Archive Page 2

Smoother video-streaming

VIDEO-streaming from YouTube and access to other sites in the United States will be smoother – and less prone to disruption – for StarHub users when a new undersea cable system starts operations next month.

The US$500 million (S$696 million) Asia-America Gateway (AAG) will increase the Singapore telco’s overseas Internet bandwidth by 30 per cent and is designed to provide a capacity of up to 1.92 Terabits per second of bandwidth.

Built over three years by StarHub and a consortium of 18 other telcos, including America’s AT&T and Malaysia’s Telekom Malaysia, the cable system stretches 20,000km from the eastern part of Singapore to the Philippines, then directly across the Pacific Ocean to the US.

StarHub chief executive Terry Clontz said the cable system avoids the ‘volatile and hazardous Pacific Ring’ – which existing Internet submarine cables connecting Singapore to the world run through – which is prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters that could damage the cables.

Damage to submarine cables in that region in 2006, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck off Taiwan, cut off Internet connectivity between Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. Online economic activity in the region ground to a nearhalt.

Traffic was re-routed through other cables, but it took almost two months to restore full capacity.

While StarHub has invested in other submarine cables, it will route most of its current network capacity to the AAG, said a spokesman.

As the AAG offers a more direct route to the US, through fewer routers – which are devices that forward data packets – access to US-based Internet websites, the main online destination, will be quicker.

Mr Clontz said that it was hard to measure the improvement precisely as factors like the number of users trying to access the websites also matter.

Industry analyst Adeel Najam said that the AAG’s increased bandwidth would not necessarily translate into a vast improvement in broadband speeds, adding: ‘The bottleneck in Internet traffic for users here mostly occurs within Singapore itself…not in cables linking Singapore to overseas.’

Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Manpower Lee Yi Shyan, at the official launch of the AAG at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia yesterday, stressed that Singapore’s connectivity must continually improve as IT and media technology evolve rapidly.

Another submarine Internet cable to the US, being built by SingTel, PacNet, Google and other telcos, is expected to be ready in the first quarter of next year.

Something to look forward to next year, when streaming speeds increase. Since most popular sites are based in the US, this submarine cable should increase internet speeds for most people when they surf websites. Too bad it’s for Starhub only – when are we gonna get upgrades too, M1 and Singtel?


google street view for singapore

A HIGHLY controversial virtual-tour service by Google arrived in Singapore yesterday. And, already, it has polarised Internet users here on whether it infringes privacy.

Street View was launched by the American search-engine giant in the United States in May 2007 and is now accessible for free in more than 100 cities in the world.

Users can embark on a virtual tour in and around the streets of Singapore, enjoying a 360-degree and panoramic 3-D view of roads, buildings and iconic landmarks.

The service is available via smartphones as well.

Singapore is the first country in South-east Asia to get the service. Japan is the only other Asian nation to have it.

While some users welcome Street View, others are not so enamoured of it.

Privacy advocates in countries such as Britain, Japan and the US had complained that images featuring private gardens as well as people sun-tanning, leaving strip clubs or falling off their bikes were captured and made available to all and sundry.

In response, Google started, in July last year, to blur faces and licence-plate numbers.

However, it has been criticised for some poorly-blurred images.

Just last month, Swiss privacy watchdog Federal Data Protection and Information announced that it would sue Google for failing to make human faces and car plates “sufficiently unrecognisable”.

Mr Andrew McGlinchey, Google’s head of product management in South-east Asia, said users who object to certain images can report them by clicking on “Report a Problem” in the bottom left-hand corner of each image on

While concerns will be addressed within 24 to 48 hours, requests for removal will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Mr McGlinchey said that its pictures are taken from public areas, and hence “we prefer not to (remove them)”.

Also, he added that “99.9 per cent of users love” the service. Still, if the images feature private homes, they will honour requests to take them down because of privacy issues, he said.

Marketing executive Sylvia Ng, 24, likes the tool as it helps her plan her itinerary.

“A map is 2-D, so sometimes you can’t gauge the actual distance of the next turn. This can provide landmarks. Also, now I can find the entrance to obscure carparks,” said the motorist.

She has no issue with having her image taken if it was recorded in a public setting, she added.

However, for project engineer Timothy Lim, the idea of having his image splashed online for all to see is “a little unsettling”.

“It feels like Big Brother in the book 1984, where people are watching your every move. I wouldn’t want to be caught doing something embarrassing,” he said.

Google said that images of Singapore streets, which range “in the millions”, were taken between October last year and the beginning of this year.

Cameras perched on top of cars took high-resolution pictures every few metres.

Mr McGlinchey said that the service will be updated “sometime next year” when major construction projects such as the integrated resorts and shopping malls in Orchard Road are completed.

From October, it had also begun using tricycles to record images of small nooks and pedestrian paths which cannot be accessed by cars.

The information gathered will be made available only next year.

Mr Ken Low, assistant chief executive for marketing at Singapore Tourism Board (STB), is a fan of Street View.

He said: “It will raise Singapore’s prominence and reach through the Internet. People unfamiliar with Singapore can now get a first look at our city.”

Just 2 days ago I took Google Street View out for a test drive. It’s pretty awesome finally being able to see familiar places on Street View – Up till a few days ago, Google Street View wasn’t available in Singapore. Most of the major roads are covered so far, bu the images look like they were taken months ago. It’s great to know that they’ll be updating the images next year once the integrated resorts and shopping malls are finished. Else, foreign visitors wouldn’t be able to see these buildings on Street View.

On a side note, now we can build an exercise bike and hook it up to Google Street View too! Just like what this guy did:

don’t hack my password

Enterprises looking to maintain IT infrastructure integrity and deter hackers from attacking employees’ passwords, can tap software and simple guidelines to generate secure passwords, according to a security specialist.

Ronnie Ng, Symantec’s manager of systems engineering in Singapore and Indonesia, noted that there are systems and configuration management software, which include components and policies that allow IT administrators to enforce strong password guidelines within the organization.

Recent security incidents have stepped up the need for robust secret code. Last month, 20,000 passwords obtained from a phishing scam turned up on a third-party Web site, revealing login credentials to Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail accounts, among others. A subsequent analysis of the compromised passwords revealed that many users were tardy in creating secure passwords.

Viruses such as Conficker and Gumblar, have already attacked the IT infrastructure of organizations such as the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

With these in mind, here are five considerations to strengthen passwords and the password-generating process, for both work and play.

  • Use tools that automatically generate random passwords

IT professionals, Symantec’s Ng noted, should make use of business software that allow the automatic generation of random passwords based on a fixed schedule.

“So even if a certain password somehow becomes compromised, it will only be good until the randomization expires, and it will only apply to [a] particular computer,” said Ng.

  • Use alphanumeric characters and unique symbols to create stronger passwords

Alphanumeric characters with a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, will make it tough for hackers to crack. Employing this approach will make passwords “as meaningless and random as possible”, according to Ng.

Tech author and columnist J.D. Biersdorfer, noted in a video for the New York Times that such characters and symbols should also be worked into the answers of your challenge questions.

  • Instead of mnemonics, try a ‘pass-phrase’

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States have found out that using mnemonics, which require users to generate a password using the first letter of every word in a sentence, are not as secure as initially thought.

According to a Newsweek article, 144 volunteers were each asked to create a mnemonic password in a study conducted in 2006. The researchers then built a simple program to scour the Web for famous quotes, ad slogans, song lyrics and nursery rhymes, amassing 249,000 entries. Using this list, which is a relatively small universe of phrases in the security field, the researchers cracked 4 percent of the group’s mnemonic passwords, proving that this method has its fallibility.

Far more secure are pass-phrases such as “du-bi-du-bi-dub”, which would withstand a brute force attack–in which a hacker attempts “a,” then “ab”, then “abc”, and so on–for “531,855,448,467 years”, according to the report. So think long, but easy to remember phrases, the next time you generate a password.

  • Change passwords periodically

According to Symantec’s Ng, organizations should incorporate system prompts to alert employees to change their password every 45 to 60 days. Frequent password changes result in higher security, making it more difficult for intruders to access company data using outdated passwords. “But do strike a balance as overly frequent changes may hinder productivity,” he noted.

  • Avoid generating passwords using personal information

Internet users have a common headache: there are too many passwords to remember. Today, with Web-based email programs, Internet banking accounts, instant messaging tools, and corporate office computers among some of the more common systems or equipment requiring a password to authenticate entry, it is hard work for users to remember all their passwords.

However, users should not base passwords on the convenience of their personal information, Ng pointed out. Such data include names, nicknames and birth dates.

Former Governor of Alaska in the U.S., Sarah Palin, is a cautionary tale. Last year, her personal e-mail account was hacked into by a student, who simply searched the Web to find out Palin’s birth date, postal code and where she had met her husband to crack her security code.

So who wants to try a password like “du-bi-du-bi-dub”? That’s quite an interesting one, and it looks easy to remember as well. Another issue that wasn’t covered in this article is the fact that people like to use ONE password for everything: their email account, Paypal, eBay, etc. It’s pretty simple to get to the rest of the accounts once you know one of the passwords. Get into an email account like Hotmail and by sifting through their inbox, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess what other sites they visit on a regular basis.

google’s chrome os

Yesterday, Google showed the world its upcoming Linux based Chrome operating system for the first time. Till now, the project had been all theory and talk, but now the company has given something much more concrete to bank on. Although it is still at least a year till the OS is actually released, but Google did give the world its open source code and displayed what it would be like when in action.

Keeping things simple, Google is not aiming at taking over the PCs of the world, but experts still believe that once out, the Chrome OS could pose a mighty threat to Windows. Chrome is a “browser and cloud-based” operating system for netbooks and lays emphasis on being fast, simple and secure. The new OS aims at shifting users from traditional operating systems to the cloud computing system. Chrome will not support hard drives, only data, and it will run only web based applications.  Installation of desktop-similar software will not be allowed.

The fact that the Chrome can protect itself well against malware attacks makes it very attractive from the security point of view. If any application on the OS appears to be in danger of being corrupted by viruses, it is designed to reboot itself. A clean version of the operating system is then downloaded. User data will be stored in “Google’s cloud computing service and will be encrypted and synchronized constantly between the netbook and the cloud”.

After yesterday’s glimpses, everyone is now more eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Google Chrome OS. Some experts, however, have been quick to warn that Google should speed its launch; otherwise the excitement might die down.

I’m feeling pretty excited about Google’s Chrome OS – it sounds like it would perform well on a netbook. Coupled with web-based applications and it looks to be the perfect platform for office and school work. No more messy transferring of files through thumbdrives and email.

Come to think about it, it’s probably going to tie in with Google Wave quite well too. Did I mention that I’ve gotten an invite to Google Wave? It’s pretty awesome, but without any friends to test it out with, it’s pretty much underutilised right now…

appulous troll bridge: 36

Yet another change to the troll bridge question.

The current question is: Kyek modified a Greasemonkey plugin to allow you to see if an Appulous IPA link was dead before you clicked it. The original plugin was the ________ Links Checker.

And the answer: Cavern

appulous troll bridge: 35

Here’s the latest update on the troll bridge.

The current question is: You ssh to your phone and decide to rename “Documents” to “Other crap”. Type the command to do it, without using quotes.

And the answer: mv Documents Other\ Crap

appulous troll bridge: 34 troll bridge has been updated again. I’m hoping that they make the move to their new servers soon: Appulous is just full of too many excellent applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch!

The current question:

You’re connected to our IRC server. To join our room,what would you type?
The answer is:
/join #chatulous