Saturday, 22 August 2020

I'M SO HONOURED

I can't believe this but the academic paper site Academia.edu has informed me via e-mail that IT Scheiss has been mentioned in two academic papers.

Boy! I didn't realise that my rantings and ravings about the ICT scene would be taken so seriously. However, it's good to know that there are people who consider my critique of the ICT scene valuable enough.
 


However, to obtain further details about these mentions of "IT Scheiss", I will have to upgrade my account for a fee. Well for now, I'm not interested.

Yours trully

IT Scheiss





Tuesday, 18 August 2020

DID MORE USEFUL CHANGES IN MY HOME

 Hello folks,

Continuing with my Doing Something Useful series, I recently made some further useful changes in my home. There's no rocket science involved here but just my desire for convenience and some tidiness.

For a long time, I used to have the extension power bar powering my main desktop computer, monitor and printers resting on my desk. The power bar took up desk space and moreover, most of the cable used to rest on the floor, which required to be lifted up whenever I do any sweeping, vacuum cleaning or mopping. Also, I believe ants on the floor used to walk up the cable onto my desk.

Now some brands and models of these extension power bars, such as the ones shown here have holes for screws to pass through.

I then disconnected the power bar from the mains (please unplug the power bar before to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution if you decide to do similar work).

Found screws of the right length and thickness from my collection - i.e. it should protrude about 3 cm beyond the back of the power bar. In my case I used 2 inches (about 5.1 cm) long screws and 3cm long plastic wall plugs.

I then marked the screw holes to be drilled in the wall. A simple way to do this is to place the power bar where you intend to fix it on the wall, insert the screws in until they touch the wall and knock them gently with a hammer to mark the wall with indentations.

I then found a masonry drill of similar thickness as the wall plug, fitted it to me trusty electric drill, which I powered from another power plug through another extension (not the one I am going to fix to the wall) noted the part of the drill bit which was 3 cm in from the drill head, then drilled two holes of about 3 cm deep at the points I had marked earlier.

I then pushed plastic wall plugs into the two holes I had drilled and they went all the way in smoothly, with a nice fit.

I then inserted the two screws through the holes in the power bar and guided then to fit into the holes in the wall plugs already in the wall and using a phillips (cross-head) screwdriver of the right size, I screwed the power bar firmly to the wall, as you can see in the picture below, where you can see the two black screws.
 
And, below is the power bar with the plugs for my table lamp, computer monitor, computer and additional extension mini power bar for round a flat pin plugs, as and when needed.

I also manage the business e-mail and correspondence of a friend and neighbour with a small business and have dedicated another desktop computer for that purpose and likewise the power bar used to rest on the computer table which took up space.

So out came my electric drill, drill bit, screws and wall plugs and in similar fashion, I mounted a 5-socket version of the 4-socket power bar above on the wall and mounted it to the wall as shown below and also secured the bar's cable to the wall with plastic cable clips as shown. In this case, I used 8 mm cable clips which I have but 10 mm would have been a better fit. I'll make it a point to get box of 10 mm cable clips the next time I'm in a hardware shop or a DIY shop. Whilst I did not show it in the picture of the power bar above for my main computer, however I did fix the cable to the wall in similar manner as shown below.

In this case the leftmost plug powers a fluorescent lamp (not shown) which I can use as and when needed, then plugs for the monochrome inkjet printer, the colour all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printer, scanner and copier, the computer monitor and the computer.

The whole set up of the second PC and printers is shown below. At least I got more space on the computer table.
 Now you may be wondering how the PC above connects to the Internet. Well what is not shown in the picture above is a WiFi-USB adaptor (a dongle) plugged into a USB port at the back of the computer as in the picture below, which enables the computer to connect to my home WiFi router without messy LAN (local area network) cabling running all over my home.

This is not an advertisements for Tenda but below is the box of the same model or WiFi-USB adaptor, which I bought for RM30 from Sri Computer in Low Yat Plaza, Kuala Lumpur. This model has a high-gain antenna which has a longer range to the WiFi router.
Of course, there are many other brands and models of WiFi-USB adaptors you can choose from in the computer stores. Below are a few options, including a Tenda high-gain model I picked up from Sri Computer for RM28 instead of RM30.

And below is another is a Level One high-gain model
My mother bought me an electric drill after I completed Form 5, like way back in 1971 and I kind of taught myself to be a handyman of sorts around the house.

Once again, don't waste your life behind a computer or smartphone screen accessing social media and endlessly chatting about useless politics for hours. Instead, do something useful with your life.

Yours Truly

IT.Scheiss

Sunday, 26 July 2020

DID SOMETHING USEFUL LAST NIGHT

Hello folks,

Instead of sitting on my backside behind the computer screen or wasting three hours talking rubbish (mostly about shitty local politics) in a 24-hour eateries or on social media, I instead did something useful last night.

We've had this drinks stand in the family since the 1970s, if I remember right, and I have to lift it and carry it if I want to move it.



So I bought four casters from Ace Hardware, took out my electric drill, fitted it with a 10mm drill bit - the nearest above the 3/8 inch (9.5mm) drill bit size recommended for these casters, drilled four holes for the caster holders in the bottom of the drinks stand and snapped the castors into place - a job which took about 15 to 20 minutes. 



I normally don't use this as a drinks stand but as a stand to place items, such as books, a fan, computer printer or other things on, so I took out the middle shelf and placed it on top and turned it into a stand for other items, which I can wheel around. 


Don't waste your life behind a computer or smartphone screen. Do something useful with your life.

Yours Truly

IT.Scheiss

Saturday, 27 June 2020

RELYING ON WAZE, NOT ONE'S BRAIN.

This Malay Mail of 26 June 2020 about a motorist who claimed that he ended up driving in the motorcycle lane beside the Federal Highway because he had followed the guidance of his Waze navigation app which was set to Motorcycle mode.


I too use Waze for guidance, especially in unfamiliar areas, but I would not have followed its guidance and driven into a motorcycle lane, and if I inadvertently did, I would have immediately stopped, turned on my hazard lights and tried to back out. Looking at that picture above, that 4x4 off-road vehicle could have easily been driven out of the motorcycle lane across that narrow grass verge back onto the main road.

If this is true, it only goes to show how our reliance on information and communications technology (ICT) tools to guide our actions has resulted in us becoming like robots which will jump off a cliff to their destruction if programmed to do so. For instance, cruise missiles are robots which will seek to destroy the enemy along with themselves in kamikaze-fashion. They just do what they are programmed to do, whatever the consequences to them.

About 10 or so years ago, I used to do product reviews of dedicated GPS navigation devices which necessitated me doing practical field trials of these devices in my car and in one instance it directed me to turn left and drive across an open monsoon drain, which would have resulted in my car getting stuck in the monsoon drain or worse plunging down onto the road on the left which was below the level where I was. In another instance it directed me to turn right, which would have resulted in me having to drive across a road divider, but I used my brain and ignored the guidance which would have otherwise led to disaster.

Hmmm! I wonder what would have happened to me if I was riding in a self-driving car.

Welcome to the information and services society where people use their brains less and less until they become like robots doing what they are programmed to do, with any decision making - i.e. artificial intelligence, however seemingly "independent" or "autonomous", in reality is being limited to decide within the scope defined by the human programmer - i.e. no thinking outside of the box and then our Ministry of Education and education professionals will wonder why Malaysian students don't think outside the box and education CON-sultants will propose courses to teach our students to think outside the box, only for them to be constrained by scripts and flowcharts which constrain them to think within boxes in real life after they leave school.

This reminds me of a direct sales agent telling me about one of her fellow direct sales agents who sold herbal slimming tablets (basically a herbal laxative) to her customers who indeed lost weight but felt weak and went back to the seller who told the customer to buy vitamin and mineral tablets to make up for the loss of vitamins and minerals which were being purged out by the laxative. So spend money on herbal laxative tablets only to spend more money on herbal supplement tablets. 

ICT is making us dumber and dumber, and after "Baby Boomer", "Generation X", "Generation Y", "Generation Z", "Millennials", "Generation Whatever", we'll have Generation I (Generation Idiot).

BTW. I don't believe these age group classifications have the same characteristics worldwide but differ subject to the different material (objective) and subjective circumstances at different places and at different times. For instance, the objective and subjective circumstances in Malaysia back in the 1960s and early 1970s did not give rise to a countercultural movement in Malaysia, such as the hippies in the west which back then was at the height of its post World War II long economic boom, even though many youth of my generation ("Baby Boomer") in Malaysia emulated the outward manifestations of our youth counterparts in the west such as their taste in music, casual dress and hairstyles (usually long) - i.e. uniformity in non-conformity, but that is where the similarity ends. Also, let's not forget that behind such seeming "cultural revolution" are commercial interests out to promote sales of all the accessories, products and merchandise involved, including the narcotics. It's BIG BUSINESS after all ma-h-an!

I see similar robotic behaviour of strictly following an if-then-else script in call centre agents who cold call me to try to convince me to accept their proposed personal loan, which I don't need. and end up enriching the bank with my payments of the interest in addition to my reimbursing the loan amount. After all, banks get rich by milking people like us for the interest - this is the nature of finance capitalism which Vladimir Lenin and others spoke and wrote about - i.e. finance capitalism is parasitic and is based upon getting people, companies and countries into debt and then milk them on the interest.

I often end up losing my cool and screaming at the call centre agent who cannot accept my polite "no", "not interested" reply and instead twist and turn as if according to script to try and get around my polite refusal. Then one day I remember my former colleague Bernard Yeoh's advice and just put my phone face-down on the table and carried on doing what I was doing. Apparently, that call to my phone was active for a long time, as my phone's battery was a;most flat, which must have cost that call centre much money. Thanks, Bernard. Good advice to deal with these pesky sales calls without losing my cool. 

When I see so many of our younger generation going around with their faces buried in their smartphones' screens, I see a bleak future for them, when already there are so many fresh university graduates in Malaysia and in the advanced countries having no choice but to accept gig-economy and zero-hour information and services jobs - i.e. check smartphone app for food delivery assignment (the information part) and deliver the food ordered to the customer (the services part) and get paid per delivery with no job security or medical benefits if they are involved in an accident on the job.

For instance celebrity progressive, left-wing, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University College of Arts and Sciences with a BA in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.  Earlier in high school Ocassio-Cortez came in second in the Microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a microbiology research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans, and in recognition of her efforts, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.

After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx and took a job as a bartender and waitress to help her mother—a house cleaner and school bus driver—fight foreclosure of their home.

So she is a smart cookie but and whilst it's noble of her to help her mother, however why would such a well qualified person have to work as a bartender and waitress? Not that these are demeaning jobs but they are services jobs well below what she is qualified for and there are many well qualified and well experienced people in the U.S., in Europe and in Malaysia who have no choice but to accept jobs well below their qualifications, whilst public and private universities and colleges (graduate factories) crank out graduates lumbered with having to pay back their student loans plus the interest. The education business today are money-making concerns for educational institutions and the banks.

Congresswoman is a services job too, albeit very well paid, and any idiot can become a Congressman, Congresswoman, President, Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Prime Minister, Premier, State Assemblywoman, State Assemblyman, Chief Minister, all of which don't require any academic, trade or professional qualifications - not even a Failed Pre-School qualification, when even bartenders in the U.S. have trade certifications. Perhaps I should send my resume to the Human Resources Manager at Parliament, applying for a position as Member of Parliament.

Anyone read or heard about John Naisbitt, Alvin Toffler, Don Tapscott or Nicholas Negroponte in the media especially after the financial crisis of 2008 ??

In the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, management CON-sultants, seminar speakers, business CON-sultants, corporate heads and government ministers (mostly reading speeches prepared for them which they most probably did not understand) were dropping the names of these futurist authors like confetti at seminars, conferences, press conferences and so forth but especially after 2008, hardly anybody mentions their names or books anymore. I suppose "Information and Services Society/Economy" has become a dirty term, especially when the adverse effects of the U.S. and western economies, with their manufacturing base hollowed out impact upon the majority of working class citizens.

Fortunately, now semi-retired, I'm spared the torment of having to cover such seminars and conferences. After all, the seminar and conference business is about filling as many seats as possible with backsides willing to pay the substantial fee to hear the "words of wisdom" of these speakers who are touted as "prophets" having descended from the mountain with tablets bearing the sacred words in hand. I suppose bullshit sells in the Information and Services Society/Economy, especially after productive, real wealth-creating work - i.e. "sunset industries" leave our shores for lower wage countries which are experiencing a sunrise as a result of the influx of these "sunset industries".

Anyway, The Malay Mail article follows below.

Malaysian motorist ends up in bike lane – after claiming to have mistakenly set Waze on motorcycle mode (VIDEO)

Friday, 26 Jun 2020 05:05 PM MYT

BY TAN MEI ZI

PETALING JAYA, June 26 — A driver ended up cruising through the Federal Highway's bike lane – after he claimed he had mistakenly selected the motorcycle mode on his Waze app.

A Facebook video of the incident taken by a motorcyclist shows the driver in a black sports utility vehicle (SUV) driving down the bike lane heading towards Subang, with his vehicle almost occupying the entire width of the road.

Some motorcyclists overtook the driver to block his path and direct him towards an exit near a bus stop.

One of the motorcyclists can be heard asking if the driver was under the influence.

The Star reported that a police report was lodged against the 53-year-old after the video went viral on Wednesday and he was called in for questioning by the police at 5pm on the same day.

He is now under investigation for violating Section 79 of the Road Transport Act 1988 for neglecting traffic directions and signs.

According to Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal, the driver wound up in the motorcycle lane because he had failed to select the correct setting on his traffic navigation app.

"He was using Waze to get to his destination but because it was set to motorcycle mode, he ended up on the motorcycle lane," said Nik Ezanee.

He also confirmed that the driver has undergone the necessary tests and was not intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The case has been handed over to the deputy public prosecutor for further investigation and the driver faces a fine of no less than RM300 or up to RM2,000 if found guilty.


Yours truly

IT.Scheiss

Sunday, 21 June 2020

HASAN MINHAJ ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NEWS INDUSTRY IN THE U.S.

I started my IT Scheiss blog to refute claims by certain self-styled "new media consultants" that online and digital news media is the "future" of media publishing.

I just came across this Netflix video by Hasan Minhaj about how the news industry in the U.S. is being destroyed.

The News Industry Is Being Destroyed | Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj | Netflix


Yours Truly

IT.SCHEISS

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

TEACHER's UNION FORESEES POORER STUDENTS WILL BE DISADVANTAGED WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE LEARNING

I was at used PC and PC rental company last week and its business owner told me that most demand during this COVID-19 period has been for notebook PC purchases and rentals by parents for their children to study online due to school closures during the movement control order (MCO).

This leaves school students with having to attend class online but as evidence has emerged not only in Malaysia but also in other countries, online education has its shortcomings in the real world of school education, especially at this time when a study by Khazanah Research Institute's (KRI) on how school closures since mid-March had disrupted formal learning for an estimated 4.9 million students in pre, primary and secondary schools nationwide.

Back in the late 1990s when Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) initiative to transform Malaysia, into an "information-rich, knowledge-based economy, high-income economy" by the year 2020 - i.e. this year, and proponents of computers in education in academia, computer and online learning system suppliers and various educational institutions were  touting notions that computers in education and online distance learning would "free students from common, standardised classroom curriculum designed for the industrial age" and enable them to study a choice of subjects suited to their interests and at their own pace, which is "more suited to the information age". 

That's the kind of befuddling gobbledegook spewed out by ICT industry CEOs, ICT industry marketing types, government officials, government ministers, even prime ministers, seminar speakers, new media CON-sultants, management CON-sultants, starry-eyed or opportunistic ICT and Internet futurists at ICT industry conferences, seminars, media conferences and so forth that I had to endure and faithfully regurgitate in my articles, till the point that well over 20 years later today, it gives me as a technical man - psychological trauma when attending such events, especially when I'm not one of those ICT journalists who drinks the ICT industry's Kool Aid or eats the industry's dog food.

Now The Star of 23 May 2020 reports National Union of the Teaching Profession Secretary-General Harry Tan says that disabled and students from underprivileged families will lose out due to insufficient access to online lessons during this MCO and CMCO period and that the government to galvanise aid from various parties across the nation to upgrade and provide Internet connectivity between students and teachers as soon as possible. In reponse to the KRI report, Tan also called for teachers to be retrained to master techniques of distance and online learning.

KRI noted that the closure of schools and shortfalls in teaching and learning activities during this health crisis had affected schoolchildren unevenly. Besides increasing broadband penetration, KRI report called upon the government to ensure all children have access to the needed devices, including making devices more affordable and accessible. It also called upon the government to urgently develop high-quality digital content, perhaps even translating appropriate foreign materials, and to equip teachers with the skills to more effectively use e-learning technologies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education is in the midst of digitising educational material for schools and whilst noting that, former deputy education minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said tha Ministry must find a way to expand the process to encapsulate learning from home, and that the issue of devices and connectivity has to be studied thoroughly and a comprehensive long-term solution has to be developed, and that a portion of the education budget must be allocated towards this and that private-public partnerships was a good way to boost online learning, the former Deputy-Minister said, adding that the uneven learning environment would translate to a wider gap between privileged and underprivileged (urban and rural) students if changes were not done now.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin called upon the government to upgrade Internet connectivity and raise awareness among parents to brush up on their children's digital skills, and that those in need should be identified and subsidised for devices and Internet access. Mak also called upon the government to launch an e-awareness campaign on learning and education that highlights this priority and how it can break the vicious cycle of poverty, and that the Ministry of Education should get teachers who were digital natives (i.e. ICT-savvy) to train their colleagues who are not yet digitally literate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fine words indeed, the likes of which I have heard hundreds if not a thousand times before during my close to 26 years of writing about the ICT industry and government ICT initiatives in Malaysia.

With all due respect to persons and institutions mentioned above, I'm pretty sure that most of the well-intentioned recommendations and suggestions above will be forgotten once this COVID-19 crisis has reduced to a low enough level for physical schools to reopen, or as the Malay expression goes - it will all be hangat, hangat tahi ayam (as hot as chicken shit) and anyone who has been around chickens knows that chicken shit cools very fast after it hits the ground.

Also, those of us who use PCs, smartphones and tablet devices only know too well how these devices, the operating system and software they run by design of the ICT industry soon become "obsolete" and too slow or no longer unable to run the latest software, forcing especially the less ICT savvy amongst us, which is most users of such devices, to spend our hard-earned money to buy new devices which will serve us a few years until they too become "obsolete" and we have to replace them again. Also notice how users cannot easily replace the battery of their smartphone when it runs out, so have to either send it to an authorised repair centre or a third-party phone technician to have the battery replaced at a  pretty hefty cost, so most of us tend to just chuck the phone out and buy a new one. The ICT industry keeps us running like hamsters on a treadmill.


So OK! Let's say the government and the Ministry of Education does implement all of the above recommendations and manages to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas, between the underprivileged and the privileged, between the ICT unsavvy and the ICT savvy.

However, for how long will this last before all the devices become "obsolete" and will the government be able to afford to run like a hamster on a treadmill repeatedly upgrading all the equipment or repeatedly buying new equipment to replace "obsolete" or broken down equipment, and how many parents of underprivileged children can afford to keep coming out with the money to repeatedly buy new PCs, smartphones and tablets with the latest operating system and software or when their batteries wear out and need to be replaced ???

Please think about my question above.

The Star's article referred to follows below:- 

NUTP: School dropout rate will rise

Saturday, 23 May 2020

By LEE CHONGHUI

PETALING JAYA: The school dropout rate is likely to rise post-movement control order (MCO) due to an unequal learning environment caused by the disruption in formal classroom learning in light of Covid-19, says the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Its secretary-general Harry Tan (pic) said underprivileged and disabled students who did not have sufficient access to online lessons throughout the MCO were most likely to give up on education.

"Lack of facilities could cause them to be left behind in the syllabus and eventually grow disinterested when they can't cope with the workload even when they try to.

"This will make them feel inferior and reinforce the notion that since they are poor, they will always be frowned upon, " he said.

The socio-economic gap will ultimately widen in the long run when education is only accessible to the higher strata of society, he added.

To prevent this, Tan urged the government to galvanise aid from various parties across the nation to upgrade and provide Internet connectivity between students and teachers as soon as possible.

"Teachers should be retrained to master techniques of distance and online learning, " he said in response to Khazanah Research Institute's (KRI) report on how school closures since mid-March had disrupted formal learning for an estimated 4.9 million students in pre, primary and secondary schools nationwide.

KRI noted that closure of schools and gaps in teaching and learning activities during the health crisis had affected children unevenly.

The looming economic downturn following the lockdown will hit those from disadvantaged backgrounds especially harder with longer term consequences.

"Apart from strengthening broadband penetration, more needs to be done to ensure all children have access to the needed devices, including making devices more affordable and accessible.

"It is especially urgent to develop high-quality digital content, perhaps even translating appropriate foreign materials, and to equip teachers with the skills to more effectively use e-learning technologies, " the report added.

Noting that the Education Ministry was in the midst of digitalising education at the school level, former deputy education minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said it must find a way to expand the process to encapsulate learning from home.

"The issue of devices and connectivity has to be studied thoroughly and a comprehensive long-term solution has to be developed.

"A portion of the budget should be allocated for this purpose. It's not going to be easy financially but the pandemic has demonstrated that now is the best time to enhance and expedite long-term solutions, " said Kamanlanathan, who is also MIC education bureau chairman.

Private-public partnerships was a good way to boost online learning, he said, adding that the uneven learning atmosphere would translate to a wider gap between privileged and underprivileged (urban and rural) students if changes were not done now.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said unequal education opportunities could create a sense of urgency for the ministry to perform upgrades to Internet connectivity and raise awareness among parents to brush up on their children's digital skills.

"Those in need should be identified and subsidised for devices and Internet access. The ministry could also embark on an e-awareness campaign on learning and education that highlights this priority and how it can break the vicious cycle of poverty, " he said.

He added that teachers who were digital natives should be recognised by the ministry to encourage and train other teachers who were not yet digitally literate.


Take care and stay safe during this COVID-19 health crisis.

Yours truly

IT.Scheiss









Wednesday, 22 April 2020

DIGITAL DIVIDE IN "AFFLUENT" AND "SOPHISTICATED" HONG KONG

In my last IT. Scheiss post, I commented on Perai State Assemblyman (ADUN) and Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang, Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy's statement highlighting the issue of a digital divide, especially with regards to computer, tablet and smartphone-based online learning.


Well today, The Star of 22 April 2020 carries a South China Morning Post article about a digital divide in "affluent", urban and "sophisticated" Hong Kong, between school pupils from wealth families who can afford to provide their children with a device each to use exclusively for online learning on and on the one hand pupils from lower income families who have no choice but to take turns to share devices used for online learning from home when schools are closed due to COVID-19.

Below is an excerpt from the article which cites results of a study which found that students mainly used their devices, whether exclusively or shared, for communication with family and friends and for leisure purposes - i.e. for messaging, engagement in social media, surfing the web, watching videos and so forth. Well, that's also what I had observed about how most people young and old use their devices - i.e. mostly for messaging, social media, for entertainment and some to access information such as news and websites.

However,  when it comes to online learning, the Kong Kong University professor who headed that research project believes that students who do not have exclusive use of a device for online learning will be at a disadvantage to students who do have exclusive access.

++++++
Nancy Law Luk Wai-ying, a professor at HKU's Faculty of Education who spearheaded the research, said when the data was collected last year, students were mainly using electronic devices for communication with family and friends and leisure purposes.

While a complete lack of digital access represented a clear disadvantage, an analysis of student performances showed there was a relatively small difference between those who had to share a device and those who had their own.

"Having access or no access, it makes a real difference. But having to share, when it wasn't the main means of learning, where one needs to t didn't hurt the students' digital competence," Law said.

But that was last year.

While data for the past few months was unavailable – a batch of data covering the 2020/21 academic year will come later – Law believed the sudden emphasis on digital learning would likely have an adverse impact.

"When you have to be online a lot of time when you are learning, if you don't have your own device and have to share, will it affect [one's performance]? It probably would," Law said, adding she had recently heard of a family of four sharing one or two devices between them.
+++++++

This is one of the concerns a friend who had a daughter in one of the 1Bestarinet "Champion Schools" - i.e. if a family with five school going children were to have to share the one PC in their home for online learning, doing and submitting their homework and so forth using the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (Frog VLE), how much time each day would each student within such a family have to study and do their homework online.

Also, as I had pointed out in my earlier post, if school pupils are accustomed to use such devices for messaging, social media and for entertainment, how well would they adapt to use such devices for concentrated learning without falling for the temptations to engage in more frivolous and fun activities on these devices?

As it turned out, use of the Frog Virtual Learning Environment for learning, doing and submitting homework online was found to have been minimal and I don't expect that the use of Google Classroom today will turn out to be very different, especially with school children.

The article in full follows below:-
Wednesday, 22 Apr 2020
1:05 PM MYT

By Chan Ho-him

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have warned of a "tsunami-scale" divide in digital learning after a months-long class suspension that about 10% of Hong Kong students could be weathering without any electronic devices at home.

The university study's findings, released on Tuesday, also found about 40% of more than 2,000 primary and secondary pupils polled said they needed to share electronic devices with their family members, according to data collected during the 2018/19 school year.

About 900,000 kindergartens, primary and secondary school pupils have been out of class since February due to the Covid-19 epidemic, and with most switching to online learning, children from low-income families have faced an entirely new set of challenges.

Nancy Law Luk Wai-ying, a professor at HKU's Faculty of Education who spearheaded the research, said when the data was collected last year, students were mainly using electronic devices for communication with family and friends and leisure purposes.

While a complete lack of digital access represented a clear disadvantage, an analysis of student performances showed there was a relatively small difference between those who had to share a device and those who had their own.

"Having access or no access, it makes a real difference. But having to share, when it wasn't the main means of learning, it didn't hurt the students' digital competence," Law said.

But that was last year.

While data for the past few months was unavailable – a batch of data covering the 2020/21 academic year will come later – Law believed the sudden emphasis on digital learning would likely have an adverse impact.

"When you have to be online a lot of time when you are learning, if you don't have your own device and have to share, will it affect [one's performance]? It probably would," Law said, adding she had recently heard of a family of four sharing one or two devices between them.

Elizabeth Loh Ka-yee, assistant professor at HKU's Faculty of Education, said many teachers had found it challenging to help children lacking online infrastructure such as electronic devices or Wi-fi.

"There is not much teachers can do in terms of students' lack of devices. Some teachers have even worried about a 'tsunami-scale' digital divide [between students with and without digital access] when face-to-face classes eventually resume," Loh said.

Over the past few months, some schools have lent electronic devices to families in need, while principals and non-governmental organisations have provided children with internet services, including giving out pocket WiFi routers and SIM cards.

Law suggested primary and secondary schools should both expand their scope of e-learning and trace students' progress during the online learning period, so different aspects could be improved.

She also encouraged the government, schools and community to work together to provide better infrastructure for disadvantaged students, including donating devices and assisting them with Wi-fi access.

Stanley Kam Wai-ming, principal of SKH Bishop Hall Secondary School, added that schools should be spending more effort in promoting students' digital literacy and competency, something that should go beyond traditional computer or IT classes.

"Parents' input is also particularly important," he said. "During the pandemic, kids will make better use of [time] if parents spend time with them during online learning." – South China Morning Post


The above article is further proof that online learning cannot replace classroom learning, especially for school students and that industrial age "chalk and talk" learning still rules the day.

Take care and keep safe during this COVID-19 crisis.

Yours truly

IT.Scheiss


Monday, 20 April 2020

WELL SAID - Y.B TUAN P. RAMASAMY!

Firstly, I hope you all are well and keeping safe during this COVID-19 scourge which is afflicting us at time and greatly threatening our economy, and livelihoods. 

Thus, right now I am on a self-imposed moratorium on commenting about domestic Malaysian party politics during this COVID-19 crisis which afflicts Malaysia and the rest of the world, as we struggle and sacrifice together as Malaysians to contain and hopefully eliminate the scourge of this disease from our midst.

Let us hope and pray for the souls of those most unfortunately departed due to the virus, may their souls rest in peace; that more of those already infected will recover; and that the number of new COVID-19 cases will decline to zero; and that we all can return to some semblance of normalcy, even whilst continuing to take all precautions possible to avoid the disease and to avoid infecting others.

OK. That said, let me commend Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy, Perai State Assemblyman (ADUN) and Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang state for highlighting the issue of the digital divide, especially with regards to computer, tablet and smartphone-based online learning in the Malaysiakini article following below.

I started writing about the ICT industry in Malaysia from as far back as when I started writing for what was then called In.Tech, the weekly ICT pullout of The Star on 22 September 1994, or about 25 years and six months ago.

Especially during the latter half of the 1990s, I wrote several feature articles about online distance learning based upon inputs from online learning advocates in academia, private schools and companies providing online learning courses and ICT companies providing the equipment and systems for online learning.

e-Education was part of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor's (MSC Malaysia's) Smart Schools "flagship applications", along with e-Government, MyKad, Telehealth, R&D Clusters, Electronic Business and Technpreneur Development "flagships" - i.e. seven "flagship applications" in all.

3. Smart School – to National Education Philosophy, terms to teach and learn for the information-based society.

Whilst some of those "flagship applications" such as e-Government, MyKad (Malaysia's smartcard-based national identity card), electronic business (online shopping, online banking, interbank electronic funds transfers and so forth) and to an extent technology entrepreneur (startup business) development have becomesignificant realities in Malaysia today, however much of the "great realities" and "superiority" of online education and distance claimed by its advocates and proponents have either not materialised at all or have fallen far short of their claims.

Whilst most of the newsprint on which my articles were printed must have ended up as fish, nasi lemak or some wrapper for something else, or has long been recycled into toilet paper and so forth, a fairly recent instance of the failure of online learning is the case of 1Bestarinet, and I covered Frog Asia's and YTL Communications' media event in November 2012 to announce their winning the contract from the Ministry of Education to implement and deploy the first phase of 1Bestarinet.

However, about three years when schools were closed due to heavy haze from Indonesia and students were told to learn from home through 1Bestarinet, the teachers' union, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) issued a statement saying that 1Bestarinet was useless for learning from home.

I won't burden you with the details here but you can read about it in my IT Scheiss blog post below:-

Teachers' union says 1BestariNet useless for online learning from home


In his article below, P. Ramasamy believes that poor children understand the value of computers and of learning through them but they cannot due to issues of affordability.

"It is not that poor children do not know or understand the value of computers or learning through these devices but it is primarily the question of affordability."

Well, he's partly true, especially with regards issues of affordability but from my direct experience of several urban, middle class people who have no problem affording devices such as computers and especially of tablets and smartphones and the high-speed broadband connectivity, including fibre and 4G LTE - is that whilst many of them know how to access social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, You Tube, Instagram  and so forth backwards, however they are lost when it comes to performing more useful functions on their devices such as to serach for information, check their bank account and perform online banking, check their fibre broadband and cellular service provider's bills, check and respond to their e-mail, perform an e-commerce transaction, file their income tax returns and so forth online on their PCs or through their tablets or smartphones, and this is what can be called a tech-savviness divide.

Also, give a child a PC, tablet, smartphone and Internet connectivity and what do you think he or she would prefer to do on it rather than to use it for study?

We've all been children before, since long before we had computers, tablets and smartphones and we all would remember that between sitting down to study, we'd much prefer to go out and play or hang out with friends, unless we had our parents or teachers standing over us with a cane.

There are many more distractions available to both children and adults on computers, tablets and smartphones than there are in realspace amongst our siblings and friends and parents today tend to be more indulgent and allow their children to do what they like both in cyberspace and in realspace.

Also after about 30 or so years of the promotion and advocacy of online and distance learning being "superior" to "industrial-style" classroom learning "in the informationa age", more recent studies have found no clear evidence that online learning yields better results than classroom learning.

It's unfortunate that the need for social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19 rules out classroom learning, especially as long as the MCO lasts, but at the same time, online learning does not look like it will be a viable alternative, especially for school-age children, whatever their financial background, whether rural or urban.

On the other hand, mature students, including adults could benefit, just as they did from snail-mail based correspondence courses or attendance at further education courses ("night school") back in the 1960s, 1950s and even earlier, where many obtained certificates and diplomas in accountancy, secretarial qualifications, vocational training and so forth.

Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy's article follows below:- 
 
ADUN SPEAKS | Digitalisation bridges or reinforces inequality?

P Ramasamy

Published 10:47 am Modified 11:23 am

ADUN SPEAKS | Under the conditions of the present pandemic with the movement control order (MCO) in place, the country is almost in a state of shut down except for essential services.

While it is a great relief to students and parents that some examinations are cancelled or postponed, the real question in their minds is whether there will be continuous education beyond the classroom.

The imperative of digital transformation to meet the challenges of the 4.0 Industrial Revolution has been much talked about and there have been some serious efforts to bridge the digital divide.

The importance of e-learning or learning through the internet might not have reached its present urgency or demand without the MCO.

The MCO has laid bare our unpreparedness or inability to ensure children have access to learning through the computer, having access to the internet and availability of information.

The Education Ministry was forced to admit that online education might not be effective. It is not because online education is different from straightforward classroom teaching, but simply because of the digital divide between those children who have access to computers and internet services and those who do not.

Children in rural or remote areas don't even own computers and forget about whether these areas are connected with internet services.

It is just not a regional divide, but a class divide between those from the lower and higher socio-economic backgrounds.

Thus, regional and class divide reinforce one another to the extent that school children in rural areas are denied the benefit of online education.

Over the years, the government has spent billions in bringing about development in rural areas, but whether such a move addressed the issue of the gap between the rich and poor remains unclear.

The repeated reference in bridging the digital divide was more at the level of propaganda than anything else.

Long before the Coronavirus pandemic, our system of education was not prepared or did not lay the foundation for online education.

Not that there were no efforts at all, but the initiatives might not have benefitted all children equally.

Even in areas that are wired with services, poor children cannot afford to buy necessities such as computers or mobile phones for access.

It is not that poor children do not know or understand the value of computers or learning through these devices but it is primarily the question of affordability.

Putting food on the table under the MCO seems more of a priority for poor families.

However, children in urban areas, especially those from the middle and upper-class families might not experience the same misfortune.

This is why it is often said that bridging the digital divide might not be as simple as it seems as it might invariably bring about inequality among the people.

P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister (II) of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


Way back when Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak was Education Minister, I asked him on the sidelines of a media event in Cyberjaya whether Smart Schools would create a generation of idiots by the Year 2020 - i.e. now and he replied "No". Well I leave you to figure out the answer to my question.

What we know today is that according to figures by the Ministry of Higher Education, 50% of our university and college graduates are unemployed, whilst graduate unemployment amongst ICT graduates is higher at 60%, and some of these graduates may have delivered your lunch or dinner by motorcycle for a living. 

Welcome to the Information and Services Economy!

Take care and stay safe.

Yours truly

IT Scheiss

Yours most

Friday, 14 February 2020

STAGNANT WAGES, RISING COSTS LEAVE LESS DISPOSABLE INCOME TO SUPPORT SERVICES INDUSTRIES

I was sceptical about various futurists' predictions that the services economy would increasingly become prevalent over the industrial economy, especially in the west, since as far back as 1979 when I first heard about it from a fellow university student.


As it has turned out of course, over the intervening years this has been the case especially in the advanced industrial countries of the west, as well as some of the developed countries and regions in the east, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, and it's also so in advanced, resource and agriculturally-rich countries such as Australia and New Zealand, booth of which never had any major domestic manufacturing industries to speak of anyway, besides domestically-based, foreign-owned  automotive, home appliance and other assembly plants, plus some domestic plants producing chemicals and parts such as pipes and materials used by the agricultural, resource extraction and construction industries. 

As for the past trend where major employment had shifted from the agricultural (farming) to the manufacturing sector due to the growth of large farms where mechanised farming methods had replaced the need for a large number of human workers, as well as the preference amongst agricultural workers for industrial jobs - were much cited by these futurists as the basis of their predictions that a similar trend was taking place from manufacturing to information and services jobs, especially in the advanced countries of the west; however what these futurists did not mention is that this trend observed especially in North America and Western Europe especially after World War II, was largely due to  manufacturers in the west moving their more labour intensive manufacturing operations out to lower wage countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and after the end of the Cold War, to China and Vietnam, all of which were recipients of these "sunset industries" which were being moved out of the west to take advantage of cheap labour in these Asian countries.

Where these "sunset industries" moved to, there was an economic sunrise, as people who worked, even in sweatshops earned a higher income and more spending power, which in turn fueled their respective domestic economies, and some of these countries, notably Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and today China learned the technologies which came in along with the industries and developed their own home grown technologies to the extent that they became developed, advanced economies themselves which competed with the west and likewise, labour and cost of land rentals became expensive, sometimes even more expensive than in the west, and they too began to shift their labour-intensive operations ("sunset industries") to neighbouring lower wage countries, thus adding to their economic "sunrise".

Whilst countries like Malaysia and Singapore did not develop their domestic manufacturing industries to the extent that they could compete head on with the advanced countries in the west and in Asia, however wages and standards of living, as well as costs did rise to the extent that especially multinational companies also began to move their labour-intensive manufacturing facilities, such as of computer hard disks, semiconductors, cigarettes, fast-moving consumer goods and so forth out to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and so forth where labour is still relatively cheap and costs lower.

It was this concern, that prompted Malaysia to embark on developing its own information and communications technology industries, especially in multimedia and content creation, as well as the hosting in Cyberjaya of outsourced and shared services, such as centralised internal administrative functions such as order processing, invoicing, payments, accounting, human resource management and so forth serving either nationally-based subsidiaries of the whole enterprise worldwide or its subsidiaries across countries of a region such as the Asia Pacific. Some examples of these include HSBC and Standard Chartered, as well as Jabil's Global Business Center at Mayang Mall in Penang and others. Also, Malaysia sought to attract multinationals to base their regional or global customer service centre, or global managed services centres in Cyberjaya or other parts of Malaysia. Besides that, major call centres also set up operations in Malaysia.

For example:-

Global Business Center (GBC) affirms Jabil's commitment to Penang


Penang, Malaysia – October 25, 2018 - Jabil Inc. (NYSE: JBL) today officially opened its Global Business Center (GBC) in Penang's GBS@Mayang, after relocating from Bayan Lepas Industrial Park earlier this year. The center marks a milestone for Jabil's growth, which has continued to expand operations in Penang since 1995.

The Jabil GBC started with just 200 employees and has since made a home in Penang employing approximately 950 professionals. Today, Jabil's GBC – combining the company's global information technology, supply chain management, centralized procurement, and finance global business solutions functions - supports over 180,000 Jabil employees around the world. It is one of the largest shared services centers in Penang. Jabil will occupy two floors measuring 72,700+ square feet, with the capacity to accommodate an additional 1,100 people as needed.

Gary Cantrell, Jabil's senior vice president and CIO, said, "We are proud of Jabil's journey in Penang. This new space brings our shared services team under one roof, while fostering better employee interaction, collaboration, and innovation. We continue to invest in technology to drive solutions for our internal and external customers. Furthermore, our new office will provide better infrastructure and accessibility with its centralized location within the Bayan Baru district."

Shared services will be driven by new technologies such as predictive analytics and big data to enable faster and more accurate decision support. And, Penang's highly skilled workforce and conducive ecosystem will allow Jabil to scale over time.

Cantrell was on-hand to formally open the GBC at GBS@Mayang, in the presence of Yang Berhormat Zairil Khir Johari, Penang State Executive Councillor for Public Works, Utilities & Flood Mitigation, representatives from the Penang Development Corporation and investPenang, as well as additional executives from Jabil.

YB Zairil said, "Jabil's move to GBS@Mayang is an acknowledgment of Penang's capabilities in providing first-class infrastructure, skilled manpower, and value-added services. It also reaffirms their continued commitment to Penang. We are pleased to be a part of Jabil's growth journey."


The Florida-headquartered Jabil provides design, engineering manufacturing and supply chain solutions for a wide range of industries including automotive, aerospace, defense, healthcare, telecommunications, computing and others and most of its facilities in Penang are involved in the design and production of circuits and solutions for these industries. The company had recently expended its operations into a plant on 20 acres in the Batu Kawan Industrial Park in mainland Penang, so R&D and production is still Jabil's main business in Penang.

Also, large computer-based graphic design and video post production have set up shop in Malaysia to take advantage of lower skilled labour costs than for similar skilled work in the west, and some of these offshore production centres, including U.S. owned ones, have contributed major parts of big-name Hollywood films which have graced our cinemas in recent years.

Many of the above operations are pretty labour-intensive and are said to "provide mass employment in the information age". However, the question remains as to whether they can provide enough mass employment to replace the jobs lost from the assembly and manufacturing plants which have and are moving out of Malaysia.

As I had written in my earlier posts, most of the production floor workers in the National Semiconductor integrated circuit assembly plant in the Senawang Industrial Park where I got my first job back in 1980, had an SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education, Form 5) qualification or lower such as SRP (Lower Certificate of Education), whilst most line supervisors has an STPM (Higher Certificate of Education, Form 6) qualification.

When I watched the presentation about Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) initiative by Multimedia Development Corporation's (MDeC's) first Chief Executive Officer, the late Tan Sri  Dr. Othman Yeop Abdullah at a Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC) Annual General Meeting back in the 1990s, where he spoke about how the information and services jobs created by the MSC Malaysia initiative would replace those industrial jobs lost, I wondered whether most my former colleagues in that National Semiconductor plant would be able to upgrade their skills to participate in Malaysia's digital economy.

Perhaps my fears were mostly unfounded, since almost all the production floor workers were young women in their late teens and early 20s in 1980, who by the time of Tan Sri Othman's presentation would be approaching their 40s and would mostly be married with children by then and would most likely have left long their production plant jobs but then could their younger replacements upgrade their skills to work in Malaysia's digital economy. Tan Sri Othman did not have an answer to my question.

Meanwhile, that National Semiconductor plant in Senawang closed down around the time of the economic downturn in the late 1980s. By then, I had long moved on and was happily working as a computer service engineer.

Also, MDeC has since been renamed the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

However, more recently, Western Digital closed and sold off its hard disk production factory in Petaling Jaya at the end of 2019, whilst its service centre is now in Singapore.

"After over 20 years in operation, Western Digital Corporation announced that it will be shutting down its HDD (hard disk drive) manufacturing facility in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, by the end of 2019."

Also, Seagate closed down and sold off its hard disk production plants in Penang and in Negeri Sembilan in early 2017 and moved some of its operations to Thailand. However Seagate has maintained its plant in Senai, Johor.

"US-based disk storage solutions firm Seagate Technology Plc, which is in the process of shutting down its manufacturing facilities on Penang Island and in Negeri Sembilan, is hoping to dispose of them for a total of RM130 million."

"The closure of the plants is in line with Seagate's global restructuring strategy, which includes relocating some of its Malaysian operations to Korat, Thailand. It was previously reported that Seagate was winding up its operations in Penang and Negeri Sembilan owing to weak demand."


"However, Seagate will continue to operate its facility in Senai, Johor."



Also, recent reports have said that several remaining semiconductor production plants in Penang have downsized and have laid off some of their workers.

When I visited Intel's research and development plant in Penang in 2013, I learned that whilst it was increasing its research and development operations in Penang, however it was gradually moving its production and test operations out of Malaysia.

On 22 April 2016, The Star reported that Intel had already moved its manufacturing operations of "mature products for the desktop PC market" to its facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Chengdu in China.

Intel's design and development facilities employ mostly engineers and scientists with degrees in electronics, electrical and chemistry, whilst manufacturing and assembly plants mostly employ people with more intermediate skill levels such as SPM, STPM, certificate or diploma and whilst in an ideal world, everyone can even qualify with a PhD but in reality people's academic abilities tend to be concentrated mostly around intermediate levels, so it's unrealistic to imagine that everyone can obtain a science or engineering degree to be able to work in these higher skilled jobs. 

Besides that, an oversupply of university graduates is evident in about 50% of university graduates being unemployed, according to the Ministry of Higher Education, and amongst them, 60% of ICT graduates are unemployed or underemployed.

Well now we read of and hear reports of a number of engineering graduates with honours degrees having to find work delivering food for services such as Foodpanda or Grab Food, driving e-hailing taxis such as Grab, working as home and office cleaners, opening small businesses selling drinks and so forth just to make a living.

I suppose the nett loss of productive facilities which provide mass employment are amongst some of the reasons why the Penang and Selangor state governments have allowed rampant property development projects, despite there already being an excess of available properties in the market, whilst the government has lowered the minimum property price for foreign buyers down to RM600,000 per property. Perhaps, state governments and local authorities hope to collect quit rent and assessment from the owners of these properties.

I suppose school levers and unemployed graduates can find work as real estate agents, though since their income is mostly based upon commissions from property sales made, if they can't sell a property, they get no income.

Perhaps more Malaysians will become. sales promoters, unit trust consultants, insurance agents, telemarketers and so forth and we can earn an income selling unit trusts, insurance policies and so forth to each other.

And let's not forget the oldest services industry - i.e. prostitution. The government should consider legalising, regulating prostitution and health-certifying prostitutes as Malaysia increasingly becomes and information and services economy. ;)

This way, Malaysians can continue to afford to by a whole lot of consumer goods, such as smartphones produced by productive industries in neighbouring countries to which these "sunset industries" have moved.

Meanwhile, an article by Helen Buyniski in Russia Today of 13 February 2020 points out that the success of services industries, such as those in the U.S. mostly depend upon the disposal income of citizens to be able to purchase these various services and wages in the U.S. have been stagnant in the past 50 years, whilst cost of living has been increasing and an increasing number of  employment in the U.S. is in gog economy jobs and when 78% of American workers are living from paycheque to paycheque, they do not have the disposable income to make purchases, which support services industries, which will eventually collapse.

I have listed some key excerpts from Helen's article below:_      

"a 2019 survey found 78 percent of American workers were living paycheck-to-paycheck , and similar scary figures have graced financial headlines for years."

"It's common knowledge that as cost of living has increased in the last half-century, American wages have stagnated. But the reality is actually getting worse - since 2006, median wages have actually declined 9 percent when adjusted for inflation, according to the PayScale Index ."

"While Trump may praise the country's swelling employment numbers to the sky, many of those are gig-economy positions that offer no benefits or real job security and don't come close to replacing the long-term career-oriented jobs wiped out in the financial crash of 2008."

Well, Malaysia is heading towards that dystopian future too, whatever Tun Dr. Mahathir, Lim Guan Eng or Azmin Ali may say.

The full Russia Today article follows below:_ 

Almost a THIRD of US workers can't live on their paychecks, spelling doom for a service economy based on discretionary spending

Helen Buyniski - is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

 Almost one in three American workers can't quite make ends meet in between paydays, a new survey has revealed. This doesn't bode well for the US' service economy, where discretionary spending is the major driver of growth.

Some 32 percent of US workers are unable to stretch their salaries to cover their needs, according to a survey published on Tuesday by Salary Finance. Nor is this inability to make one's paycheck last limited to poor and working-class individuals - the poll queried over 2,700 adults working for medium- to large-sized companies about their finances and found that even among those making over $200,000 annually, 32 percent "always" or "most of the time" ran out of cash before payday.

Certainly, the insufficient-funds problem is more severe for those making under $15,000 per year - fully 40 percent, or two in five, are unable to make ends meet on that salary. But no matter how high up the pay scale one goes, the problem stubbornly refuses to vanish.

When "living paycheck to paycheck" - once the hallmark of the stressed-out working poor - becomes an aspirational goal, it's clear the US economy is in trouble. But this isn't a bolt out of the blue: a 2019 survey found 78 percent of American workers were living paycheck-to-paycheck , and similar scary figures have graced financial headlines for years.

How, then, might Americans square the slow collapse into poverty they see in themselves and their neighbors with the vision of golden prosperity laid out by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union earlier this month, bolstered by facts and figures that surely no one could refute? It's common knowledge that as cost of living has increased in the last half-century, American wages have stagnated. But the reality is actually getting worse - since 2006, median wages have actually declined 9 percent when adjusted for inflation, according to the PayScale Index . While Trump may praise the country's swelling employment numbers to the sky, many of those are gig-economy positions that offer no benefits or real job security and don't come close to replacing the long-term career-oriented jobs wiped out in the financial crash of 2008.

Also on rt.com That's a bit rich: Biden says paycheck doesn't matter, jobs are 'about dignity'

At the same time as workers make hardly more (or even less) than they did 40 years ago, average consumer prices keep on creeping up, increasing 2.3 percent in the last year alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Healthcare costs increased by more than twice that rate. But Americans keep consuming at the same rate they have all their lives, accustomed to a certain standard of living. Shopping is second-nature to those raised in the service economy of the post-NAFTA years, taught to express themselves in their purchases. It is this cultivated need to consume as a core function of their humanity that has kept that economy alive, fed on discretionary dollars. This is not irresponsible or frivolous spending, either - a nation of perpetual customers who can be counted on to spend their surplus income on products they don't necessarily need but have been told they want and deserve has been absolutely critical to keeping the economic engines running.

And when those customers run out of surplus income? They're already out, for one thing - nearly half (48 percent) of respondents to the Salary Finance survey admitted they don't have any money set aside, even for emergencies. Consumer credit card debt hit a record $930 billion earlier this week, dwarfing the numbers seen during the 2008 crisis. Even before taking into account student debt - a crisis in itself - and mortgage debt approaching 2008 levels, the American consumer, once liberated by the ability to buy anything they wanted, is now weighed down by the hangover from a decade-long shopping spree.

This is uncharted territory. The only certainty is that business as usual - debt bubbles swollen beyond absurdity while the supposed adults in the room are literally swimming in too much money to care - can't last forever.

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No. This can't last forever and when there is such a huge property overhang, I suppose real estate agents can sell these properties to ghosts who will pay for them with Hell Money.

A couple or so years back, someone bought three dilapidated bungalows down the road from where I live, I understand for RM1 million each. They were torn down and rebuilt into three identical, modernist looking bungalows complete with a swimming pool in the front yard each and I understand their new owner is asking for over RM2 million each.

Well, they still stand unsold, with real estate agents' posters on the front gate until today.

A predominance of speculative (such as real estate), services and information industries over productive, real wealth-generating industries is a sign of an economy in decline.

Despite whatever rubbish various paperback writers, economic, business and management CON-sultants have told us, reality testifies that the economic sun sets where "sunset industries" move out from, leaving behind "sunrise industries", whilst the economic sun rises where "sunset industries" move to, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and so forth.

Meanwhile, Star Media Group should be releasing its fourth financial quarterly report 2019 (Q4 2019) sometime in the last week of February 2020. It will be interesting to see if it manages to buck the series of consecutive quarterly declines in quarterly revenue and nett profit, or will it manage to make a turnaround.

Like many other media companies worldwide, Star Media Group has been adversely impacted by a commonly observed trend where despite having an online and digital platform presence in addition to its print edition, however print advertising revenue has been observed to provide the bulk of a publication's advertising revenue but at the same time has been dropping between 8 and 10 times as online and digital advertising revenue has been increasing and moreover, for most publications worldwide, online and digital advertising revenue comprises around 10% of total advertising revenue.

Once a publication goes online and/or digital, it faces competition for advertising from the likes of Google and Facbook, as can be seen in the chart below and both Google and Facebook can customise advertisements relevant to the country the viewer is in to appear based upon their IP (Internet Protocol) address detected and moreover most Internet users, including myself are annoyed by such advertisements popping up and obstructing our reading or viewing experience and many of us install ad-blockers to try and block them or just close them and get on with our reading or watching.   


As for online or digital only publications, including the many alternative publications in Malaysia, for most of them, their advertising revenue is not enough to sustain their continued operations and many are propped up by un-named financiers behind the scenes - i.e. sugar daddies who keep them afloat for personal reasons or to serve their respective political agendas, whilst others struggle to survive through paid editorial deals.   

Given the above media scenario, I would never advise a young school leaver to embark on a career in journalism in the hope that it will remain a viable paying career, since they could be out of work in their mid forties when they are lumbered with the burdens of a wife and of having to pay for their children's schooling, of having to pay off their car and housing loans.

Instead, aspiring writers will require a main source of income from another job, profession or business, whilst they write for free in their free time.

With few exceptions, this is the future of journalism as I see it. Thankfully, I'm an old fart enjoying my semi-retirement.

In his book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter spoke about Creative Destruction, in which he proposed that companies need to "reinvent themselves" or upgrade their operations and workflows with new technologies, but in the case of media, the creative has proven to have been unable to make up for the destruction.

I started this blog IT.Scheiss in March 2012 to refute the nonsense about online and digital platforms being "The future of journalism" by opportunistic, self-styled, new media CON-sultants. Besides such refutations, I have also expanded IT.Scheiss to refute other nonsense peddled by Internet idealists, tech-marketers, opportunistic futuristics, authors and seminar speakers who earn fees from attendees who pay to listen to their "gems of wisdom".

Welcome to the information and services economy and the dystopian future for most which lies ahead.

Yours most truly

IT.SCHEISS