Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cols Birthday

Both our PLDT land line and Bayan DSL has been problematic the whole week. The telcos have sent their linemen and we have isolated the problem to be in our house wiring. I called our original electrician to come in today to troubleshoot and replace the wires. It turned out that the wires underneath the garage had lots of torn sections that was causing the problems. After we ran new wires and re-connected them, everything is finally back to normal.

We celebrated Cols' birthday at Gloria Maris Greenhills with the folks, Kenneth, Winston, Ilene & Charlson. After dinner we proceeded to have dessert at nearby Cara Mia.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween 2010

As far as I can recall, we've always celebrated Halloween on the 31st at Valle Verde or LGV. But this year, for some strange reason, LGV decided to hold it on the 30th (Saturday). The kids have been looking forward to this day. Ethan was wearing his Thomas the Tank Engine costume which he "inherited" from his cousin William. Caitlin was dressed as a purple cowgirl. Cols was a witch, and I wore my old pirate costume (hey! I only wore it once before on Ethan's 1st birthday).

From Halloween 2010

Trick-or-treating started at 3:30pm. I drove the kids with their yayas around the village to get candies, while Cols stayed home to give away candies. We got back home around 5pm. Everyone was tired but happy.

How Many Internet Users In The Philippines?

Exactly how many Internet users are there in the Philippines? As of June 2010, the figure is pegged at 29.7 million, or around 30% of the estimated population of 100 million Filipinos as per Nielsen.

Smart claims that 8.3 million of that figure use the Internet through its nationwide wireless broadband and cellular network. Smart Broadband serves 1.3 million through its wireless broadband service (Wimax, fixed wireless, SmartBro), while the 7 million surf the Internet through their Smart mobile phone.

Friday, October 29, 2010

3G Invades Mount Everest

Ever since Mozcom sponsored the First Philippine Mount Everest Expedition (FPMEE), I've developed a personal interest in Mount Everest. Climbers before had to invest on costly satellite phones to know what's going on. But no more -- Nepali mobile network operator Ncell has installed the first 3G base station at the summit!

With the new cell site, one can now do 3G Video calls and mobile Internet from the summit. Somehow, I can't help but feel that it has somehow diminished the mystique of reaching the summit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to Rename Tables in Firebird

I've encountered several instances in the past wherein I needed to rename a table in Firebird/Interbase. Since there seem to be no direct SQL command to do this, I would normally go through the roundabout solution of:
  1. creating a new table with a temporary name;
  2. populating it with data via INSERT from a SELECT of the old table;
  3. dropping the old table;
  4. creating a new table with the desired name;
  5. populating it with the data from the temporary table (step #2 above)
  6. dropping the temporary table
Its a very tedious process. I recently came across a solution that modifies the system tables directly to achieve the same result in 2 commands:



That's all there is to it!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crystal Jade @ V-Mall

We decided to try out the much talked-about new restaurant in Greenhills Shopping Center -- Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in V-Mall (formerly known as Virra Mall for us who used to frequent the place back in the 80's). I'm not really sure if Crystal Jade is originally from Hong Kong or from Singapore. But in any case, it has a long list of awards and recognition listed on its wall from both Hong Kong and Singapore food authorities. As the name implies, the house specialties are La Mian (hand-pulled noodles) and Xiao Long Bao (those small dimsum meat dumplings).

Judging by the long line queueing outside, either its really that good or everyone is just as curious as us to find out if its worth all the fuss. We got there at around 12 noon (today is Sunday). Our queue number is 21 for the 5-seater table (they maintain different queues for different party size). This was obviously going to be a long wait so I sat at the monoblock chairs they prepared outside while Cols and the kids went shopping around V-Mall first.

After almost exactly one hour, it was finally our turn. Of course, we ordered the house specialties, and also their fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, and beef with mushroom. The verdict -- mmm... ok, the xiao long bao were pretty good. With other regular dimsum place, xiao long bao tastes more like siomai. Here, when you bite into them, the juice just bursts out with flavor. Caitlin also seemed to enjoy her la main noodles. But for the rest (the chicken, beef and yang chao fried rice), I would say they were nothing special.

I think the place is worth trying if you like dimsum. The big question is -- is it worth a one hour wait? Caitlin would probably be just as happy at Luk Yuen when it comes to noodles. :P

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Increasing One's Visibility in Facebook

If traditional websites use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to increase their visibility to search engines like Google, Facebook users (including businesses who use it as a primary means of attracting a social network following) can also perform some techniques to increase their visibility among their friends.

When one makes a posts on Facebook, not all your "friends" will actually get to see it. If Facebook were to do that, you would drown with too many messages if each of your "friend" were to make even just 1 post a day. Instead, Facebook uses some undisclosed filtering algorithm to determine who gets to see your post. Simply making a lot of posts does not seem to be very effective in increasing one's popularity. Facebook seems to rank your relevancy to your friends based largely on their interaction with your page.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview on Mozcom NetSecure RFID @ ANC News Channel

We received an unsolicited invitation via fax from ANC's (ABS-CBN News Channel) segment writers this past Monday if we wanted to be featured in an ANC episode focusing on RFID technology today (Oct 20, 2010). It was too good an opportunity to pass up since ANC has nationwide coverage and it was free advertising for Mozcom. So I agreed to be the representative. They learned about us through the Mozcom Store. I have not really done any search engine optimization (SEO) work on that site, but it seems to be getting good hits on the keywords RFID and Biometrics, for some reason.

I asked our tech guys to prepare a notebook for me with NetSecure configured to work with our GP30 RFID reader. The usual Lenovo that I borrow from them has a problem so they lent me their Compaq notebook. When I tested it, it seems that the startup time is pretty long. So I figured it would be best to boot it up; run NetSecure; then just put it in suspended mode. That way, when I open it at the studio, its ready to go.

Well, when I tested it, I found out that the suspend mode does not work. Normally, if you close the notebook's screen/lid while its running, Windows will just send it to sleep. While it did send the notebook to sleep, I couldn't "wake" it back up. I can see the LED indicators on the notebook on, but the screen is completely black. No button can seem to get it back on. I had to remove the battery just to reset it.

At this point, it looks like I have to boot-up the notebook and run NetSecure prior to my interview segment. Since the show is shot and aired live, there is no room for error or a slow boot-up. The TV viewers simply cannot wait for this notebook to get ready for the demo. So I made sure the Compaq was fully charged before heading to ABS-CBN.

The call time at Studio 6 in ABS-CBN was at 6:40pm. Since I was not too familiar with the area and traffic can be unpredictable, we left the house at 5:30pm. I got to the studio by a little past 6pm. There was plenty of time to kill. There was a small dressing room outside Studio 6 where the guests hang-out and get their make-up done. The make-up artist told me it was still too early to put on my make-up and she asked me to walk around first so I don't get bored. Aside from myself, the other interviewees included a guy from LTO Stradcom, a guy from DENR, and another guy selling alcohol-level breath analyzers.

Off I went walking around the corridors hoping to get a glimpse of some tv/movie personalities. The closest I got was TV newscasters Ginger Conijeros and model/entertainment newscaster Phoemela Barranda (who was seated a mere 2 feet away from me) who got their make-up done at the same dressing room we were in. (The DENR guy was asking me who they were and if they are movie stars. Duuhhh...) Ginger seemed nicer and friendlier between the two. Although neither of them talked to any of us guests (we're not worthy of their star presence), Ginger bid us good luck on our interview on her way out.

At around 6:45pm, things started moving quickly. We got a little make-up and ushered into Studio 6. The room was freezing! The crew said it is really like that because of the studio lights. They need to crank up the airconditioning to compensate for the heat generated by the lights.

The show starts at 7pm. It is anchored by TV newsman Tony Velasquez. The Stradcom guy was up first. His interview is expected to be about 15 mins. So while he was being interviewed, I already booted up the Compaq to make sure its running. I also prepared and powered the GP30 RFID reader and hid it behind the LCD panel in front of the interview area so I can quickly pull it out and connect to the notebook when its my turn.

As fate would have it, when the Stradcom guy was down to his last 3 mins or so, the darn notebook started flashing a low battery warning and told me to plug it to regular power asap! From the time I booted it up to now, I think it has only barely been 30 mins. A regular notebook battery should last at least 2 to 3 hours if the computer is not doing anything intensive. Something was wrong with this unit's battery. If it died, I wouldn't have time to plug it to regular power and wait for it to boot up again for my turn.

When the Stradcom guy's interview was over, the crew told me I have exactly 2 mins to setup. At that time, they ran some video/voice-over on-screen for the televiewers. I quickly plugged the notebook to a power outlet hidden behind the LCD TV; connected the RFID reader; did a quick test. Phew! It worked! What happened next can be watched at the YouTube video below:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Automobile Accidents in our Neighborhood

There has been a spate of car accidents in our subdivisions this past week. In the early morning of Oct 13, a Subaru Forester and a Honda Civic drove straight to the corner wall of a house just about 1 block away from our house. Reports said the cars were driven by teenagers and that they were apparently having a race (and most likely drunk too).

As you can see from the picture, the crash on the Subaru was quite major. I can't figure out how its wheel got completely detached. I don't know if this car can still be salvaged. Its a brand new unit too from the looks of it. I wonder if insurance companies cover acts of stupidity.

Here's another view of the car. Luckily no resident was hurt. Hope these kids get grounded for life by their parents.

Then today, on my way to church, I saw another car with a major accident. This time, it hit a post. The windshield completely smashed too. This incident was about the same distance from our house as the Oct 13 one, but in the opposite direction. Hmmm...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BPI Corporate Internet Banking Facility

I opened a corporate account with BPI for use with Dragonpay. BPI's corporate Internet banking access is called BPI Express Link (, as opposed to, their consumer Internet banking service called BPI Express Online (

To avail of Expresslink, BPI used to require their corporate clients to maintain an average daily balance of P500k. This is really steep considering the other big banks like BDO and Metrobank give it for free with any corporate checking/savings account at minimum balance. But I think BPI has recently softened up a bit and has lowered it to P250k. I was able to get read-only/inquiry access by maintaining a P100k minimum ADB.

BPI Expresslink is one of the barest corporate Internet banking I've ever seen. I can't imagine why anyone would charge P100k for this, much more P500k. Metrobankdirect Corporate Banking is a whole lot more sophisticated and better looking. BDO Corporate Internet Banking is, well, functional. Its not pretty, but it works. :P

BPI Expresslink is very specific to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). Since I've been using Google Chrome predominantly for months now, there are some features that do not work well with me:
  1. The top main menu bar is not visible with Chrome. You only see this thin red line. I thought it was just a separator bar. Turns out that its supposed to be the main menu bar when viewed in IE. It holds the "Logout" button. So for the first few days when I was just using Chrome, I thought there was no way to logout the system.
  2. When viewing the account statement, Expresslink dumps some sort of fixed-length text file with beginning and ending tags which you have to figure out how to decrypt. At first, I thought you needed to download some special program just to make heads and tails of what it is supposed to show. As it turns out, if you use IE, it renders properly. I suppose it must be using some IE-specific Javascript or XML transform to render it on-screen.
Expresslink also has the strangest way of displaying the running balance. Whereas the conventional way is to display it like a passbook line entry wherein the latest entry appears at the last and shows the transaction amount and the ending running balance, Expresslink displays your daily transaction in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest), and recomputes the running balance starting from newest transaction of the day to the oldest. So the ending balance is not with the latest transaction, but with the first. Very illogical.

But because the site is so bare, I have to admit that its quite spiffy. Unlike RCBC AccessOne or Unionbank's Internet banking which is very sluggish, Expresslink responds very quickly with not much bells and whistles.

EastWest Bank's Maintenance Fee

For the past two months, EastWest Bank has been charging me a "maintenance fee" for supposedly falling below their minimum balance for corporate savings which is PHP20,000. The strange thing is -- I never go below their minimum. They cannot give any explanation either other than the sheepish "its system-generated" excuse. The branch manager is not of much help either as he cannot come up with any logical explanation as to why this keeps happening.

They are nice enough to always reverse the charges, but up to how long will this go on? I'm expecting another argument again at the end of this month.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Errand Boys for Hire

Interesting business concept -- I've been seeing their tarpaulin/billboard along C5, just right before you make a turn to Kalayaan. They basically provide people to do anything you want at a rate of P1.00/minute(?).

Their website looks awful though. Considering they seem to have spent quite a bit on PR to get their business featured in several TV shows, they could have at least spent a bit on their website too. :P

Friday, October 8, 2010

First SEAIR Experience

I had my first experience riding a SEAIR flight today. The family took a weekend vacation at Boracay and we took SEAIR straight to Caticlan Airport. We normally go through Kalibo but the extra land trip is just too tiring and a major waste of time. A direct flight to Caticlan sounded more enticing.

We got to the airport before 2pm for our 3pm flight. The flight was delayed by 25 mins due to late arrival of aircraft. Hmm... why is it that when I ride an airline for the first time, its always delayed? We were all a bit anxious as it is Cols' and the kids' first time to ride a small plane. The SEAIR Dornier aircraft had a capacity of about 30 passengers only.

The seat layout is 2 on one side and 1 on the other side, for a total of 3 seats per row with an aisle in-between. Cols and Ethan sat on Row 4, while Caitlin and I were on Row 5. It was very warm inside the plane as they apparently do not turn on the air-conditioner until the engine has revved up and is ready to fly (Cebu Pacific's propeller-based planes are also supposed to be that way). As the plane taxied on the runway, it creaked here and there while Caitlin kept asking where the sound was coming from.

Since it was a small plane, we only had one flight attendant. I have to say, she did a good job multi-tasking because not only did she have to do the airline safety demonstration, she also had to do the commentary on the PA system. Since she did not have a headset, that meant she had to talk on the handset first; put it down; do the demo; pick-up the handset again and explain. I guess a solo dancing flight attendant performance was too much to ask! Har har.

After the quick take-off, we were flying at fairly low altitude -- at least compared to jet-based airlines. This had the added advantage of getting to see the view closer to the ground. For example, we could clearly see Taal Volcano and its crater lake as we passed through Southern Luzon going towards Visayas. As the sun shone through the window, Caitlin noted the absence of windows shades. She's right -- the windows do not have those pull-down shades. Hmmm... the seats (especially the arm rests) could also use a little bit of refurbishing as I'm sure they have seen much better days.

The actual flight from Manila to Caticlan took about 35 to 40 mins. As advertised, it is supposed to be the fastest flight to Caticlan by a commercial airline. Overall, the flight was good. We arrived safely. We even had in-flight snacks (okay, so it was just water and peanuts, but that's a lot better than getting nothing from Cebu Pacific).

Overall, I would recommend SEAIR to other passengers. Visit their Facebook site at

Discovery Shores 2010

This is our second time to stay at Discovery Shores Boracay. As before, the accommodation and facilities are superb. The staff is very well trained and courteous. It never ceases to amaze me how to seem to know all the guests by name and face considering they don't seem to ask.

The food wasn't that great. We had Chicken Alfredo for dinner at the Indigo bar/restaurant, and it was just plain awful.

The resort offers free WiFi access. That's a welcome service since most hotels seem to want to make money out of it. I think it should really be part of the basic amenites. The signal is a bit weak at our room, but I was able to test OpenVPN on my HP Netbook and ran pcAnywhere to remote control my server at Mozcom's data center. It was my first time to actually test this configuration and I was surprised it worked pretty well!