- Summary of TTCS Meetings held in 2001
- Thursday 18th January 2001, 5.30pm
- Thursday 15th February 2001, 6 pm
- Thursday 1st March 2001, 6pm
- Saturday 24th March 2001, 1pm – VideoFest 2001
- Wednesday 4th April 2001, 6.00pm
- Saturday 21th April 2001, 1pm – Mac OS X
- Wednesday 9th May 2001, 6.00pm
- Wednesday 23rd May 2001, 6.00pm
- Wednesday 13rd June 2001, 6.00pm
- Saturday 23rd June 2001, 1pm – Linux Mandrake v8.0 and Redhat v7.1
- Wednesday 11th July 2001, 6.00pm
- Saturday 4th August 2001, 1pm – Videofest II
- Wednesday 8th August 2001, 6pm
- Saturday 11th August 2001, 1pm – Windows XP
- Saturday 18th August 2001, 1pm – DOS software
- Saturday 25th August 2001, 1pm – LAN gaming
- Wednesday September 12th 2001, 6pm
- Wednesday September 26th 2001, 6pm
- Wednesday October 10th 2001, 6pm
- Tuesday 13th November 2001, 6pm
- Wednesday 12th December 2001, 6pm
Summary of TTCS Meetings held in 2001
We held two types of meetings : Pizza Limes and Tech Meetings. A Pizza Lime is the name given to our monthly discussion forum which was usually held at Pizza Hut, Roxy Roundabout, Port of Spain.
The tech meeting is when we have computers on site to demonstrate a particular type of hardware or software. Tech Meetings were held at the Cyberstate Cybercafe in Tacarigua courtesy of Shiva Maharaj. (Note: Cyberstate has since moved from this location).
The computers used for the tech meetings were provided by Pcw and/or Dave.
Thursday 18th January 2001, 5.30pm
Our first meeting for 2001. Members in attendance discussed the following topics:
- The recent ban on the importation of cordless telephones which operate in the 900Mhz and 2.4Ghz frequencies; the reasons why such ban would be implemented and the implications that this action may have on the use of other wireless technologies, e.g. bluetooth, in this country.
- Those members who were not present at the December 2000 pizza lime were updated on the Techpark discussions that were held during that meeting and they were able to contribute their opinions on the project.
- There was a brief discussion about the slowing down of the tech sector in the USA and how it could help or even hurt the local IT initiative.
- The possibility of having TTCS meetings in other parts of the country and on alternative days and times was also discussed.
The meeting finished promptly at 8pm.
Thursday 15th February 2001, 6 pm
We had several topics listed for discussion, but most of the time was taken up with the advantages (if any) and disadvantages of the proposed TSTT rate change to TT 20 cents per minute for local consumers. A summary of the points raised :
- The new rate will not reduce calls for consumers since most of them place their longest calls WITHIN their area code at a cost of 23 cents per call.
- There is no technical reason for the TT $2 charge for touch tone service epecially since TSTT uses an all digital network and the majority of “value added services” offered by the company require a touch tone phone!
- TSTT’s position as both a wholesaler and a retailer of Internet services is a fundamental conflict of interest that makes it impossible for the company to compete fairly in the local Internet access market.
- TSTT has refused to provide other ISPs with toll-free service (similar to that which TSTT offers its own customers), that, combined with the 20 cents per minute rate will quickly force its rivals out of business.
- Under the new rate TSTT stands to make more profit at the expense of the national business community. e.g. the cost of conference calls within a business district such as Port of Spain will skyrocket at 20 cents per minute.
- TSTT has never provided real evidence/documentation to support their claim that this rate change must be made in order to offset the lower revenue that they expect if/when any form of competition is introduced into the local telecom market.
- TSTT has claimed that the rate change will lower rates (and by association telephone bills) for many people in this country. They have yet to provide examples of just who will “benefit”.
- They also claim that local rates must be increased because the telephone rates in this nation are cheaper than elsewhere in the Caribbean. Other islands are more expensive than this nation? so what? cheap, affordable telecom can only benefit this nation whereas unaffordable/expensive telecom will hurt its chances of economic success.
- A memorable quote : “The bottom line here is that for a company to make a [pre-tax profit] of TT$FIVE HUNDRED MILLION on just 200,000 customers in a country of only 1.3 million means one of 2 things…either Trinis love phones or we are being royally overcharged!”
Another related topics discussed :
- alternative Internet access technologies such as cable modems, DSL (supposed to be rolled out by TSTT later in 2001) and satellite downloads.
- Also discussed, the recent American court ruling against Napster and the effect it would have on both the artistes and the record companies who claimed they were victimized by the music-swapping software as well as the many Napster alternatives that are also in use.
Thursday 1st March 2001, 6pm
This lime focused on the recently released Telecommunications Bill 2001 (debate on this bill began on Tuesday 6th March 2001). A paper copy of the Telecom Bill was obtained from the Ministry of IT, and was scanned and coverted into PDF format by the TTCS.
[ Note : The parliament’s website now has an official version of the Telecom Bill in PDF format ]
The general opinion of the Telecom bill was that it only establishes a telecom authority to oversee telecom providers and details how the authority will function. There are no specific details as to how services like TCP/IP over cable or satellite dishes would be treated or what price limits would be set.
More discussion focused on TSTT’s letter to the Sunday Guardian February 15th, 2001 headlined “Flat rate will lower most bills”. Among the points raised regarding this letter :
- TSTT claims that phone bills will be lowered and many consumers will benefit yet they have not specified who will benefit. Most consumers make the majority of their calls within their area code. At the present time such calls cost TT 23 cents (plus tax) for unlimited time; in the 20 cents system, every hour spent on the telephone costs TT$12 (plus tax)!
- TSTT claims this rate change is necessary to offset possible loss of revenue when the local telecom sector is opened to competition yet evidence from other parts of the world (where telecom has be opened to competition) suggests TSTT will actually gain rather than lose in the new environment.
- local business would suffer from having a drastic increase in their telephone bills which would be passed to their consumers.
- how would it affect the government’s proposed “smart nation” plan?
The question on how to alert people that the TSTT proposed rate will raise rather than lower phone bills was also discussed.
The recent launch of Helios Broadband Wireless Network in T&T by Illuminat at the Hilton Hotel (which was attended by several TTCS members) was also discussed as a less costly alternative to leased lines.
The meeting finished at approximately 10.10pm
Saturday 24th March 2001, 1pm – VideoFest 2001
The first TTCS “tech” meeting, for 2001, took place at our latest meeting place : the Cyberstate Online Cybercafe. The Cyberstate Cybercafe is located at 157 Eastern Main Road in Tacarigua (upstairs the Tacarigua Pharmacy). Telephone number: 640-8521. E-mail: [email protected]
It was our first “videofest”. Members in attendance viewed several movie trailers and short films and discussed how to tweak a computer system for maximum performance when playing back compressed video and audio files.
Of particular interst was the comparison between a video file compressed with the MPEG-1 codec and video file compressed with the DivX 😉 codec. Both files were the same length (7 mins), and format (352 x 240). The MPEG-1 file was roughly 40Mb and the DivX 😉 file was 15Mb.
Members agreed that the was very little difference in the playback quality of the 2 files. However, the main disadvantage of DivX 😉 is that it requires a more powerful machine to decode the video (an MPEG-1 file can give acceptable performance on a 200Mhz machine with 64Mb RAM whereas a 500Mhz and 128MB RAM is the suggested minimum for DivX 😉 playback).
We also discussed the Sunday Guardian article about “hackers” allegedly breaking into TSTT Internet accounts/attempting to access the machines of TSTT customers while they were online. There are several simple steps the general public can take to avoid such problems. The TTCS dealt with the issue of Internet Security for home users in June 2000. An “Internet security document” was created for that meeting (and subsequently updated in October 2000) and is available for download
Here is a list of offical movie trailers that were shown:
- Final Fantasy the movie
- Austin Powers : The Spy who Shagged Me
- South Park : the movie
- Star Trek : First Contact
- Star Trek : Insurrection
- Star Wars : The Phantom Menace (first theatrical trailer)
- Star Wars : The Phantom Menace (25MB ver)
- Mission Impossible 2
- Shanghai Noon
- The Matrix
- The Rock
- Tombraider the movie (to be released summer 2001)
- X-Files : Fight the future
Here is a list of independent short films that were shown :
- 405 the movie
- Killer Bean 1 – debut of Jeffrey Lew’s Killer Bean
- Killer Bean_2 – The Killer Bean sequel
- South Park spoof of Star Wars Episode I trailer
- ParkWars – South Park spoof of Star Wars : The Phantom Menace
- Troops – fan created Star Wars parody
- Duality trailer – a fan-created short film using Star Wars characters
Wednesday 4th April 2001, 6.00pm
Our first Wednesday pizza lime was well attended and members held a lively discussion on the following topics:
- the launch of a second wireless data network by Information Technology Alliance Ltd. (ITAL). A secondary concern was the issue of regulation of local wireless, for example, if transmitters interfere with one another, how is the conflict resolved? Will local telecom regulations protect small companies and domestic users from high prices and unfair business practices?
- the introduction of an internet kiosk service by TSTT and the possible impact it could have on local cybercafes.
- the allegation of threats made, via email, to BWIA (Trinidad and Tobago’s national airline)
- the public forum entitled “The Future of IT in Trinidad and Tobago” held by the Caribbean Academy of Sciences (CAS) on Monday 2nd April 2001
However, the most popular topic of the night was the TSTT proposed telephone flat rate of 20 cents per minute as well as the Telecommunications Bill 2001 (which the Senate has passed on April 10, 2001). Members debated the implications such a rate increase would have on both small businesses and domestic users who spend most of their time on calls within their area code (such calls currently cost 23 cents for unlimited time).
New members were updated on recent Society activities as well as telecom related material from previous meetings.
For those of you keeping track, this meeting concluded at 10:45PM!!
Saturday 21th April 2001, 1pm – Mac OS X
At this meeting, Kester and Michael demonstrated Apple’s latest Operating System: Mac OS X.
They explained that OS X is actually a departure from the “traditional” Apple OS upgrade because it is based, in part, on the FreeBSD version of Unix and showed features of the new GUI (graphical user interface) named “Aqua”.
Michael then explained the differences between:
- Mac OS 9 applications
- “Carbon” compatible applications (OS 9 apps modified for use under OS X).
- “Cocoa” compatible applications (apps written from scratch to take advantage of the new features of OS X).
Kester and Michael also showed:
- how to install Mac OS X (it took about 15 mins on Michael’s G4 machine and the OS auto detected all hardware, requiring little interaction).
- how to run OS 9-compatible apps in OS 9 on a system with OS X (your machine should have had OS 9 installed before installing OS X).
- the multi-tasking features of OS X (the G4 was able to play a DVD, an MP3 file a .MOV file and run an OS 9 app all at the same time).
- how to run Windows 98 (and Windows applications) in an OS 9 Windows emulator under Mac OS X.
They explained that while the PowerPC CPU of the G4 was operating at a clock speed of only 400Mhz, it was able to give performance similar to high-end Pentium III chips because of the presence of an “altivec” unit on the CPU. This special unit is used to handle GUI operations thus allowing the floating point and integer units of the CPU to be used strictly for applications. In order to take advantage of the new features of OS X, applications must be re-written/re-compiled.
Of interest to the Linux users in the crowd, was the Mac OS X terminal console where many standard Unix commands and programs (such as vi and cc) could be run.
There was some discussion on whether cross-platform software could be written to run on Mac OS X and platforms such as Linux and Windows. Generally console apps from Linux and other Unixes could be ported from Linux to Mac OS X and vice-versa but GUI apps would be more difficult, given the Aqua interface is specifically coded for the PowerPC CPU.
Michael also gave members a look inside the G4. This machine represents another trend from Apple: the departure from proprietary hardware. The G4 had the following in common with a PC: an IDE hard drive; PCI slots; AGP slot for a graphics card and it uses PC-133 RAM for main memory.
Members in attendance were also able to obtain copies of the freeware software that was demonstrated at the Videofest meeting in March.
There was a mini Quake 3 competition at the end of the meeting: Quake 3 running on Michael’s G4 versus Quake 3 running on Dave’s Pentium II machine.
Wednesday 9th May 2001, 6.00pm
Members in attendance at our first meeting for May 2001, discussed the following topics:
- The passing of the Telecommunications Bill 2001 and the implications for Trinidad and Tobago.While the bill is seen as a vital step towards the introduction of competition into the local telecom sector, there are factors which can impede competition and the introduction of new telecom services. These are:
- DSL: this depends on the existing telephone “copper line” infrastructure. Since TSTT owns these copper lines, they will be in a monopoly situation where the provision of DSL services are concerned.
- Cable modems: this depends on the existing cable television coaxial cable and fibre optic infrastructure. The cable television company is also in a monopoly situation where this service is concerned.
- Satellite service: this technology is available right now but is expensive for both initial set up and monthly costs. The biggest disadvantage however is that while the service can technically provide 2 way service via the satellite, local law prohibits such activity and thus users are restricted to downloads only and must use a regular telephone line for uploads.
- Wireless access: the most recent “choice”. It is available right now but is expensive for both initial set up and monthly costs.
Most members agreed that the initial set up and monthly costs of these broadband alternatives are too expensive for the average home user and even the small business user and thus for the forseeable future, the majority of computer users in this nation will continue to access the Internet via dial-up modems.
- Government has said it wants to be a “e-government”. Could such a system be successfully implemented here?Members were divided on the issue. Some welcomed the idea especially since it would help streamline many government services and thus minimise both the paperwork and the waiting time that the public endures when applying for various licenses. Other members were not as optimistic. One point raised was that computerisation on such a large scale will make some public sector employees redundant.Also raised was that such a e-government will most likely use Microsoft based products. Given the cost of such software, could government afford such an endeavour? Also voiced at the meeting was the security of such a government network due to threats like email viruses such as “Melissa” and “I love you”.For more information about e-government initiatives, you can check this article on News.com
- Can local websites (or sites with local content) be profitable, considering the “dot-com” downturn in the USA and the difficulties encountered by HomeViewTNT?The general consensus was that websites with local content (music, fashion, literature, food) appeals to locals who have migrated and not to other persons outside T&T and the Caribbean. Also, no one could come up with local e-commerce websites (apart from gambling) that would appeal to Internet users in Trinidad and Tobago.
Ending time for the meeting: 9PM.
Wednesday 23rd May 2001, 6.00pm
Due to the non-availability of our tech meeting place, the Society decided to have a second “lime” at Pizza Hut. On the agenda for this meeting:
- The launch of the “Proximity” wireless service from Open Telecom and “BlueSky” by Lisa Communications
We discussed the various access “options” and their costs. Members agreed that the pricing structure and monthly rental fees for wireless “modems” would certainly keep such “broadband” internet services out of the reach of small business and home users. Wireless may be a good idea but it has certain limitations for example it is line of sight so if there are large structures or hills in between the transmitters and receivers, there will be poor or no reception. Note was made that wireless faces competition from other access technologies such as DSL and Cable modems but since these 2 alternatives are late to market, chances are they will have to use less expensive pricing in order to attract customers.
- The recent advertisement in the March 12th, 2001 issue of BusinessWeek mentioning TIDCO’s “Caribbean Technology and Innovation Park” will come online next year.
The TTCS analysed the techpark issue at the December 2000 pizza lime so new members and people who were not present were updated on what was said at that meeting. It was felt that the Techpark will be little more than a “tech sweat shop” where foreign companies will set up such low end IT services such as data entry “farms” and call centres and not knowledge-based industries like research, software engineering and hi-tech manufacturing. There was doubt whether local IT companies would benefit from such a park.
- a speech given by the Minister of Communications and IT about the “Public Service Communications Backbone” as a precursory initiative to the provision of e-government services in Trinidad and Tobago.
Members speculated about the e-government services and how it would benefit the average citizen. Several concerns :
- how would citizens without computers be able to access these services? A member voiced that there are many persons who sign their bank receipts with their thumbprints. How would they benefit from e-government?
- e-government isn’t just putting computers on everyone’s desk and networking them. Such an implementation may actually decrease productivity. What will be needed before computerisation of the Public Service would be a restructuring of how information is captured, processed and stored within the Public Service.
- The security of such a system. Threats range from viruses, (especially email variants) to unauthorised users accessing information.
The most controversial issue in the egovernment proposal is that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) will be bringing in foreign nationals to train the local public servants, presumably in basic computer literacy/word-processing/spreadsheeting skills.
Members wondered why GOTT did not hire local companies to provide such training since there are many such companies and IT personnel that could also do the job and hiring local trainers will generate employment and income for locals.
- the launch of “Caribbean E-business Magazine” by E-Business Technologies Limited.
We were fortunate to have a representative from E-Business Technologies Limited present at this meeting. She outlined the company’s mission and even provided sample copies of the inaugural issue for members. The monthly magazine contains a variety of topics related to e-business in the Caribbean.For more information about E-business magazine, email them at [email protected] or call (868)-663-8022.
Ending time for the meeting: 10PM.
Wednesday 13rd June 2001, 6.00pm
On the agenda for this meeting:
- The launch of two way satellite Internet access from CariDirec
- The upcoming launch of ADSL services by TSTT
Broadband access was the main issue up for discussion. Members were informed that even though Caridirec can technically offer 2 way satellite access, they are not doing so at the moment because of local regulations and can only offer download only satellite access for now.
One competitor to satellite access is DSL service from TSTT, however, the company has not released any details about the service except to say it will be offered before the end of the year.
Members were skeptical about the service for 2 main reasons :
- TSTT has a monopoly on DSL because it owns the local telephone infrastructure.
- TSTT’s reputation for customer service for voice lines and internet access is mediocre at best and it probably will not be any better for DSL, a more complicated service.
There were similar concerns about cable modems since the cable company is also in a monopoly position and can charge any price they desire.
The meeting fininshed at 10 pm
Saturday 23rd June 2001, 1pm – Linux Mandrake v8.0 and Redhat v7.1
Richard from the TTLUG provided 2 demonstration machines for the meeting:
- AMD K6-2 400, 96 MB RAM, Tekram mobo with VIA MVP4 chipset (integrated sound and video disabled), Seagate 8.4 GB HD, Creative Soundblaster 64 PCI (Ensoniq chipset), Creative Blaster Banshee PCI video card
- Intel Pentium 166 MMX, 64 MB RAM, Intel VXPro chipset, Seagate 6.4 GB HD, Crystal sound chipset, SiS 8 MB PCI sound card
Since 2 machines were available, it was decided to run a Mandrake install and a Red Hat install side by side. But there were problems.
The Red Hat install worked fine and by the end of the meeting it was running XMMS and playing MP3s. The Mandrake 8 install crashed twice before working properly. Once completed, the machine failed to boot. Reformatting and repartitioning did not work. It turns out that the demo machine (the P-166) had a bad hard drive and it had choosen that moment to fail.
Members in attendance did manage to see the install as promised but the actual operation will be shown at the next tech meeting. There were many questions about Linux and the differences and strengths of the various distributions. The general buzz was that Linux with its robust features, low or no purchase cost and lack of any sort of licensing fees was a viable alternative to commercial software for corporate Trinidad.
Dave and Pcw also demonstrated the TTCS BBS (the Pentium 75, Red Hat Linux based intranet server) and discussed the various features (PAP login via dialup, web, DNS, FTP, POP3 email, and web based forums) already running on the server.
There were also some previews of material for the upcoming “film festival”.
The meeting concluded at 5pm.
Wednesday 11th July 2001, 6.00pm
Members in attendance discussed the following :
- The launch of [email protected] wireless broadband service by Carib-link.Carib-link’s [email protected] wireless broadband wireless service is identical to Open Telecom’s Proximity Solution in features and price, despite the @home moniker. However the launch of [email protected] at Computer Planet had a computer set up with Proximity and those who tested it said it was indeed fast. It took 10 minutes to download a 8MB file at roughly 10K sec, which is about 3 times faster than (theoretical) 56K modem download speeds.
- The formation of the Technology & Information Group for e-Business Relationships (TIGeR) Chamber of e-Business in Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite the speeches made at TIGER’s launch and recent seminar (available at TIGER’s website), members debated about why TIGER was formed independently of other organisations like ITPS or the Chamber of Commerce and how TIGER can fulfil the very broad objectives stated on their website. The cost of joining the TIGER non-profit group ($5000 TT /year, $15,000 US lifetime membership for corporations/individuals) was considered quite high.It was noted that the two local companies mentioned by TIGER in their speeches and website as examples of e-commerce, ikhanbooks.com and CaribbeanSN.com are not in business anymore! The former is nowhere to be found and the latter takes you to a uninspiring e-commerce demo. with no actual commerce taking place.
- Complaints from TSTT about how technologies such as call back services and Voice over IP (VoIP) were taking away millions of dollars from TSTT each year.
Little sympathy for TSTT in this regard. A member mentioned that this talk was just as silly as if T&TEC were to complain about someone using solar power to reduce their electricty bill.
- Objections from Cable and Wireless to the Telecom Act 2001 recently passed in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament
C&W objects to the Telecom Act on three issues : no phased transition to competition; fails to honour TSTT’s existing rights and requires it obtain a new license to offer its services and it does not regulate value added suppliers such as Internet Service Providers.Most members agreed with the statement by the Permanent Secretary of the Communications Ministry that C&W had sufficient time to prepare for liberalisation of the sector and there was no way a phased transition would be considered.
- A recent article from the Venture Capital Focus July 2001 magazine about the Trinidad and Tobago Technology and Innovation Park (TTTIP).
While there were the same concerns expressed at past meetings, a member suggested that the creation of the tech park should be likened to Point Lisas. At the beginning nearly 20 years ago, Point Lisas was considered expensive and worthless. Today, it can be considered to be the golden jewel of T&T, with many industrial plants owned and managed by locals.
The meeting finished at 10:45pm.
Saturday 4th August 2001, 1pm – Videofest II
The meeting began with a very humorous ad for Office XP from Microsoft’s European subsidiary and followed with the equally funny TechTV parody of the famous Dell “feffercorn” ad.
Members in attendance were also shown clips from pulpphantom.com (Note : Mature content site). This site features a flash animation parody of “Pulp Fiction” featuring characters from Star Wars: Episode 1 the Phantom Menace; they then listened to a clip from an audio-only comedy show “Stormtrooper Bob”. This audio show in MP3 format features the escapades of Stormtrooper Bob and his bumbling squad of Imperial storm troopers as they wandering around the space universe featured in the first three Star Wars movies.
Razor then made his presentation about the software and hardware necessary for video capture and editing on the wintel (windows 95/98/ME) platform. He spoke of:
- the different types of video capture cards (e.g. some cards have capture capability and a VGA output; other “stand-alone” type capture cards require a separate VGA card for output to the monitor; some cards have a tv-tuner built-in, others do not).
- the different methods of getting video to the capture (card e.g. via a built-in tv tuner, via the video-in and audio-in sockets)
- the types of plugs required to connect the video source to the card (e.g. RCA for video and quarter-inch “mini” aka “walkman” jacks for the audio and coaxial cable to connect to the tuner).
- the system specifications required for successful video capture (> 500Mhz processor, a hard drive > 20GB) and min. 128Mb RAM.
- the types of codecs which can be used for capture and even distribution of video files. While it is best to capture video in an uncompressed format, it takes up far too much hard drive space (gigabytes for a few minutes) therefore some sort of compression codec is needed. The most popular for capture are: cinepak, divx, Intel Indeo, Microsoft video 1, and mpeg4. The most popular for distribution are: divx, mov (apple quicktime format) and MPEG-1.
- file storage can take several forms: the files can be stored as computer-only data files (e.g. avi, mov, divx, asf) on regular CD-Rs/CD-RWs or they can be converted into VCD format (a special video format which stores 1 hour of MPEG-1 video and stereo audio on a standard CD-ROM/CD-R) which can be played on most computing platforms (e.g. Wintel, Linux, Mac) as well as stand-alone VCD players and newer DVD players. It must be noted that while a regular CD-burner can be used to create a VCD, special software (e.g. Roxio version 5 and Nero Burning ROM) is required to create the actual VCD format.
After the presentation, the various animations and video clips and movie trailers were shown. Richard showed us some of the clips he had brought especially or the meeting.The most popular were those that featured scenes from the 1960’s British TV series “The Thunderbirds”.
Members in attendance were also reminded of the upcoming pizza lime and the three other tech meetings for August.
The meeting ended at 6pm.
Thanks to all members who contributed time and effort to provide material for this meeting: Dave, Mike T, PCW, Razor, Richard J and Shiva
Wednesday 8th August 2001, 6pm
We had several topics for discussion:
- Recent developments between Opus Networx and TSTT.Peter Wimbourne, of Opus Networx attended the meeting and was able to provide members with an inside view as to why there was a loss of service; how and why TSTT was involved in this abrupt termination of service and the solutions that were implemented to get the ISP up and running once more.
- The impact of the sircam virus and code red worm and their implications for the local smart nation concept.
No one reported sircam virus infection but several persons were the recipients of strange email attachments that were sent to them by computers that were infected with the virus. The greatest concern was that sircam could easily violate the security of a small business or company by mailing out confidential documents, plans, etc.
- The arrest of a russian hacker accused of violating the American DMCA
This was probably the liveliest topic for the night. Members argued the pros and cons of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and compared its influence to that of the local copyright law. There was consensus that the DMCA is incompatible with and in many cases actually contradicts existing copyright law and thus it is difficult to determine the exact rights that a consumer may have under the DMCA. It was pointed out that local copyright law shares similar features to the DMCA thus it is possible that local consumers can easily suffer similar confusion and loss of rights as their american counterparts. There was also speculation as to just how much protection the DMCA would give to non-american producers of intellectual property e.g. local calypsonians.
Saturday 11th August 2001, 1pm – Windows XP
This meeting was held at Microsoft’s office in the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce building (near West Mall, Westmoorings).
Microsoft consultants Ansar and Dwayne showed members in attendance the new operating systems and demonstrated some of the new features.
The demonstration used release candidate one (RC1)of XP thus, the “look and feel” of the final version (scheduled for official release on 25th October) may be slightly different.
Some of the features of XP include:
- it uses the Windows 2000 kernel for greater stability.
- it has new interface (which can be switched off if the user desires the “classic” win 9.x interface)
- there is simple, built-in firewall capability to protect users while they surf the Internet. (not meant to replace hardware firewalls or commercial software firewall solutions).
- it has built-in CD-R burning capability (based on the Roxio/Adaptec cd burning suite).
After the official demonstration, members were able to ask (and have answered) questions such as:
- XP compatibility with Windows 9x programs.
- cost of upgrading to XP from a previous MS operating system (US$99).
- what is .NET?
- how XP fits into the Microsoft .NET strategy.
- what is windows product activation (WPA) and how does it work?
- privacy issues concerning WPA.
- concerns about the MP3 capabilities of the Media Player included with XP.
- what are the differences between XP home and professional versions?
For those who maybe wondering, XP stands for “experience”.
The meeting ended at 6pm.
Saturday 18th August 2001, 1pm – DOS software
Dave gave a brief history of DOS (Disk Operating System) and listed the different “flavours” e.g. IBM PCDOS, DR-DOS, MS-DOS, FreeDOS etc. Although the graphical user interface (GUI) has become popular, DOS is still very much alive and he demonstrated some of the applications that have been written for DOS (on a Pentium 166MMX, 32MB RAM, Tseng ET6000 PCI video card with 2MB video RAM) :
- Arachne v1.70, a graphical web browser
- Corel WordPerfect 6.2 suite for DOS which supports Truetype fonts and has many features (Project templates, Make it Fit, built in faxing)
- QuickView v4.5, which plays AVI, MOV, MPEG and now preliminary video support for DivX files
- Qube – multiplatform, multi-tasking GUI which combines elements of MacOS X and BeOS
- various 4Kbytes, 64Kbytes assembly language demos. These demos combine sound, full screen/full motion animation and 3D-graphical effects.
After the discussion, members with other machines played DOS games DOOM and Duke Nukem over a LAN. These games all use the IPX/SPX protocol.
You can find links to many “interesting DOS programs” at this URL: http://www.opus.co.tt/dave
The meeting ended at 7pm.
Saturday 25th August 2001, 1pm – LAN gaming
We came, we played, we left. 🙂 Up to 4 networked Win9x machines were used to play Quake III Arena demo.
The meeting ended at 5pm.
Wednesday September 12th 2001, 6pm
- the purchase of Compaq by Hewlett-Packard (HP)
- the use of technology that prevents users from converting audio cd tracks to mp3 files
- the upcoming release of Windows XP and the now less strict Windows Product Activation.
- the Linux operating system turns 10 years old
These were the topics for the meeting but since this was the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre towers in New York and the Pentagon, the discussion focused on the IT aspects of the attack such as:
- Did the terrorists use email as a cheap and easy means of communication?
- Will the Americans (and other nations) now implement email monitoring software (e.g. carnivore type systems) on a wide scale?
- What can companies do to recover their data from equipment that was damaged/destroyed in the attacks? Did the companies in the WTC have proper back-up and offsite data storage?
- Which was better for news coverage: television or the internet?
The meeting ended at approximately 10:30pm.
Wednesday September 26th 2001, 6pm
Topics for discussion included:
- the IT related aspects of the Trinidad and Tobago 2001/2002 Budget
Two aspects of the budget gained the most attention: the creation of a tech park as well as the proposal to establish Internet access centres and encourage citizens in rural areas to operate such centres from the their homes. Comments about the tech park were similar to those expressed at previous meetings. However, members noted that the at this time, Information Technology is no longer the engine for economic prosperity that it was when the tech park feasibility study was commissioned. The suggestions and conclusions made in that study would now be inappropriate for 2001 and beyond. A suggestion was made that perhaps the government should conduct a second, more up to date feasibility study before proceeding with the current recommendations. However, for the time being, it appears that the government will be using the old one.Members also wondered about what impact government sponsored/subsidised Internet access centres would have on the current privately owned/operated cybercafes. Would they be forced out of business? Would government assist them? it is hoped that such concerns will be promptly addressed.
- the “Nimda worm” which infects PCs running Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000 and servers running Windows 2000/NT using a variety of methods.
Who should be blamed for the rapid rate ofNimda virus infection? This topic inspired some heated debate but at the end, these conclusions were drawn:
- system administrators should take some of the blame for not updating their servers with the appropriate patches and being more vigilant about computer security.
- home users, particularly those in foreign countries who have broadband connections, should take some of the blame for not updating their operating systems, email software etc with the appropriate patches as well as not scanning their downloads with updated anti-virus software and not being more vigilant about computer security in relation to use or abuse of their broadband connection.
- Disaster readiness for businesses – what should businesses can and should do to protect their data in the event of a disaster.
Everyone was in agreement about the need for disaster readiness therefore the talk focused on the technology required to make it possible. An interesting point was that such technology changes frequently thus businesses have no choice but to upgrade to new technology and perhaps even discard older technology and storage media. This would have to be done to ensure that obsolete technology would not render the archive or backup inaccessible.
The meeting ended at approximately 10:15pm.
Wednesday October 10th 2001, 6pm
We discussed preparations for the upcoming Rotary Club’s I-Tech 2001 workshop “Security in the workplace” which the TTCS will be presenting.
We discussed : the various topics to be presented on that day ; asked for and received volunteers to do the actual presentations ; the formats of the various presentations ; the material (e.g. the computers, the projectors, etc) that would be required ; the timetable for the day ; the length of each presentation ; what sort of handouts (if any) would be produced ; what sort of software would be included on the proposed CD-ROM to be given out at the meeting, etc.
NOTE: The presentation was originally carded for Friday 2nd November 2001 but was rescheduled for Friday 9th November 2001. However, it was officially cancelled because an insufficient number of people registered to attend the “workshop”. The remainder of I-Tech 2001 (the gaming area, the exhibitions, etc) did take place as scheduled.
Tuesday 13th November 2001, 6pm
This meeting was scheduled for one day earlier because of the Divali public holiday.
Topics for discussion included:
- the introduction of ADSL broadband service in Trinidad and Tobago by TSTT within the next two months.
This was based on an article in the “Business Extra” section on page 26 of the Tuesday 6th November 2001 edition of theNewsday newspaper. According to the article,TSTT will initially establish the system in telephone exchanges serving San Fernando,Couva, Port of Spain and North West Trinidad,Chaguanas,Mausica, Scarborough, Princes Town, San Juan,Arima and St Augustine.While members welcomed the idea of faster Internet access, some concerns were expressed:
- What will be the cost? TSTT would only say that it would be priced somewhere between dial-up and leased-line prices and it would be flat-rate.
- How good would their technical support be?
- Would they provide/fulfill Quality of Service (QoS) agreements concerning line conditions and speed for ADSL?
- Would the TSTT connection to the rest of the Internet be able to accommodate the increase in traffic that will inevitably result from many users downloading via an ADSL connection?
- the launch of MS Windows XP on midnight October 24th, 2001
Some TTCS members were there for the launch and took pictures. There were about 100 people ready to purchase their copies of XP but were unable to actually get Windows XP since it was held up in Customs. They were given receipts and had to collect the actual boxes on Saturday.
- the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the US Justice Department
This was not a very popular topic since most people were of the opinion that Microsoft was not really punished.
- the launch of the Microsoft X-box and Nintendo Gamecube gaming consoles this month.
Is there room for three high end gaming consoles? (Nintendo’s Game Cube, Sony’s Playstation 2, and Microsoft’s Xbox). The consensus was that yes there is room but success would be dependent upon the game titles for each console. Would anyone be buying a Xbox or game cube for Christmas? the answer was: maybe. PS2 owners would likely stick with their platform and owners of previous Nintendo consoles will most likely upgrade to the game cube. As for Xbox, early adopters will certainly buy it but sales will not be as fantastic as Microsoft would like them to be this Christmas.
The meeting ended at approximately 10:15pm.
Wednesday 12th December 2001, 6pm
The final meeting for 2001, topics for discussion included:
- the launch of the Trinidad and Tobago Technology and Innovation Park or “t-zone”Mr Kevin Stewart, from TIDCO was present to discuss the Technology Park as well as to show us the CD-ROM based presentation on the Tech Park. (The CD-ROM presentation is available for future TTCS meetings) Apart from the actual Tech Park website, you can read this TIDCO Times Jan/Feb 2001 article. Some points made at the meeting :
- The Park is initially dependent upon foreign investment but there has been an international economic downturn and companies abroad are seeking to reduce not increase expenditure. A related factor are the terrorist attacks of September 2001. The developed nations are spending money on security for their citizens and for the “war on terror”. Traditional sources of financing have either been drastically reduced or eliminated as these nations focus their attention elsewhere. Can the T-Zone still attract the desired level of investment given these factors?
- Initial assessments for the techpark concept were done 5 years ago. The original feasibility study is now 3 years old. The tech boom that was in progress at the time is now a tech bust. Have the T-Zone planners upgraded their original plans to take these changes into account? or are they proceeding with an unmodified plan? will the first phase of the park be scaled back to allow for the possible reduction in investment by foreigners and the related increase in the length of time it takes for the park to realise its goals/a profit? or will it be a case of “if you build it they will come”?
- the rapid spread of two Windows viruses/worms : BadTrans and GonerAccording to members, BadTrans was a bigger problem ; one member received more than 50 infected emails!
- a survey by Niherst on the “utilisation of Information Technology by households in T&T”.A summary of this survey is on Niherst’s website at http://www.niherst.gov.tt. Unfortunately, the paper-based version of the full survey was not available in time for this meeting.
- a survey by the National E-Commerce Secretariat of Trinidad & Tobago to “……..establishing the current state of Electronic Commerce (e-Commerce) in Trinidad and Tobago”.A representative from the National E-Commerce Secretariat of Trinidad & Tobago was present to discuss the formation of this new unit and the survey being undertaken to determine the state of e-commerce with regards to local companies.