Monday, September 29, 2008

Blade Asia Trinoma Fiasco: Reversed Polarity Car Battery Installation

It was a day I never knew would happen to me. Just got back from Cainta at Town and Country Homes from a birthday party when me and friends
decided to chat over coffee at Starbucks Trinoma, something I won't normally do since I find the coffee too pricey. It was a Saturday so parking at Trinoma
at the mall is hard due to the number of people going there on a weekend. The North parking, my preferred one was full and had no choice but to park at Mindanao parking, with it's narrow lanes and dark place, it's not recommended for newbie drivers due to the possibility of your car to be sideswiped or scraped by the walls and columns.

After the chit-chat, me and my friends parted ways and I proceeded to my parking slot on the rooftop of Mindanao parking facing SM City North EDSA but I learned later that my car, a 2006 Toyota Vios's battery died on me. I can't start it. A 1.5 with an automatic transmission, you can't also jump-start it by having it pushed, something you see most of the time.

I immediately requested guards on duty for a series connection (so-called though it's actually a parallel battery connection) if they have spare batteries for dead ones. Trinoma guards were helpful but it took more than 30 minutes for them to come to help and found out they just requested a guy with a car to assist do the "series" connection wusing an improvised cable to connect his car battery to mine.

It didn't work; my car won't start.

After the futile exercise, I was advised to just buy a new battery either from Motolite via delivery or buy it myself at Blade Asia, a car accessories store, in Trinoma.

With the new battery in tow paid by a credit card, the Blade Asia staff followed us to the our parking slot and installed it without much hesitation. When he asked me to start my car, the dahsboard won't even light up. That's when I knew that the battery has been connected in reversed! He tried to reverse the battery again to the correct polarity but again, no lights, car won't start and only a single indicator light went on pointing to something: please have your car serviced!

at this juncture, the Blade Asia Staff went on panic mode and called his companion who checked the fuses for any blown ones. He found some and replaced them with ones on stock. Car can now start but the on-board computer is dead, dashboard lights still off.

It's already 10pm, two hours elapsed already and I'm hungry, no free dinner from Blade Asia for their inconvenienced customer and Trinoma's restaurants were already closing.

It's during this time that they called another higher-up, someone they said is an expert on car electrical system. It's here that i learned that there's a main fuse at the positive electrode of the battery, a fuse quite new that it's not available at their stores but had to order from Toyota Casa. They made a temporary fuse by using copper wire, actually a direct connection.

This time, my car started; heaved a sigh of relief, particularly for the staff who installed the battery for I know any expense will be shouldered by him. Blade Asia promised me to replace the fuse after three days when Toyota delivered them.

I got home at 1am in the morning.

The next morning, I informed my officemates of what happened and requested (I don't own the car yet, it'll be mine after 5 years) for a demand letter to be issued to Blade Asia to immediately fix my car.

I drove my car to the office for three days always thinking that the polarity reversal might have created latent problems that will only show up over time. It was already Wednesday when Blade Asia got the replacement fuse and demanded them to come to my office in Makati to install it.

With the fuse installed, my car's already normal, even up to now, about two months from the day I will always remember.

Lessons learned:

Have Motolite Battery Delivery always on hand, the only car battery delivery in the country at the moment. I hesitated to call them thinking it's faster if I just buy the battery myself.

Know where the fuses are in your car, learn a little DIY car electrical repairs. This incident made me study my car's electricals. I can now repair it myself in case of
busted fuses et al.

If you also have an automatic transmission vehicle, better if you have a series cable in case your battery dies on you. It's about P200 only at auto shops. Cheaper if you can build it yourself, DIY style using a large AWG cable and dinosaur clips.

Expect this thing to happen if your car's more than two years old. Imagine what you'd do if it happens in the dead of the night at a place where there are no cellphone signals-- scary!

Hippo Roller: An Ingenious and Efficient Way of Water Transport

I came across a Google-sponsored contest where bright ideas that can change the world or at least help improve the lives of others will be given funding by the search engine and advertising giant.

One of the great, actually awesome, idea, however simple, that I saw is the Hippo Roller used in Africa. It's an efficient way to fetch water for people living in the deserts of Africa. It's very different from the age-old way to fetch water by carrying water on one's shoulders.

The Hippo Roller allows one to push a water container on the ground for it to roll, thus requiring less effort and energy, and less risk of an injury for carrying heavy load. This is when laying our pipes and aqueduct is so expensive and not viable in such environments.

We need more great ideas for the lives of other people to improve.

More information about the Hippo Roller, including pictures and information on how to give donations from kind-hearted souls, is available here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Google Phone Runs on Android Mobile OS

The Big G is at it again.

From the recent launch of Google Chrome to compete directly with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, now comes the so called Google Phone running on Android.

Android Mobile OS is also set to compete with Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile for cellphones, mobile devices and PDAs.

US telecom carrier T-Mobile will on September 23 a "Google phone" by Taiwanese firm HTC to hit stores in October.

Google hopes to make Android, an open source software, the dominant operating system for mobile phones and said to be designed with improved speed and quality of Internet experience on handsets.

Google also announced the "Open Handset Alliance" last year to develop Android, a team that includes China Mobile, HTC, Intel, Motorola, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, Telefonica, LG and eBay.

Android phone prototypes were demonstrated by ARM, Marvell, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, NEC, ST Microelectronics recetnly at the Mobile World Congress.

Note: I would love to get hold of the Google Android phone in Philippines should I get the chance. Pictures and review to follow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CEH Certified Ethical Hacker: Training Without Ethics?

I just received "great news" from an attendee of a local training of CEH or Certified Ethical Hacker held somewhere in Metro Manila. The attendee came from a local bank and came right to us that he tried to crack our website's security

It came to a surprise to me that their instructor in the "certification" training made them nominate a website for them to hack and test their newly-acquired skills. The attendee gladly told us he wasn't able to penetrate our website and so congratulated us, including me being the information security officer, for such a job well done.

I'm not going to discuss it fully and didn't rebut the attendee but there really is something wrong here.

What the certified ethical hacker instructor did was actually ethical. He ordered his students to attempt to hack websites without the website owners' written approval. Something penetration testing professionals and vulnerability assessment consultants have prior to the engagement.

CEH-EC should check him out. Gaining the basic skills to conduct security assessments is very easy even by just browsing the Internet, but who will certify hackers as ethical when the instructor himself is urging his students to let loose their new-found skills?

There is only thing that separates white hat hackers from black hats from one another despite having the same set of skills: Permission!

Poking around systems without permission is unethical and downright illegal!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

GMA Codename Asero and Information Security

I happen to always catch the showing of GMA Kapuso's Codename Asero by the time I get home at around dinner time. Not that I follow the show but since people at home are Kapuso fanantics

I was able to catch the initial showing of the science fiction series on tv, some sort of Alias meets Universal Soldier, but noticed too many glaring shortcomings typical of Filipino writers just to get a storyline going.

There is a scene there that the two protagonist agencies, Advocate and Empire, doesn't practice the age-old principle of "Know Thy Enemy and know thyself" by not actually having a dossier on their employees. Stupid leaders of the agencies don't know the parents of Asero while Empire guys have a stupid policy of not knowing anything about their employees' family.

Spare me the crap. No top secret company can operate under wraps for so long without the principle of "know thy employees."

All over the place, you get things and bags and stuff marked with Empire and Advocate, a practice not done by real top secret companies, not even the agencies of the hit TV series Alias.

There's also a stupid way to check if Agent Asero is really a cyborg when they let him get near an octopus-like gizmo to detect is he's really a cyborg. Good thing Empire guys encrypted the signal.

C'mon, a simple metal detector or x-ray machine can do the trick.

One more thing, the Empire knows where the Advocate holds office and yet they don't know the employees and stuff.

Stop pulling my leg with such glaring boob tube booboos.

Filipino writers and directors should break away from stupid plots in order to be really world-class, less of the melodrama, and more attune to reality, something like the producers of sci-fi series and films like Alias, who seem to be in touch with the real world. Foreign sci-fi series don't resort to cheap gimmicks and perhaps employ consultants on technical stuff to be at least acceptable.

Or does it really mean that Filipino audiences are too...never mind the word!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

iPhone 3G Impressions and Camera Sample Pictures

I now have a fresh out of the box iPhone 3G from Apple, the envy of my officemates due to the slick new interface but i noticed immediately several negatives on the iconic mobile device.

1. you can't foward text messages/SMS to others...quite a standard with other phones. will have to check for workarounds.
2. GPS functionality doesn't work as advertised. I will have to buy a separate GPS device, probably Garmin, for this to be installed on my car's dashboard.
3. Camera, as I expected, performs below my expectations. I'm partial to the image quality of Sony-Ericsson phones. See sample pictures taken at Tiendesitas in Pasig.

Will update this post for more observations and the dark side of the iPhone 3G.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Poisoned DNS Servers Redirecting My Website to AsianMultiAdvertising.Com

For the last two days, I experienced about a 30% drop in taffic to my main blog, Backpacking Philippines,. I thought it was normal until I received an email from PBS yahoogroup (one of whom seems to be working at Dell Computers traced from the IP address) asking me to check my blog since it's redirecting somewhere else.

I checked first my own blog and concluded there's nothing wrong with my blog and probably the DNS servers used by the people complaining is that the DNS server they're using are poisoned, with the recently made public critical DNS flaw still unpatched by lazy and/or clueless systems administrators.

I suspected this to be the problem also with the recent problem of SmartBro.

To check if your DNS is the culprit, change the settings of your DNS to point to OpenDNS then re-visit my blog. If it correct the problem, contact your ISP or network administrator to immediately update the DNS software their using.