Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Aftermath of the Hostage Crisis @ Quirino Grandstand

Three (3) days have passed since that fateful night when 8 HK tourists were killed during a hostage-taking event by an ex-cop who was axed due to extortion charges. Fingers are pointing everywhere as who is to be blamed. I sympathize with the family and the HK people over the obvious bungling of the Philippine National Police SWAT (Sorry Wala Akong Training) team.

Anyway, several hostage situation experts have voiced their opinion on what went wrong. There was one guy from UK's Scotland Yard who gave his comments at today's Inquirer. Some of them made sense -- ex. there were several instances when a sniper could have taken Mendoza out; or when a negotiator could have disarmed him since they were very close; etc.

But one comment from him stood out particularly for me because it sounded so logical. He basically said -- why didn't the government just agree to his demands? After all, it wasn't as if the guy was asking money to be wired to a Swiss bank account and to be provided with a fully-fueled, getaway jet plane. He was just asking to be reinstated to the police force. So why didn't the police just agree to reinstate him, then on the next day, imprison him for hostage-taking. Its not as if anyone will expect them to hold onto their word since any promise given under force or coercion is invalid and is most probably not legally binding anyway.

Wouldn't that have ended everything peacefully if they did?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spartacus Blood and Sand Fantastic Season Finale

Just finished watching the 13th and final episode of the first season of Spartacus Blood and Sand, and wow! What a first season it was! The series is produced by Starz network and plays mainly in cable channels because of its very graphic violence and tons of nudity in every episode. The production is like a cross between Ridley Scott's Gladiator and Frank Miller's 300.

I first heard about Spartacus Blood and Sand from an article by Philippine Star columnist Scott Garceau. The review was not very flattering but it made me curious enough to try it out for a few episodes. Then I got hooked! A more detailed plot summary can be found here.

The cast is just perfect. Little known Australian actor, Andy Whitfield, plays the lead role of Spartacus. John Hannah, from The Mummy, plays Batiatus, the owner of the ludus or the gladiator training school where the whole story takes place. His insatiable thirst for power and political office is complemented by his equally power-hungry wife, Lucretia, played by New Zealand superstar Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess fame. Manu Bennett, as the Gaul gladiator, Crixus, was perfect. The tension between him and Spartacus from the start up to the end; culminating to them joining forces was a bit expected, but provided the perfect ending.

A little trivia -- it seems that the series, as broadcasted in New Zealand, does not show any nude scenes of Lucy Lawless. They edited it all out. Actually, Spartacus is being shown on HBO already. I've never watched it on HBO though so I don't know how they managed to edit out all the nude scenes as there are just too many of them.

Unlike the other TV series I've followed, Flash Forward, Heroes, and Sarah Connor Chronicles, this one actually finished the season nicely. Even if they completed decide to not do a Season 2, the closure is already perfect. There are no plot lines left hanging. Season 2 should be a completely new storyline already.

Really looking forward to Season 2. According to news, the filming of Season 2 was delayed due to Andy Whitfield's health condition. During that time, Starz decided to do a 6-episode prequel. That should be great too!

How to Undo a Sent Email with Gmail

Accidentally sent an email via GMail? Not to worry -- you can "un-send" it. Well, that is, if you enabled the unsend feature through one of the Google Labs features. There's really no magic to it. What GMail does is basically just delay the sending of your email if this feature is set. You can set the delay to 10 secs, 30 secs, etc.; whatever you think is a reasonable time for you to react if you want to take back what you just sent.

I love GMail and I think its one of the most powerful email program out there. But I was surprised by this article that shows Hotmail has more than double the number of users. I guess it is mainly first mover advantage since Hotmail has been around much longer. But still, its surprising to know that those users have not moved to another free email provider since.

Even more surprising with that same article is that Skype has 590 million users -- that's 90 million users more than Facebook. I previously thought that Facebook was already the 900 lb gorilla, but Skype actually has more subscribers? How can that be? Not that many people use VoIP vs. Facebook. Maybe they count the Skype licenses used on hardphones?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sending Email to Undisclosed Recipient List with GMail

I've always wondered how one sends email to multiple recipients in Gmail while keeping the "To:" address list as "undisclosed". I would normally put some generic email address on the "To:" box (ex. myself, or some info@xxxxx address) just to keep it filled, then put the real recipients on the "Bcc:" list so that they do not appear to each other.

As it turns out, the "To:" address in GMail is optional. It does not really have to be filled-in. So to send to a list of undisclosed recipients, just put all the addresses on the "Bcc:" box and keep the "To:" box empty! It works and does not prompt an error about having an empty "To:" box.

Globe DUO All-in-One Mobile and Landline

I activated my Globe Duo (combo mobile and landline on a single phone) today by texting DUO MM ON to 8888. Even though the mobile phone companies basically just copy each other's Value Added Services (VAS) and giving it a different name, it is interesting to note that neither Smart nor Sun seem to have done anything similar to Duo.

The concept of Duo is simple -- you have one Globe SIM with two numbers associated to it: the usual mobile number, plus a landline number. When you place outgoing calls to a landline, it automatically selects your landline number so that it becomes an unmetered, local landline-to-landlne call. When you call a mobile number, it automatically selects your mobile number as the call originator so that its treated as a mobile-to-mobile call. And people can call your phone whether they dial your mobile number or your landline number.

Globe charges postpaid subscribers P399 per 30 days for the service. There is a minimum lock-in period of 3 months from the time the service is activated. After that, you are free to deactivate it anytime.

P399 per month is actually not cheap. In comparison, I'm only paying P250 per month for my PLDT wireless landline. But the reason why I prefer Duo is because it does not require a separate phone. As it is, I already have 2 mobile phones -- 1 Globe and 1 Smart. Adding a 3rd phone for a PLDT landline is a bit too inconvenient already. Besides, I availed of a P250 per month discount with Globe for the next 24 months as part of their retention program. So the net addition to my subscription is only P149.

As a little bonus, I received a pretty good number as my landline number -- 9xx-1111. It almost looks like a vanity number, but its not. I just got it by pure randomness. I did not pay any extra to get assigned that number.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bad Experience Opening an Account with EastWest Bank

I went to the Katipunan Branch of EastWest Bank this Monday to open a corporate bank account for Dragonpay Online Payments. I got there at around 2pm and there was only one lady at the customer service counter and one teller. The Katipunan branch is actually in White Plains already, and not in the Ateneo area of Katipunan.

The customer service lady told me that EastWest has this zoning policy which basically says that a branch can only accommodate account openings for individuals or companies whose registered address is in the geographical vicinity of the branch. Since Dragonpay is officially registered as a Makati company, she said that she cannot open an account for me at Katipunan. She added that she will have to consult with her branch manager (who was not there) if she can open an account for me since my residence is closer to this branch.

To save myself the trouble of dragging Cols again to the branch to sign documents, the lady agreed to let me take home the signature cards and other application forms. Then once she gets confirmation from the branch manager that its ok to proceed, all I have to do is drop-off the signed documents.

The next day (Tuesday), I called the branch for an update on the approval. The lady said she did not have it yet but promised to call me within the day. The day passed; no call. The next day (Wednesday), I called the branch again and looked for the same lady. Again, she promised to get back to me within the day for an update. The day passed again with no call from her. Very poor customer service!

Thursday came and it was Quezon City Day, so the branch was closed; not that I was actually expecting them to call. I decided to just bring the signed application forms and signature cards to the PBCom branch of EastWest along Ayala Avenue. Since the docs were already signed, Cols did not have to go with me anymore.

The two guys manning the customer service also seemed totally clueless when it came to opening corporate accounts. They were obviously greenhorns and had to ask for help from other officers with almost everything that I inquired about. They were actually more pre-occupied entertaining the guy deployed by their IT department to fix the PC's there, than to entertain clients. One can really see the difference between big banks like BDO, BPI, Metrobank and these smaller/mid-size banks when it comes to training their personnel and providing decent customer service.

After about 30 mins, I finally got an account opened. I can't believe it actually took me four (4) days just to open an account with EastWest. Contrast that with my experience with BDO, Unionbank and Metrobank where account opening takes less than half-an-hour from the time you enter their doors.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Linking Facebook Messages to Twitter

Maintaining too many social network sites? The Facebook / Twitter integration makes it much simpler. You just need to post messages on your Facebook wall, and Facebook takes care of re-posting it to your Twitter page. The steps are very simple and straightforward:
  1. Login to your Facebook account.
  2. Open a new window or tab and login to the Twitter account that you want to post to.
  3. From the Facebook window / tab, go to
  4. Just pick the Facebook page you want to Tweet and click the link button
That's all there is to it. My Dragonpay Online Payment Facebook Page is now sending tweets to my Dragonpay Twitter page.

Getting a Vanity Name for my Facebook Page

Ever wondered how some sites get to have a short Facebook URL like while others have very long hard-to-remember names like Well, it seems that in order to request for a personalized name, you have to accumulate at least 25 "fans". Once you have achieved that, then go to and check the availability of your desired name.

For me, I have registered my personal vanity name. So my personal Facebook page is now:

But, of course, I really couldn't care less about having a personal Facebook page for myself. My goal in this whole exercise is to get a vanity name for Dragonpay's Facebook Page which I've been experimenting with for the past few days.

Now, I've finally accumulated 30 "fans" (thanks in large part to my previous postings at the Facebook Developers Forum), so I was able to acquire (tada!):

So typing my original URL now redirects to this shorter URL.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Integrating Facebook Like Button with Open Graph Protocol

I've been stumped for the past couple of days trying to figure out the Facebook Open Graph Protocol. I think I've finally figured it out today. To summarize, I have an external website based on Wordpress:

I created a Facebook Page manually using my account:

My objective was to put a Like Button (or Like Box) at my external site, which when clicked, makes the "clicker" my Facebook page's "fan".

Just like several people in the Facebook Developers Forum, I was getting that weird og:type=link error on both the Like Button and the Like Box. Sure enough, if you view the html source of the Facebook page above, you will see a meta tag for og:type=link. There seems to be no way to edit the meta tags in the Facebook page.

What I did next was to create a Like Button for my external site using the Facebook Like Button generator. As explained by another forum member, this generator seems to be intended for external websites. So I put in all the necessary meta tags on my external site (you can do a view html source of to see the tags I inserted in my Wordpress header.php). As expected, the "Like Button" works fine for my external website.

But wait -- this was not what I intended originally. I wanted the user to "like" my Facebook Page, not my external site. Now here's the twist that I discovered. When you ask Facebook to like your external site, it actually creates another Facebook Page for your site on-the-fly. In my case, it created the page as:

Notice that this is a completely different URL from the one I manually created above. And more interestingly, if you do a view html source of this new page, it actually has an og:type=website!

So I quickly went to the "Like Box" generator and typed in the Facebook page id of 150520031629713. And guess what -- the "Like Box" now works perfectly fine as well.

So, to summarize my findings, it seems that you cannot use the "Like Button/Box" generator and link it to a Facebook Page that you created manually. It seems that you have to let Facebook create the page for you on-the-fly by first putting the necessary open graph meta tags on your external site, then wait for Facebook to scrape it. This page that it creates on-the-fly will have the correct open graph meta tags that will work with the "Like Button/Box".

Now the only problem which I cannot answer is -- what if the original Facebook Page that you have already has a significant number of followers? How do you now switch them over to the on-the-fly version? In my case, its not a big deal since my original Facebook Page only had about 20 followers. So I'll just kindly ask them to re-click my "Like Button/Box" so that they become followers of the new page.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Video-based CAPTCHA's

CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”. These are often used by sites to prevents bots or web crawlers from filling up forms often with the intention of posting unwanted text, or to break passwords by doing brute-force matching. The general idea is the image or pattern is something that can be discerned by a human but is very difficult to understand for a machine. But the images are often so warped that even humans will have a hard time understanding them. I know I've encountered several of those myself.

A company called NuCAPTCHA is introducing a video-based method that is supposed to make it even more difficult for machines to read the message, but is very clear to a human. It uses Flash video, so forget the Apple products (iPhone, iPad, etc.) which do not support Flash. There's a whole bunch of API's available at the site which can be used to integrate across a broad range of platforms include a Wordpress plug-in.

Hmmm... maybe I should consider embedding this into Dragonpay for online payment authentication.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Accessing Multiple GMail Accounts Simultaneously

Here's a really amazing new feature from Google -- you can now open 2 GMail accounts at the same time on two different browser tabs/sessions! Previously, if you login using a different account, it will logout your other account first.

I have multiple GMail accounts: one for personal, another one for ThePictureShop, and another one for Dragonpay Online Payment System. Its very tedious having to logout/login to switch from one account to another, so I end up just forwarding everything to my main personal account and answering my email from there. The problem with doing it this way is the reply-to address is my personal email.

By enabling the Multiple Accounts option in your Google Accounts page, switching from one account to another becomes very easy. You just pick the account you want from the dropdown list at the upper right corner.

The system is not available for all Google services as of now. Picasa and Blogger will only work with the main login account. But that's fine with me. I really just need the multiple login capability on GMail anyway.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Globe Telecom 1H2010 Revenue Down by 30%

Globe Telecom announced today that their 1st half 2010 revenue is down by 30% compared to last year mainly due to the maturing mobile market. Even though total voice and txt usage increased, revenue went down because of the various bucket and unlimited pricing promos.

Here are some interesting stats that they revealed in their announcement:
  1. Globe generated a 50% increase in text messaging volume and 100% in voice minutes in 1st half of 2010.
  2. About 90% of text messages sent via the Globe network are on unlimited and bucket pricing promos, while only 10% are on the regular service
  3. For voice, 80% of the total voice minutes generated were made via these unlimited promos
  4. The mobile business accounts for 80% of Globe's total service revenue.
  5. As of end-June 2010, total subscribers reached 24.6 million. The postpaid market, comprising about 4% of total base, capped the 1st half with 909,466 subscribers.
  6. Globe's total broadband subscriber base is now 930,000 and is expected to reach 1.2 million by year-end.