Saturday, January 22, 2011

It is capped already!

Photo courtesy of Richard Masoner (on Flickr)
Local telecommunications companies want to cap the amount of data that subscribers use to accommodate more subscribers and avoid investing more in their infrastructure. More subscribers is always better, until the subscribers notice how crappy the service becomes. So, instead of investing, they want to add more limits!  I find it really funny that some folks tend to forget that subscribers are using an  already capped service! Telcos just want to shortchange the subscribers more and they want National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to bless it.

Telcos want us to believe that  "abusive" subscribers who use the internet 24x7 are the culprit -- why the majority of the subscribers are getting crappy service. I believe that my Manila Bulletin TechNews editor believes this is true. Well, let's look at the facts.

Subscribers pay a monthly fee for a fixed bandwidth. For the sake of argument, let's say it is 1Mbps. If the telcos provide the full guaranteed 1Mbps, then in a month, provided a constant connection for 24 hours each day for 30 days, the subscriber can transfer a maximum of 324,000 MB of data (here's the math, 1 Mbps x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 30 days / 8 bits (to a byte)), roughly 324GB of data per month (at 1000MB/GB). If this is not a cap, then I do not know what is! It is impossible to go beyond this limit, unless telcos subscribe to a different science!

The reality, however, is different. First, telcos NEVER provide you with the full guaranteed bandwidth that you subscribe to in the entire 24 hour connection in a single day. They will say that they are delivering "best effort" services, which means that they can give you 10kbps and it is still within their promised service! Do you think this is fair? I don't think so. The NTC is correct in requiring telcos to give a minimum bandwidth for each subscriber.

Second, subscribers, even the heavy users (will get back to this later) like me, do not use the full subscribed bandwidth for 24 hours, for the full 30 days! There are days when you download gigabytes of data (try getting XCode and you will know), but it isn't everyday! In a single day, a 1Mbps subscriber bandwidth gives you 10.8GB of data (for 24 hours continuous transfer). I do not think this is fair, either. If a cap is inevitable (until the telcos decide to invest and improve their infrastructure OR until NTC requires them to) I propose a weekly cap of half the full data volume that can be transferred for 7 days for a full 1Mbps continuous connection - giving us a data volume cap of 37.8GB/week. For a 4-week month, we get 151.2GB - a far cry from the 100GB/mo that is being given by Bayantel!

Remember that the above proposed data volume cap is under the premise that subscribers are getting what they are paying for AND NOT what the telcos are providing at its "best"!

Now, let's go to the heavy users. My Manila Bulletin TechNews editor mentioned peer-to-peer file transfers in general, and BitTorrent in particular - even mentioned Japan's experience - to describe heavy users. BitTorrent is simply a protocol - you must not block it. Legit file distribution sites, specially Linux distributions, use it to ease up their bandwidth by distributed file transfers. Unfortunately, it is being abused by other file distribution sites in illegally re-distributing media files. However, do these BitTorrent users use more bandwidth than the rest? Some people think they do, but do they really?

Remember the data volume cap mentioned above - and how it is restricted by the subscribed bandwidth? This also applies to BitTorrent transfers. The file transfer is limited by the subscribed bandwidth - it cannot go beyond that! Think of the bandwidth as the narrow end of the funnel. No matter how much data you pass through it, it is still limited by the narrow end. Who suffers? Those on the wider end. How about the other end of the funnel? Does the funnel pass through more? Of course not.

The analogy used was how abusive bus drivers hog EDSA. Now, here's my analogy - Commonwealth Avenue is wider than EDSA. The volume of traffic, however, is restricted by the Philcoa funnel. From 10 lanes of Commonwealth to 4 lanes of Philcoa. As far as the the Elliptical Road is concerned, the number of vehicles that pass thru Philcoa has a 4-vehicle per instance rate. It is physically impossible to have a 10-vehicle per instance rate at Philcoa! Do those traveling the circumference of Elliptical Road get deprived of the lanes? Not really - as far they are concerned, it is still a 4-lane funnel. No matter how wide you make Commonwealth Avenue, the same number of vehicles pass through Philcoa at a certain instance. Now, widening Philcoa is a different matter.

Who is affected by the BitTorrent transfers? It is the users at the wider end of the funnel - those who are sharing the single internet connection provided by the telco (I believe this is what my Manila Bulletin TechNews editor experienced at MB). It cannot go beyond the maximum subscribed bandwidth! As far as the other, narrower side of the funnel goes, it is a fixed rate of data transfer, regardless of type of data (web, email, bittorrent, streaming media, etc.).

The general point of the matter is this - our broadband subscription is already capped by the subscribed bandwidth that we pay for every single month. Telcos want to further restrict the data volume that we can transfer (so they will not need to invest more in their infrastructure) WHILST not providing the full bandwidth that we are paying for (substandard is an understatement, IMHO). The "best effort" service that telcos claim is their special privilege, protected by law (I hope not), to screw subscribers. Ask ANY broadband subscriber and chances are s/he only gets 40% of his/her subscribed bandwidth. And don't get me started with the latency issue! And IPv6? Hell, what is NTC doing about this? I hope they are NOT PROTECTING the telcos!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dropped Calls?

This afternoon, I was in a meeting when my Nexus One, running Froyo+ (2.2.1), suddenly rang. I swiped to answer and placed the phone near my ear. I said 'Hello' several times, until I figured out that the other party couldn't hear me - and yes I could hear her. I checked the display and there it was - the phone application crashed! Of all the applications that need to be stable on a mobile phone, the phone functionality should be impervious to any of these bugs. Unfortunately, this is not the case on Android.

I remember people complaining about the iPhone dropping calls, which is both a function of the phone design as well as the mobile network. However, I have yet to encounter an instance when the phone crashed on a production OS - experienced this with beta releases of the iOS running on the iPhone.

It was disappointing to have experienced these basic applications crash on the Android. I remember encountering the SMS application to crash as well. Oh well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

First, this is just a theory, so take it with a grain of salt. Nothing is verified as true. However, I can imagine, right? :D So here goes... what if...

1. The opposition knows that the May 10 election will be rigged primarily because of how Comelec was handling the Automated Election System project -- from procurement to purchase, and later to deployment and use.

2. Knowing #1 above, the opposition needs to have a leader who can rally the people. None of them can do a People Power. However, they saw the potential of Noynoy Aquino, after his mother's death (when they saw the support of the country to Cory Aquino), and immediately devised a plan.

3. Noynoy did not have plans of running for president. He had no ambition to be one. He just wanted to be left alone and do his job as senator - but nobody was taking him seriously. Not a single bill he filed became law. This means that he was not able to get the trust and confidence of his peers - enough to support the bills into law.

4. The opposition turned showbiz by getting Kris Aquino to give hints to the public that Noynoy will continue their parents' fight for a better country. The opposition wanted to test the waters and see how people will react.

5. People reacted positively. Now the political machinery of the opposition started. Noynoy, confused as to what he needs to do, went to a retreat. We know what happened after, now the opposition has someone who can rally the people to another People Power. Did you hear what Noynoy said about this - rallying people this early?

6. On the side of the government, Comelec continued to pretend that it is trying to gain the people's trust and confidence. However, it seemed obvious that they are up to something.

7. The Comelec denied the request of some sectors for a parallel manual count, even for the President and Vice-President positions, just so the accuracy of the PCOS machines can be verified, and more importantly restore the Comelec's credibility. Are they serious about regaining their credibility? I doubt it.

8. Comelec stubbornly ignores the suggestions from other sectors. Now, it conducted field tests in selected precincts in the country --- only to fail!

9. Comelec and Smartmatic admit the error. However, it is a simple error that I don't believe to have happened, had it not been planned. Remember, all PCOS machines are running a version of the software that was supposed to have been reviewed by a third-party company. The main function of the PCOS machine is to read the ballot and count it. How on earth can you say that there is a bug in the software? How can ship this product without testing its main and only feature?

10. Comelec and Smartmatic claimed that it only needs to re-calibrate the software and it can be done via the Compact Flash cards (CF cards). With 2GB of CF card space, one can insert an entirely new firmware into the card and update the PCOS machine! Remember, no more software review possible due to lack of time. The new firmware already pre-determined the winner!

11. The speed by which Comelec and Smartmatic fixed the bug was simply amazing. If they had such good software engineers, how come this bug surfaced in the first place?

12. This entire brouhaha was deliberate! Comelec is hoping for two scenarios - one that the election will be delayed so who ever is their candidate can gain more supporters OR the election pushes through with their new software in place, guaranteeing the victory of their candidate.

13. The opposition is rallying the people for another People Power - whatever the outcome of the polls (unless they win, of course - in that case, tuloy ang ligaya!). They were hoping that they will immediately get the support of the Church, unfortunately they did not. Not everyone believes that there is a need for another People Power!

Again, all of these are simply products of my imagination. However, you cannot help but notice that there MAY BE SOME TRUTH to all of these, right? Scary!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why I think NOT...

A week to go until the Philippines decides who will lead it for the next 6 years. I think I have been vocal enough not to support one particular candidate - a candidate who never aspired to be a president until a younger sister, in a style that can only be seen in showbiz, took advantage of the media coverage, which was meant as a tribute and last respect for their much-loved and revered mother, former President Corazon Aquino, to push him to run. I respect my friends who support this particular candidate - if they believe he can make the country better, then so be it. Unfortunately, there are just some reasons that I honestly think are not valid enough for Noynoy to earn their votes.

This particular Facebook entry, "Why I am Voting and Supporting Noynoy", outlines four points. I can't reply to the post because I do not know the person, but a friend cited it on his Facebook status, so here I am responding.

1. "The battle against corruption". The highlight is the 9-years of corruption done by the current administration. Whilst I am not saying that the current administration is perfect, corruption has been there even during the time of President Corazon Aquino. Noynoy was old enough to do something to curb corruption when his mother was president - if he really wanted to do something, but what did he do then? Why is taking this stance now - only when trying to please the masses to get their votes?

Even if Noynoy is dead serious about ending corruption, are those behind him with him? The same traditional politicians are behind him in his party. I'd give him more respect (and in fact, could have supported him) if he bolted out of his party and ran as independent. What scares me the most are those people behind him - giving him advice, whilst protecting their interests. This happened with his mother before and I am 100% sure it will happen again. Where else will Noynoy owe his victory besides the people? The party, of course. And how will he return the favor to the party? Keeping the interests of the traditional politicians intact and protected. Tell me - who among his supporters never once held power that could have done something to reduce corruption? Weren't they in power before, and yet done nothing against corruption? What made you sure that they will this time?

2. "The collective respect and trust from his peers, the people, and investors". Each candidate has these. These are not unique to Noynoy. And judging from the fact that we are not on the same side says that Noynoy does not have a monopoly on respect and trust from the people. Again, it is not Noynoy per se, I am sure he is a good guy, but everyone else around him.

3. "Noynoy's achievements live up to his advocacies". One question - how many of his bills turned into a law? If he cannot rally his peers in Senate and Congress to support his bills, how can he do the same for his government? Will he rely on people around him? tsk tsk

4. "Noynoy, I believe, is the only one who can rebuild our international image after after (sic) so so so many years". Noynoy only became known internationally after his mother's death, unfortunately, and only when he was convinced that he has the vote of the majority. Think of it this way, if there is a particular presidential candidate, except for Erap (who's a disgrace!), who has international exposure by doing good works, it definitely is not Noynoy.

To my friends, we agree to disagree. Take this as a way to ask you to enlighten me as to why you think he is the best one for our country.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Top 85!

IN the recent Global Informtation Technology Report 2009-2010, World Economic Forum's measure of readiness of IT infrastructure in 133 countries all over the world, the Philippines ranked 85th! And who is to blame?

Personally, I blame this entirely on the government - for failing to institute policies that will enable IT for development in the country. The infrastructure, as provided by commercial companies, need regulation that are friendly to businesses, government agencies and consumers. However, government regulatory agencies, such as the NTC, and government policy-making agency, such as the CICT, both fail in doing its job.

The NTC has always been friendly to the industry players, rather than to its citizens. This agency needs to be abolished right away. Where else can you find a government agency that bows down to corporations, e.g., telecommunications companies?]

The CICT, otoh, has no teeth! I can only formulate policies and make recommendations. It needs to be dissolved, and in its place a full department needs to be established. NTC's functions need to be integrated into this department. We need the department headed by someone who is NOT afraid of the industry players -- one who is pro-consumer! WE need one who can ensure that the country continues to move forward and be stuck at 85th place! S/He should make sure that consumers are PROTECTED from these abusive telcos!

The question is - what will happen after May 10? What are the plans of each candidate? It is best to know early on - so we know if we will remain in the dark ages or progress.

Image courtesy of Orin Zebest.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back on Location

A few days ago, I decided to delete all the location-based applications on my iPhone. I figured that I was giving too much info -- enough for a potential criminal to track me. However, I did not delete my accounts on Gowalla, FourSquare and BrightKite.

After several days of thinking, I decided to enable it again. However, I am now making sure that only a select friends can view my location. Posting it on Twitter and/or Facebook will be done selectively -- only when I feel like broadcasting it to the rest of the world.

Why? Well, I figured that I'd help map the points of interests in places that I visit. That way, the map will be filled with useful information -- allowing others to benefit from it. For example, if I check-in to a particular restaurant, I can post my rating and/or recommendation, so others will know if it is worth their time and money.

Imagine an entry that goes -- if you are thinking of going to Kanin Club at the UP Ayala Technohub, I'd say go there ONLY when you have lots of time to spare. The food is great, at affordable prices, BUT the service sucks! Waiters there do not know how to wait on tables. You need to call their attention to have them refill your glass with water. Also, it takes ages to prepare your food. Average waiting time for your food to be served, 40 minutes! It sucks! I thought it was a one-time thing when our family went there for dinner last December, but it's standard service for them since we went there for lunch last Monday. This is an example of a possible entry you will find -- oh, this is a VALID review! :)

So, if you still haven't jumped the gun on the location-based services, I'd say GO FOR IT and help map our country - highlight the best places for everyone to see.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

iPhone 3GS and Nexus One Javascript Showdown

Here's a comparison of the Javascript performance of the iPhone 3GS browser and the Google Nexus One browser. The Nexus One is 1.15X faster than the iPhone 3GS. This is not that significant considering that the Nexus One has a 1.67X faster processor and twice the amount of RAM, at 512MB. As a benchmark, here's the Javascript performance of Safari 4.0.4.