Mobile Technology

Can activists organize without mobile phones?

The Burmese military government’s recent move against democracy is ‘hi-tech’. It has cut off the phone services of activists and journalists. This developed as the government had feared that another wave of popular protest would unfold through mobile phones. Because of speed and cost efficiency, campaigners have resorted to mobile phones as indispensable tools to spread information aimed at social mobilizations.

Actually, the government showed “a bit of democracy” by announcing the warning first. And then right after that, the cutting off of the mobile services. Of course, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were not exempt from the measure. Even their office’s landline phone was disconnected.

I can’t imagine myself living in Burma when my mobile phone would suffer that fate. It’s like having an accident in the middle of the road without any way to call for emergency. Besides, a mobile phone has been a work gadget, without which I would deliver practically nothing.

Catching up with the digital age, activists consider mobile phones as extensions of their hearts and minds. They are their last resort in tough times, when it becomes impossible for them to reach out to their constituencies. But digital age threatened by the ghost of feudalism has to bear with the “glitches” like what Burmese government did. I call it glitch because government will surely think of ways to retain the business of mobile phones while effectively curbing popular protests. (I wonder if Philippine government would do the same disservice to Filipino activists of all hues without any pressure from telcos which would incur loss from it.)

The problem facing the pro-democracy movement in Burma is that government has the monopoly over the telecommunications through Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. And it will use all its military machine to stop others who’ll attempt to break it. In fact, in 2006, government successfully launched a crackdown on “illegal” importation and use of cheap China-made mobile phones. Even business people use Chinese mobile phones because of the better services.

Let me digress a bit. Can Filipino activists of the second millennium go on with their political lives without their mobile phones? Look, mobile phones do not only provide quick and cost-efficient delivery of information; they also provide a relative security for the info senders in terms of anonymity. I’m not saying that mobile communications are the only way. Mobile phones are tools and they must be seen as only complementing “offline” tasks of activists.

But I’m interested to know whether new-generation activists can really dispense with their mobile phones. Can they instead use a landline, a fax machine? Can they use what they predecessors loved doing–spreading copies of a piece of onion-skin or palara paper folded many times to avoid attention  from the police or enemies because such paper bears incriminating information?

I cannot live without my mobile phone. And I think I will die (or I will kill) if I’m denied connection to the Internet for life.

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Bad iPhone

The hot hype this year about Apple’s iPhone, a revolutionary mobile phone that’s an answer to the popular 3G phones, will have to be doused by DefectiveByDesign.org’s campaign against it. The reason: The phone locks a customer into AT&T, which has tied with the National Security Agency (NSA) in an alleged “massive, illegal program to wiretap and data mine Americans’ communications.”

Digg – iPhone – Defective By Design

For a long while, I’ve been wishing that iPhone hit the Philippine market and become an alternative to the current 3G phones having captivated many phone users. Smitten by its cool features and brand-new style, I wished to have that gadget (along with a Mac book, of course).

Now, since DefectiveByDesign.org mainstains that iPhone is as bad as Vista, what with its DRM and anti-privacy features, my wish would have to be like a bubble just burst. So, if you’re living in the US using or wanting to have that gadget, think again and join the campaign against it. And if you’re living in the Philippines drooling at the thought of having one, wipe that off. In the meantime, make do with what you have, so long as it keeps you connected to your work colleagues, friends and loved ones.

And here’s wishing for open-source phones to finally capture the global market.

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Not all good news are good

Fr SMART: GOOD NEWS! We have increased your credit limit to P11,000.00 effective today.

This is the text message I received this week regarding my mobile phone account with Smart. It sure is a business scheme to make a customer happy and proud, foregrounding the motive for further profit. Indeed, I must be happy and proud that I was not able to miss paying my monthly bills which average P2,000. As a reward, Smart raises my credit limit from P6,000 to P11,000. Quite a quantum leap.

I don’t bite the bait, though. Since I was forced to earn money to settle my February bill (which amounted over P7K), I learned my lesson. I cannot afford to reach that limit in exchange for half of my monthly salary.

With the intermittent internet connection I’m experiencing with my phone, the higher credit limit is not the good news that I deserve. It should be the more stable and faster connection. The good news that I’m expecting is the policy that ‘dropped’ internet connections will no longer be charged to the customer.

In these times, one must be cautious and discreet enough not to fall into super-profit traps.

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Undigitalized images

Are you fond of taking pictures and videos of everything that interests you? I am. It’s the reason why I have bought a camera phone, with its 2MP-resolution feature and few effects (but without a zoom capacity 😦 ). At least with video mode, I can make use of zooms. A camera phone’s advantage over a videocam or digicam is that the former is handy. I can even send a picture or video that I have just taken to email or blog.

I am fond of taking pictures of and publishing stuff that are of human interest and present paradoxes and ironies in life. However, it just frustrates me when there are times that I am not able to capture these moments for various reasons.

In this blog entry, I am listing all of the images that I am not able to capture with my camera phone. This entry will be updated as necessary.

  1. Coffin car that was moving very fast as if in a race. At least, it was not playing elegiac music, enough to make me shiver with dread. (Feb. 19)

  2. Vendor of taho (soya milk) using a pedicab (a bicycle with a wheeled extension that serves to carry limited number of persons and things). Usually, a taho vendor carries his wares on his shoulder (two silvery vessels containing the taho and hanging from a lever). But this taho vendor that I saw must either be tired or practical which explains his using a pedicab. (Feb 20)

  3. A group of taong grasa (about 7 of them) under a waiting shed. Seated on ground, they were not practically talking to one another but they were pretty close like attached to an ether. They look blackish, being soiled at the body and clothes they are wearing. (Feb 23)

Expensive to be MYC, feeling like dead when MAD

I knew from the start that being mobile yet connected (MYC) would cost me more money. But I never imagined that the cost would be so much that it would disconnect me from my family and community at all—mobile and disconneced (MAD).

Here’s the story:

Last December, I renewed my post-paid mobile phone plan with Smart Telecom. It came with a cheaply-priced phone that has 3G capabilities, including a fast Internet connection. Using the phone for sending email, surfing the Internet, or synchronizing data with a server costs P10 per 30 minutes of connection. Much like the charge from most Internet cafes. And it looks like not expensive at all, right?

But since I acquired my Sony Ericsson K610, I have already used it for my Internet-based tasks: Emails, moblogging photos and videos, visiting particular web sites, and frequent synchronizing of my calendar, contacts and tasks data with the Synchronized World server. I even used my phone to connect my notebook to the Internet. So, after two months of connecting to the Internet with the phone, my bill says I’ve used about 500 minutes and that I owed Smart more than P5,000 (about 80 USD), more or less P2,500 a month. Note: The data charge is exclusive of the SMS and voice calls that I made.

And since I already exceeded my credit limit (P6,000.00), my phone had to be redirected (euphimism for temporarily disconnected). Result: No text messages, no voice calls and no Internet connection using my phone number. And this travail will go on until I have enough money to settle my bill. Workaround: Buy a new SIM card with prepaid terms and just look for Internet cafes when outside the office.

It’s a quite a mess, as a result of my profligacy with my phone.

Here’s a caveat for post-paid 3G phone subscribers like me: Smart’s P10-per-30-minutes scheme is misleading. Unlike in some internet cafes, you’ll only be charged for the time you actually spent. With Smart, you’ll be charged P10 pesos even if you spent a minute.

Multimedia production with Sony Ericsson K610i

I was trying to produce a 14-second video on smoke belching, which took place right from the jeepney I rode. I wanted an mp3 track playing as soundtrack. I had a song by Aegis, a remake of Asin’s Usok. The problem is that my phone does not accept mp3s for soundtracks, only those made through its recorder. Crazy.

As I really wanted an mp3 soundtrack to that video, I tried to record the mp3 from my notebook to my phone. Success. Then I uploaded the video through my mobile to YouTube. I’m now waiting for the approval of that video.

Fight telcos’ anti-consumer deceptions

Would you believe that Globe Telecom, the other popular mobile phone service provider (next to Smart?), has jacked up its unlimited text messaging fee by 100%?. Before, a Globe subscriber paid P50 for unlimited free text messages for five days. Today, you pay P80 for four days only.

OK, perhaps Globe was thinking that it has the right to take back whatever free services that it provides to its consumers. Yes, it does. But making the public believe that the new rate still applies for unlimited free text messaging is nothing but deception. It must be rejected. Go to this site and sign up a petition to stop Globe’s anti-consumer move.

So subscribers of other networks must closely monitor the latter’s services. For complaints, visit the TXTPower site.

The future on my Palm

According to Yahoo! Tech News, Palm OS’s future is bleak. Smartphones running Palm OS now rank 5th (second to last) in sales, even far behind RIM.

The prognosis may be true as far as I’m concerned. My Palm 515 has been hibernating in my hand bag for two weeks already. I’ve barely touched it since I acquired my Sony Ericsson K610i last December. So bad the two cannot communicate with each other so that data may be synced, for one. Also, I guess there’s a lot of work to be done before the two can do so through the help of my Linux notebook.

My phone is not a smartphone in a strict sense. But it does have a lot more features than my Palm PDA. So my PDA has born the grunt of the fast wave of mobile technology.

What do I do with my Palm, then? Don’t advise me to sell it. It’s a cherished find.

  1. Make it my official Document Reader (through iSilo) on the road. This is when I don’t have my laptop with me and when reading long documents on my phone (through saved web pages) becomes very tedious.
  2. Another address book. My phone is not capable of storing large chunks of data, particularly in important fields like address and notes.
  3. Repository for photo albums. But I need to work around it using freeware or open-source applications.
  4. Wait till there’s hope for it to be converted to Linux. (Hoping against hope.) I pinned my hope on ucLinux, but the proejct almost stopped development.

Yahoo! Flash Drive

The search for a 2-gigabyte flash disk in Gilmore St. brought me to a store that displayed this flashy gadget. It looked like a rarity, thinking that only a few would have it. So without batting an eyelash, I pulled my wallet and bought that cool device. Never mind the color (even the string is violet). What’s important is that it’s Yahoo! And it’s robust.
I just hope that this won’t get lost for a long time at least. I already lost three for a span of just one year.

Making BT work in Kubuntu Edgy

Here’s another feather in my opensource cap. I managed to make my bluetooth setup work between my notebook and Sony Ericsson K610i.Yesterday, I bought a USB bluetooth dongle priced at about P500. I guess that the model I bought was in between the high-end and low-end gadgets.

With my Kubuntu Edgy system, I made sure I have the following packages installed:

1. bluetooth – Bluetooth stack utilities
2. kdebluetooth – KDE Bluetooth Framework
3. bluez-utils – Bluetooth tools and daemons
4. qobex – Swiss army knife for the OBject EXchange (obex) protocol
5. obexftp – file transfer utility for devices that use the OBEX protocol
6. obexserver – Receive files with OBEX protocol

Then I issued the kbluetoothd daemon to watch out for connected bluetooth devices, e.g., my mobile phone.

I did not touch the /etc/bluetooth/hcid.conf file except the line on passkey. I also changed the file ‘pin’ to reflect the passkey that I liked.

With the dongle attached to a USB port in my notebook, I tried to connect my phone by adding a device in it. The process of successfully connecting was very long and tedious, though. The bluetooth daemon always said ‘pairing not allowed’. The KDE documentation advised that one check the log file to determine the problem in case the stock workaround does not work. I did check the /var/log/debug file and I saw a line that says: hcid[9419]: call_passkey_agent(): no agent registered.

The not-so-techie dungkal was clueless of course. Searching the Internet made me realize that there’s a glitch in Kubuntu as far as passkey handling is concerned. Solution: install gnome-bluetooth and bluez-passkey-gnome.

I bg’ed the process bt-applet (Gnome’s equivalent for kbluetoothd). It’s wierd of course to have both the KDE and Gnome daemons running at the same time.

I detached the dongle and put it back on. Yes, you guess it right. Both the prompts of KDE and Gnome popped up. But it was the Gnome prompt that I needed. I clicked on the yellow-brownish prompt which fired up the authentication dialog box. I entered the laptop’s bluetooth passkey and then my mobile phone asked for the passkey.

As quick as my batting my eyelash, the bt-applet issued a message like “bonding of two devices created”.

Now that the passkey registration got successful, I tried to restart my machine and not issue the bt-applet any longer. Yahoo! Pairing for Kubuntu worked automatically.

Kubuntu relies on the OpenOBEX protocol to exchange files between two bluetooth-enabled devices. Clicking on my notebook’s applet icon brings me immediately to Konqueror displaying all devices sniffed by my notebook. Then when I click on the device referring to my phone, all services available from it are displayed, common of which are File Transfer and Object Push.

The only beef I have is that the dongle I bought seems to be unstable. Sometimes, file transfer is successful, sometimes it’s not. When I once checked the tx and rx registers, I found out that the tx side contained errors. To do: Buy a more reliable dongle alternative.

Doing Google search also brought me to a handful of sites concerning the use of Sony Ericsson K610i with Linux. Cool! That gives me hope that the data in my phone will be more secure and synchronizable with my notebook on the fly.