28 January 2005

Singnet Service Outtage

or, More Funny Proxy Technology from Disneyland with the Speakers Corner

In plain English, Singapore Singnet's proxy servers to all foreign content went down around 5pm in the afternoon. BBC was inaccessible; so was wired.com, cnn.com, GOOGLE, all of blogspot (I pity Singaporean blogspot users, they get it every time our proxies go down!). Webmail is down, antivirus updates are down. HOWEVER, irc is up, Winmx is up, bittorrent has no problems connecting to US IP addresses.

In Singnet's English, "Please be informed there is a congestion in the Internet service to United States. We are currently investigating this and apologise for the inconvenience caused." (RIGHT. The BBC is located in the US, which is why it's also unavailable?)

Note to all: Singnet's communicade obfuscates.

"There is a congestion" suggests that it's NOT the fault of Singnet. It has nothing to do with Singnet's creaking, rusty, falling-apart proxy technology.

The typical English-hobbled Singaporean reader reads "to the United States" to suggest that the congestion is due to a failure in the United States. Not Singnet fault okay!

Well. I now come with great tidings for Singnet's users. The problem is with Singnet's proxy technology: it is their proxy servers that screwed up.

Ailing Singnet users, try this for size on your Mozilla/Firefox, IE or Opera. Under Internet proxy settings, change to one of the following: (fastest)

Tada. Internet surfing is now back to normal, thanks to free, alternate, proxy servers located in... Malaysia.

This is a list of fast, free, non-censoring, proxy servers available on the internet for Singaporean users wishing to cut their dependence on our silly ISPs' funny proxy technology.

ICQ will even work even with the new proxy settings. You just need to change the proxy stuff in ICQ manually...

27 January 2005

We feel so safe now

This is a lyrical adaptation of a previous blog entry.

Caption: A grim-faced semi-automatic machine-gunned policeman


Barely a month had passed
since squadrons of grim-faced semi-automatic machine-gunned policemen
descended on our streets.

I decide to walk down Orchard, not to shop -
but merely to warm my blue fingers
while trekking under the megawatt lights.

I could out-walk any bus here in Orchard
nearer to Christmas:
Perhaps the frowning commuters on their buses
think this while they stare out of the windows -
but they do not get off, do not start walking.

It confuses me this time, to see the
costumed carnivallers, stiltwalkers, jugglers, acrobats even,
and the dolled-up women or men scattered throughout.
Perhaps the tourism board wanted to celebrate
both Mardi Gras and Christmas.

A crowd stared, immobile, at an empty taped-off space
as if something would magically appear at the right time.
Across the street, another crowd looking on,
perhaps waiting for the moment
they'd know what this crowd was looking at.

Shrugging, I move on into the swarm
and realise I haven't seen any grim-faced squad carrying machine guns
and feel, for a moment, secure. Perhaps.

26 January 2005

On Blogging (rework of old post)

Perhaps you are eager to start a blog. But perhaps, like most people, you are uncomfortable with writing a diary that can be read by anyone online: Where is the privacy? Aren't journals meant to be sacred communications with oneself? I'm not really a natural exhibitionist, you think. And yet finally, with mind steeled and fingers poised on the keyboard, you are at a loss on what to write.

Long before Samuel Pepys begins his candid – but still private – diary in 1660, long before the modern phenomenon of online blogging, Asian writers had already mastered the public diary.

Murasaki Shikibu is better known as the author of the Genji Monogatari. Murasaki began writing what is now regarded as the world's first 'true novel' around 1007 on the escapades of the eponymous character, covering (and anticipating the Modern) themes of ennui, sense of self, fashion and fashionability, love and commitment, romance and satire.

More importantly, Murasaki Shikibu wrote a diary of her service in the Japanese court as a lady-in-waiting to the Empress from 1008-10. Diaries written by noblewomen in the Heian period were simply not meant to be private writings: they were shown to fellow writers, friends and colleagues; copies were made and distributed, due to the ready availability of paper.

Murasaki's diary is predominantly interested in high culture, fashion and art. She also pokes gentle fun of her patron, the Empress, and her immediate circle of ladies-in-waiting, as well as court bureaucracy in general – and was loved all the more for it, as readers waited for each new installment of the diary. Picture, if you will, a medieval Dilbert!

Her detail and sharpness of observation, of penetrating human nature, is surprising. This caustic yet mature view of the world continues to inspire bloggers and diarists even today. Murasaki even ponders on the subject of self-improvement: “What is good character for a lady-in-waiting?”, “What talents would be good to have?”, and muses on the gap between public persona and private self – questions that still plague modern-day writers and thinkers.

Or you could consider Sei Shonagon, writing her Pillow Book a few years before her rival's masterpieces. Shonagon's entries are witty, even gossipy conversations that run from a plethora of lists of items (“Nice things that inspire on a spring day”, “Things I hate in people”); entries describing daily life; musings on the beauty of nature, the meaning of life, the pettiness of rivals in the workplace...

The intensely personal or narcissistic “me-blog”, on the trials and tribulations of the author, may chronicle a fight against cancer, an epic search for the ideal job, the journey towards that academic degree. Yet all this pales in comparison to the Gossamer Diary by a lady known only as “Mitchitsuna's Mother”, detailing the breakdown of her marriage over the years. We do not know what her husband, the regent Fujiwara Kaneie, thought of the disclosure of his philandering ways, although the public (and popular) diary might have bolstered his reputation as a ladies' man. It is not unlikely that he even appreciated his wife's efforts.

You could even invent an entertaining or controversial persona your blog. In Ki no Tsurayuki's Tosa Diary of 935, the court poet and governor of Tosa province in Kyoto writes as a fictitious lady in his entourage, describing the voyage back to the capitol from Shikoku island. Singlehandedly, Tsurayuki invented the genre of public diary writing for Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shonagon, Mitchitsuna's mother, and many others, centuries later.

And the modern blogger? Blogging is in our blood. You could even say it's part of the Asian heritage.

18 January 2005

It had to happen sooner or later!

filed under: Department of the Exasperated

Finally, our MPs proclaim in Parliament that the tsunami disaster bonded Singaporeans together.

It does seem that any trivial incident (young child wanders from home for less than 2 days), huge disaster, major triumph (Sunday's football victory), or withering defeat (table tennis and badminton imports fail to win medals) - in short, just about ANYTHING - will inevitably lead to one or more of our enlightened leaders proclaiming increased social cohesion among Singaporeans.

Is that what we're paying our taxes for? Insincere pithy plaitudes that seem to be crafted from a template?

10 January 2005

01 January 2005

On Twiddledee and Twiddledum

First, I shall attempt a summary of the previous post.

"While the official line was that MediaworksTV was a commercially unviable venture, the forced merger came about due to deliberate choices made by both parties to make each other's operations commercially unviable."

While the last post attacked the official explanation on the "rational" portion of its "rational economics" spiel, this post will attack the "economics" portion.

The interesting question raised from the 2x2 matrix of the Dee/Dum game is: if the lose-lose outcome is *the* Nash Equilibrium, why aren't every company in the global media market rushing to bankrupt themselves and their competitors?

Perhaps a way to solve the conundrum is to ask: what were the circumstances that actually allowed Mediaworks and Mediacorp to adopt the beggar-thy-neighbour strategy as a legitimate and legal strategy in the Singapore media market?

Let's put ourselves in their shoes.

"Now here's a great plan: we cut off our own flesh and force them to do the same. Whoever blinks first, loses. Of course, revenue will hurt in the meantime and we'll have negative profits. Who's game for this brilliant idea?"

Indeed, who would say no?

The shareholders, perhaps? But Mediacorp is completely owned by the government, it's not even a listed company. No protests by angry shareholders at the Annual General Meeting for them. And Mediaworks? The govnerment has substantial shares there, through its parent SPH. For there to be zero protests, for the plan to go through, suggests the shareholders and the owners of Twiddledum and Twiddledee, knew about it and approved it...

Senior management, perhaps? But... we all know all the senior positions are in effect government appointments, in which case management = shareholders. In existing cases in the US where management of certain companies defraud their shareholders (Enron et. al.), it was only because management had inside information not privvy to shareholders, and exercised power over the monopoly of information.

Regulatory framework, perhaps? Ah, but from 2000 to early 2004, there was "no legal controlling authority", no antitrust or anti-competition law!

And most importantly, both companies were able to play the beggar-thy-neighbour strategy because they were betting that the government would intervene in the worst case scenario. Because the government still owns both companies (in one way or another).

I will leave it to you, to decide how much of a theatrical production, a charade, an act, this short-lived "media competition" was.