John

Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

Recession for 2008=More Advertising $$?

In News on January 28, 2008 at 9:12 am

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(Pic from linusb4 @ sxc.hu)

So, it’s pretty much an accepted fact that we’re gonna go through some sort of recession this year: The only questions that remains are how long and how deep will the recession affect us. The Economist’s issue from Jan 26-Feb 1 gave a great insight to the upcoming recession, and predicts that it won’t be the slump of ’97-’98, cushioned partially by the “decoupling” effect between the US and the rest of the world, especially emerging markets. (Note: I could be talking out of my ass here, but that’s what I got from reading the article.)

But for those of us involved in media, PR and advertising, there’s one pertinent question that needs to be answered: How will it affect advertising budgets? In this story, The Economist points out that there is hope yet for 2008, with ad budgets actually increasing thanks to the Olympics and Euro 2008. Instead, it says, 2009 will be the year that advertising budgets will be affected deeper.

Another interesting point brought forward was the fact that the recession could actually be a catalyst for an increase in Internet Ad spending, with advertisers slashing budgets for scattershot traditional media like print and TV, and instead concentrating more on the more targeted medium of the ‘net. Read the rest of this entry »

IHT provides some details of the Soc Gen debacle

In News on January 28, 2008 at 3:42 am
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For those who still haven’t heard about this, Jérôme Kerviel, an (ex) employee of French (vive la france, etc etc) bank, Societe General managed to make trades on on European stock indexes using the bank’s money, costing the bank 7.2 BILLION USDs in losses. Details on the actual dealings are very sketchy but IHT has a pretty good article that gives us an idea of what happened:

Kerviel’s fraud, according to the bank, consisted of placing sizeable, real purchases in one portfolio but creating fictitious sales transactions in the second, off-setting portfolio. This gave the impression to risk managers that the risks in the first portfolio were hedged, when in fact they were not. As a result, the bank wound up exposed to massive, one-way bets, or “long” positions. Instead of hedging, which was his job, Kerviel was effectively speculating with the bank’s money.

“Our controls identified from time to time problems with this trader’s portfolio,” Mustier (Jean-Pierre Mustier, chief executive of the bank’s corporate and investment banking arm) said, although he declined to say when the first questions were raised by risk managers, saying that the bank’s auditors were still investigating.

Each time one of Kerviel’s trades was questioned, Mustier said, Kerviel would describe it as a “mistake” and cancel the trade.

“But in fact, he then replaced that trade with another transaction using a different instrument” to avoid detection, Mustier said.

This guy makes Nick Leeson’s 1.4 billion investment adventure (which brought down Barings) look like an expensive Paris Hilton shopping spree. There certainly are many parallels. Apparently nothing has been learnt. This despite the fact of all the banking and various regulatory requirements put into place such as Basel II (you gotta love the Swiss for selling services we never thought we’d ever need) that was supposed to prevent this sort of thing after Barings. Has any of that money spent on audit and controls etc actually changed anything? If you’re one of the good ol’ boys, you still can get away with anything as always.

In Singapore, Nick Leeson got 6 years in prison for his activity. It wouldn’t surprise me if this guy, in Paris gets something similar. For some reason what these guys do isn’t considered theft. Wow. Steal 100 dollars you get caned. Steal 7.2 billion, and you get a web page and a book deal. I bet if his longs actually turned out to be profitable, he would’ve got promoted even – assuming of course that he channeled some of the profits bank into the bank.  Greed and hypocrisy knows no bounds.

And Now, A Word About The Elections (Possibly Feat. Jay Chou)

In News on January 25, 2008 at 8:53 am

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(Pic from the dynamic duo, taken in sober mood.)

First off, a big huge-ass congrats to Michelle, Sarah and all involved in VotEd, who were featured in NST on Jan 6 (yeah, so I’m a bit slow) for starting up the group, which you can find out more on Facebook. Essentially, if you’re young, on Facebook, and absolutely blur on the issues surrounding the local political scene, join up to get yourself informed on the latest news and blogposts in the run up to the nearing elections.

And no, knowing them personally, they’re not ball-busting chicas who’ll bore you to death with a pessimistic view on Malaysian politics. On the contrary, I think they’re quite the optimists, who believe that the apathetic attitude of Malaysian youth can be turned around to make a difference in the way the country is being run. If it’s one thing this country needs, it’s hope, and they have bagfuls of it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Internet Vs The Church of Scientology

In News on January 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm
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VS

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(Update: You can witness the gradual shutdown of Scientology sites here. Foshizzle.)

This is breaking all over the Internet. A group that calls themselves “Anonymous” have release a video on youtube (posted after the break) along with a press release declaring war on the Church of Scientology. From their press release:

Anonymous is a collective composed of many Internet users, combined under one name. The group gained fame through popular image-boards and accrued influence both on the Internet and the real world. They have launched offensives against a wide variety of targets, including the social website Habbo Hotel and various White Supremacy entities. Anonymous played a major role in the capture of Canadian pedophile Chris Forcand.

To help coordinate their attack on the Church of Scientology, Anonymous has set up Project Chanology, a wiki which gives users tips and tools to attack the church. The attacks range from denial of service (DoS) attacks on their servers, prank calling their phone lines and looping a fax of a black page. Read the rest of this entry »

First Brad, then Heath, next… Britney?

In Celebrity on January 24, 2008 at 8:52 am

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(Pic from TMZ.com)

In a rather weird quirk of coincidence concerning the death of young Hollywood, last week featured a couple of op-ed columns on the public’s fascination with Britney Spears. The bigger of the two headlines involved Jon Friedman’s Media Web, and his atrociously, but attention-grabbing title: “Britney Spears is heading toward a tragic end”, in which he declares how the Paparazzi are determined to hound Britney until she’s dead, much in the same way that Diana died.

I don’t believe it’s so far-fetched. Remember what happened to Anna Nicole Smith and Princess Diana? Even if you don’t blame the paparazzi for Smith’s demise, there is no way to defend their glee in exploiting her fame after she died.
The paparazzi aren’t interested in covering Spears’ story with any acknowledgement of her right to privacy. The fiasco has spiraled completely out of control, well beyond the bounds of acceptable good taste by any reasonable standard. What’s especially unfortunate is that her two small children will eventually pay a big price.

The Spears train wreck is so fascinating and lucrative that it has ensnared the mainstream media, too. CNN’s “Larry King Live,” no stranger to tabloid television segments, examined the psychodrama in gruesome detail on Monday night.

This story seems destined to end badly for Britney Spears. If indeed the paparazzi hound her into an early grave, you can count on them to go on “Larry King Live” and the like, express their distress and offer sympathy to the Spears clan.

But they’ll mostly just feel sorry for themselves — because they’ve killed the golden goose. Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Cow! Car Found Abandoned with Cow Inside.

In News on January 24, 2008 at 6:01 am

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It’s not very often that I find many interesting stories in the Malay papers–unless, of course, you count the “holier-than-thou” LOL attitude of some of their columnists–but this picture and story splashed on the front page of Berita Harian was simply unmissable. According to the story, residents of Kampung Pondok Labu, near Kulim, foiled an attempted cow-theft (?!) when they stopped several men driving a Proton Wira with a friggin’ cow inside.

A COW.

You’d think there’d be better ways of storing a cow, huh? But what’s more amazing to this story is that residents claim that this “solves the mystery of several missing livestock, believed to be done by the same thieves, about a month ago.” The conspiracy theorist in me says that it’s the work of Proton’s new viral marketing machine to drive up flagging sales. The tagline: “Proton: Full of Bull,” “Proton: We’ll Go On Till The Cows Come Home,” “Proton: We fit the Bull.” etc. etc.

Here’s an excerpt of the story in BM:

KULIM: Sekumpulan penduduk Kampung Pondok Labu, dekat sini, yang mengadakan rondaan mencegah jenayah, berjaya menggagalkan cubaan beberapa lelaki untuk mencuri seekor lembu di kampung berkenaan, tengah malam kelmarin.

Kejayaan penduduk itu juga dijangka menyelesaikan misteri kehilangan beberapa ekor ternakan terbabit di kampung berkenaan sejak lebih sebulan lalu, yang dipercayai dilakukan kumpulan pencuri sama.

Bagaimanapun, apa yang mengejutkan ialah bagaimana pencuri itu dapat melarikan lembu hanya menggunakan sebuah Proton Wira, kerana tentu sukar untuk mereka memasukkan ternakan berkenaan ke dalam kereta terbabit.

Seorang penduduk berkata, dalam kejadian kira-kira jam 11.30 malam kelmarin, beberapa lelaki yang membuat rondaan cegah jenayah di kampung itu berjaya mengesan kegiatan pencuri terbabit di sebuah kebun kelapa sawit.

A Final Glance At Heath; Baptist Morons protest Memorial Service. Jeebus.

In Celebrity on January 24, 2008 at 2:51 am

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(Pic from Gawker, link below)

Gawker Media gets “the last images of Heath Ledger alive, filming on the set of the movie ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ in London, a fantasy-adventure based around a traveling theater company.”

While news surrounding the cause of his death–suicidal or not–remains vague, one thing’s for sure: there are some Baptist Morons in Kansas who are protesting Heath Ledger’s memorial service because he promoted homosexuality. Crackerjacks.

A radical Baptist church in Kansas known for picketing the funerals of soldiers who perished in Iraq said it intends to protest Heath Ledger’s memorial service with signs claiming the actor died and is in Hell because he played a gay character in “Brokeback Mountain.”

Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka said that she and other members will picket Ledger’s United States memorial services, not those held in his native Australia.

“You cannot live in defiance of God,” she said. “He got on that big screen with a big, fat message: God is a liar and it’s OK to be gay.”

A press release circulated by the church references Leviticus 18:22 in the Bible, which states that “thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

Cripes. This Ain’t Good.

In News on January 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm

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(Pic from lusi @ sxc)

News of an approaching recession in the US has been rumoured since last year, and unless the US Elections provides some kick ass results and economic reforms (Come on, Obama!), 2008 could be… uh. Start hoping and praying for a good year ahead.

This breaking from AP: “Asian Markets Extend Losses Amid Worries That US Is Headed for Recession.”

Global stock markets extended their shakeout into a second day Tuesday, plunging amid worries that a possible U.S. recession will cause a worldwide economic slowdown. The dramatic declines were expected to spread to Wall Street, where stock index futures were already down sharply hours before the trading day began.

“Unless we get some positive ‘shock effects,’ such as drastic measures from the U.S. government, there is almost no hope for a recovery in stocks,” said Koji Takeuchi, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo.

Markets have been plunging amid pessimism about the ability of the U.S. government to prevent a recession. The Federal Reserve has indicated it will lower interest rates further, and President Bush has proposed an economic stimulus package that includes $145 billion in tax cuts, but investors around the world are doubtful that the measures will lift the economy quickly.

The U.S. economy has been battered by a slump in the housing market and a credit crisis that has led to billions of dollars of losses among major U.S. banks.

Mediacorp offers podcasts

In Online, South Of The Border on January 22, 2008 at 12:03 am

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(Andrea Fonseka–in ur mediacorp podcast, mking u prokrastinate)

Here’s another reason why Singapore is just that much better than Malaysia when it comes to Digital Media. Mediacorp– the media juggernaut down south–has embraced the podcast phenomenon and are now offering a whole bunch of stuff at their podcast portal. Granted that much of it is currently straight from their radio channels, but it would make sense to start with audio only from Mediacorp’s perspective.

More importantly though, they also allow user submitted content at their site (with prior review and approval of course). This is huge. Mediacorp are offering all of us a gateway to market our podcast to the domestic regional audience and this allows newbie podcasters to at least have an avenue to gain that critical mass of listeners before they can start getting ad revenue.

iTunes is full of seasoned pros and vets at this point and is so full of stuff, it would be easy to get lost there. I am unsure if contracts etc. with Medicorp will be involved , but hey, at least this is an option that was unavailable previously. All newbie podcasters should at least check it out.

The site also has a very definite iTunes Music Store look and feel to it so I guess those familiar with podcasts (majority using iTunes) will feel right at home. The site now claims to have already exceeded 3 million downloads.

Because An Indian Version of Sweet Child of Mine Totally RoXX0rs

In Videos on January 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I’ve always thought that the promo spots for Channel [V] totally sucked in comparison to the MTV spots, until I saw this little clip on YouTube. Totally awesome. Haven’t seen it here yet though.

Nerdgasm Alert: This is what they mean by Pure Black Plasma TV

In Geek Stuff on January 21, 2008 at 3:29 pm

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(Pic from Gizmodo, link below)

Despite the rather lukewarm reception to the CES 2008 show, one piece of interesting news came up about the new Pioneer Plasma screens in the latest TWiT podcast, where the blacks were so black, that you couldn’t spot it in a room with the lights off. A great statement to make, except that in an audio podcast talking about TV’s, it’s kinda hard to feel the full impact of such a device.

Voila! Gizmodo took a picture of the new Pioneer Kuro Extreme Contrast (“Kuro” means “black” in Japanese”), and there you have it–Robert Heron’s wet dream come alive. And that’s not all–the Plasma TV is just 9mm thin. That’s fucking crazy, man. Imagine a 50-inch screen, with this sorta contrast, and less than 1cm thick. Crap. I want one.

Pioneer execs shuffle us into a dark room, reveal the most critically acclaimed TV made, and then unveil a TV that can kick its ass on contrast. Yes, Pioneer’s current Kuro—the “best flat-panel ever”—was shedding light like a sumbitch next to Pioneer’s concept Kuro, whose black literally emits no light. So here it is, a strange Battlemodo pitting the super-hot 8th-gen Pioneer plasma against its own future self.

And in case there are any girls out there who can’t understand what this whole nerdgasmic rant is all about, here’s a little video explaining why this plasma screen is so brilliant (or rather, just the complete opposite).

Because Carmen Electra Became Hot Without Make-Up

In Celebrity on January 21, 2008 at 1:37 pm

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Gotta admit that when I first saw this story on Digg I didn’t really hit it. I mean, Carmen Electra is so overdone and over made up, I never expected anything too mind-blowing with the title “I Never Knew Carmen Electra Was This Pretty.” Then, Diggnation happened, I saw the picture, and I was blown away (full pic here). And yes, I know there’s a pussy on her back, but this is such a totally SFW and innocent picture that no puns come to mind at the mo. Yes, it is possible to see a Carmen Electra photo without having dirty thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Bionic Eyesight: Coming Soon in a Future Near You

In Geek Stuff on January 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

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I haven’t seen the latest re-incarnation of the Bionic Woman yet, but hell, from the way things are going in our science labs, the Bionic Woman may be soon be considered out of date, thanks to the good engineering folks at the University of Washington. Word is that they’ve developed a rabbit-tested contact lens that has embedded electronic circuits and lights, enabling us to browse the web in the future through our contact lenses.

This, however, fails desperately in comparison to good-ol’ beer goggles. Here’s an excerpt:

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes – visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. “This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.”

The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz’s now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW’s electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center’s ophthalmology department.

The MacBook Air: What’s Your Take?

In Geek Stuff on January 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm

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(Pic from Joyoftech)

So now that the MacBook Air’s out, what’s the reaction after the reality-field has died down? I won’t go into a long rant about it, but I think it’s safe to say that,at USD1799, the MacBook Air is clearly a supplemental laptop for those who can afford the cool factor–given its specs, it’s clearly not going to be your primary computer, so it’s really a really cool-looking luxury item for the rich. The only question here is not whether you want it, or need it, but whether you can afford it.

Here’s a rundown of stories where you can find more opinions on the MacBook Air: Arstechnica, and MacBreak Weekly Podcast both give it a rather “meh” conclusion, while Gizmodo gives a decent rundown on where the MacBook Air lies against its competition.

Plaything for the rich or innovation that will change the way we work? There’s more than enough voices out there to make your own conclusions, but one thing’s for sure: not everyone’s drinking the kool-aid.

PS: I can’t afford it.

Opera Mini Users Alert: theres a proxy server in your ssl connection

In Geek Stuff on January 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm
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From the Opera Mini FAQ:

Is there any end-to-end security between my handset and — for example — paypal.com or my bank?

No. If you need full end-to-end encryption, you should use a full web browser such as Opera Mobile.
Opera Mini uses a transcoder server to translate HTML/CSS/JavaScript into a more compact format. It will also shrink any images to fit the screen of your handset. This translation step makes Opera Mini fast, small, and also very cheap to use. To be able to do this translation, the Opera Mini server needs to have access to the unencrypted version of the web page. Therefore no end-to-end encryption between the client and the remote web server is possible.

To the non geeks, what this means is that if you are using the Opera Mini (NOT the regular Opera) browser on your mobile phone to browse the Internet, all connections are actually being passed through servers within Opera rather than going directly to the web site.

This is done so that Opera can optimise and customise the web page so that it displays in a clean and neat format on your tiny mobile phone screens. A very nice feature. Except that for SSL (the secure connections) this is a HUGE BIG FAT NO. If you’re doing Internet banking or trading or buying something with a credit card, your so called secure connection is actually being intercepted by Opera and is being decrypted for you before being re-encrypted using their own encryption implementation. All your bank/credit card/personal data *can* be seen in plain text by Opera or rather the folks who work in Opera.

WTF! They shouldve left SSL connections alone. I don’t think this is very responsible of them. If you have to use Opera Mini as the alternative to the piss poor BlackBerry browser, just make sure that you don’t submit any confidential or sensitive information using any forms. Or just don’t bother with Opera at all.