Archive for December, 2010


I’m a broadband internet user. I rely on it when I’m home. I use it for research, study, blogging, e-mail, social networking, chatting with cousins abroad, and checking out current events. I can live without a TV or cellphone but I hardly live without a basic internet connection. In fact, I own 2 broadband modems (Smart and Globe) and I’m currently using a Sun broadband modem as of posting time. The ‘good news’ of unlimited internet seems to good to be true, and now, I’ve found out that indeed it is due to internet capping.

Internet Capping, simply put, is the application of restrictions by ISPs in order to prevent abuse of some internet users (i.e. constant use of bandwidth-heavy activities such as downloads, video streams, and P2P).

As I’ve said earlier, I’ve tried all broadband modems and I notice that they all seldom reach 1mbps. My first hunch was that there is a internet capping being done behind the scenes. It turned out I wasn’t the only one noticing it. For instance, Sun users have been reporting internet capping at 650kbps (although not yet official). Globe’s SuperSurf (postpaid internet) service is recently capped at 800mb/day while Smart Bro is capped at 1.5gb per month.

The good news is that ISPs will be obliged to declare these restrictions in the near future. Just a few days ago, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is currently on the move for setting rules for broadband service providers to improve service reliability, including rules for Internet capping and declaring the minimum speeds (instead of saying “up to _mbps”). Hopefully this move will lessen complaints received by the telecommunication giants.

My two cents of advice for broadband users (esp. postpaid subscribers): read the Fair Use Policy before opting for an ‘unlimited’ subscription. It may not be unlimited at all.

The reliability of broadband internet services in the Philippines is still relatively low compared to other countries. For example, during my recent visit to Hong Kong, I’ve received a lot of advertisement flyers from a variety of broadband ISPs that promise speeds of up to 4-12mbps depending on the modem. They even provide broadband TV (proof that they’re fast enough). I hope these speeds can also be implemented soon in the Philippines. 😉

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Most Rubik’s cube enthusiasts would probably know this for quite some time now, but I can’t resist the urge to share this fact: Every possible configuration of the Rubik’s cube can be solved in at most 20 moves.

The tediousness involved in finding this number, coined as the elusive God’s number, has stumped a lot of computer scientists and mathematicians since 1974, the year when the twisty puzzle was created by Ernő Rubik. To realize the mathematical rigor required to achieve this feat, consider the 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 or ~43 quintillion possible permutations of the cube. To put this into perspective, if one had as many 57-millimeter Rubik’s Cubes as there are permutations, one could cover the Earth’s surface with a layer 275 cubes thick!

The problem of finding the exact God’s number was relaxed by solving first its lower and upper bounds , hoping that the gap will close to a certain integer at a later time. The lower bound is generally created by finding at least one configuration that required no less than a that number of moves while the upper bound is mathematically proven or an algorithm/heuristic is invented, both tested with the help of computers. Needless to say, a divide-and-conquer approach was applied to most algorithms.

Key events:

  • On July 1981, the first ever published attempt was made by Morwen Thistlethwaite, one the many methods that would soon be used in the Fewest Moves category of official Rubik’s cube competitions. He pegged the bounds of God’s number to be between 18 to 52 moves.
  • Using his observations from Thistlethwaite’s four-phase algorithm, Herbert Kociemba made a two-phase algorithm instead, the first phase effectively replacing the first two steps of Thistlethwaite’s and the second phase for the remaining two steps. Note that this algorithm would unknowingly be the algorithm to find God’s number. The time gap between this algorithm and the mathematical proof is largely due to lack of computer processing power.
  • On January 1995, Michael Reid used Kociemba’s algorithm to significantly reduce the upper bound from 37 to 29.
  • By the same month, Reid mathematically proved that the “superflip” configuration, i.e. all pieces are in correct positions, except that edges are flipped, required no less than 20 moves, effectively making the range for God’s number to be 20-29.

    The "superflip" configuration

  • It would take almost 11 years (December 2005) to reduce the upper bound by 1 move (28). After this year, the commodification of better processing power largely helped in reducing the upper bound 1 move per intervals of between a month to almost two years.
  • Finally on July 2010, with the help of Google (donating 35 CPU-years* of idle computer time), the gap was closed at 20 in just a few weeks by Tomas Rokicki, Herbert Kociemba, Morley Davidson, and John Dethridge

Explaining the solution in detail may not be suitable for the average reader as it involves group theory (higher-level algebra), and I, being a Mathematics graduate, can only partially understand the mathematical rigor involved. Instead, consider this analogous situation:

Let each of the ~43 quintillion configurations be a huge lump of different kinds of fruit instead (duplicates are possible, assume sizes are equal, and each fruit of the same kind only differ in taste, nutrients, etc.). Separate each fruit into a different basket according to its kind. The question to be answered now is how many bites it takes you to finish a fruit. The good solution would like be to take one fruit from each basket instead of eating everything. A faster solution is to share all these fruits with other people of the same bite-size.

After 30 years, geeks have now conquered the 3x3x3 cube. The question now is: what’s next? 4x4x4? 5x5x5? … nxnxn? So far, the largest patented cube is 12x12x12, and there is a wide variety of twisty puzzles that are more challenging than the Rubik’s cube. There are even 100x100x100, 4D, 5D cubes to solve (search them in google)!

Meanwhile, the wide majority are still trying to solve one color, reattaching the stickers, or reassembling it.

As for me, I’m back to around 40 seconds per solve ’cause it’s been a long time since I practiced seriously. To see the difference, look at my performance 2 years ago:

——-

*CPU-year = the number of years a good desktop PC can solve such a problem by itself. By 2010, a “good desktop PC” is an Intel Nehalem, four-core, 2.8GHz.

Source: http://cube20.org/

Hours ago, I logged in to Facebook and I saw this:

Needless to say, I opted for an upgrade since it looked better than the previous layout. It aggregates information in a more appealing and more organized manner. Some of the changes that I liked were:

Facebook's new profile layout

 

  1. Tabs are now replaced with more relevant information such as schools attended, work, current city, birthday, recent pictures and the like. This is good for some, and maybe bad for others who value their privacy. Meanwhile, the old tabs are now replaced with links under the profile picture.
  2. For some users who are accustomed with Facebook groups, sharing status, photos, links, and videos are pretty much the same as in a typical Facebook group. I guess Facebook had prepared for this layout longer than we thought.
  3. The “Edit Profile” button is comfortably placed in the upper right portion of your profile, similar to “Edit Settings” button in Facebook groups.
  4. The Friends section are now more emphasized by using a single-column format.

Of course, like previous, major changes in Facebook, changes are always met with some resistance from some users. And here are some of their complaints:

  1. You can’t revert back the upgrade once Facebook has lured you into doing it.
  2. You’ll view you friends via the new layout once you’ve made the decision of upgrading your profile, even if your friends are actually using the old layout. If you didn’t upgrade, you’ll view your friends profile depending on whether they chose the upgrade or not.
  3. Ads section is a little bit bigger (I’m not sure of this one since I seldom notice advertisements anyway).
  4. Not only does your profile change. Your homepage will change a li’l bit too. And the reason why some are annoyed by this is because…
  1. …as of this writing, I am still stumped on how to tag using @(name of contact) in the new layout. I don’t know why suggestions do not appear. UPDATE: tagging in status messages does not work in Opera browser (again).

I hope everyone will get used to this new layout. These changes aren’t really that detrimental anyway.

TEDxManila 2010

Advertising, environment, technology, education’s importance and OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) advocacy pretty much sums up the topics covered in the second TEDxManila in the University of the Philippines, Diliman last December 4, 2010.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. The first TED conferences focused on these three general topics (TED) and then it gradually covered almost every other topic worthy of discussion. Check out www.ted.com for more details. To make spreading faster, the TEDx events are independently organized to emulate a typical TED conference.

From my estimate, around 150 people from different sectors attended this years TEDxManila, which I think is similar to last year’s count (Yes, I attended last year too). Two noticeable differences though:

1. Every speaker, whether live or from the recorded TEDTalks, are all girls/women;

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

2. Jim Paredes is part of the audience! Too bad he had to leave early though.

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

Prof. Lourdes Cruz, a National Scientist from UP, talked about concrete steps in uplifting the Ayta community while saving their culture and the forest in which they depend on. Aside from S & T research, community consultation and empowerment is important because the indigenous often prioritize cultural integrity.

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

Niña Terol-Zialcita talked about a virus in the Philippines that did not spare even her. She challenged us, the audience, to get infected in this epidemic that is change-making. One notable quote from her is “Why can’t we export IDEAS instead of people? Why can’t we be champions in creating and innovating?” She suggested that one way is to make our own 365 Project (365project.org) and ended her talk with giving out the blank website www.365philippines.com as a means to spread the virus.

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

Corey Cruz, a molecular-biology-major-turned-fine-arts-graduate talked about her experience as an advertiser (or to put it in her own words: MIND CONTROL) and how it was closely related to science, i.e. the process is analogous to the scientific method. She also noted that there is essentially no dichotomy between science and art in the sense that both are tools for man to seek better humanity.

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

While Niña and Corey commented on their 4-inch high heels while walking slowly towards the stage, Mercedes Gonzales-Pingad, a 67-year old sophomore from Laguna State Polytechnic University taking BS Fisheries Education, also excused herself by saying she was flat-footed, a remark that drew a happy atmosphere inside the auditorium from that point on. She gave a very detailed, no-pretense account of her life and her experience as a product of the Alternative Learning System. Although Nanay Ched asked the crowd to allow her to bring the computerized transcript of her speech due to old age, I can’t help but notice that she wasn’t actually using her transcript anymore by the middle of her talk, a sign that she was actually speaking on-the-fly – – – that she was speaking her heart out. She wasn’t able to give ample time on her advocacy, which is to increase the budget for SUCs, yet her life was that great of an inspiration to make her deserve the first ever standing ovation by the TEDxManila audience. While everyone was filling the room with applause and cheers for her, I was thinking “Rock on, Nanay Ched! What a great way to end TEDxManila” – – – and I actually forgot that there were 5 live speakers, not 4.

Photo courtesy of Ruzette Tanyag of the TEDxManila Team

The last speaker, Tessa Vergara-Yuvienco, used the eye-appealing Prezi software, the same presentation platform used by TED curator Chris Anderson and Adora Svitak, to show the recent progress of their eKindling project that is now being formally launched in Lubang, Mindoro as of this writing (December 6). According to their website (ekindling.org) eKindling (Education Kindling) is virtually “OLPC Philippines,” except that they chose not to use that name in the belief that it would limit their growth. Ryan Letada, eKindling’s Executive Director, said in our conversation after the talks that they wanted to implement the kind of OLPC that is tailor-fit for the Philippines.

The recorded TEDTalks shown this year included Adora Svitak’s witty talk on how we can learn from kids and Jane McGonigal’s vision of using games a platform for solving the world’s problems to achieve EPIC WIN.

What I learned from this year’s TEDxManila:

  1. Fulfilling a dream can never be too late. Nanay Ched continued her studies amidst the skepticism of her immediate community. She even aspires to be a teacher after her studies.
  2. We have to demand more from ourselves in order for change to take place. We have to do more than mere slacktivism. Changing profile pictures into cartoon characters alone won’t give us that EPIC WIN.
  3. We can learn from everyone, regardless of their age. Adora Svitak and Nanay Ched are on opposite ends of the age spectrum yet both are inspirational in their own right.
  4. Why can’t we export IDEAS instead of people? Why can’t we be champions in creating and innovating?” – Nuf’ said.

I didn't know that this can be converted into a tablet too. Nice. 🙂

 

The L in OLPC in my hands. Tech review perhaps? XP

 

Kudos to TEDxManila Team and the live speakers for giving us a wonderful experience. TEDxManila 2010 is an EPIC year-ender. I hope to see you guys again next year!