Thursday, December 31, 2009

GSM telephony communication hacked and shown insecured

GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is the most widely used mobile communication standard nowadays, making up about 80% of the mobile market with about 4 billion users from 200+ countires worldwide.

GSM uses cryptographic algorithms for security and over-the-air privacy. Beside protecting the phone conversation privacy, GSM security is very important nowadays as services such as phone banking, mobile-commerce, SMS transaction, etc. are becoming more and more popular.

The bad news is, German computer security researchers Karsten Nohl has just shown to us in his talk at the 26th Chaos Communication Conference in Berlin that GSM encryption can be easily hacked with simple tools, and its telephone conversation or SMS text message can be intercepted by hackers.

Nohl presented 2 flavours of attack devices, which is able to do active intercept or passive key cracking.

Before this, security experts believe that decrypting the GSM signals will need at least hundreds of thousands of dollars and complicated technology. However, Nohl has shown the much cheaper and simpler way of hacking it, using hardware that cost as low as several thousand dollar and open source application such as OpenBTS.

This has definitely bring concerns to the whole world, especially those service providers and users of phone banking, mobile-commerce, SMS transaction, etc.

Click here to look at the slides of Karsten Nohl presented at the 26th Chaos Communication Conference.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

KLSE laggards against global and regional bourses in 2009

Despite a worldwide fear of recession in 2009, in fact many stock markets perform pretty well in the year, and several even achieved more than 100% gain!

World's top 10 best performing stock markets (from 30 Dec 2008 - 21 Dec 2009):

  • Brazil Bovespa Stock Index (+132%)
  • Russian RTS Index (+125%)
  • Peru Lima General Index (+116%)
  • Jakarta Composite Index (+114%)
  • Micex Index - Moscow (+113%)
  • Sri Langka Colombo All Share Index (+113%)
  • OBX Stock Index - Norway (+101%)
  • PFTS Index - Ukraine (+94%)
  • ISE National 100 Index - Istanbul (+90%)
  • Chile Stock Market Select (+87%)
Asia-Pacific's top 10 best performing stock markets (from 30 Dec 2008 - 21 Dec 2009):

  • Jakarta Composite Index (+114%)
  • Sri Langka Colombo All Share Index (+113%)
  • Taiwan TAIEX Index (+72%)
  • Shanghai SE Composite Index (+70%)
  • Stock Exchange of Thailand Index (+66%)
  • Phillipine SE Index (+64%)
  • Straits Times Index - Singapore (+61%)
  • Kospi Index - South Korea (+56%)
  • Hang Seng Index - Hong Kong (+47%)
  • NZX 50 Index - New Zealand (+44%)
Meanwhile, Malaysia FBM KLCI Index only gained by 42.42% at the same period of time, falling behind its neighouring Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine and Singapore markets!

This is definitely not a good sign to Malaysia, especially when the KLSE a.k.a. Bursa Malaysia daily trading value and trading volume are both fallen below the billion level now!

Has KLSE become an abandoned market from investors? Will Malaysia be left over behind the global economic rebound wave? Does the government has any plan and measure to regain investors' confidence?

* Source of the above data are from the "2009 in Numbers" report in The Edge weekly.

Monday, December 28, 2009

4:1 unit split for MAAKL Progress Fund

You might have noticed that since 23 December 2009, the NAV per unit of MAAKL Progress Fund has reduced tremendously.

This is because this unit trust fund has undergone a 4:1 (four additional units for every one unit held) unit split, and the price at 22 December 2009 has been adjusted from RM1.2626 to RM0.2525 accordingly. Unit holders will find their units increases by 4 times by 23 December 2009.

Unit holders with an online account can login to their Investor Service website to see the additional units credited into their account.

This exercise didn't have any change or impact to the profit/loss of the unit holders. It just merely reduce the unit price to a cheaper rate.

To calculate your return of investment in this MAAKL unit trust fund, you can adjust all the historical prices of MAAKL Progress Fund before 23 December 2009 by dividing it with 5. This will get you the correct chart to show its price movement.

Today MAAKL Progress Fund closed at RM0.2560, which shows a 1.39% increased since the unit split last week.

Click here to read the official announcement about MAAKL Progress Fund 4:1 unit split.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Accor Hotels Asia offers more than 30% savings deal for MasterCard holders

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Syndacast. All opinions are 100% mine.

The world's leading hotel operator, Accor Hotels, is currently offering an exclusive deal for MasterCard credit card or debit card holders from now until 31 January 2010.

As much as 188 hotels in Asia are participated in this MasterCard Cardholder - Exclusive Deal promotion, including the famous brands of:

When you book a 3 consecutive night stay at any of the participating hotels with your MasterCard, you only need to pay for 2 nights during check out - equilvalent to a discount of 33.34% on the Best Unrestricted Rate or Premium Rate!

Note that in order to enjoy this offer, booking has to be made at least 1 day prior to your date of arrival.

Good news to Accor Advantage Plus members - you are also eligible for an additional 10% discount on top of this!

On top of that, by booking and paying with MasterCard during this campaign period, you stand a chance to win a 3 night stay in a private villa at the 5-star Pullman Sanya Yalong Bay Resort!

The 3 nights private Villa prize at Pullman Sanya Yalong Bay for 10 winners is valued at approximately US$1000 each, which includes:
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 King bed
  • Separate living room
  • Private garden
  • Private swimming pool
  • Jacuzzi
  • Outdoor massage area

Click here for more information about this MasterCard Cardholder - Exclusive Deal, and the list of 188 participating hotels.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Office Reader the free open source application for Symbian & UIQ3 to open ODF files

Most of us already know that Microsoft Office documents can be opened in our smartphone by using applications such as Documents To Go or Quickoffice.

But how about the documents in Open Document Format (ODF) which is the De facto standard of, IBM Lotus Symphony, Go-oo, KOffice, AbiWord, etc?

Well, Office Reader is the ODF documents reader for Symbian and UIQ3 smartphones which is able to read OpenDocument text (.odt), spreadsheet (.ods) and presentation (.odp) as well as support for Hybrid PDF file.

Being a GPL version 3 open source application, Office Reader is free for use. It is sponsored by NLnet Foundation and Odendahl SEPT-Solutions. Odendahl SEPT-Solutions is the company that produced Mobile Office.

Office Reader is capable to open ODF documents directly from email attachments, MMS, Bluetooth, filebrowser as well as webbrowser.

The main limitation is: it can only read the documents, but not write to them.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What would the coming 4% GST probably affect you the most?

The plan of Malaysian government to impose a 4% Goods & Services Tax (GST) tentatively by 2011 has been a hot topic nowadays.

This mean that majority of the items you buy in Malaysia, other than the very few designated exempted "essential" items such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour, etc., will make you pay an additional 4% of the purchase price to the government by then.

You might not feel the pain if the item price is low, for example, the GST of a RM100 item will be imposed at RM4 only.

However, if the item price is high, the impact will be significant.

Most people will buy at least 2 costly items in their lifetime, namely house and car. These are the items that probably affect you the most by GST!

  • If you buy a car for RM50,000, the GST will be RM2,000.
  • If you buy a house for RM300,000, the GST will be RM12,000.
  • And if your house go for renovation that cost RM50,000, there is also GST of RM2,000 to be paid.
So, if you plan to change your old car or buy a new car, better get it done before 2011.

If you plan to buy house for yourself or for investment, also better get it done before 2011.

If you plan to get married (which involve quite a lot of costly services and goods), also better get it done before 2011.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The cheapest laptop selling at $99

"Africa" is its name.

It is the brainchild of Philip Appiah from PAAJAF, a humanitarian services NGO based in Accra, Ghana, West-Africa.

PAAJAF  foundation provides food and shelter, clothing, basic health care, community building skills, job training  and education for children, women and orphans.

Philip’s vision was to improve the lives of the poor through better access to information for better education, freedom, making a living,  etc.

Philip approached Cherrypal of the Tristate Hong Kong Group Limited, a globally operating group of lifestyle enhancing companies, focused on green technologies, health products and personal development.

Cherrypal has been known to produce cheap netbook as a way to bridge the “digital divide”, with the belief that everyone should have access to technology and the benefits of the Internet, not just those who can afford to spend at least few hundreds on a new computer.

This initiative has led to the making of Africa, priced at $99 and targetted for the global low income group.

Africa is the laptop produced by Cherrypal, with:
  • 7" colour display
  • 400Mhz processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • 2GB flash memory storage
  • Integrated Wi-Fi b/g wireless networking
  • Integrated 10/100M Ethernet wired networking
  • RJ-45 dial-up port
  • One USB 2.0 port and two USB 1.1 ports
  • SD/MMC card slot that supports SD card , U-Disk and USB-HDD Card
  • Microphone and built-in speaker 
It weighs around 1.2kg and includes a 7.4V 1800MAH Lithium battery that provides a runtime of around four hours.

It runs either Linux or Windows CE and is designed just for Internet surfing.

"We believe access to the Internet is an essential need nowadays and requires an extra effort from the global community to melt different cultures and backgrounds into one peaceful community." -- GreenOpenFair blog of Cherrypal.

Click here for more information and online purchase of the Cherrypal 7" Africa mini-laptop selling at $99.00.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hiding your Internet web surfing trace with UltraSurf

UltraSurf is a very small program (less than 500kb) that will automatically change your Internet Explorer's setting to make use of anonymous proxy server in the United States. It is free. It also has add-on for Firefox browser.

It can be used to hide/obfuscate your computer's location, and be a workaround to overcome possible web censorship and blockage.

Any website you connected with your web browser is able to trace your computer's IP address, and use it to find out your location. What UltraSurf do is to connect your computer to their server, and then connect to the destination website with the IP address of their server instead of yours.

This will make any websites you surf on or browse into, to trace that you are coming from United States instead of your actual location.

You can see how the IP address is traced by visiting to See what's the different before and after you run UltraSurf.

UltraSurf also has options to allow you to remove your trace in your computer (what webpages you have visited) by deleting the cookie and history information automatically the moment you exit the program.

Click here to find out more about UltraSurf and to download it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When piracy becomes a major economic activity with a stock market

Somalia, a country located at the "Horn of Africa", is strategically controlling the vessel traffic in Gulf of Aden which joins the Red Sea (with the famous Suez Canal at the other end) which forms the important water transportation between Europe and Asia. (map below)

Somali people have been suffering from civil war since the last decade, and now, the warriors, fishermen, and perhaps farmers have found a new "lucrative business" to take advantage of their geographical location. They become pirates and hijack merchant ships, then making multi million dollars of big bucks from ransom.

The Somali pirates are heavily armed. And to maintain their "operation cost" and supplies, they have even opened a 24x7 "stock market", which started with 15 "maritime companies" and grown to 72 in just 4 months time.

The stock market is opened to everyone, and they accept "investment" in the kind of cash, weapons or useful materials.

The following "testimony" is very real, from a 22 years old young Somali lady: "I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation. I am really happy to have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined."

It would be more shocking to hear the Haradheere town's deputy security officer spoken to reporter: "Piracy-related business has become the main profitable economic activity in our area and as locals we depend on their output."

Somali pirates have no doubt become today's marine version of Robin Hood in the eyes of their local people. They are even a very modernize version, equipped with AK-47 and rockets (rather than bows and arrows), and operating a stock exchange.

What do you think about this?

I feel that if the rich-poor divide around the globe become worse and worse, more and more such "Robin Hood story" will come into reality, and that might also be a cause for World War III.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Using Google Public DNS to speed up web access

Google has just introduced their Public DNS service as part of their ongoing effort to make the web faster.

Since Google's search engine already crawls the web on a daily basis and in the process resolves and caches DNS information, they wanted to leverage their technology to experiment with new ways of addressing some of the existing DNS challenges around performance and security.

Google Public DNS is offered freely to the general public to:

  • Provide end users with an alternative to their current DNS service. 
  • Help reduce the load on ISPs' DNS servers by taking advantage of their global data-center and caching infrastructure.
  • Help make the web faster and more secure.
By making use of Google Public DNS, the benefits and enhancements are:
The Google Public DNS IP addresses are as follows:
Click here for detail information about how to configure your computer to make use of Google Public DNS.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    My Aurora AS424C cross-cut paper shredder

    I found this round of PIKOM PC Fair does not have much difference from last round in August 2009. In fact, the RAM module price has risen quite a lot. Things which have price drop are portable harddisk, GPS navigator, etc.

    Anyhow, managed to bought myself an Aurora AS424C cross-cut paper shredder at the price of RM99. It looks small and cute, very portable and easy to carry. It is not so heavy too, weights only 2.3kg.

    Its main purpose in my household will be to shred old statements of credit cards, bank slips, phone bills, etc. before disposal to dustbin.

    It is able to feed in up to 4 pieces of A4 paper, folded. In fact, the papers need to be folded because the inlet length is shorter than A4 width.

    Equipped with strong steel cutters, it shreds pretty fast and can even feed in small paper staples without problem. It is also able to awesomely shred credit card. But it is not designed to shred CD/DVD, and there are other higher end models (with higher price) which are able to do so.

    This is the result after shredding. The stripes are actually not too fine, so if you shred vertically, can still read some words on the stripes. It is more advisible to shred the papers horizontally, so that the sentences will be cut into multiple stripes and rendered to be unreadable.

    This shredder comes with some safety features, such as:
    • It will not start-up if the unit head is not placed properly in its translucent wastebasket.
    • It will auto switch off when its motor detected to be overheated due to long operation.
    • It has a REV switch to reverse the feeding and roll out the paper. You can still save the unshredded part.
    At the cost of RM99 with 1 year warranty, I find this paper shredder good to have for lightweight usage at home.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Findings from Synovate PAX Survey 2009

    In its 13 year, Synovate PAX Survey is the most comprehensive study of affluent group of elite adults in Asia Pacific region, which are from the higher income percentile of the society in the surveyed metropolitan areas.

    The survey tracks media and digital consumption, prosperity, and influence across 11 markets from Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, to Australia. It is conducted year-round and Synovate spoke with 20,245 affluent consumers in Asia Pacific to get the 2009 results.

    The table below shows the percentage of respondents in 5 of the surveyed metropolitan possess or answered "yes" to the corresponding items of interest.

    The result reveals that:
    • Affluent consumers across Asia Pacific continued to spend even during the recession in 2008-2009.
    • Hong Kong respondents are still keen in the investment markets, with 51.2% invested in stock, bond and securities.
    • Meanwhile, only 16.8% of respondents from Kuala Lumpur invested in stock, bond and securities.
    • Online 10% of respondents from Kuala Lumpur enjoy a cultural lifestyle in live theaters and/or museums, and 51.6% will go to the cinema to watch (usually commercial) movies.
    • Media advertising doesn't seem to do well in gaining trust from the respondents. However, branding is pretty important as many prefer to buy well known brands (but surprisingly, not in the case of Hong Kong).
    You might want to...
    Download PAX 2009 Hong Kong factsheet (PDF 86Kb)
    Download PAX 2009 Korea Fact Sheet (PDF 70Kb)
    Download PAX 2009 Singapore factsheet (PDF 70Kb)
    Download PAX 2009 Kuala Lumpur Fact Sheet (PDF 65Kb)
    Download PAX 2009 Philippines Fact Sheet (PDF 65Kb)

    Top 10 technology trends for 2010

    The following are 10 most significant technology trends for 2010, based on a survey conducted by Ziff Davis Enterprise Research with almost 1,200 technology and business managers.

    1. Green Computing and Energy Efficiency
    It is observed that commitment has been greatly increased from 2009 to 2010 across IT manufacturers (in producing Green IT products), data centres and end-users.

    2. Public and Private Cloud Computing
    IDC expects spending on IT cloud services to grow almost threefold, reaching $42 billion by 2012.

    3. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
    Beside server virtualization, VDI has begun to make inroads into the enterprise, but it is found to be more complex to implement than server virtualization. 2010 might be a turning point.

    4. Mobility, Telecommuting and Virtual Meetings
    With the vast penetration of mobile computing devices such as BlackBerrys, iPhones, netbooks, etc., concerted with the availability of higher wireless bandwidth, business nowadays has become more and more mobile in nature. Control and security are the main concerns though.

    5. Centralization, Standards and Governance
    This is something new in the list from 2009's, resulting from the alarm triggered from the “Great Recession” and increasingly fragmented computing resources.

    6. Knowledge Sharing, Business Intelligence and Social Networking
    No doubt Web 2.0 has transformed the landscape and made knowledge sharing a reality. Organizations start to recognize the tremendous value in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services.

    7. Security, E-Discovery and Business Continuity
    There are growing need in this area, but cost remains a big issue.

    8. Advances in Application Infrastructure
    Open source has made its way and sustain its momentum, playing a more and more important role in today's computing world.

    9. Investments in Hardware Infrastructure
    Virtualization has brought the impact to hardware infrastructure consolidation. It is believed that Intel’s Nehalem processor (1st CPU optimized for virtualized environments) will accelerate the servers refresh cycle. Beside virtualization, Fibre Channel over Ethernet and solid-state drives are also stimulus to this trend.

    10. Collaboration, Workflow and Productivity
    The extension of productivity and workflow to the mobile environment is a huge trend. We are rapidly moving beyond e-mail into content and collaboration applications.

    * The top 10 IT trends above are referenced from an article written by Samuel Greengard in the Baseline Magazine.

    You might be interested to explore how the above have progressed from the Top 10 IT trends for 2009 I posted here about a year ago.

    I observed that this 2010 trends is organically evolved from the 2009's list, and come closer to actual adoption, implementation and usage, as the technology matured.

    Winter Solstice - the important festival day right before Christmas

    Every year right before Christmas, there is an important oriental festival day fall on the Winter Solstice (冬至) which pronounced as Dong Zhi and directly translated to "extreme of winter". The Winter Solstice in 2009 is 22 December.

    In Northern Hemisphere where China is located, the Winter Solstice is the day with shortest daylight (about 10 hours) and longest night (about 14 hours), which is the critical day of "Ying", when the solar celestial longitude reaches 270 degree and the sun has the lowest position in the sky. After this day, the daytime will become longer and longer, as more and more "Yang" re-entering. In Chinese saying is "阴极之至,阳气始生,日南至,日短之至,日影长之至".

    After this day, the weather in the Northern Hemisphere will become cooler and cooler, until 9 x 9 = 81 days later, which is the last day of winter when the Chinese farmers start cultivating their farms again.

    The Winter Solstice is an important festival to Chinese, which has equal significance with the Chinese New Year.

    Similar to Chinese New Year, the Winter Solstice Festival is also a time for the Chinese family to get together, and eat the balls of glutinous rice named as Tang Yuan (汤圆) symbolizing "reunion". The Korean also practises similar culture too.

    Traditionally, all the family members will make the Tang Yuan together using glutinous rice powder. Nowadays, ready made Tang Yuan is also available in the supermarket/hypermarket, and modern family just buy instead of making themselves. The Tang Yuan is boiled in water (with some brown sugar or salt, and pandan leaves) before consume in bowl.

    Beside celebrated by oriental people, the Winter Solstice is celebrated globally, and the festival day might differ a little bit from the Chinese. Some Western Winter Solstice Festival fall on the Christmas Eve, and celebrated together with the Christmas Festival.

    In fact, the celebration of Winter Solstice in mankind has longer history than Christmas, and people like Isaac Newton believed that the date of Christmas was selected to correspond with the Winter Solstice.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Taxable amount from company car, petrol card, driver, etc.

    If your employer provides you a company car, petrol card and/or car driver, you will notice that an amount will be treated as Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) in your EA Form, which is taxable.

    The following table shows how the value of such taxable BIK value is calculated.

    The annual BIK value of driver provided is RM7,200.

    For example, if you are provided with a Honda Accord 2.4 which its cost is fall under the range of RM150,001-RM200,000, and you are also provided with a petrol card but no driver, your taxable BIK income will be RM7,000 + RM1,800 = RM8,800.

    If your tax rate is 27%, then you will need to pay RM8,800 x 27% = RM2,376 for this BIK in your income tax. (Note: the maximum personal income tax rate will be reduced to 26% from assessment year 2010 onwards.)

    This amount is normally already divided and deducted in your monthly PCB deduction.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Maximize your 2009 personal income tax deduction

    Now we still have until 31 December 2009, which is less than one month time, to utilize and maximize any of the following income tax relief and/or deduction items for 2009.

    • EPF contribution and life insurance premium (max RM6,000)
    • Education and/or medical insurance premium (max RM3,000)
    • Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional (max RM3,000)
    • Parent's medical expenses (max RM5,000)
    • Annual medical check-up (health screening) for yourself, spouse and/or children (max RM500)
    • Course fees for technical, vocational, industrial, scientific, technology, law, accounting, Islamic financing trainings at tertiary or postgraduate level (max RM5,000)
    • Books, magazines, journals and other similar publications, either printed or electronic format, excluding newspaper (max RM1,000)
    • Purchase of new computer, applicable once every 3 years (RM3,000)
    • Sport equipments for any sport activity defined in Sports Development Act 1997 (RM300)
    • Donations to approved institutions (max 7% deduction from aggregate income)
    • Interest expended to finance purchase of residential property, with S&P signed between 10 March 2009 and 31 December 2010, and the residential property is not rented out (max RM10,000)
    Note that if you subscribed for the deferred annuity retirement insurance scheme, you will get an additional RM1,000 relief under Section 49(1) of Income Tax Act 1967. Otherwise, the maximum relief under this category will remain as RM6,000 only. (applicable to assessment year 2010)

    Do remember to keep all the relevant receipts for tax assessment purpose.

    Malaysia Employment Outlook & Salary Guide 2009/2010 from Kelly Services

    The Malaysia Employment Outlook and Salary Guide 2009/2010 from Kelly Services reveals that there is increasing demand in telecommunication, Web 2.0 development, call centre, and some other fields.

    It is observed that these fields generally registered a 3% increase in minimum and maximum salary, despite the dampen economic climate during the survey period.

    Among the highlighted hot jobs are:
    • Credit manager
    • Finance manager - investment
    • Head of charge cards
    • Head corporate credit risk
    • Senior customer service officer
    • Call centre team leader
    • Finance & admin executive
    • Safety officer
    • Sales manager
    • Head of channel management
    • Business development manager
    • Senior HR manager
    • Compensation & benefits specialist
    • Recruitment manager
    • Help desk analyst
    • Software engineer
    • Unix specialist
    • Logistic coordinator
    • Warehouse manager
    • Purchasing manager
    • Head of quality
    • Senior project manager
    • Sales engineer
    • Civil engineer
    Click here to download the Malaysia Employment Outlook and Salary Guide 2009/2010.

    You might probably also be interested to read on:

    Hint: Click on the "Older Posts" link to continue reading, or click here for a listing of all my past 3 months articles.