Friday, March 30, 2007

Raising cop salaries just the start

Raising cop salaries in M'sia is a good start against corruption, but other measures such as transparency of business rules, laws, freedom of the press, and cultural pressure are also needed.

A 2004 article from Radio Free Europe covers this topic well:

Is Raising State Salaries Enough To Combat Corruption?


An excerpt:

So does that mean that raising state salaries is all it takes to root out corruption?

Actually, no -- far from it. Corruption in the state sector sometimes forms a chain, from the lowest bureaucrat to the most senior ministers, and in this case breaking the cycle is more difficult.

Laurence Cockroft, chairman of Transparency International's British chapter, told RFE/RL: "It's also sometimes part of an organized racket, so that the policeman on the beat may be taking a bribe from the public at the behest of his senior, who may be trying to organize quite a large taking from those more junior policemen whom he controls. So one has to accept the fact that although petty corruption for the most part is a means of survival, that's not always
the case and it's not the whole picture."

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAt the most senior level, Cockroft said, ministers have access to information and decision-making powers that have the potential to earn them millions of dollars, so doubling or tripling their salaries can have little effect. "If we move up the scale to the level of ministers, then certainly in terms of the developing world, whether we're looking at India or Cameroon or Colombia, the fact of the matter is that ministers are paid a small sum and do find it difficult to survive on those salaries," he said. "On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that in those cases, the means of sustaining or increasing their take-home pay is really to become involved in very large contracts where the distortion of public finances is rather serious and the implications for society as a whole are likewise very serious."

What ultimately makes more of a difference in combating corruption are factors such as the transparency of business rules, laws, freedom of the press, and cultural pressure. The more government officials have the leeway to create rules and regulations as they go along, the easier it is for them to use their discretionary powers for personal gain and the harder it is for the media to act as an effective check against corruption.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ribena in NZ found to have no Vit C

Two Kiwi schoolgirls are worldwide celebrities after their school experiment forced an international pharmaceutical and food giant to admit it made false claims about vitamin C levels in Ribena. - NZPA

Many news reports. Just search Google News for "ribena vitamin".

Which begs the question: how much vitamin C (if any) is there in the Ribena sold in Malaysia? Personally, I don't think you should be getting your vit C from something like Ribena anyway. You'd also be getting sugar, preservatives, dyes, and other additives...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wiping old hard disks

An In.Tech reader inquired:

I have an old hard disk which I’ve not used for a long time but before I send it to be recycled I want to make sure all the data is wiped out. Any idea where I can get this done?

B. Rozario
via e-mail

Well, you certainly have reason to be cautious.
In a 2005 study, a British research team bought 100 hard disks off eBay and found half of them still contained sensitive information, including insurance records, biographical information about children, and even “blackmail material” such as details of sex sites visited by users.
Assuming you still have a floppy drive, or a computer which supports booting from USB flash drives, a good solution would be Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) an open-source program which securely wipes the hard disks of most computers.
It can be obtained from
The program creates a bootable floppy disk or USB flash drive which will then load a wipe program which can be used on any hard disk connected to the computer.
Of course, you’d want to lock up or erase the DBAN floppy disk around after you’re done because this is a powerful utility.
The author also provides steps for creating bootable CD. Be sure to read the FAQ at

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Digi ad is offensive

I fully agree with Star's Hoo Ban Kee's opinion piece titled
"Hello, where are your manners?" (

I also found the recent CNY TV ad from Digi ("Longevity Calls") to be offensive. It depicts a "reunion dinner" where everyone at the table is busy chatting on their handphones. (see screencapt) Worse, the ad also depicts a child looking on in puzzlement at all the adults with their handphones. Eventually the child tries to imitate the adults!

Such a thing would never happen at my family's reunion gathering. In fact, if anyone even tries to play with their handphone during dinner, they can expect to get a severe tongue-lashing from my grandma.

She (rightly) believes that CNY is important time of the year for everyone to talk face-to-face. If not, what is the point of traveling all the way back to gather at one place?

Are there no Chinese executives in Digi? Did they not preview the ad first? Did everyone there think it would be "cute" or "funny" to shoehorn a product ad into such an important Chinese tradition?

The ad is also offensive in another way; it perpetuates some stereotypes about Chinese, particularly the "Ah Beng always on handphone" stereotype.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No ban of fast food ads, but don't allow kid ads

I think fast food companies should be allowed to advertise, like any other business. However, I propose the following restrictions because of the high number of ads aimed at kids:

1) No targeting of children in fast food ads.
2) No sponsorship of cartoons and "kid's clubs".
3) No bundling of toys and a kid-related products with fast food.
4) No setting up of playgrounds or "daycare" centres at fast food locations.

This would be for the same reason we don't allow cigarette ads to be targeted at kids: Children are not knowledgeable enough to make health decisions.