It’s Been Awhile – Just another Test Post

It has been awhile since I’ve last made an entry over here. Too long, perhaps.

This is the trailer for the documentary “Forks over Knives.

http://instagram.com/p/iyn3OBJtWe/

#PHNet19 : 19 years of Philippine Internet

phnet19Just one year to go till the 20th!

I’m writing this on March 29, 2013, which just happens to mark the 19th anniversary of March 29, 1994, the day when the PhilNet network first connected to the Internet via an IP connection to a Sprint gateway in California.

Perhaps we should really reserve all the pomp and circumstance for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the connection in 2014. But it’s always a good time to mark a milestone and see how far the internet economy and culture has progressed since the last time we marked it.

But let’s get the hashtag out of the way first, because you can’t mark an internet milestone these days without a hashtag. I suggest #PHNet19. So there.

Last year we commemorated #PHNet18 and marked it with a small meetup of some of the personalities who were part of the original event. This year, the anniversary falls on Good Friday, making a meetup not so feasible. So some commemoration via social media seems to be good enough,

By the way, if you just walked in and are blissfully unaware of what happened on March 29, 1994, here are a few links on this blog to bring you up to speed:

The Philippine Internet Turns 18, Is Anyone Still Counting?

The Night Benjie Tan Hooked Up the Philippines to the Internet

The Day the Philippines Hooked Up to the Net (Parts 1-6):

Based on the research I did for these pieces (originally written in 2001) , we are really commemorating two events:

03/29/1994 1:15 am – Benjie Tan, supervising the connection at PLDT’s network center makes the first test connection.
His Usenet newsgroup post documenting this is archived here.

03/29/1994: 10:18 am – Dr. Rudy Villarica announces that a connection to the Internet was made from Cebu.
Here’s an account of what happened in Cebu on that day. 

Either way, we have come to mark March 29 as THE day.

What changes have taken place in the local Internet scene since we last surveyed the landscape in 2012?

I’d say one of the most significant updates is the amazingly fast ascendancy of smartphones (and hence, the mobile internet) in the Philippines. Though overall penetration is low (at most, just 10-12% of the total mobile phone base of 102M) , the growth is fast – one stat estimates a growth of 300% in one quarter just looking at Android phones alone.

And then there is the commercialization of new internet access technologies such as LTE for mobile and fiber -to-the-home (what PLDT has branded as Fibr). While you will still read twitter messages of people complaining their connections are crap, the introduction of free LTE trials due to the launch of the iPhone 5 (and Apple finally flicking on the LTE switch for its phones in the Philippines) has spawned an epidemic of Instagrams showing mobile speedtests hitting close to 30 Mbps, much faster than the usual residential DSL connections.

It’s still early in the game, but as we continue to survey all the changes in the digital landscape of #PHNet19, we can also see the impending of shadow of #PHnet20 headed our way, and who knows what the next year will bring?

New on Blog De La Musique: Ely, Rico, Raimund, and Barbie’s 21st Century redux of a 70s classic

imaginemoreMy new music blog, “Blog de la Musique” (at http://blogdelamusique.com) has just kicked off with a post on a cool new TV Commercial that debuted this Feb 2. This tv ad debuted on YouTube and featured 90′s Pinoyrock icons Rico Blanco, Raimund Marasigan, Barbie Almabis, and Ely Buendia. Yes, it is a Smart commercial – but I had nothing to do with it, I swear!  

All disclaimers aside, the ad is an interesting collaboration of four now-mature artists (who all emerged during the 90′s Pinoy band boom), covering a 70s folk song (Heber Bartlome’s “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy”) using 21st century mobile technologies, like LTE broadband, tablets, video conferencing, all for the sake of some remote harmonizing.

Sounds like science-fiction? This is actually how a lot of music is made today, with musicians collaborating over the Internet. Maybe having record their vocals on a Nexus 7 while joy riding on a pickup in Bicol might still be far fetched – but the possibilities are all there.

Full review and blog post on the site here: http://blogdelamusique.com/2013/02/03/a-21st-century-makeover-for-tayoy-mga-pinoy-featuring-ely-buendia-raimund-marasigan-rico-blando-and-barbie-almalbis/

The Troubles of Claire: The 419 spam drama takes a new twist

The Nigerian 419 spammers (or are they Indian in this case?) have spun off a new series. This should be made into a movie (called 419). 

Sir/Madam,

Please don’t be offended with my impromptu message. I am Nirmala Kirloskar, India but now resident in the UK 5 years, I want to tell you of an investment management for Claire. I really pray that you could help out.

Before now that I make trade, I worked for sir Bryan Parker as caregiver for daughter Claire. Even after I stopped working for him, sir Bryan never ceased to talk with me, and he trusted me with many secrets. Recently I was told that he was very sick so I went to see him. During my visit to him, he asked me if I could help him care for his daughter always and I agreed. Then he asked me if I could get an investment manager for his daughter. He said it will help his daughter’s future by making good investment of his money. I could not say a thing because I do not know how to invest huge money neither do I have someone in mind; So, he asked me to get someone whom I can trust.

 Since I grew up not knowing family, now only with two kids and no husband, the only option is to look for someone intelligent to do an investment for Claire. My ex-boss was very rich man, but I can only tell amount after I have real talk with you. It might be in your name or your business.

 Please I do not know you, and I am not prepared to disappoint my ex-boss. Someone in market told me to use email and that is why I send to you. If you are a good investor and sincere person, please write back to me as soon as possible. My ex-boss’ daughter is now in a foster and I need to finish this at once so that I can have access to care for her. His lawyers insist on getting someone by themselves but if they do, I will fail my promise to my ex-boss. But I spoke to them to allow me find someone and hey gave me a chance and said they’ll let us know what to do when you respond. If you can do it reply me soon, if not just destroy email.

Trust,

Nirmala K.,

“What happened to PhilMusic?” and other Pesky Questions

philmusic-tagA few weeks ago the questions started to pop up out of thin air and lunge at me. There were text messages, Tweets (public tweets and DMs), Facebook PMs. They were incessant. They arrived at odd times of the day – while driving to work, while at a meeting, while having dinner. You would have thought someone had died. 

In a way, someone had. The questions were “What happened to PhilMusic?” “Did you sell PhilMusic?” and the more direct “I can’t access Philmusic, when will it be back up? I need to sell my guitars.”

After some investigation, we figured out that the site was indeed inaccessible – our backend dude’s attempts to connect to the server directly returned a cryptic error message that apparently pointed out to a damaged hard drive. After some exchanges with our web provider we quickly decided the best thing for the site’s long term health was to to back up the data and move on and set up a new virtual server at a US-based provider.

But that would have take a bit of time – it was Christmas after all. And PhilMusic.com doesn’t currently operate as a commercial enterprise, so taking time off for vacations from our real jobs takes precedence over internet hobbies.

That explains the downtime – probably one of the longest ever spells since the site domain was registered in December 1996… Making PhilMusic.com 16 years old and probably one of the longest running Philippine websites around!

pmgroup

But what to do about all the nagging questions? Answer them! So without further ado, here’s a mini FAQ:

What happened to the site and domain? The server crashed. Investigation pointed to a faulty hard drive. We have had enough with the old provider so we are moving to a new provider in January 2013.

 Did you sell PhilMusic? Not that I know of.

 Will you sell me PhilMusic? I get this all the time. Give me an offer, preferably a P15M offer :)

 When will the new site be up? No firm timeline, and please don’t bug us, we have day jobs. Sometime January 2013.

 Are you on Facebook? 

Yes! We are on Facebook! You can keep in touch with Facebook (especially during the downtime) through our Facebook presence. We have two URLs:

PhilMusic Facebook Pagehttp://facebook.com/philmusic.dotcom

This is our official FB page. Public announcements and bulletins about the site are posted here.  We have about 14,000 likes. Please like us! You can never have too many likes.

The Official PhilMusic Facebook Group - http://facebook.com/groups/philmusic

We just started this a few days ago, for discussions and user posts. We’d like to keep the FB page clean, so this group is more for interactions, discussions, for-sale postings etc. We’ll also use the file area as a repository on FB for community documents. The group is set so anyone can read, but you must Join the group to post. We have over 1,500 signups today and expect to hit 2,000 by New Year’s Eve. Or maybe 2,500. Join us!

There are a number of other “PhilMusic” groups on Facebook, but they are maintained by over-zealous fans or impostors, or both.

Are you on Twitter? Hell yeah, since 2007! We are @PhilMusic (http://twitter.com/philmusic) Follow Us!

Will all the old messages be restored on the new site? We’re restoring from backups. Expect a lot of the newer messages gone, but hopefully the bulk of the 7-8 year old database should be there.

We want to donate to keep the site going! How do we do this? Thanks for the generosity! Crowdfunding is in vogue on the interwebs, so we will be considering crowdfunding models for new projects.

Are you a start-up? We’ve been a “startup” for 16 years! haha :)

What’s next for PhilMusic.com? Ok, so Ver 1.0 was PhilMusic as the music scene documentarian (what you would call today as a blog), Ver 2.0 was PM as the Musician’s Forum slash Buy-N-Sell slash Sulit for Musicians. There will be a Ver 3.0 in 2013. I’m not sure what it is yet but I would like to explore a mobile app based service. We would like the blog to return, assuming we can get music bloggers to contribute. And events! Expect some live events in 2013. None of these dreams can come true without community support, so we hope you’ll be there for us.

And last of all, thanks to the PhilMusic community for sticking by us all these years, through all our incarnations. You guys are great!

For upcoming announcements, stay tuned to our Facebook page. No Facebook? What are you, a martian?

Showdown at the .PH domain Corral – the 2012 Edition

revolution

Every few years since 1995, some Filipino netizens get all riled up about the management of the .PH domain and want to start a revolution. It’s as cyclical as fashion. Well, it looks that time has come again.

The latest brouhaha was instigated by a recent DNS hack that redirected users of Sulit.com.ph to its competitor AyosDito.ph. In investigating the incident, Sulit concluded there was nothing wrong with its own site security, the hack was done on DotPH’s servers, and even got the hacker to admit to the deed. The hacker also revealed that there was something amiss with DotPH’s security.

Rather than rehash the whole story, here are some handy links to the coverage so far:

Needless to say, news of the Sulit-DotPH incident spread like wildfire through social media. Over at the Startup PH group on Facebook, technopreneurs wondered if DotPH incompetency was a liability for the country’s tech startup scene, Over the course of a few online discussions, the question was raised – is it time to replace DotPH as the Philippines’ Internet domain administration?

Or as Franky Branckaute (a.k.a. “Franky Branc“) of local tech punditry site “The Bobbery” noted in his piece: Can DotPH run the Philippine Domain Registry Competently?

And so the idea emerged from Facebook discussions and made the rounds of the web:

So here we have people wondering if it’s time for a change, and DotPH’s monopoly over the PH domain should end.

It’s an interesting idea – and an old one. The issue dates back to at least 1994 – when the educational network Philnet was being established to connect the Philippines to the Internet, discussions were opened up with the PH Domain administrator Joel Disini to transfer the domain management to the Philnet foundation – and those negotiations quickly turned sour. I interviewed the Philnet personalities in 2001 about that chapter and the narrative lives on when I reposted the newspaper feature on the blogosphere. The post is “Showdown at the .PH Corral” and you can read it here.

okcorral

The second brouhaha took place sometime in 1999.

I had a yahoogroups mailing list called “The Philippine Cyberspace Review” (a.k.a. PH-Cyberview) and among the many discussions that took place, there was a thread about complaints about the DotPH administration. The initial issue was DotPH pricing – .PH domains then and now remain more expensive than global top level domains like .COM and .NET. Since .PH was run by a single organization that controlled pricing, policies, and everything but the kitchen sink, the sentiment then was that it was time to open up the PH domain to more players and possibly involve the local internet community in the policy-maing process.

phdocThe mailing list discussions spun off a series of organized moves to study the PH domain issue, recommend reforms, and present this to some government body. The activities culminated in a landmark white paper written in October 2001 called The PH Domain and the Need for Policy Reforms which outlined the issues point by point. You can read a copy of the paper on Scribd.

The paper was submitted to a body called ITECC (Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council) – which evolved into the CICT (Commission on Information Communications Technology) under the Office of the President.

Based on the PhilDac white paper, the CICT issued memorandum #1 in August 2004, “Guidelines for the Administration of the PH Domain“.

Predictably, the CICT memorandum did not sit well with DotPH Inc, who spent the next few years protesting it.

The history of the PH Domain issues (and a summary of points) have been documented in 2007 in this fine FMA Study Paper on the .PH Domain Administration which you can now read on Slideshare.

Other important documents from this era include this excellent piece by Bombim Cadiz, “On the DotPH Comments to the NTC Proposed Guidelines on the Administration of the Philippine Country Code Top Level Domain”  now on Scribd.

My participation in these activities is documented in the FMA paper, but I will have to admit that the role of the quixotic crusading do-gooder did take its toll and wore me out. After the PhilDac paper, I distanced myself from the issue and let others continue the fight. The issue was always too esoteric for the mainstream internet user, and when interest began to wilt, DotPH continued on its merry way, unhindered by government or community driven oversight. The CICT guidelines were largely ignored, and the dissolution of the CICT in 2011 left the question of oversight over DotPH pretty much a question mark.

So now here we are in 2012, and the questions about the PH domain have arisen again. And if you ask me, the issues being raised are prety darn similar to the same ones dating back to the 2001 white paper. Deja vu – but with a new set of players manning the opposition.

If the members of the Startup community of 2012 feel they have a sound case, then Godspeed.

Maybe in the age of social media this movement will steamroll to the point that we have a bigger clamor for reform. After all these years, the Philippine Internet community may have its say in the policies of the PH domain.

But please count me out of the cyberactivism this time around. I haven’t recovered from the wear and tear of the last uprising. But I’ll still be on the sidelines cheering the troops on.

Crowdsourcing local music scene documentation: The #PhilMusic hashtag on Instagram

Some years back, around the time the first generation Digital SLRs made their appearance. the photo bug bit me hard. Of course, every “serious” photographer eventually finds a speciality – mine was the area of concert photography. I liked the scene, loved the exaggerated stage lighting, and the unique expressions coming from musicians. 

Armed with a PhilMusic.com media pass, I prowled the backstages and mosh pits of some of the more raucous music events in Manila in the late 90s and early 2000′s. I would shoot several times a week, thinking I was doing my bit in documenting the events of that period.

My weapon of choice was a large and heavy camera rig, a Canon SLR (I eventually settled on a Canon 40D) and my favorite lens was the formidable Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS  zoom – superb low light optics that was about a foot long weighed a ton or two. I nicknamed the white beast “the bazooka”.

That lens is one heavy bitch to carry, but the results were always worth it. With it’s tack-sharp focusing and versatility in low light situations, it was the perfect concert lens, and I could always count on it to capture dramatic closeups of guitarists grunting and vocalists emoting on a distant stage.

Well that phase went by quickly. My beloved Bazooka stays in a cabinet unused for most of the year. I stopped going to gigs. I moved on to small cameras that shot fine stills and HD video, like the Lumix LX-3, and lately, the Canon S95. The pocketable S95 is about as small as a smartphone, so this is my go-to “real” camera.

But more often than not, my photographic weapon of choice nowadays is a phone. I went through a number Android phones over a 2-year period before settling on an iPhone 4s as the primary phone – and primary camera.

“The Bazooka”

With its sharp focusing, vivid colors, and most of all – wide array of camera apps, coupled with the ability to share photos instantly via social media, the iPhone is often the only camera I use and need, even on travels where I would have lugged along an SLR body and several lenses in the not so distant past. Indeed a number of tech blogs have posed the question, “Is the iPhone 4s the only camera you need?

Among the many fine photo apps is Instagram, a portal to a community of cameraphone photo enthusiasts, which is more fun than  barrel full of monkeys.

The photo sharing app with the hipster filters has evolved into photo-oriented social network. And the twitter-inspired hashtag concept has found new meaning in the Instagram – a popular hashtag used by a number of people in the Instagram community becomes a crowdsourced photo album for that topic. Click into a hashtag and you can see an album of thousands of photo contributors all posting with the same theme.

So with that in mind, I remembered my “music photojourno” persona of years past and figured that Instagram might be the best vehicle to revive that aesthetic. And at the same time, I no longer have the time or even the stamina to attend the hundreds of music events that pop up in Manila. But it’s a sure thing that other people will be there, armed with their smartphones.

Last night’s Fete de La Musique street scene in Makati Avenue, posted on Instagram

With the right phone in the right place (usually a smartphone), anyone can be a music photographer like Annie Liebovitz and Instagram can be your  Rolling Stone. Why not crowdsource the role of music scene documentation, and provide a venue (in this case a hashtag) to collect all the photos in one convenient place?

Hence the birth of the #PhilMusic hashtag. I propose this as the hashtag for photos of music events in the Philippines. I hope that if it catches on , anyone who wants to get a bird’s eye of the local music scene can just click on the #PhilMusic hashtag and get a glimpse of the vibrancy of the local music scene.

As an example, just last night, the annual Fete de la Musique festival took place in Makati Avenue, which took a lot of people by suurprise. The festival wasn’t promoted too extensively, so it sort of snuck up on a lot of people and a lot of people missed it. But if enough people on the scene were posting photos on Instagram and tagging them with #PhilMusic, others could at least check in on the “channel” to view photos of the gigs and attend them vicariously.

Granted that peering into a smartphone or tablet screen won’t give you thrill as actually being on the scene in person, at least it gives you  bit of the flavor, less the smell of the moshpit sweat!

Here’s how to post a photo on your smartphone (an iOS or Android device running the Instagram app)

To post to the #PhilMusic hashtag “channel” on Instagram, just add the tag #philmusic to any photo covering a music-related event.

To view the #PhilMusic album – look for a photo tagged with #PhilMusic and click on it. Or use Instagram’s search function to search for the hashtag #PhilMusic.

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