Thursday, 21 September 2017

SET UP FLOOD SENSORS BUT DO NOTHING ABOUT THE FREQUENT FLOODING

This is a typical case of IT scheiss - ie. "IT bullshit".

Penang has been regularly affected by flash floods over the past few years, with 100 areas affected by the worst flash floods of them all due to the tail end of Typhoon Doksuri which was pretty far way over Vietnam.

The Penang state government blames the Malaysian federal government for not providing the funds to widen the storm drains and deepen the rivers in order to solve or mitigate the flooding, whilst environmentalists and other people blame the Penang state government for not doing enough to stop property developers from clearing away the forestation especially on hill slopes to make way for condo and other building projects. This is pretty evident from muddy brown water flowing down from the hills to the low land areas, as can be seen in the video and photos in Penang-based environmental activist Anil Netto below:-

http://anilnetto.com/economy/development-issues/penang-floods-price-control-irresponsible-development/

In Malaysia, land matters come under the purview of the respective state governments and some people want the Penang state government to do something to improve the drainage and also curb the clearing of greenery by the property developers.

Then on 20 September 2017, Star TV reported that the Penang Island City Council plans to set up flood sensors around the city to warn of impending floods.


https://www.thestartv.com/v/Penang%20plans%20to%20set%20up%20flood%20sensors%20next%20year

How wonderful !!! Set up a system which alerts the authorities that flooding in imminent but do nothing to prevent or at least lessen the extent and frequency of flooding.

What will the Penang Island City Council do when faced with an imminent flood - command the floods to receded, like how King Canute commanded the sea tide not to come in?

This is typical of Malaysia, whether under the Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Harapan  (Pact of Hope),in the case of Penang - i.e. throw gee whiz information technology, including Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, cloud computing, virtualisation, associated smart phone applications, Enterprise Architecture, etc, etc, etc at real world problems but do nothing concrete on the ground to solve or mitigate the occurrence of problems.

Well, that folks, is a load of "IT scheiss"  

Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was right in saying that Malaysians have a first world infrastructure but a third world mentality.

Welcome to the Information and Services Society! 

IT.SCHEISS
http://itsheiss.blogspot.my/


Friday, 8 September 2017

WE ARE HEADING TOWARDS A IT-MEDIATED DYSTOPIAN FUTURE

We are heading towards this dystopia and we can see it happening right now.

If you have dealt with helpdesk, customer support or whatever call centre agents, you will realise that they are following a standard script, with an "if, then, else" process of answers to your questions which the call centre agent must stick to, with all thinking, personal initiative and decision making denied by the system.

About two weeks ago, I banked in a cheque via a cheque deposit machine and I expected to see the sum reflected in my account balance within a few days.

When no funds appeared in my account after about a week, I called my bank's customer support call centre and asked about this payment and was informed that whilst the name of the recipient (I.E. me) written on the cheque was my full name - i.e. first-name, middle name and family name, however my alias was missing.

I then told the agent, "C'mon, I rarely use my alias and few people write my alias on cheques in my favour, so why now?"

The agent replied, "Sorry sir but the computer rejected the cheque because it did not have your alias".

By his reply, it seems that my bank has begun to scan cheques using character recognition technology, so I then told him, "A human handling clearance of the cheque would be able use their discretion to decide that I am the right person by my full name without my alias and clear the cheque, whilst your dumb computer system has more authority over human discretion".

Monday, 21 August 2017

WE NEED REALSPACE, NOT CYBER-SOLUTIONS TO TRAFFIC CONGESTION

Dear Y.B. Lim Lip Eng, Member of Parliament for Segambut,

I refer to the Free Malaysia Today and Malaysia Outlook reports about your Right Honourable asking the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate seemingly exorbitant price the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) paid for the eDrive application which interacts with the Integrated Transport Information System (ITIS), and lets users check traffic current conditions on certain roads on their Apple iPhones, iPads or Android  devices; as well as another RM198 million which the DBKL has spent over six years to maintain and rent the closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and system.

Whilst I'll let the MACC reply to your questions, however what I would like elected representatives like your Right Honourable to do is to ask the relevant highway authorities or concessionaires what they have done in the medium and longer term to remedy and rectify the factors which cause such horrendous traffic congestion on our roads, especially during peak travel periods as this has been a perennial problem in the Klang Valley despite the Integrated Transport Information System (ITIS) which went into operation in 2005 or 12 years ago.

According to ITS Asia Pacific,  the "Key objectives of the system are the early detection of disruptive traffic incidents and, in to collaboration with first responders, to clear the blockages so that normal traffic flows can be restored expediently. The system operates 140 variable message signboards (VMS) and a wide array of automated traffic counters to provide a real time view of the overall traffic network." ITS Asia Pacific is a regional membership-based organisation of intelligent transport system (ITS) operators from across the Asia Pacific region.

http://itsasia-pacific.com/about-its-asia-pacific/examples-of-its-deployment-by-countryarea/2005-2008-integrated-transport-information-system-malaysiati-1/

So ITIS basically provides information to the public on current traffic conditions such as congestion on certain roads in real time so they can decide to take alternative routes, delay their travel time, choose a different mode of transport such as the LRT or MRT. It also lets the authorities remotely monitor traffic conditions and for incidents and despatch first-response teams to clear blockages.

Also, according to The Star, eDrive lets users see a map that shows a 5km radius of Variable Message Sign (VMS) and CCTV view of 40 locations. Those VMS signboards are those electronic signboards mounted on gantries above the roads where ITIS operates and informs drivers especially of adverse traffic conditions ahead and its extent; whilst its Parking Guidance Information System feature lets uses remotely check the current avilability of parking at 14 malls including Suria KLCC, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Low Yat Plaza and Maju Junction.

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2017/07/10/kl-traffic-in-the-palm-of-your-hands-twomonth-test-period-for-new-app-featuring-realtime-cctv-images/#UXXAjZjL2Yw1WSvH.99

I have been writing about the information and communications technology industry (ICT) industry since September 1994, including about eleven and a half years with The Star and I recall having written some articles in which I mentioned ITIS even before it was launched.

I live in Petaling Jaya, close to the horrendously congested Federal Highway and my work required me to travel to venues within the Golden Triangle and where they are not near the LRT line, I had to drive and endure the horrendous traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur on my return, especially if it was after 5 pm and oftentimes I looked up at the ITIS signboard and wondered what is the point of it telling me that the road I am on is congested, when I am in the thick of it and already know only too well that it is congested; especially when this is the same story, year after year, with no end in sight, even until today, and also horrendously congested until today, is the main road in front of The Star, Eastin Hotel, Phileo Damansara I and II.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

SIX DAYS OFF WHATSAPP

I was last on WhatsApp last Sunday and plan to not turn on the WiFi on the phone until tomorrow (Sunday) at least, if not later and without WiFi, the phone won't receive WhatsApp.

Life's great without WhatsApp.

IT.SCHEISS

Friday, 18 August 2017

54,103 GRADUATES UNEMPLOYED SIX MONTHS AFTER GRADUATION - WELCOME TO THE INFORMATION AND SERVICES ECONOMY!

The large number of unemployed university and college graduates has been a perennial problem in Malaysia and also worldwide, especially in the developed countries which hollowed out their manufacturing industries by outsourcing manufacturing work to lower wage countries, whilst paperback writers who sold many books and earned lots of money from speaking engagements which many bums in seats paid plenty to hear their 'words of wisdom' as if they were Moses, descendeth from the mountain, tablets in hand.

So the economic sun set on those countries from which 'sunset' industries departed, whilst the sun rises in those countries to which these 'sunset' industries went, just as when the sun is 'setting' somewhere on planet Earth, it is rising on the other side of our planet.

Well actually, the sun never sets on planet Earth. If it did, we'll all freeze to death.

The latest horror story is that Malaysia has 54,103 unemployed university and college graduates as per the first article below and the solution proposed by an Australian recruitment company in the second article following it is more or less for these graduates to keep running like hamsters on a treadmill, learning and re-learning stuff which will be obsolete in no time in order  to remain 'relevant' in our economy which aspires to be a 'knowledge-based, information economy' as we 'move up the value chain' above the 'lowly' agricultural and manufacturing industries which were solid foundations of the Malaysian economy and still are in fact.

I bumped into the former human resources manager at the company I used to work for a couple of months back and he told me that he now provides human resource consultancy to a rather obscure private university college nearby and I jovially told him - "So, you are working for a graduate factory" and he replied, "Yes, we are churning them out by the hundreds". No wonder there are so many unemployed graduates.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A SURE WAY DIS-ADVERTISE

A sure way to put people off the products or services on is advertising websites or on digital platforms such as tablets and smartphones it to have the advertisement pop up and obscure the view of what one wants to read or watch, often requiring the viewer or reader to click on some 'X' to close the advertisement.

This never happens with print advertising where the advertisement sits passively on a page or part of a page, allowing readers to read it if they so choose if it piques their interest or even to admire the pictures of pretty or handsome persons featured in the advertisement or to even admire its creativity or art.

On the other hand, these pop-up advertisements impose themselves on readers or viewers, some of whom may be doing research for a report, presentation or an article and are in a hurry to meet a deadline.

I for one, just click away such annoying advertisements and don't even remember what was being advertised and I have not bought anything which was advertised online, though I have bought some products or services advertised in print.

This really makes me wonder what idiots those who created such advertisements are by believing that they will endear such readers and viewers to the products or services being advertised by annoying them.

Sure, these idiots may have the technical knowledge and savvy to create such pop-up advertisements but lack the basic common sense to understand that readers and viewers don't like them.

As a result, a whole industry has arisen to develop advertisement blockers or pop-up blockers and their popularity is a testimony to how annoying readers and viewers of websites and digital content find such advertisements.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

FREE MARKETS TEND TO GRAVITATE TOWARDS MONOPOLY

I'm really glad I decided to check up on Nicholas Carr's blog Rough Type, after many years.

http://www.roughtype.com/

Nicholas Carr is no tech-Luddite but a veteran writer on the information technology scene, mostly in the United States and he is noted for having published several books, including The Big Switch, which is about teh rise of Web-based computing, or what is called "cloud computing",which he features on his more professional website at http://www.nicholascarr.com/?page_id=21.

What I like about Nicholas Carr is that he is not afraid to be an IT-contrarian, and expresses himself more bluntly (or you could say "unplugged') on his Rough Type blog, much as I do on my IT.Scheiss blog at http://itsheiss.blogspot.com.

Two of his recent blog posts caught my eye on Rough Type today.

The first is "The digital-industrial complex" which describes how the consumer IT industry and the Internet has become dominated by a handful of giant corporations and how the Web has proven to be a centralising force, which has increasingly consolidated wealth and market power into the hands of a handful of large corporations, rather than a "decentralising force" which Cyberutopians in the 1990s claimed would "empower" a myriad of small players in a competitive free market online and enable them to "compete on a level playing field" with large corporations and even "undermine" them.

I don't know what these Cyberutopians were smoking but if they had bothered to look back at the other industries which came before IT and Internet-based industries, they would have seen how they all began comprised of a myriad of small players competing with each other and providing consumers with plenty of choices, but thanks to the very same free market forces at work within capitalist free markets which they so love and adore, the weaker players were gradually driven out of the market through bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions and so forth, with the industry eventually consolidating down to a handful of corporate giants - i.e. an oligopoly, and the process continues until a giant monopoly player remains. Sometimes governments will break up the monopoly into smaller large players but they will eventually gravitate towards a monopoly again.

Today, Windows of all versions has 91.35% of the desktop operating system market, followed far behind by Mac OS X with 6.29% and Linux with 2.36% and that is despite there being a choice of 3,000 or more different Linux distributions, most of which are free of charge.

https://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=10&qpcustomd=0

Amongst desktop search engines, Google has 79.45% market share, Bing 7.31%, Baidu 7.06%, Yahoo! - Global 4.91%, Ask - Global 0.14%, AOL - Global 0.05%, Excite - Global 0.01% and others combined 1.06%.

https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=0

Simply put, it is a dialectical-materialist reality that if left on their own unregulated, free markets will tend towards monopoly. However, any form of market regulation is anathema to the Libertarian ethos of most Cyberutopians who hate monopolies but at the same time want minimal or zero government regulation of markets, even when regulation is required to forestall the formation of monopolies.

At the end of the day, a monopoly belonging to the people and democratically governed by and answerable to them would be better than  having even a myriad of options in which you have no say, just like the number of You Tubers whose suddenly found their videos being demonetised by You Tube because the "almighty" advertisers do not want their advertisements to be associated with some of their videos which are deemed controversial.

This move by Google (which owns You Tube), has resulted in some content creators who post their videos on You Tube, no longer being able to rely from advertising from You Tube for a living, and there's nothing they can do, not even sue Google, since they have no rights on You Tube, since Google has no contractual or legal obligations to them. So all they can do is to post a video either complaining about Google's stricter enforcement of its old You Tube policies, pleading with Google to be nice to them or lecturing Google that it would serve the company better to revert to the earlier situation.

Well, Google owns You Tube and there's nothing you can do buddy, so forget this entitlement mentality, which is also so anathema to the Libertarian ethos, and get a real job, however shitty, where you at least have some protection under whatever "uggh!!!" labour laws, which Libertarians have so much despised, ranted and raved against so much, however weak they may be in today's Neo-liberal economic environment, thanks to Von Hayekist, Chicago School, Von Misesist policies, which dominate today. 

In his other article "Big Internet", Nicholas Carr describes how some people are beginning to tire of Big Internet centred around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple and are returning to more personal platforms such as blogs.

Well, I'm glad to say that I gave up Facebook and Twitter, though I still use Google for e-mail and blogs and less frequently, WhatsApp.

Nicholas Carr's two articles follow below.

(If you cannot see the embedded images below, please enable viewing images in your e-mail program)

IT.Scheiss



The digital-industrial complex

Exactly fifty years after the hippies gathered in San Francisco, another summer of love seems set to blossom. This time it’s not the flower children who are holding hands and sharing beds. It’s the titans of Big Internet.

Just this week, at its Build conference, Microsoft gave a hug to former adversaries Apple and Alphabet. “Windows PCs heart iOS and Android devices” was one of the big themes of the event — yes, the heart symbol was on display — and Microsoft announced that Apple’s iTunes app is coming to the Windows Store. Microsoft also formed a partnership with Facebook to incorporate an ad-tracking tool into Excel. Meanwhile, Apple and Amazon were engaged in their own public display of affection. They let word leak out that Amazon’s Prime Video app would soon be available on Apple TV. The once fierce rivals appear to have “reached a truce,” reported Recode.

Thanks to their technical and marketing prowess, combined with the winner-take-all dynamics of the internet, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have emerged as the dominant companies of the consumer net (Farhad Manjoo dubs them the “frightful five”), with a combined market cap of a zillion dollars, give or take. Each now operates something of a perpetual-motion money-printing machine powered by the dollars and data that flow in such massive quantities through the net. The companies still face threats, of course, but, even as they sow disruption in other industries, their own market positions now look pretty stable and secure. They’re the winners.

While the boundaryless nature of online business means that each of the five companies competes with each of the others on many fronts, there is also now a symbiosis among them — and that symbiosis is getting stronger. Each of the five makes its profits in different ways, with Apple focusing on hardware, Google on web ads, Facebook on social-media ads, Amazon on retailing, and Microsoft on software sales and subscriptions. Their businesses overlap, but they are also complementary. And, as is often true with complementary products and services, gains by one company often help rather than hurt the businesses of the others. Each of the five is focused on expanding consumers’ dependency on the net, and as the net pie expands so does each of the five slices. At this point, being friends rather than enemies makes sense.

When it comes to business, in other words, the net is a centralizing force, not a decentralizing one as once assumed. The frightful five together form a digital-industrial complex, a nascent oligopoly set to skim the lion’s share of the profits from the consumer web for the foreseeable future. Five big pieces, loosely joined.

On Monday, the venture capitalist Jeremy Philips wrote a column intended as a rejoinder to Manjoo’s warnings about the power of the titans. Philips argued against the idea that, as he put it, “the five leading tech behemoths have turned into dangerous monopolies that stifle innovation and harm consumers.” Their businesses, he wrote, are “all converging — therefore competing — with one another.” His timing was unfortunate, as immediately after the column appeared we got the news of the new partnerships among the companies.

Philips’s argument would have sounded compelling just a few years ago. Back then, the five’s positions were not as well-established as they are now, and their relationships were defined by their skirmishes. That’s no longer the case. Yes, the businesses of the five have converged, but it’s now becoming clear that their interests have converged as well. For Big Internet, this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Image: Actors portraying hippies in “Hair.”

http://www.roughtype.com/?p=7866

Nicholas Carr posted a picture of hippies (actually actors portraying hippies) at the top of his blog. I suppose this is because, like me, he too believes that this Cyberutopian nonsense is influenced by some of the social and countercultural ideals of the hippies in the late 1960s.

They were noble ideals of peace, love, mutual understanding between different races, personal liberty, alternative modes of living, environmentally sustainable living and so forth - which some believed would being about a peaceful world, in which all people are family, but alas, it was just that - a nice ideal which did not come to pass nor bring about a better world 40 or so years later, as is pretty evident from the state of our world today , with growing hatreds, intolerance and wars.

He also mentioned "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius" at the end of his post. Well, below is a video clip of the song "Aquarius" performed in the movie version of the Broadway musical "Hair", released in 1979, though "Hair" was first performed on Broadway, New York in the late 1960s or the early 1970s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhbxI5eVnM4

Well today the big Internet corporations dominate global Cyberspace, less than 30 years after the Internet went mass market, thanks to the legions of content creators who supplied the content which attracted the eyeballs, hence the advertisements which made these companies so fabulously rich.


Also, many publications, both print and online worldwide are being crushed by the Internet giants, which are drawing away the advertising which enabled these publications to survive and thrive, and provide decent employment opportunities for many. (Graphic courtesy of Carpe Diem blog, with figures courtesy the Newspaper Association of America)

I would never recommend a school leaver venture into journalism today, since they could be out of work in their 40s, as the trend which is happening in the US as shown in the graph above, is gradually making its way around the world, especially in countries where broadband penetration is high enough for enough people to forsake print media and even their online or digital versions. Already, Malaysian media is suffering from the competition for advertisements from these non publication media giants, whilst in the U.S. combined print, online and digital newspaper revenue in 2014 was below what it was way back in in 1950. Well, that is the cruel reality.

Whilst each physical village can support only a handful of small businesses, at least the 3.9 million villages worldwide (according to an unofficial estimate) each provide dispersed business opportunities which together add up to a lot.

However, the one global village in Cyberspace provides only a handful of opportunities, which the Internet giants have come to dominate. They have already cornered their market respective spaces and it will be nearly impossible for a newcomer to challenge them in their market space.

In 2011, a venture capital provider advised Internet startups not to develop an application, platform or service already provided by three or more players in Cyberspace, since it will be almost impossible to challenge the incumbents and for the startup to grow.

As Nicholas Carr pointed out, each of the "frightful five" provide different applications and services which can complement each other, and as we saw from the Netmarketshare figures above, the dominant player is usually far ahead of the nearest competitor in their respective product sector.  

Next, Nicholas Carr's post on Big Internet follows below.

Big Internet lost

We talk about Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Ag. Maybe it’s time we started talking about Big Internet.

That thought crossed my mind after reading a couple of recent posts. One was Scott Rosenberg’s piece about a renaissance in the ancient art of blogging. I hadn’t even realized that blogs were a thing again, but Rosenberg delivers the evidence. Jason Kottke, too, says that blogging is once again the geist in our zeit. Welcome back, world.

The other piece was Alan Jacobs’s goodbye to Twitter. Jacobs writes of a growing sense of disillusionment and disappointment with the ubiquitous microblogging platform:

As long as I’ve been on Twitter (I started in March 2007) people have been complaining about Twitter. But recently things have changed. The complaints have increased in frequency and intensity, and now are coming more often from especially thoughtful and constructive users of the platform. There is an air of defeat about these complaints now, an almost palpable giving-up. For many of the really smart people on Twitter, it’s over. Not in the sense that they’ll quit using it altogether; but some of what was best about Twitter — primarily the experience of discovery — is now pretty clearly a thing of the past.


“Big Twitter was great — for a while,” says Jacobs. “But now it’s over, and it’s time to move on.”

These trends, if they are actually trends, seem related. I sense that they both stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence.

So, yeah, I’m down with this retro movement. Bring back personal blogs. Bring back RSS. Bring back the fun. Screw Big Internet.

But, please, don’t bring back the term “blogosphere.”

Image: still from Lost.

http://www.roughtype.com/?p=5010