not be affected by it. For them anything that seems to limit their Internet activity is a bad thing no ifs no buts.

The Internet or what we call the information superhighway is like the real highway. Traffic jams would occur when it is not managed efficiently. BitTorrent users are like the abusive bus drivers who use two lanes to drop and pick passengers. They are also the car owners who do not respect their number coding days. If the people assigned to manage EDSA would allow all these to happen, everything would just stop and EDSA would become the biggest parking area in the country. Of course we could always expand EDSA to accommodate more vehicles but for how long? Thousands of vehicles are registered every month in the Philippines; as hundreds of users are connected to the Internet everyday.

And by the way, Japan teaches us a lesson that no matter how much bandwith you add to solve the congestion problem, traffic jam would always be a problem and most of it would be from P2P traffic caused by the likes of BitTorrent. As Zdnet reported in 2008: "P2P applications have managed to turn Japan’s 100 Mbps per home fiber network in to a big traffic jam. The problem has gotten so severe in Japan that the nations ISPs in conjunction with their Government have agreed to ban P2P users who are trafficking copyrighted content."

A traffic jam of gigantic proportion could paralyze the Philippine information superhighway if we woud not do anything NOW. The proposed broadband cap is just the first step for a quality Internet connection that would benefit the majority of users.


Addendum:
I am not in anyway connected with any Telco in the country and I am not an endorser of any of these telcos' products or services. Although these Telcos are clients of Manila Bulletin, I am maintaining my editorial independence from the advertising side of the paper. My stand on this issue is based on my personal experience and as the former Systems Administrator and IT Manager of the company, I fully understand the issue.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bladeless Fan


Latest in the Technews Lab. The device uses Air Multiplier technology to draw in air and amplify it up to 18 times. With no blades or grill, they fan safe and easy to clean.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our latest toy: The Kinect








Our new toy in the Manila Bulletin Technews Lab. The Kinect is a "controller-free gaming and entertainment experience" by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 video game platform, it enables users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller. 3rd photo shows Papi dancing and interacting with the console without a controller.

Why I am not using my Windows Phone 7 device

After the praises and accolades from people who did not even have or touch a Windows Phone 7 device, I decided to try it on my own, and oh boy I was really disappointed.

I got the HTC Trophy from my source abroad and this is the first consumer unit of Windows Phone 7 device in the country. I read about the phone's inability to do cut and paste and multi-tasking but I am ready to forgive that because of the impressive user interface and very responsive touch screen.

If you are an ordinary user, then you would love this phone. But power users or the tech savvy consumers would be disappointed with the device. For one, it does not support on-device encryption, meaning, you could not access work email if you connect through Exchange ActivSync that blocks connections if the device does not support device-level encryption. With security and privacy breaches happening everyday, almost all businesses require this kind of encryption.

OK fine, I have a BlackBerry anyway that supports on-device encryption so I don't need two devices to connect to my work email. But, I saw another problem. Windows Phone 7 device only supports DHCP. DHCP or Dynamic Host Configuratio Protocol is a method that automates the assignment of IP addresses and other networking information to the device, the server assigns the IP address that would allow the device to connect to the Internet and join the network among others. This means I could not configure the IP address of the device manually and I would be violating the security policy of the office which I proposed for added level of security.

I don't care if it has no cut/copy/paste support or no multi-tasking and even Flash support what made me decide not to use it is the lack of security and the absence of manual IP configuration. I need to fully control my device and not having those two features made me feel that the device is telling me what to do. Until these two issues are answered, my HTC Trophy would stay inside the box.

Xperia X10 finally updates OS

Launched in March 2010, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is the company's first flagship Android-powered smartphone. It features a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 32GB internal memory, 4.0-inch WVGA capacitive touchscreen display, and an 8.1 megapixel camera. It supports quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/190MHz) and tri-band UMTS (900/1700/210MHz or 800/1900/2100MHz) with HSPA for high-speed data connections.

But even with those impressive features, the device failed to match other Android devices available during the launch as it only comes with Android 1.6 a much slower version of the Android OS. Even the software application called UX or user experience platform that supposed to make the phone better did not do any good as consumers shy away from the device with relatively old OS.

Just last week, while other phone manufacturers are rolling out Android 2.2 and talking about Android 2.3 in their devices, Sony Ericsson finally rolled out the availability of Android 2.1 for X10, making them two steps behind in the war of Smartphones versus other manufacturers like HTC and Samsung.

Even with the not-so-updated update, I decided to give my X10 a chance, surprisingly the update process was very easy. It took me less than 30 minutes to finally install the outdated update to my X10. I don't know if it's my phone but I noticed that the performance of the X10 has become sluggish after the update.




published in the November 22, 2010 issue of the Manila Bulletin

Monday, January 18, 2010

FACE-OFF: Nokia N900 vs Motorola Milestone

Every phone manufacturer out there have come up with its own version of a smartphone. It has now become very difficult to choose which handset to get because there is no way to know if the latest phone is really good or not unless you get to try it. The problem is ordinary consumers have no access to these brand new handsets and manufacturers' paid commercials and advertisements only add to the confusion because they only stress the phone's strengths and not its weakneses.

As a public service to our readers, we would be regularly "facing off" the most talked about device now available in the market. This, we hope, would help you decide which of these latest gadgets is best for you.

What follows is a no-holds-barred comparison between the Motorola Milestone and the Nokia N900. We have used these phones extensively for about two weeks now that we have become very familiar with all the features of the phones, meaning we can give you our honest-to-goodness opinion about these phones without any bias or favor. We would reiterate that Technews does not review phones and gadgets unless we have it here in the office.

These phones are the first commercial units available, Technews got these phones from our source in Hongkong.

DESIGN:

Nokia N900: The phone looks clean, it only shows the product name "N900" and the Nokia logo on its face. It measures 110.9 x 59.8 x 18 mm and weighs 181 g. It fits comfortably in my hand.

Motorola Milestone: The unit measures 115.8 x 60 x 13.7 mm and weighs 165 g, with this alone we can already see that it is sleeker and lighter.

Conclusion: The two phones are almost identical in height but the Milestone has a protruding lips that makes it a little taller. There is no much difference in width but the difference in thickness and weight is very noticeable.

DISPLAY:

Nokia N900: TFT resistive touchscreen, 16M colors, Size 800 x 480 pixels, 3.5 inches. Features proximity sensor for auto turn-off, Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate and full QWERTY keyboard

Motorola Milestone: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, Size 480 x 854 pixels, 3.7 inches. Features Multi-touch input method, Accelerometer senso, Proximity sensor for auto turn-off and full QWERTY keyboard with 5-way navigation key.

Conclusion: The Milestone, aside from having a capacitive touchscreen and multi-touch input has a bigger display making it a winner in this category.

CPU:

Nokia N900: ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX graphics

Motorola Milestone: ARM Cortex A8 550 MHz processor

Conclusion: Although both phones use the same CPU type, the Milestone is underclocked from 600 MHZ to 550 MHZ presumably to maximize battery life. However, this affects the performance of the device as the N900 feels a lot faster and more responsive than the Milestone.

STORAGE:

Nokia N900: Internal 32 GB storage, 256 MB RAM, supports microSD up to 16 GB

Motorola Milestone: Internal 133 MB storage, 256 MB RAM supports microSD, up to 32 GB

Conclusion: The Nokia N900 has 32 GB, period!

KEYBOARD:

Nokia N900: Slide-out offset QWERTY keyboard

Motorola Milestone: Slide-out flat QWERTY keyboard.

Conclusion: The Milestone's keyboard is tighter compared to the N900 because of the 5-way navigation key at the right and being flat adds difficulty in typing. Based on my experience, the N900 has a better keyboard.

CAMERA:

Nokia N900: 5 MP, 2576x1936 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Dual LED flash with video light and features Geo-tagging. WVGA video (848 x 480) at 25fps

Motorola Milestone: 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash and features Geo-tagging. 720x480 video at 24fps

Conclusion: You would buy these phones not because of the camera, both phones need improvement in this category. However, the Carl Zeiss optics and good video capability of the N900 makes it better than the Milestone.

MULTIMEDIA:

Nokia N900: It can handle MPEG4, Flash Video, AVI, 3GPP, H.264 and WMV formats. Multimedia player is clean and simple. With 48 preset Internet radio stations from around the world.
Motorola Milestone: Limited multimedia capability compared to the N900. Does not support MPEG4 and AVI, and no syncing software to manage music transfer/

Conclusion: The N900 wins in this category.

INTERNET EXPERIENCE:

Nokia N900: "Real Internet" in a mobile platform. It uses Mozilla-based web browser with Adobe Flash 9.4 support making the websites look the way they would on any computer.

Motorola Milestone: Mobile internet in a mobile platform.

Conclusion: Among all the smartphones available in the Technews Lab, the browser of the N900 is the best. It supports not only Flash 9.4 and plugins but also Javascript, frames, CSS and most everything a desktop browser does.

CONNECTIVITY:

Nokia N900: Quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, Infrared and FM Radio transmitter.

Motorola Milestone: Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth

Conclusion: The Nokia N900 has more connectivity options.

BATTERY LIFE:

Nokia N900: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1320 mAh (BL-5J)

Motorola Milestone: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1400 mAh (BP6X)

Conclusion: In theory, there should not be a big difference with the battery life between the two phones even if the Milestone's battery is bigger in specs, however the Milestone's battery lived longer when I fired up everything in the two phones. Milestone wins here.

OPERATING SYSTEM:

Nokia N900: Maemo 5

Motorola Milestone: Android 2.0

Both Maemo and Android run on Linux kernels. Maemo however is a full Linux distribution while Android is a sole kernel with additional programs on top of it where applications run. Maemo is backed by Nokia alone, while Android is backed by Open Handset Alliance, whose members include 15 handset manufacturers. If the number of device being manufactured is the basis for the success of an OS then Android should prevail, however the Maemo is a tested OS for Mobile Internet Device and will succeed on tablets and touchscreen netbooks. No clear winner in this category.


THE VERDICT:

The Motorola Milestone is one of the most hyped handsets released recently, but falls short of our expectations. For those who are familiar with Android operating system, there is nothing much to be excited about in Version 2.0 inside the Motorola Milestone. The Milestone clearly lacks the overlay other manufacturers offered in the past. There is not much that differentiates the Milestone from any other Android powered handsets.

The Nokia N900 on the other hand surprised us with its features and performance. Released almost at the same time with all the new smartphones without any hype, the N900 has introduced the Maemo OS to ordinary users. While the Maemo before was only reserved for the geeks and hard core techies, it has now become an operating system for ordinary users, the people who would love to have real internet, more connectivity options and additional multimedia capability in their mobile device.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

N900: A new hope for Nokia



The coming of the N900 is Nokia's right move to maintain its lead in the mobile industry. It has all the ingredients for a mobile phone to be successful. Others say that the N900 is not for everybody, that it's only for the geeks and the early adaptors who really love technology; I say, why would you deprive yourself of a phone like this? Read on and decide.

The Nokia N900 has a multi-tasking capability that allows many applications to run simultaneously because of its 600-MHZ processor, up to 1GB application memory and OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration.

OpenGL stands for Open Graphics Library and is the industry standard for an application program interface for defining 2D and 3D objects. It is the same graphics acceleration technology used in the iPhone 3Gs.

The greatest achievement of the N900 is putting "real" Internet into a mobile platform. It features a high-resolution WVGA touch screen and fast internet connectivity with 10 Mbps HSDPA and 2 Mbps HSUPA support and WLAN. It uses Mozilla-based web browser with Adobe Flash 9.4 support making the websites look the way they would on any computer.


Among all the smartphones available in the Technews Lab, the browser of the N900 is the best I've ever seen. Yes, it is better than iPhone's Safari web browser as it supports not only Flash 9.4 and plugins but also Javascript, frames, CSS and most everything a desktop browser does. This means no more rotten strawberries in your farm in farmville.

Features:
Panorama desktop - Create a desktop for your friends, one for your music and videos, and another dedicated to the web. It’s really up to you. Then jump effortlessly between your desktops by moving your finger across the touch-screen display.

Dashboard - After opening an application or starting an IM chat, it then sits on your dashboard whenever you need it. Multi-task by switching seamlessly between your applications and chat windows in the time it takes to tap the screen. You can run everything smoothly because of it's powerful processor. The dashboard also notifies you as soon as you get a new SMS, email, or you have a missed call. This way you can easily keep track of everything that’s happening.

Maemo Browser - View webpages as you would on your home computer with clear full-screen browsing. Every detail stands out on the sharp 800 × 480 display – or tap twice to zoom in for an even closer look. Mozilla based browser with Flash 9.4 support.

Phone - Access your phone instantly, make a call by simply rotating your device from landscape to portrait mode. From the desktop or dashboard, all it takes is a twist of your wrist to instantly access the phone application. A call is just a tap away and you can search in seconds.

Final words
Nokia has been known for having "user friendly" phones but we got bored of just having easy to use phones. We demanded more features, faster speed and additional applications. When Nokia offered us music we chose to get the iPhone instead; when Nokia gave us email we decided to get the Blackberry. Now Nokia is showing off "real" internet in a mobile platform and we have no choice but to get it with the N900 because it's the best among all the available phones today.

The N900 would put Nokia back in the playing field where Smartphones play. It is undoubtedly a statement from Nokia that it's still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to smartphones.

(The N900 used in this article is a property of Manila Bulletin Technews from a 3rd party supplier, it's the first commercial unit of N900 in the Philippines and this page is not sponsored by Nokia.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another "iPhone killer" dies

More and more "iPhone killers" are coming each day but so far these phones are the ones dropping one by one.

Samsung started the dream of making it big in the world of touch screen phones by releasing the Omnia in 2008. The Omnia was a well designed touch screen phone with a clunky implementation of Samsung's TouchWiz UI with equally clunky Windows MObile 6.1 OS. When the accelerometer did not respond as fast as we've expected at the launch, the Samsung staff blamed the OS but continued to compare it with the iPhone. She even called the Omnia "the iPhone killer", but as the market would attest, the only phone that it killed was itself because of the price and unresponsive touch screen that needs pushing to register a command.

They may not admit it, but the Omnia was released with the purpose of riding along the iPhone's success and with its failure, Samsung is here again taking a shot at Apple's iPhone by releasing another touch screen phone -- The Samsung S8000 aka Jet.


Physically, it is gorgeous and stunning and would definitely turn heads to its direction. It has a sleek and elegant design complemented by its glossy black, slim profile with dimension of 108.8 x 53.5 x 11.9 mm and weighing only 99 g. It has a 3.1” WVGA AMOLED touch screen display that has 480 x 800 pixels. At the bottom of the screen you will see the frequently used features which includes the keypad, phonebook, messages and menu that are permanently placed even if you switch through the 3 different home screens. Not part of the touch screen found at the bottom of the phone are the designated keys for the call, menu (a hexagon-shaped button but when viewed closely is actually a cube), power/end call button which are solid, distinct and soft to touch.


It is worth mentioning that with the phone comes a custom-made case where the designated call buttons are exposed; specifically designed for a useful purpose. It is custom-made in such a way that you can actually take a call even when phone is inserted inside the case. You will no longer be in a state of panic or anxiety in missing a call just because you couldn’t get your phone out of its case. It is truly convenient. It is such a wonder how you get pleasure out of simple innovation.


Like most phones, the 5-megapixel camera is located at the back along with its dual LED flash. It features Face and Blink Detection, Smile Shot, Geo-tagging, Photo Editor and it is “anti-shake”, so beneficial for those shaky, unsteady hands like mine.


As mentioned previously, Jet boasts of its AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) touch screen. With AMOLED technology, images are brilliant and vivid no matter which angle you would want to view it requiring minimal power consumption.

Some features worth mentioning:

First, Jet is operated by the upgraded touch screen user interface the TouchWiz 2.0. With this comes the Media Gate 3D user interface. On screen, it is a cube that appears to be hanging in mid air where you can access the 6 multimedia programs such as the internet, games, FM radio, video player, music player and albums. You can flip and rotate the cube by simply running or swiping your finger through the screen. Click on the application of your choice and you can now browse through photos and tracks in a nice 3D interface.


Another feature is the Motion Gesture UI made possible by the accelerometer. It allows you to mute an incoming call simply by just turning its face down. This is the “etiquette pause” specifically useful when you’re in a meeting, in a middle of an important conversation or discussion. Also, with the accelerometer feature comes the “speaker call” where you can automatically activate the speakerphone during a call. Just move the handset away from your ear and place it on a flat surface. Lift the phone back up to your ear and it automatically goes back to the regular mode.


One other feature I am particularly fond of is the smart unlock which allows the user to program their own movement (by choosing any letter from the alphabet) to operate the handset. This involves operations such as unlock, speed dial and to launch applications.


With Samsung Jet, Internet browsing can be a whole new experience. It has the Dolfin browser that adopts a Webkit 3.2 engine. It can open to 5 internet windows at the same time. Switching from one window to the other is done at an instant.


What makes Samsung Jet different from other touch screen smartphone is their “one finger zoom”. Unlike other phones that require you to zoom with multiple hand functions, with the Samsung Jet, it only takes one and “only one finger” to zoom in and out of a photo, a file or an internet browser.


The Samsung Jet has indeed packed itself with cutting edge functions and features that puts other phones at a disadvantage. It's cool phone on its own. Naming it an "iPhone Killer" however is a different story. The only phone that it would kill once compared to the iPhone is itself.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Android-powered phones



My Android-powered phones. HTC Magic, HTC Hero and the new Samsung GT-17500H aka Galaxy. Samsung has nothing new to offer and the implementation of the Android OS in the phone is a little clunky.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The next stage in the Evolution of the HTC Android phones



The HTC Magic is dead. Featured in the Manila Bulletin Technews as the perfection of the HTC G1, we now consider the Magic dead, buried and forgotten as HTC released their latest Android powered phone, the HTC Hero.


The screen of the Hero features a special oleophobic coating similar to the iPhone 3Gs that makes finger smudges easier to remove. The body of the white version (the one that I have) is coated with teflon to keep it clean and spotless as Teflon resists dirt, stains and even fingerprints. The Hero is also the first Android powered smartphone to support multitouch, you can now pinch and zoom photos and websites iPhone style.

HTC has successfully integrated the latest and and most useful features of a smartphone into the Hero. It is the first Android phone to ship with support for Adobe Flash Platform technology, a technology that would help deliver a more complete web browing experience to the users. It now sports a 3.5mm audio jack which the G1 and the Magic did not have. The Hero is also the first HTC device that features the HTC Sense user interface. A very impressive and sleek widget-centric UI earlier known as "Rosie".

With HTC Hero, personalization has been greatly improved. Rather than burying important content under layers of menus, users can customize it with at glance view, with widgets that can be placed right on the home screen. The widgets can also be personalized with a variety of designs and sizes.

There is also a new feature called Scenes. It's a new profile feature that makes the Hero multiple phones in one. Users can create and switch between Scenes that reflect different moments or moods.

Staying in touch with other people means managing a variety of communication channels and applications ranging from phone calls and emails to Facebook updates. HTC has integrated Facebook and Flickr in the device and links the contacts to Facebook and Flickr feeds so that you can not only see their contact details but also their Facebook updates and recent Flickr photos. You can also see all your interactions like emails sent to your personal and work accounts.

Even basic functions like the dialer, email, album and search are now improved.

You can find a person by dialing their phone number or simply by dialing the first few letters of their name.

The inbox is not just a list of emails, but a catalog of conversations, a collection of notes flagged as important, and a document library of all emails with attachments.

The Album is not just the photos saved on the phone. It is also a gateway to online collections to Facebook or Flickr.

You can also search just about anything, anywhere on the HTC Hero. The dedicated Search button combs through tweets in Twitter, locates people in your contact list, finds emails in the inbox, searches through appointments in the calendar and finds anything in the phone with just a keyword. This feature is HTC's answer to iPhones spotlight search.

With the above features, the Hero makes the HTC Magic looks like a child's toy, a phone although powered by the same OS but lacks a broad range of useful applications compared to the Hero.

The Hero is the third Android powered smartphone of HTC. If the HTC G1 is the first stage of the evolution of HTCs Android phones, the HTC Magic is the homo erectus and the HTC Hero is the modern Homo sapiens.

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Published in the August 17, 2009 issue of the Manila Bulletin.