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May 31, 2007

21st Century Internet Kiosks

Saw this one while waiting for my connecting flight at Suvarnabhumi Airport here in Bangkok, Thailand. At first glance, you’d really think they’re just one of those typical metallic phone booths you see all around. A closer inspection can catch one’s curiosity a bit further.

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May 31, 2007

Flying to Lahore, again.

I’m off to Lahore, Pakistan today for another week of workshop. That’s actually 3 days in Lahore and another three in Karachi. This last couple of days have been an adrenaline-rush for me.

Right after I came back from Singapore last week, I had to go to the Pakistan Embassy to apply for another visa. Since I got my invitation on a very short notice, I wasn’t prepared with the right documents. Now, I needed a new NBI Clearance with DFA authentication. I thought, what’s that and why do I need that? I never needed that the last time I applied for a Visa.

So, I went back to Carriedo at the NBI head office to apply for another one. Since it was for travel abroad, it takes about 3 working days to process it (and I thought you can get it in a day now). I already used up all my NBI clearance including the personal copy so a renewal application is no use. I had to pull some strings to fast-track that. A friend of a friend who works there helped out and I was able to get it the following day.

Turns out the one I got still needs to go thru the Department of Foreign Affairs for authentication. I called in another friend/client who works in their legal department to help out. I got it a day after. Off to the embassy that Wednesday.

But, I’m leaving on Thursday so I was hoping for a miracle and a little gift to the officers inside would do the trick of an overnight approval. To my dismay, it didn’t work this time.

A few phone calls from my sponsors in Islamabad did the trick and before end of office hours yesterday, I got my visa.

Phew, why do I always get into such trouble all the time? Read my previous encounter here. Ok, there’s the boarding call now.

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May 31, 2007

Belkin Cushtop

First saw this laptop pillow last January during the Blog Parteeh. One of the sponsors (Microwarehouse) gave away a Belkin Cushtop. From then on, I’ve been looking to get one for my Compaq Presario V3000.

I found a couple at the Apple Store in Mall of Asia and they cost around Php2,100 each. A tad bit on the expensive side, IMO.

Belkin Cushtop

Belkin

Then I saw the same one on sale at the Challenger (Funan Digitallife Mall @ Singapore) and since I also subscribed as a member, I’d get an additional discount plus the GST discount and it was down to just Php1,500.

This pillow is really great. Tough but light enough on the lap which allows further elevation for line of sight. Most of all, the heat from the laptop is dissipated properly with more than enough insulation for the lap.

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May 30, 2007

What to do with unverified RSS subscribers?

I just checked my Feedburner account again and looked at the email addresses of those people who subscribed to my feed via the Feedburner Email Subscription. While I only have 421 active subscribers for that part, I discovered there are actually 1,147 total subscribers and 99% of them are unverified.

Email Subscribers

That’s 726 more people who subscribed but did not confirm their subscription. That means only 37% of those who inputted their email address actually did the final step of approving their subscriptions. So now, what do we do with these 726 pending subscriptions? Here’s some really obvious ideas:

  • Just click cancel, at least for the really old ones. The list shows the email account and the date when it first subscribed. If it was more than a month, maybe it’s time to purge them from the data base.
  • Wait a little bit longer. At least you know there are people actually trying to subscribe.
  • Email them personally. You can send them a personalized follow up email telling them that their RSS email subscription was not completed and they may re-subscribe again if the confirmation email is already lost or deleted.

You might want to check your Feedburner or Feedblitz subscriber details too and see if there are pending subscriptions to your blog as well. The email list is also good for checking out who have been subscribing to your feeds (hint: corporate email domains).

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May 30, 2007

Are two heads better than one?

Most bloggers I read that sports dual monitors on their desktop say that it’s good for productivity. So, when I found out that the Samsung 19″ 940BW I bought 5 months ago dropped to just Php11,500, I got another one exactly like it.

Samsung Dual Monitor

I already got a dual-DVI PCI Express card (Powercolor X1550) I got from the Funan IT Mall, all I need to do is hook it up on the PC, plug the two LCD monitors and my screen real estate will double to 2400 pixels wide and 900 pixels tall. Alas, the motherboard does not support PCIe so I will have to delay this new set up. The other monitor in the picture is hooked up on my laptop for now (where I’m watching the new series Masters of Horror).

And about doubling that productivity thingie, I think not. It’s even distracted me from doing all the work I need to catch up on.

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May 29, 2007

Tagalog AdWords Support from Singapore

I’ve been maintaining an AdWords account for myself and several other clients for sometime now. Though I never really needed any support from the AdWords team, it’s good to know they’ve open up a Tagalog AdWords Team in their Singapore office:

Dear AdWords Advertiser,

With the recent opening of our Google Singapore operations, we are looking forward to being closer to our customers, users and partners. We now have a team of AdWords Specialists who are dedicated to our AdWords advertisers in the South East Asia region, providing support and helping answer any questions you may have regarding your advertising campaigns.

You can reach our team by emailing adwords-tl@google.com. We will try our best to get back to you within one business day. As our team and local operations grow, we hope that you can also grow with us.

We appreciate your business and look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,

The Google AdWords Singapore Team

I have heard that Filipinos have been sent to the Google Singapore office to start working on Tagalog support. I believe they still have an opening for that too.

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May 29, 2007

Ubuntu fails the Granny Test

Serdar Yegulalp performs an exhaustive analysis of two desktop operating systems — Ubuntu and Windows Vista — which eventually led to his findings that Ubuntu still fails the “Granny Test”.

… Ubuntu works best at handling ordinary day-to-day applications that don’t require a particular operating system to work well, whereas Vista is more polished, and contains a number of convenient features that most of us can’t live without. In short, although getting close, Ubuntu doesn’t yet pass what Serdar calls “the Granny test,” of being easy enough to use to pass muster with the general population.

After installing Ubuntu on my desktop PC and toying with it for a week, I still find myself booting back to Windows not only because all of the apps that I use only runs on XP but because all of the newer hardwares that I plug into the system just basically works with it without me lifting a single finger (or something close to that).

But there’s at least as much about Ubuntu that I find disheartening or frustrating. There are still too many places where you have to drop to a command line and type in a fairly unintuitive set of commands to get something done, or edit a config file, or — worst of all — download and compile source code. For a beginner, this last is the kiss of death, because if compiling code fails, a beginner will almost certainly have no idea what to do next.

Maybe someday, after a few more major versions, Ubuntu will get there and finally pass that Granny test.

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May 28, 2007

How creative can spammers be?

I must have seen/read thousands of spam comments in my lifetime. Almost 99% of them are easily spotted, flagged by Akismet or Spam Karma 2 or left in moderation. A few are becoming really creative lately to the extent that the copy would seem like it came from an intelligent being.

Nevertheless, none thus far have been as creative as this one:

Helga | sveta@cepk.info | uswis.info/wasteland-bdsm | IP: 69.123.158.121

Please, do not delete the given message. Money obtained from spam will go to the help hungry to children ugand

May 28, 3:24 PM — [ Edit | Delete | View Post ]

How charitable. How humane.

So, what’s the best spam you’ve ever had?

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May 27, 2007

Surviving a Libel Case

While of you may have already heard about the libel case against me was dismissed last month, I wasn’t able to properly announce it here in my blog. We were waiting for a possible motion for reconsideration to elapse before bringing it out into the public. Here’s a short summary of the entire event:

Back in August 2006, we got a demand letter from a law firm. This firm represents a certain Joel Aquino (JEA) who runs a company called WebCom. Apparently, one of our web hosting resellers has a client that runs the forum greedyolddumbass.com. In that forum, several ex-employees of WebCom were making libelous comments against JEA and his family. They wanted us as the webhost to prevent and desist the posting of such comments in the forum.

Within a week, I sent out a reply to their firm that we are only a web hosting company and have no knowledge of this issue. Besides, the website/forum have already moved out of our servers and we no longer have any control of it in any manner as the hosting provider. Thinking that it was all that and the issue has been clear, we forgot about it.

September came and we got a subpoena from the Pasig RTC identifying my company and members of the forum for alleged libel. I think we got close to half a dozen subpoenas in the span of 4 or 5 weeks. When we submitted our counter-affidavit, I also filed a perjury case against the complainant for misrepresenting us as administrators or operators of the forum when it was clear in our earlier communication that we are just the hosting provider. All three cases were then consolidated (2 libel cases and 1 for perjury).

Then, came months and month of clarifications, appearances at the fiscal’s office and a lot of waiting.

Now that it’s all over and the case against me was dismissed (they found probable cause to charge the other two respondents of libel), I can only take a good deep breath and put this behind me. I’d like to thank all those who helped me thru this — the guys at BlogHerald esp. to J Angelo who set up a legal fund, the people at NUJP for offering help, other lawyers who heard of my case and sent in their offer of support, my readers and fellow bloggers. My thanks goes to fellow blogger Atty. Fred Pamaos and his partners at the JLP Law Offices for getting me thru this. Hat tip to all the journalists who gave moral support and “welcomed me to the club“.

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May 27, 2007

PayPerPost Direct challenges ReviewMe

It’s called PayPerPost Direct and it’s basically a direct competitor to ReviewMe. I got a couple of emails from a certain Chris Abraham asking me to switch from ReviewMe to PPP Direct.

Hey there,

I noticed that you’re a ReviewMe blogger who charges advertisers $310-per-post to blog about them on YugaTech. Doesn’t it bother you that ReviewMe is taking half of your money? There is no reason why you should lose such a large cut of your proceeds when it is your blog driving the traffic.

On behalf of the gang at PPP I wanted to help you get rid of ReviewMe as the middleman and do it direct with PayPerPost Direct, www.payperpostdirect.com. PayPerPost Direct would allow you to keep $279 for that post rather than the paltry $155 ReviewMe is paying you.

Check it out at http://www.payperpostdirect.com. Feel free to ping me any time if you have any questions – or for any reason, for that matter. The official announcement is on the PPP blog, http://blog.payperpost.com/2007/05/payperpost-direct-overview.html.

Cheers,

Chris

Chris Abraham cja@well.com +1 (202) 352-5051
http://chrisabraham.com http://cabraham.com

At first I thought it was spam but the story is true and though the guy does not directly work for PPP, he could have been hired by them to scout for ReviewMe publishers.

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May 26, 2007

The Outsourcing Saga Continues…

I wrote about an entry about the Marisyl Castillon vs. Michael Turner outsourcing fiasco back in August last year. I thought that issue was already done and been dealt with until I saw this news report from the local TV Patrol down south.

See YouTube video from SEOLuv below:

Here’s a crude summary translation of the TV report (done in Visayan language):

About Php1.3 million worth of computers was seized from the office of SEO Builders upon the order of a Cagayan de Oro RTC judge. They were taken from the possession of Marisyl Castillon which included 27 computer sets allegedly owned by her former boss/partner Michael Allan Turner. SEO Builders is registered with the DTI under the name of Castillon“.

Okay, I’m not really good at Bisaya but it turns out that Mr. Turner wants all of his investments back and now the sheriffs will take custody of the properties in question. Castillon refrained from making a statement and insist that she’s more focused on continuing the service to their customers.

Update: Read more about the story from Michael Turner on his blog.

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May 25, 2007

Unboxing: Western Digital My Book 500GB

I have an old external generic drive case which I got at a cheap price of around Php560. Its now handling a 160GB Seagate HDD which I use to transfer media files from one workstation to another or to my laptop (the 54Mbps LAN just wouldn’t cut it). So, when I saw this Western Digital 500GB My Book at a sale price back in Funan IT Mall, I grabbed one right away.

I was un-boxing it last night while taking pictures…

Western Digital 500GB HDD

Western Digital 500GB HDD

Western Digital 500GB HDD

Western Digital 500GB HDD

Western Digital 500GB HDD

Western Digital 500GB HDD

The thing looks like a black XBox 360. Been transferring files from the old hard drive to this one in the last 24 hours and it’s still just over half way there. Though this one runs at USB 2.0 speeds, the old one is hooked up on a USB hub which seems to be downgrading the transfer speed to USB 1.0 or something.

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May 25, 2007

Prioritizing Profitable Projects

After reading an old entry on “Prioritize Profitable Projects” over at Shoemoney.com, it reminded me of all the would-be, have-been, could-have-had projects I’ve collaborated with so many diverse, talented and highly-motivated people both in the blogging and non-blogging world. The precept of people prioritizing profitable projects applies almost 99% of the time and I would sometimes add it with a dash of “instant gratification first“.

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May 24, 2007

Digg banning Diggers for not reading stories?

Another series of Digg banning its users, this time targeting those who digg stories but do not read them. An email is sent to users after getting banned:

Your account was banned for the rate of Digging activity you’ve engaged in. We’ve determined that the time in which your Diggs happen, it isn’t possible to actually read the stories. Please read each and every story before you Digg or bury a story. Once you agree that you will Digg/bury more responsibly and read the stories, we will unban your account.

I think it’s unfair. I think more than half of the people actively digging on Digg aren’t really reading them stories. I don’t always read the stories myself especially when I’m in a rush but I do digg them for later. It’s like bookmarking a story or a URL for later reading.

Besides, Digg IS a social news and bookmarking site isn’t it? So, what’s so wrong with bookmarking them stories? When you listen to the Diggnation podcast, you would hear either Kevin or Alex referring to Digg as social news and social bookmarking. However, lately they’d change it and now refer to it as just a social news website.

Hmm, maybe they don’t want people to use Digg for bookmarking. So why not add some link there which says bookmark or maybe add a link to del.icio.us instead? My account hasn’t been banned yet for not really reading them Digg stories. Or maybe I’ll get one of them emails soon, eh?

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May 24, 2007

Challenger at the Funan Digitalife Mall

It’s heaven for the gadget freak. The Challenger retail store at Funan Digitallife Mall in Singapore is the place to be when shopping for the latest tech toys and gadgets. All six floors are dedicated to top of the line stuff at rock bottom prices. I must have wiped out my entire credit line at HSBC in less than an hour.

Challenger On our first night at Singapore, I saw this feature of a gadget shop on cable TV. The unique this about this Challenger is that it has two pricing schemes — a regular price for the one-time shopper and a discounted price for members (I spared no time in subscribing as a member. Just SG$30 for 2 years.). To give you an idea of how much some of the stuff there, here’s an estimated list I got from memory:

Compaq Presario V3000 (Code Duo 1.73GHz, 14.1″ WXGA, 120GB HDD, 512DDR2 RAM) – Php31k
Dell 22″ Widescreen Flat LCD Monitor – Php15k
Nokia N95 – Php33k

That Presario laptop is about Php49k here in Manila, a 22″ Samsung LCD is Php25k last time I checked and the Nokia N95 is around Php44k. Yay, I almost bought that N95. On top of that, you get a rebate from GST of around 8% if I’m not mistaken. You just show it in the customs at the airport and they’ll give you back some cash for all your receipts. Some gadgets like the iPod Nano, the Nintendo DS Lite and the Sony PSP are somewhat the same price as we have here. Will do a rundown of gadget reviews in the next posts.

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May 23, 2007

The Singapore Zoo

Someone asked me why I’d always want to go to the zoo whenever I visit a country. Aside from testing my photography skills (or the lack thereof) for wild animal shoots, I wittingly replied “Show me your country’s best zoo and I will tell you how well-fed your people are“. Just look at how the Manila zoo tigers are so skinny.

Here are some of the shots I got using my Canon Rebel XT with the Sigma 70-300mm APO DG-Macro. The animals are between 10 to 20 meters away so a telephoto lens is a must here.

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo is indeed one of the biggest and most beautiful zoo in the world. The shot of the flowers and the lake (Singapore’s water reservoir) was taken using the Canon 10-22mm.

The zoo is about 15 minutes by taxi from the city center (we stayed at the Geylang area) and costs about SG$15. Entrance fee is $15 with optional $5 for a ride-all-you-can tram.

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May 22, 2007

Leaving Georgetown

We’re about to leave Georgetown here at the heart of Penang. Next stop is Singapore for a couple nights of tours and sight-seeing. The stay in in Penang, Malaysia has been the best so far of my entire trips out of the country.

Free wifi hotspots everywhere I can even sniff out a couple from the 22nd floor of my hotel. Starbucks is just at the ground floor and they have free wifi hotspots too.

The places, people, hospitality and food are great. Well, except the for the curry spiked ones. The beaches are just a couple meters away but never had to time to check them out. Still, Penang is one state I’d be glad to come back to in the future.

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May 21, 2007

Doing a SWOT analysis of your blog

On the last day of our workshop, I was requested to do a session on SWOT analysis of party websites or blogs. All delegates from 10 countries took part by participating in identifying the 4 elements in SWOT analysis. To those who don’t know what a SWOT is a planning tools which means – internal strengths, weaknesses, as well as external opportunities, and threats.

One can do this on a blog too and its a good way to assess its current state for further development. Here’s a sample:

Strength – professional blog theme, regularly updated entries, own, domain and hosting, mostly original content, clear niche, good uptime/fast load time, relevant topics, etc.

Weaknesses – poor & commonly used fee theme, no about page/author, too much ads, no personalized domain, poor CMS/blog software, etc.

Opportunities – add RSS/email subscriptions, forums/message board, regular newsletter, blog contests and promos, schwag giveaways, better site search, other non-invasive monetization options, add a podcast.

Threats – readership retention rate, search engine indexing/delisting, hacking, blog burn-out, etc.

Some items can be a strength if properly done or can be a weakness if not executed correctly. This is somewhat of a bigger overview. If you track back on our previous entries under the problogging category here, you’d see more details discussions there.

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May 21, 2007

Do you need to explain to your blog readers?

Around April, Filipino designer and blogger Bryan Veloso shut down his blog. His girlfriend left a one-page open letter in its place suggesting that Bryan is facing some problems and that there are some issues which prompted him to pull down his blog. His readers thought it was another well-pulled April Fool’s prank and days passed by and his site was still offline. It got so many loyal readers worried.

Later, Bryan re-launched his new blog design but failed to explain what really transpired during his hiatus despite the hundres of messages, emails sent to him and people close to him.

Scrivs calls it irresponsible and somewhat egotistic. As always, there are two sides here — one who thinks Scrivs is right and that Bryan Veloso seemed to have played on the emotions of his readers by not really explaining the whole brouhaha and the others who felt everyone is entitled to their own personal reasons however mundane it is an without explaining to the readers.

The question here resonates — are bloggers responsible in explaining to their readers? I would say yes but only to a certain extent and thatdepends on the individual. But that’s a stretch — up to what extent do you need to explain yourself to all your blog visitors?

P.S.
Bryan was also one of our panel of judges in the Philippine Blog Awards. However, we failed to get any note from him and never got his score sheet.

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May 20, 2007

Asia Pacific Broadband Penetration

I previously posted some statistical data on the internet penetration here in the Philippines. Yesterday afternoon, a couple of speakers from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) presented the current status of ICT in Malaysia during our workshop. In that presentation, they also shared research figures of Asia Pacific’s broadband penetration.

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May 19, 2007

Why would Google buy Feedburner?

Rumors have been spreading like wild fire that Google is in talks to buy Feedburner for an estimated $100 Million.

This seems to be a logical move by Google considering they’ve already got Urchin (now Google Analytics) on board. Besides, Google is looking eyeballs from popular sites running RSS feeds and Feedburner’s Ad Network may seem to be the next step in covering all its bases. I know RSS readers are smarter than your average visitor so a CPM or CPA model might work.

Actually, you’ve not yet noticed, there’s AdSense for feeds now available thru Feedburner. However, one will need to apply for that in order to employ it. I’ve applied for it for months now and haven’t heard from them yet.

On another note, Google’s BlogSearch has been reported to include into account the feed subscription count of a blog. By tapping into the database of Feedburner, Google will have access to hundreds of thousands of blog’s RSS usage and feed count for a better blog search algo.

Then, there’s also the podcasts — audio search, possibly? That $100 Million will be well worth it.

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May 18, 2007

300

300

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May 18, 2007

Profiling readers/visitors via AdSense earnings?

Ely popped the question — is your AdSense income seasonal? Generally, I’d alway say yes based on annual data from 2 or three years ago.

However, this trend may not be leveling out for everyone because I think it still depends on several factors;

  • The type of site you are running. Is it a portal, a forum or a blog? Some type of sites perform better than others because of the mix of readers and visitors. Let me clarify first that when I say readers, these are your direct viewership which may type in directly, bookmark you or added you on their feed readers. On the other hand, I refer to visitors as being one-time traffic coming from search engines or social sites like Digg.
  • The number of sites you are running AdSense on. While some sites may perform better on a given month, others might not. Unless you’re just basing your observations on a single site, it’s hard to pinpoint it really.
  • Type of visitors your site attracts. Are they gamers, blog readers, office workers, students, chatters or forumers? One can guess but hard to tell — unless your blog or website has a really narrow niche.
  • Traffic trends. It might just be a fluke — AdSense revenues down despite an increase in traffic or vice versa. Smart pricing could be a culprit too.
  • Search trends. People might search more on some days than other days. Expected annual events are usual culprits.
  • Lest we forget, advertiser budget. There will be months that advertisers would splurge on their AdWords account and then totally stop once all ad budget have been used up.

There could be more circumstantial reasons out there. It’s really hard to tell.

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May 18, 2007

Finally got me a KrisFlyer

I just realized that I’m wasting a whole bunch flight privileges because I don’t have one of those Star Alliance membership cards. I do have an HSBC Mabuhay Miles card which I regularly convert to free miles but that’s only applicable if I fly Philippine Airlines or Air Philippines.

So, while spending some quite time at my hotel room, I did a search on which ones I can apply online and in a jiffy.

Krisflyer

Singapore Airlines has their own Krisflyer membership program which is also a part of the Star Alliance. From my past travels abroad, I’ve been taking Singapore Air so it was the most logical one to sign up for. Now, if I can only retroactively add those earlier flight miles I incurred.

Anyway, I might still be able to log in the miles when I get back home and a couple more trips to Lahore & Karachi the week after so it’s not really all for naught.

Note: You can apply for Krisflyer online too. You automatically get your member ID and they’ll mail you your card once you reach a certain amount of points.

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May 17, 2007

Off to Penang and other link destinations

We’re boarding in a few minutes on Singapore Air to Penang, Malaysia. Will be back next week but will stop over for a night at Singapore to do some sight-seeing and gadget shopping. Thanks to all those who left a comment and gave suggestions.

Here are some other online destinations you might want to check out. Got them from my inbox the last couple of weeks:

  • Rhea just got her own gorgeous MacBook and is asking for suggestions on what to name it. Just leave a comment and you could win a Php500 worth of gift certificates from UCC.
  • Noemi just uploaded the missing episode 8 of the BoBCast (Sleepless in La Union). The girls have been egging me to host it here but the nature of our discussion in that episode is far off from my regular topics here. Thanks to Noemi for graciously hosting it on her blog. :D
  • Anton Shekker, the pro photographer extraordinaire, is having a workshop on “Basic Creative Photography Workshop” which will start this June. Registration fee is Php2,000 for all of the 4 sessions. Email allan.florendo@gmail.com if interested.
  • Infinishare Technologies just released version 3.0 of the PurpleNova.
  • The future of search is at hand — Google Searchology.

Spotty Airborne Access connection at the NAIA terminal may actually prevent me form publishing this post on time.