... straddling the thin line between genius and insanity ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Philippine Automated Election System for May 2010

Yesterday, I attended a private demonstration of the Automated Election System(AES) for the May 2010 election. The event was organized by The Asia Foundation in cooperation with Smartmatic.

Voters Perspective

The AES at its core is still a paper-based election which is not that different from the previous national elections. The paper ballot, which in past elections require voters to write the names of their chosen candidates, now only requires them to SHADE the ovals next to the names of their chosen candidates.

  • You must shade only one oval per position unless otherwise stated.
  • If you shade more than the stated number of ovals for a certain position, you ballot will NOT be counted for that particular position.
Steps to Vote:
1) Prepare your personal list of candidates to vote for before going to the voting precinct.

2) When you get to the precinct, register with the election officials and get your ballot

3) Check that the ballot is unused making sure that no ovals have been shaded

4) Sit down and proceed to shading the ovals next to the names of your chosen candidates. You will be asked to use markers with indelible ink so you can not make a mistake. You are only allotted ONE ballot so take your time.

5) When its your turn to use the voting machine, take note of the number of votes that the machine has recorded before feeding your ballot into it. Wait for the machine to confirm that your vote has been recorded. Take note that the number of votes that the machine has recorded should increase by one. If something goes wrong, bring it to the attention of election officials

I think this is as far as one needs to know with regards to voting.

The next section which I will update shortly will describe the things that SHOULD happen before voting opens and after voting opens as well as the security features of the system.

About the machine 
  • The final firmware is reviewed and certified by all concerned parties 
  • The machines are loaded with firmware in the presence of representatives from concerned parties to make sure that the firmware loaded is the one that was certified 
  • The machines are tested and sealed with 10 test ballots each.
  • The package is then sent to the precinct. It should be in the precincts on the day before the election at the latest. 
  • At the appropriate time, the election officials for each precinct will open the package together with concerned parties and test the machine using the test ballots. 
  • Each machine is configured specifically for a precinct.
  • Each machine is configured only to record and count the votes up to the number of registered voters for the particular precinct where it will be used.
  • Each machine is configured to only accept ballots for the precinct where it will be used.
  • When the election is opened, the machine will print out copies of its totals for the review of the election officials as well as other concerned parties. The print out should indicate zero votes have been counted.
  • The machine is not connected to any network during election
  • When the election is closed, the machine will print out 8 copies of the Election Returns for audit purposes. A modem is then connected which will allow the machine to transmit the election returns to pre-configured servers. After transmission, the machine is disconnected from the network and prints out 22 copies of the election returns for audit purposes by concerned parties
 About the ballots
  • Each ballot can be uniquely identified and has both visible and invisible ultraviolet prints as an additional security measure
  • Each precinct will be allocated a number of ballots exactly equal to the number of registered voters for the particular precinct
  • When the election is closed, unused ballots should be torn in half and placed inside the ballot boxes 

About data transmission
  • The machine will transmit the election returns to three servers: municipal server, comelec backup server and a server for use by the media and other concerned parties

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to vote WISELY?

I came across a couple of blogs the other day. They are all linked to by http://www.getrealphilippines.net/. They seem to be a bunch of out of the box thinkers. Some of what they say might be painful to hear but they make sense. Reading the postings on the different blogs, I've come to realise a few things which I will rant about in this and my next posts.

Ever since I can remember, people have always asked us to vote wisely but I can't, for the life of me, remember if voting wisely was taught in elementary or high school. I remember during high school, we had student elections for the members of the student council. I remember voting for the party that had the most catchy jingle and slogan. I paid very little attention to plans or platforms. I know now that what I did was wrong. Which leads to the quesion of:

How to evaluate candidates properly?
The answer can be summarized in the following comic strip taken from one of the above mentioned blog:

They should be teaching this in high school. The students should go thru the exercise of evaluating candidates every year even if they are not yet allowed to vote. They should also be made aware of the current situations and issues, the current position of our government as well as the actions being undertaken and their status.

Maybe we can start a sustained drive for voter education aimed at high school students manned by volunteers and funded by grants and donations.

Thoughts, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Renewing my Drivers License

Day 1
I finally had enough motivation to renew my expired drivers license last last week. It's been expired since July but I couldn't find the time to renew it until the said week. I asked around what's required to renew my expired drivers license and I got the following answer:
  • Expired License card
  • Official Receipt
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of your precious time\
  • patience to go to the one of the renewal centers scattered across the metro
After much deliberation, I decided to go to the Ayala DLRC located in the Ayala MRT station on Dec 1 2009. As fate would have it, the technician that was in charge of doing the drug test had some sort of emergency and wasn't able to report to work. So for the whole day, that DLRC won't be able to process renewals since no one can do the drug test.
I think it's just lame that the operation of one whole center is dependent on one single person. I hope they learn from this and consider some redundancy.

I was advised to go to another DLRC and I chose to proceed to the DLRC located in the Guadalupe MRT station. When I got there, the line was already long since most of the people who went to the Ayala MRT Station DLRC went there. The process required that I fill up a form and I didn't have a pen with me. The desks at the DLRC didn't have pens so I had to purchase a pen from the counter for 10 pesos.

After filling up the form, I submitted it to the window but by that time, they had to break for lunch. I had no choice but wait and I had this sinking feeling that chances are, my whole day is going to be waisted. I took my lunch at a nearby KFC outlet and returned by 1pm. After form submission, the long wait now starts for my name to be called so that I can take the drug test and medical test.

At around 2:30 pm, my name was called. The drug test is basically a urine test. The medical test involved a Snellen chart and another image to test vision. Afterwards, I was asked a couple of medical questions to determine my fitness to actually drive.

At around 3:30pm, the results of the urine test came out negative for drugs so I submitted the forms to the next window. After a few minutes, my name was called for picture taking and signature. I told myseld, FINALLY, I'm nearing the end. After a few minutes, I guy came out and called my name. He told me they couldn't process my renewal since I had pending traffic violation tickets in the MMDA database. I knew of one ticket that I had which was for a coding violation. I already paid for the ticket last October at a Metrobank branch and I brought the receipt with me. The guy told me I had to go to MMDA to clear my record. He told me to hurry "para makahabol pa". Since the MMDA building is near Guadalupe, I decided to go and try to clear my record.

I got there around 4:00pm and the line was really long and the place was packed. The person at the door told me that they won't be able to accommodate me anymore and that I should just come back in the morning on the next day.

Day 2

I woke up early, skipped breakfast and got to the MMDA building by 8:30am. When I entered, I had to fall in line to get a verification form. The guy at the door told me I had to first get a photocopy my license, official receipt and the ticket payment receipt. I asked him where to do this and he pointed me to a nearby computer rental shop. When I got there, a girl approached me and offered to facilitate the clearing of my records. I figured it was still early and I was there already so I'll just go thru the correct process. When I got back, I was given form#94.

I then had to fall in line again to pay 30 pesos for the verification service. After payment, I sat down and wait for my number to be called. At about 10:00am, my name was called and I explained to them that I already paid for my ticket and ask why it wasn't reflected in their records. The girl just shrugged and told me that my name will be called for evaluation and assessment of fines/fees. I had a feeling that this is leading to another wasted day. I patiently waited and around 11:30am, I was assessed and charged a 500 peso fine for a ticket with a reckless driving violation. I paid the fine and decided to just come back for the clearance next day since I had a meeting that afternoon.

Day 3

Again, I woke up early, skipped breakfast and picked up the clearance. From MMDA, I went directly to the DLRC in Guadalupe Station. Alas, I was to early, I got there at 8:30am and they open at 9:00am. So I waited. At 9:00am, I was able to re-submit my papers including the clearance. The girl who accepted my paper warned me that the one to take my picture and signature will arrive at 9:30am. I waited till 10:00am for my name to be called for them to take my picture and signature again. Afterwards, I was called to the cashier to pay for the fees. Finally, at 10:30am, I was able to get my license.

Lessons to be learned
  • Bring Expired License card
  • Bring Official Receipt
  • Bring a pen
  • Photocopy License, Official Receipt and Ticket Receipts

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Donate clothes to Typhoon Ondoy victims

If you are able to read this then you are one of the fortunate ones who did not experience the full devastation brought about by ondoy.

Later, when you get back home, open your cabinet and take out the clothes that you haven't worn for the last two months. Someone else would wear them gladly and would really be grateful. You can bring them to:

Petron, Shell, Total Gas Stations
McDonalds outlets
Jollibee outlets

You can find other ways to help here

Monday, September 21, 2009

eLance disappoints

I was disappointed by eLance , an online workplace where qualified professionals and businesses connect to get work done. I've heard about the site since way back but I never got around to seriously consider participating. With my current lack of sidejobs or alternative source of income, I finally decided to check it out.

When I got to the site, I immediately attempted to search for a job. I did this by clicking on the PROVIDE SERVICES link and I entered the keyword grails on the search form. The search turned up only one valid result. It seemed interesting and I think I'd be able to do it. I quickly registered and passed the Elance test. I did the phone verification thing and I prepared a very good proposal. When I was about to submit it, the eLance system didn't accept it since to submit, I had to have 4 connects and I only had 3. To get more connects, I have to upgrade my account to the non-free versions.

To earn money on eLance, I had to shell out money which I do not have in abundance thus defeating the whole point of joining eLance.

I guess it's now time to try oDesk .

What the f@ck is wrong with me?

I just got a shot of antibiotic on my ass. The experience was rather painful. They first had to do a skin test so they injected a small amount of the stuff on my arm to make sure that I'm not overly allergic to it. After a few minutes, they asked me to lie on my stomach and expose my ass. They warned me that it will be painful as they had to use a large needle for the procedure. I courageously said go ahead and boy, was I foolish. The nurse proceeded to perform the procedure with a size 19 needle on the left cheek of my butt. It was painful but I had no choice but to endure it. As fate would have it, the needle was clogged so they couldn't administer the medicine and they had to replace the needle. I now had to endure another pricking this time on the right cheek of my ass. The nurse kept apologizing and I asked her if I did something wrong to her and if she was mad at me? She kept apologizing so I just told her that I'm ok and to just get it over with. This time, she was successful in administering the shot. It was really painful. They weren't kidding.

And I'm supposed to do this once a month for the next 12 months? Is this really necessary?

I'll be posting the medicines I've been asked to take and the lab results so hopefully, if you have friends who are qualified doctors, you could refer them to this post and they could suggest what's wrong with me or alternatives to this painful treatment.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Comelec seeks ideas for code review

Inquirer.net reports that the Comelec is seeking ideas for efficient code review. Details can be read here.

My suggestion is to allow all universities with computer science departments to register as reviewers. The design documents and code is then released to valid registrants. They will also be provided with hardware test units. They will then provide on a scheduled basis, reports on their discoveries or suggestions. This exercise can become an avenue for a university to showcase the talent of its faculty and students.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Almost became an AOWA victim

I was in Ortigas Home Depot earlier today around 2pm. We were intercepted by a girl who claims she will give us a free bag, we just had follow here to their store. When we got to their store located outside of the Home Depot at the farthest edge, they eagerly demonstrated an induction cooker. I was very interested at the cooker since I was actually in the market for one. They asked me to write my name and address just so they can release the free bags. When they saw my address, one of the sales rep exclaimed that it was our lucky day and that since I was from QC but first they had to see some identification that I was indeed from QC. So I gamely took out my Drivers License and gave it to them. When they verified that I was indeed from QC, they claimed they were going to give away several of their high priced items to us if I bought their high priced water purifier. All their items are priced above 40k:
  • Water Purifier
  • Induction Stove
  • Cooking Set
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Chopper
It was a circus, with almost all the sales rep in the store butting in,touting the features of their products most especially the induction stove. Sometime in the mayhem, they asked to see my credit card just to check if it had a special marking. It WAS foolish of me to hand it over but I did. They were all very insistent that I buy the Water Purifier to get all the freebies but I was quite hesitant:

1) I just had a major expense
2) I wasn't in the market for the other products, just the induction cooker

They continued to bombard me with information regarding the features of the induction cooker but I told them that it was way too expensive. Too bad for them, I was quite informed regarding the operation of the stove so I wasn't wowed by their demo and I knew the going rate for induction cookers. I told them I was only interested in the Induction Cooker and the Cooking Set and asked how much it costs? They told me that they might be able to get approval to sell the Induction Cooker to me for 15k with no freebie items. I told them it was still expensive and it was way out of my budget, I was only willing to pay a maximum of 5k. In the end, their plea was that this was such a good opportunity and that it would be such a waste if I let it pass. I told them, I would think about it and asked for my license and my credit card back. They warned me that the prizes/promo they were offering me was good only till today or till someone snatches up the items so I run the risk of losing out. I told them its fine and walked out of there with the free bags but with a lot of my time wasted.

When I got home a few minutes ago, I took the liberty of looking up AOWA and my gut feeling was correct. I found a lot of unsatisfied or should I say tricked/scammed consumers. You can find some of their stories here, here and here.

IMHO, to be strict about it, its not actually a scam since they will give you the products they say they'll give you, its just that their products are just way overpriced and their marketing tactics are just agressive, offensive and depends heavily on the customer being uninformed and easy to excite. Still, to all those reading this, in my humble opinion,


I believe you can get better value for your money buying the products separately from other known brands.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No more heroes :(

I was driving along Kalentong the other day on my way to work. I was pretty much stuck in traffic and quite bored when I noticed a commotion to my right, a policeman was chasing down some guy, probably in his early twenties - barefoot - dirty - unwashed long hair with gold streaks. They passed a lot of other people who could have easily stopped the fleeing fugitive. No one dared to help the policeman. Which brings me to the next questions. If I were given the chance, would I have done something to help him? And for that matter, would you?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting out of Fitness First is not easy

Early this year, I had my account frozen as I was paying PHP2,500.00 per month when the last time I remember going to the gym was late last year. So I had my account frozen until July, I asked them to freeze my account indefinitely so that just in case I had more time, I could come back, but they told me that they could only freeze it for 3 months and I had to request them again to freeze it after. I also had to give them 30 days notice for them to freeze my account. A frozen account means that you still have to pay PHP500.00 every month, for what? I don't really know.

Fast forward to a few days ago, I decided to just cut the subscription. When I called up their office to inquire, they claimed that I can't cut it because my account was frozen. I had to make it active again before I can cut the subscription, I was like, WTF!!! Making it active would mean me paying them PHP2,500.00 again.

What kind of business practice is this? You freeze your account, you pay. You cancel your account, you pay dearly again. I just wish someone could setup a similar club with matching or better facilities and programs and does not have such a greedy practice. I can just see all the fitness first clients flocking to this new gym.

Anyway, am off to the forums to sell my fitness first membership. I've been a member for more than 2 years so there's no lock-up period anymore. Also, by buying this from me, the membership fee and administration fee is effectively waived. If you're interested, send me an email at rants.at.henyo.com

BDO - not really finding ways

BDO ( Banco de Oro ) is one of the largest banks operating in the Philippines. Their tagline is simply "We find ways" but if you'll read my story, I doubt that you'll agree.

Last month, I decided to pay my credit card bill at the BDO branch located along J.P. Rizal in Makati. I went in and asked the guard if they accept Citibank Visa card payments and he answered yes. He also told me to fill-up the red form and so I did. I then had to fall in line for processing at their counters. Note that I said counters, they had 5 counters, but only one counter was actually processing stuff for clients. It took me more than an hour to reach the teller only to be told that they could NOT do an over the counter withdrawal and use the amount withdrawn to do a bills payment since I haven't used up the daily limit for ATM withdrawals. They asked me to go outside of the bank premises to withdraw PHP46,000.00 from their ATM in broad daylight. Since it was already my due date for the bill and it was way past the lunch break period, I decided to comply without too much fuss. I simply told the teller that yes, I will do as they say but I'm not going to fall in line again. She agreed and after a few minutes, I was back at the counter with 92 500-peso bills.

Fast forward to a few days ago, my credit card bill was due again which comes up to around PHP52,000.00 and I decided to pay it at the same BDO branch. Being a bit wiser, I first went to the ATM, made several withdrawals to gather PHP50,000.00. I then proceeded to filling out the forms, 2 forms - one for a withdrawal of PHP2,000.00 and the other one for the bills payment. I lined up and after about 45 minutes, I reached the counter. I confidently gave the teller the 2 slips together with the ATM transaction records showing that I already used up the ATM withdrawal daily limit. She then proceeded to tell me that since the account wasn't with the branch, I will be charged PHP100.00 for the withdrawal and also since it was a salary account and I didn't know the account number, it will take long because she still had to find the account number. I was fuming mad, I needed to use my money and they were going to charge me PHP100.00 for it. And how hard is it for a teller to find my account number since she already had my ATM card in her hand with a card number and an account name. What sort of online system do they have there anyway? To get it over with, I told the teller I'm going to use my other cards to get PHP2,000.00 but I'm definitely NOT lining up again.

I guess this is what you can expect from a third world bank in a third world country such as ours. I do hope I am wrong and the other big banks don't make their clients go thru something similarly idiotic.