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SMART Communications launches LTE

By the time you read this post, I’m still in the middle of the ocean, finishing our last day of diving Tubbataha Reef. When I get back, I fly, almost immediately to Boracay. I’m there with my partner-in-crime Andi9 so we’ll be streaming live soon!

SMART is launching LTE technology and doing the entire demo in Boracay.

LTE is a modulation technique that is designed to deliver 100Mbps (DL) per channel and give individual users performance comparable to today’s wired broadband. It was bound to happen. The question was when. To put things into simpler terms let’s have a look at a short history of how mobile phones work:

2G GSM Technology
Remember your Nokia 5110 and 3210? There. Calls and SMS. That was 2G connectivity.

2.5G Technology
This was the first shot into surfing the Internet with your phone but we were using WAP sites. Remember WAP? Yung parang pangit na website designed for mobile phones using GPRS? That was it. Add your ringtones and picture messages. It got a little better when phones started using EDGE connectivity (popular with BlackBerry then) but that was still not …

3G and 3.5G Technology
This is Internet today. It’s workable but not comparable to the wired connections we have at home. You could surf, email, chat, do your social networking, but it was honestly a bit hard to do things like online gaming and downloading huge files.

4G Technology
This is the next generation of connectivity. 100MBPS. On your phone. Built on top of existing technology. No, you cannot use your current phones or USB dongles to access these speeds. The only phone I know that’s capable of accessing this network is the HTC Thunderbolt. Yeah I think SMART is deploying LTE at the same time as Verizon in the USA. Not sure if the Thunderbolt is launching here though because there’s a slight difference in setup with the LTE here and the one in the USA. I heard they’re shipping in dongles.

So yes if you’re planning on buying a new USB dongle for mobile Internet, I suggest you wait a few. That’s because you can practically achieve faster speeds with costs similar to your current plans.

I’m not sure when exactly SMART is making the commercial announcement (i.e. data plans and rates) but if you leave a comment here they will probably get back to you as a number of them read this cute site.

Oh and just one more thing. In case you’re wondering what the difference between LTE and WiMax is, well the former is GSM-based technology: phones. While WiMax involves a completely new set of hardware and is designed for WiMax-enabled devices.

NUDI Interview on ANC Mornings

Jan Acosta and I guested on ANC Mornings to talk about the fast growing underwater photography club in Manila. NUDI or the Network of Underwater Digital Imagers (check us out on Facebook and yep, here’s the link to our site) is an underwater photography club that was formed to get diver-photographers together to share techniques and experiences in shooting underwater.

The Philippines is a biodiversity hotspot and the things we find down there are simply amazing. We talked about diving as a viable hobby in the Philippines, conservation, our gallery exhibits and the SNUPS competition that we’re co-organizing this year.

My epiphany about smartphones and data services

So I had an epiphany a couple of days ago. And this began with me coming home from a business trip racking up a bill of PHP30k worth of roaming charges. And that was just for 2 days of use. Of course the cost is charged to the company but waiting for the bill to be settled incurred my line being cut for 2 days. I was alternating between two phones: my HTC Mozart (which you can get in SMART’s Rockwell branch on plan 1800) and a HTC Desire S (the new Android 2.3 device which SMART let me pull out for testing).

Anyway, the feeling of not being able to call or text was a tragic one. My phones, for all intents and purposes were dead. They were only good for Angry Birds. Well, at least the Android phone. BUT not when I entered a WiFi hotspot. It’s like the phones magically came to life whenever I entered wireless hotspot, plugged in the password and went online.

My “no text” was solved using a combination of sending Twitter DM’s and chat using Kik Messenger. Since Kik works across multiple platforms, I’m pretty much solved. If not, the DM on Twitter solved the gap.

My “no calls” was easily solved with Skype and Fring (well actually I barely used it as I’d send DM’s to everyone telling them to call if needed).

Couple that with being able to update your Facebook status, Foursquare, Plurk and surf the web, I barely noticed that my SIM was inactive. Oh, and I have complete guarantee that my messages were sent, unlike SMS that at times doesn’t make it.

Have we entered an age where GSM is slowly becoming obsolescent? Not obsolete, mind you? Obsolescence is when there’s nothing wrong with a product or service. It’s just that there’s something more efficient that makes the previous service redundant. It’s just like how SMS replaced the pager. People have defined “smartphones” as phones that allow you to install apps and do more things than call or text. I think this is fairly accurate.

But I do like my own definition: it is a phone that doesn’t need to use 2G technology (i.e. calls and text) to send messages and call. Smartphones take advantage of more advanced infrastructures such as 3G, HSPA (3.5G) and LTE. You know that USB dongle you bought to connect your laptop to the Internet? That’s essentially a smartphone stripped of all other functions except Internet. I think this is precisely why telcos are offering pure data plans on SIM cards as we unconsciously move away from the “text and calls” generation towards data.

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Chrina Cuna on my weekly tech show on defining what exactly a smartphone is. You can catch this show every Wednesday from 2PM to 4PM on Flippish. If you aren’t online at this time, you can always watch the archives.

I hope they settle my bill soon 0_o.

The first original game I bought … was CRAP.

At home I have these big iBox containers which I use to store my junk. I have 6 of these stacked up at the foot of my bed. It’s semi-OC: one has all the plugs and cables, another has gadgets, and manuals, another one with my lens filters, so on and so forth. Rummaging through my stuff (I was packing for a long trip next week) I found the box of my very first original PC game titled “Rise of the Robots.” Anyone remember this? I remember buying this in a gaming shop in Hong Kong during the mid 90’s. It was this vs Wing Commander IV. At that time, I had no patience for flight simulators and the thought of robots beating each other up in the area was absolute childhood fanfare.

And so this is the box (sadly contents are lost in time):


Subject: I Love You (and yes, starring Jericho Rosales)

Interesting. It’s Jericho Rosales‘ first international film. But more than that, it seems like a pretty solid story on the drama and intrigue behind the ‘I Love You’ virus epidemic that plagued the world’s Internet in May of 2000. The worm originated from the Philippines and thus, the setting (or one of the settings) of this film. Looks really interesting.

BlackBerry Torch 9800: You want one. No, really you do! Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.

EDIT: Here’s a post from my friend Eric on his BB6 experience.

Wow. Talk about delayed. The BlackBerry Torch you see here was released in the middle of 2010. It’s only now I’m reviewing it. To be fair, I haven’t seen a lot of people using this phone as it arrived late in the Philippines. In fact, back at Mobile World Congress, RIM’s booth was all over the Torch and their tablet, the Playbook which is supposedly out globally this April.

Jewelmer: A Short Primer on the South Sea Golden Pearl

On the geeky side: I’m using the new Samson Go Mic to record the voice over for this short amateur documentary. It’s an amazing device for PHP 2,300.00. It’s small, lighr and super affordable and can very well replace your professional USB studio mic if you aren’t too meticulous.

Transcript and photos follow.


DIVE AND SHOOT: Tourism! Underwater Photo Contests! Growing SCUBA Community!

I found this Moray Eel peeping from the hard coral while shooting for an underwater segment of Born to be Wild | Dive 7000 Resort, Anilao | January 2011.

Dammit! I live in such a beautiful country! :) Anna Oposa would agree.

Last week our underwater photography dive group (check us out at NUDI.PH and our more active Facebook group at FACEBOOK.NUDI.PH) got together once again for an evening of friendly competition. Yep, this happens once a month, and we all meet up, realizing that most of us have day jobs. Heh!

Geek Orgasm Trifecta: Sandy Bridge. Portal 2. Sixense Motion Sticks

Sandy Bridge. Portal 2. Sixense motion controllers.

Several months ago, a friend showed me some benchmark tests for the new Sandy Bridge video cards. You see, about two years ago, desktops — and even laptops would be equipped with what I would call “poor excuses” for video cards. They sucked. And this would always require card manufacturers like NVIDIA and ATI to sell you a dedicated graphics card. You could get decent ones between PHP 3,000.00 – PHP 6,000.00. Times have changed. Intel’s latest Core processors (they’re really pushing the mid-range Core i5) have video cards that outperform some of today’s current high end GPU’s. In other words, if you buy one of these processors for your new rig, you will need to buy a video card above PHP 10,000.00 else you’ll just have redundant hardware.

In the video above, we have a guy from Sixense playing Portal 2 on a dedicated Core i5 graphics chip. He’s using the new motion sense sticks (basically your PC is now a Wii) to play.

Bottomline: I can finally justify spending for a Core-based processor. It’s like I’m spending for both the processor and the video card.

Portal 2. Awesome.

When gaming respected you: a pseudo-rant

I finished Dead Space 2 on the PC a few weeks ago. I would have finished it sooner, but I was playing this in tandem with The Witcher, which is now easily in my “Games You Should Play Before You Die” list. Other games in this list include Final Fantasy VII (or III if you have the Japanese version), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Baldur’s Gate, Deus Ex, and Chrono Trigger. I digress.

The former is sci-fi horror, the latter fantasy role playing. Both have won numerous accolades: the former for its gore (see video above) and the latter a “2007 Game of the Year” award (to be fair, The Witcher is based on a rich series of books-turned movie by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski).

As I browse through the catalogue of upcoming games, online reviews and YouTube walkthroughs, I can’t help but agree with a common observation from old school gamers such as myself who grew up playing text-input adventure games such as Police Quest and Zack McKraken: we’ve been dominated with too many first person shooters — dominated to such an extent that the gaming industry demands shorter developing times, thus dumbing down the total single player experience and making up for it with online multiplayer. Case in point:

In the video above, we go through the COD: Black Ops stage on HARDENED difficulty without firing a single bullet. HUGE REALIZATION: You think you’re being challenged but you’re actually in one huge cinematic. You’re being taken for a ride. The industry think you’re stupid.

In the video below, Tbiscuit demonstrates a similar rant with the single player version of Homefront.

I have nothing against the genre per se. In fact, games like Call of Duty, the ‘Battlefield’ franchise and Bulletstorm (“Dick!”) have really helped the industry further mature. OK maybe not Bulletstorm. But my point remains.

I just got my copy of Dragon Age II. Part I (Dragon Age: Origins) did really well: it brought back the roots of what made gaming respectable: an award winning story, a lot of customization, strategy. The list goes on. The game respected the player and you could really immerse yourself in what seemed like a real world. With today’s shooters, well .. it’s almost like the same thing over and over again: watch cinematic, aim down sight, kill the enemy, get hit, hide behind a box while you regenerate to full life … if you play these games, you know the drill. Dragon Age II was weighed in to be a rushed job, dumbed down, combat-centric work of art. It speaks of the industry.

Somehow I get the feeling that the mainstream gaming industry has been bitten by the sad realities of business models that rely on faster release dates, half-hearted sequels, “promo items” and “special editions” which in truth don’t add much value to gaming at all. In truth, the now big publishers may not even know what gamers really want anymore.

I don’t know. I’m probably ranting. But I do state my case that when games that aren’t like Modern Warfare are released, I take a keener interest: And yeah, Dead Space 2 — I enjoyed the gore and the horror.

Going paperless with press releases

This March 26, the world celebrates Earth Hour. At its worst, it is a commercialized gimmick to make us feel like we’re really doing something for the environment. At its best, it can be a means for a society to achieve greater things and effect real change. This 2011, Earth Hour’s theme is all about “Going Beyond the Hour.”

As a media person for both print and online publications, I have noticed that there is one behavior in the PR industry that hasn’t evolved well into the digital age: the giving away of physical press releases during events. It comes with no secret that a good number of people in the media prefer digital copies of press releases and photos emailed to them since actual physical copies merely take up space and contribute to clutter. My room is filled with such envelopes, folders and press releases that I recycle them as scratch paper. Eek, what a waste!

In today’s media, we merely email the material to the editor in charge, which in turn gets sent to the graphic artist, which then gets copy+pasted into the layout (which is also most publications prefer text in .rtf format FYI).

At a time when we have the means to use more effective ways to send data through the Internet, maybe we should revisit the practice of PR material, limiting the physical and going full on digital.

I have talked to a number of (current and former) PR practitioners and they give me two sides:

a. It does not cost a lot to print these press releases so it should be an easy thing to transition towards.

b. Agencies add printing of PR material as part of their cost to clients as a way of making additional money.

To address letter B , maybe an agency could still charge the same amount and use the allocation to fund a “green” campaign in the office. Or something. Anything!

To transition to digital, there are so many ways you can ensure that your press release gets sent and published.

Scribd is the “YouTube of documents.” Instead of sending the press release via email to online publishers, why not upload the PR material onto Scribd.com and send the embed link to your online publication contacts. That way, all they need to do is copy+paste the link onto their sites. As an addded bonus, you will also be able to monitor statistics / views.

YouSendIt / SendSpace
These are two good services to use if you are sending big files. Sending huge files via email can choke your server. These 2 services allow you to send files below 100MB for free (SendSpace allows up to 300MB) to anybody via an email download link. This is YouSendIt. This is SendSpace.

For the more creative, you can also start a Dropbox group. Dropbox is perhaps the most efficient way of sharing files within a group. When you sign up (it’s free!), you get about 2GB worth of space and you can share folders with other Dropbox users. Since the service also works on your desktop, you can simply drag and drop files to your Dropbox folder (i.e. “tech media”) and the files automatically sync with the folders of everyone in your list.

These are but three ways PR practitioners can transition to more effective ways of delivering their releases. It isn’t just about “doing our part” — it’s also more about being effective. Think of the paper you’d save and think of a more effective way of delivery! If you have any suggestions on how this can be improved, do chime in! If you like this idea, share it with others! :)

Date a girl who blogs

UPDATE: Date a girl who blogs is now part of a NY-based theater performance by Lively Productions


Date a girl who blogs. Date a girl who finds solace in sharing her most private letters to the noises of the world. She has a rhythm to the writing, as the sounds — the tap-tap-tapping — are touched with every bit of emotion she can muster. She’s writing, ignoring the 9% battery warning as she tries to add a little more perspective to your world.

Date a girl who blogs. Find her that new restaurant and wait for her, patiently, as she skims through the menu, to cherish the Serifs and italics of the posh, and the Arials and doodles of the diner. Watch her order, and question the waiter, and then the head chef to hear a story you’ve never cared to hear before. You will learn. Watch her envelop her tongue at the morsel awaiting judgement, then chew, her face barely betraying a smile as she takes down notes on a torn paper napkin. She forgot her notebook. Buy her one. And seal it with the URL of your new blog.

Today she’s doing more than just writing. She’s moving the widgets, repositioning the ads and maybe doing a bit of SEO. Help her. Buy her a new domain — buy it for 3 years with a promo code — and then maybe configure a forwarding email address, because you know deep down that self-hosted email servers are a thing of the past.

Share her posts on Facebook. Like them. Create a hashtag for your affection to her and let her come to this knowledge through the Internet, but follow through in real life. Your story deserves to be written down.

Suggest her for #FollowFriday.

Go out on dates. Let her heart open up to you and digest these memories into a single post which will be remembered in the archives of our search engines. Kiss. Change your relationship status. Kiss some more. Add her friends. You now have more mutual friends. Tag your photos together. Add her on Farmville. Harvest her farm. Poke her.

You are no longer forever alone.

Marry a girl who blogs. Propose to her by making a website with animated gifs and MIDI background music; she will show you the secret journal she’s been writing for years for you, and you alone. You will find that it comes with no ads, no links, no page rank. Only her trust rank. You will be overjoyed to read the fondness she has had of you, and realize that this, and this alone is the memory she chose to keep from her readers.

Have kids with a girl who blogs. Let her post photos and status updates about your children. Share them with your friends. You will see that she has saved everything onto a USB drive and printed the most fond ones for a real family album because the grandparents are not on the Internet.

Date a girl who blogs because she will find interestingness in the most uninteresting of things. You deserve to be interesting and that this life you live, though monotonous in its day to day is the perfect testament to why she loves you.


As inspired by Date a girl who reads and You should date an illiterate girl


Saving Secret Bay

Baby cuttlefish (1 inch in total length) shot in Secret Bay, Anilao November 15 2010 3.34pm

Lembeh Strait in Indonesia is famed for being the best — if not one of the best sites for muck diving globally. No corals, no reef fish, no plants. Instead divers are rewarded with the most bizarre creatures in muck sites: mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, garden eels, flounders … it’s the weirdest of the weird.

Although shot in 3 locations, most of this footage was taken in Secret Bay.

Foreigners who dive Secret Bay in Anilao say that it rivals Lembeh for the best muck diving experience.

I dove Secret Bay countless times. It probably ranks as the number one site I’ve frequented in my two years of diving so I got to see some of the best it has to offer. In addition to this, Secret Bay is home to several hot spring nodes that can burn your hand underwater. Above ground, the springs are used to boil eggs for surface interval time between dives.

I recall sometime in the middle of last year one trip we made to the area. After going down to about 40 ft I noticed that the water was silted up and not just in one area but across a whole stretch. We went deeper to 70ft and still didn’t see anything — it was as if the entire area was fished out. Bad dive. We didn’t see anything save for dozens of flying gurnards which were common to the area and patches of anemone with their respective clownfish residents.

After 50 minutes of bottom time and our 3 minute safety stop we made our way up. Getting on the boat, we noticed a small argument ensuing by the shore. There were men with very wide rakes tied to ropes. We found out from our boatman on that the man was another diver reprimanding the locals for raking up the ocean floor for fish entangling everything as by-catch. It was horrid. And tense. No wonder the bottom was all silted up.

A flounder’s “one half” hiding in the sand. Taken in Secret Bay November 15 2010 3:26PM.

Maybe I’m coming from a jaded perspective as a diver who comes once in a while to enjoy the dive weekend. Maybe I can’t relate to the fishermen who need to survive their day to day. But I also cannot ignore the fact that Anilao, which more emphatic divers call AniLOVE is struggling to stay beautiful. The newly constructed Korean resort fronting Secret Bay SHOULD protect the area (and the adjacent site called Toro Point) and turn it into a marine sanctuary. Sayang.

The truth is, Anilao charges a daily PHP 100.00 dive pass for recreational divers. The pass serves as a tax for the conservation efforts.

Where does this money go to?

Diving Secret Bay (starts at 1:39) in January 2010. This was the only sighting I’ve had of a rare baby flamboyant cuttlefish.


Last year, I was thrilled to have been chosen by Coca-Cola to become part of their Live Positively campaign for their Energy Management & Climate Protection program. After getting my open water SCUBA certification in 2009 I went all the way to disclose the beauty that lies beneath the Philippines. I have since then become a volunteer for the WWF for their coral triangle projects and now for Coca Cola. The Live Positively campaign is really more of a permanent movement that is engraved into the company’s mission more than anything.

If you would like to learn more about Coca-Cola’s Live Positively Campaign, check out their Facebook page +) .

Ok let’s talk about my finger.

OK so not a lot of you know this but my left pinky has been getting the pins and needles since August 2010. I’ve consulted a doctor about this condition and it seems to be linked to well … posture on the computer specifically while playing first person shooters and excessive typing (hence the need for a tablet). It’s not Carpal Tunnel syndrome. It’s more closely linked to Guyon’s Canal. i was a tad relieved to find out that another friend from the Internet also has a similar condition but on her feet. It’s not numb — it’s … pins and needles. It doesn’t hurt. So I was advised to take 1,000mg of Vitamin B a day, which I’ve been doing. But apart from that remedy, there are two other home remedies that seem to work: a basin with hot water and salt AND this thing that was given to me by Phiten during an event way back last year. It’s called “e-Water” and pretty much contains the muscle relaxant you find in Phiten products but in liquid form. That’s it alongside all the other pain relievers I have at home. I’m aware of Phiten being a “controversial” muscle relaxant as most consider it to be a placebo, but heck it works for me. So I’m not complaining.

I’d like to know if anyone of you have similar conditions because of the computer and how do you treat it?

This video deserves to be viral: Child cries over Mara Clara

Super cute. This little girl loves Mara Clara so much, she thinks it’s real.

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