Let’s take a vote

So it’s polling day.  You’re pumped, you’re psyched for new governance, and you’re keen to cast your ever so important ballot.  But upon reaching the polling station you’re greeted by a horde – a horde of severely agitated, quite possible hungry and slightly dehydrated crowd of voters who have been waiting rather unsuccessfully for hours in a visibly disjointed line that has unfathomably woven through and around silly bends and inconspicuous pillar, only to be held in place by yellow tape lacing resembling a 7 year olds impression of how a crime scene would be cordon off.  Sounds familiar?  Does it now?  Well you must live outside of Singapore because this is quite rare here—but elsewhere, the same is hardly true.  You might be thinking to yourself now, hmm… why not try e-voting, it’ll solve this problem surely—and with campaigns being taken into the digital realm surely this isn’t too farfetched?


Indeed they aren’t.  The digital era of political campaigning is not beyond us but on us – e-voting though, is some way away.  Singapore’s 2010 general elections was aptly coined the social media election, for the great expanse the opposition invested into the social media scene and how it inevitably shaped the thinking an opinions of voters.  Like how the 2012 American presidential elections ran, social networking platforms featured heavily in the setup of campaign proceedings and weighed in heavily on the outcome of both.  Unlike the methods of traditional media before, online campaigns carried a much greater appeal because updates were instantaneous and opinions voiced by the recipients, i.e. the people or voting republic, could be voiced almost immediately, which could then garner sympathetic responses, violent objections or wide-spread support amounting to radical changes to the political system.  Popular platforms include Facebook, Google+, Twitter and many more, depending on demography.


So why then hasn’t e-voting caught on like online campaigning efforts and dialogs?  There are multiple reasons to that actually.  While platforms for social media and social exchanges have been relatively safe for both the user and the idealist, an e-voting system poses far more threat to the integrity of the exchange than say trolls who flame political Facebook posts.  Timothy of Slashdot Politics made quite a compelling argument when asked why e-voting never took off like other political driven, for the entire list be sure to check out the link left in the resources below.  In short, one kink in the armor and a re-election will be in order – to make matters worse, it’s fairly easy to sabotage an online system but very hard to plug all the holes, viruses are aplenty and troublemakers are not in short supply.  While physical voting requires a physical ID check and a person to blame when someone mucks it up, tracing and tracking a hacker online is a whole different ball game, and something most governing bodies, regardless of how inventive and adventurous they are in this aspect, are afraid to try.  With the exception of Estonia that is.


E-voting has had its place in recent times in allowing foreign countrymen to partake in domestic elections while overseas.  But while portals and platforms are aplenty when it comes to political discourses, discussions, agenda setting, selling and conspiracy theories, a safe and reliable portal for e-voting is troublingly elusive.  So if you want change now, I’m sorry you’re not getting any.  Try airing your grievances on a political blog and let me know how that goes.







Google this on a Saturday night

If you Googled “this on a Saturday night”, well well – you sir are a literalist.  If you didn’t allow me to show you what you have missed out – check it https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=this+on+a+staurday+night&rlz=1C1DVCK_enSG440SG455&aq=f&oq=this+on+&aqs=chrome.0.59j57j61j60j0j60.1362&sugexp=chrome,mod=4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

A whole bunch of SNL stuff as you’ll find.  Don’t know what SNL is?  Well click on one of the video links and be enlightened.  The thing is, we’ve (well most of us) have been using Google a lot more than we would like to admit—knowingly and unknowingly.  Much like the plate we put our food on when we eat, we use it all the time but don’t go “oh hey, hmph plate, really compliments the mash.”  And that in essence is our Google-dependence-taken-for-granted in a nutshell.  Perhaps you missed it but in the first sentence of this blog post, you were told to Google “this on a Saturday night” and not search, or Yahoo, or Bing, or find, or look up, or… You get the point—the fact is, Google as a web tool has is so widely used that it commands its own verb—now that’s baller.  So how has Google changed our lives?  Well the answer is in more ways than we can imagine.


Do you remember the time when iOS relied on Google Maps for directionary functions? Well of course you do.  Like the mat that you were so comfortably dusting your feet on when suddenly it’s pulled out from underneath you, causing you to fall and land with a heavy thud therefore eliciting gloriously profane utterances—yeah Apple’s user’s reaction when Apple discontinued Google Maps on their devices with iOS 6 (released late October 2012). iOS isn’t the only device that relies heavily on Google Maps though, any Android device as a matter of fact.  And since most cell phone users are on either iOS or Android, it’s safe to say the bulk of us are on Google Maps.  We use it, we don’t exactly recall the Google brand every time we use the maps, but judging from the sheer reaction of the Apple fans that had the Google taken out of their maps, the withdrawal is debilitating.


As a student I use Google a lot.  I use Google docs for synchronized document working, Google groups for synchronized private online chat discussions, Google search and Google maps for obvious reasons, and to a lesser extent, Google+ for social networking.  YouTube, in fact, my favorite go-to site for my daily fix of videos and visual snippets, is owned by Google (bought over in 2006 at a price of US$1.6 billion).  Google hasn’t exactly changed my life; it’s quite rightly part of my life.  And I see many of you stuck in this circle of reliance too.


Maps, Docs, Earth, Scholar, Calendar, YouTube, and Groups notwithstanding, many other people use Google for all sorts of things.  Adsense for example, puts the dime in SME online businesses—if SME online businesses ever needed the word dime to spell it (you get my point don’t you). People use Google to post notifications and keep them abreast of daily events of interest, appointments and whatnot – much like how on a more micro scale your hand phone would ring you a notice telling you what to expect an hour later – “DO THE LAUNDRY NOW LEROY!”


Schools advocate the use of Google (Scholar especially – in tandem to other scholarly search engines they have in place), lecturers use Google groups to keep in touch with students (like mine right now!) and many many more.  Given that we are all so reliant on Google, it begs the frightening question that if it were all to come to nought one day – services, applications and other critically acclaimed and much utilized functions – what will become of us? I hate to admit it but, it might just be the end of the world as we know it (REM, 1987).

The Trojans have landed

Troy wasn’t built in a day, but the city besieged from within, fell within a matter of hours.  How?  Well that’s pretty easy, the Trojans lined up a very attractive trophy outside the firewalls of Troy, without thoroughly scanning the trophy, it was selected and the package was hauled into the city.  Being a RAT Trojan, the innocuous looking horse discreetly unpacked its malicious content thus allowing the Trojan extensions to exe. (or execute) actions which will further compromise the integrity of the city.  Racing to raise the gates, the malicious militia invaded the town and disabled its functions from within, subduing resistance forces and making off with good loot like credit card information, security numbers and vital corporate information etc. T’was a good day for the hacker.  If it were your computer you wouldn’t be so lucky—all these would have transpired in a matter of seconds.


So what is a Trojan in a nutshell? And no, it’s not a Trojan soldier being forced into the confines of an empty nut shell – a Trojan, like many of its brothers and sisters are viruses, malicious software (or malware) that infiltrate your computer, replicating itself to adverse effects to you and any other device it comes into contact with.  There exists remedies to it and there are certainly ways to contain it but it would take one less curious eye and one less trigger happy finger if you’re going to “totally” shut out these pesky annoyances.


For starters, when in doubt, trash it – as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat—or in this case, may kill your computer.  According to Intel Company, McAfee, who provides a generous list of extensive anti-virus tips on their site, their number one recommendation towards virus prevention is to stay away from files with hidden, suspicious and untrustworthy origins/sources.

Taking out Cyrus the Virus – putting the bunny back in the box


And you will find many more helpful suggestions in the link provided below.  However even the best defense leaks sometimes and one can never be too prepared for the trying times that follow.  What would help your cause significantly would be to backup your files on a regular basis – this way all is not lost when your firewall bursts and your hard drive is inundated with malicious swimmers and phishes.

To sum it all up, thread lightly and err on the side of caution.  Update your antivirus regularly and conduct timely scans. What is that you say?  Don’t have one?  Well you’re in luck, there are plenty of antivirus software providers on the internet but be wary as many can be virus carriers themselves!  But if you ever find yourself in that unfortunate position, try this on for size – Microsoft’s FOC security scanner http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/en-us/default.aspx but of course, if you suspect this one’s a virus waiting to pounce too, don’t click the link then.  It’s just really lousy intuition on your part—for that there’s little saving.