Unfiltered

Our security shouldn’t only be Huawei’s price to pay

The Chinese company is an unfortunate casualty in a war it shouldn’t be fighting alone 

Donald's Trumps tough stance on China leaves Huawei a casualty. MJ Jucutan / GadgetMatch

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It’s official. American companies can again do business with Chinese tech giant Huawei. 

This weekend, a confusing six weeks after the ban went into effect, US President Donald Trump reversed his own executive order following negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a leader’s summit in Japan. 

It means existing and future Huawei smartphones will continue to enjoy unfettered access to Android updates, as well as other Google services including the Google Play app store. 

It also means US companies like Qualcomm, Intel, and Micron can continue to supply the parts that Huawei needs to continue building phones.

But it doesn’t mean that Huawei can start selling devices in the US, at least not yet. 

The company’s entry into the US market is being left on the table as a talking point in the US’ ongoing trade negotiations with China. Speaking to journalists after the G20 Summit, President Trump said, “We’ll have to save that to the very end, we’ll have to see.”

The move is an interesting turning point in the continuing trade battle between the two superpowers,  where Huawei sadly and unfairly appears to be a casualty of war

Over the last few years, it has become harder for Huawei to do business in the United States following claims that its hardware is a threat to US national security. Claims that have, for the most part, gone unsubstantiated. Warnings have come from both the US Congress and the intelligence community. Mr. Trump himself has been quoted as saying, “Huawei is something that is very dangerous.”

But with Huawei’s access being used as leverage in trade negotiations, one can’t help but ask if there is – or was – any basis for these allegations. Or were fears and assumptions instead blown out of proportion, simply to put pressure on China? 

What’s clear is that consumer confidence in the brand has taken a major hit, so much so that it will be interesting to see how Huawei intends on bouncing back from this crisis. That’s unfortunate to see, considering the company’s massive contribution to the smartphone industry over the last two to three years. Where growth has slowed and many brands have merely iterated, Huawei has arguably pushed innovation hardest.    

Huawei Mate X

Huawei hopes to forge into the future with its foldable Mate X smartphone. Photo by Marvin Velasco / GadgetMatch

The tea leaves point to the company relying on its dominance in the 5G race, where it appears to be miles ahead of its competition. With or without Google, expect the Chinese firm to also push even harder in the smartphone space. Its foldable Mate X smartphone is nearing its release date and could possibly be a game changer. 

Still, I wonder, is it a little too late, and is the damage dealt beyond repair?    

As the story develops. It opens up a host of other questions and issues that beg to be considered.

Sure, concerns about China are not without basis. But how big of a threat is China (the country) to global consumers? And are all Chinese tech companies, solely by virtue of their origin or association, equally worth being wary of? 

While privately owned Chinese corporations like Huawei have insisted that they “will not build backdoors and hand over customer data,” experts fear that no Chinese company can be completely independent of its government. Looming over any such promise, the Chinese Counter-Espionage legislation mandates organizations to assist the government in intelligence work when deemed necessary.

But if this were the case, what about devices built with Chinese-made components? Chances are, you either own or are using one right now. Is it then even realistic to assume that we can live in a world without Chinese tech and manufacturing?

US government concerns about Huawei find ground in the company’s leadership in networking equipment and its potential dominance over 5G infrastructure. Anyone with that much power over something so vital can be a threat. But one can argue that the same can be said of any other company or country: the tech industry, after all, is built on a global supply chain. China does not have a monopoly on spying and hacking. Remember Russia? If China is a threat, so is every other technology superpower — including the US.

So what now? And how do we mitigate these risks in a way that doesn’t simultaneously deprive us of the next generation of industry advances?

By no means am I a security expert, nor do I have all the answers. But what’s clear to me is that restricting trade hinders innovation. And being technologically backward is a security threat in and of itself.     

It’s also clear that the means by which the US has chosen to engage with China hurts all of us. Not only does it set a bad precedent its ramifications also extend beyond innovation and geopolitics.

Our combined national security shouldn’t be only Huawei’s price to pay.

It’s 2019 and we live in a global village that is intricately interconnected. National security is our collective cross to bear because if these threats are otherwise unresolved, we all suffer.

This, even more than a trade issue, is a cybersecurity one. And while governments should be expected to step up to defend their citizens from potential holes in network security with progressive and ethical solutions, while utopic, I would love to see as a next step, the creation of an independent international body supported by us all. A group with no other interest in mind but that of consumers made up of great minds from both the West and the East.

Such a group would be responsible for testing hardware and software, and coming up with transparent solutions, separated from politics and uncolored by trade negotiations. Solutions that allow us to navigate this new world without paranoia, and with the freedom to choose the devices that we believe best match our needs. 

Want to read this post in German? Visit MobileGeeks.de to see a translation!

Apps

I’m missing the Olympics because I don’t have cable

And it sucks

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It’s 2021. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is in full swing as of writing. However, as someone whose primary source of media entertainment all comes from streaming, there’s no easy and convenient way for me to watch the games. Major bummer.

I like to enjoy my media a certain way; I prefer to stream them on my TV. Which is why majority of the content I consume come from YouTube, Netflix, and the occasional Amazon Prime, HBO Go (Yep, not even HBO Max), and Apple TV.

I find it incredibly baffling that the stakeholders involved in bringing the games to the people failed to come to an agreement to make it easily accessible on the aforementioned platforms. It’s 2021. Why on earth am I not able to watch the greatest sporting event on the planet the way I want to?

Believe me, I hear the privilege in my words. Regardless, I still feel marginalized.

So how can you watch the Olympics right now?

I asked a friend who’s been covering the games. He watches through cable and had to pay a PhP 150 fee (around US$ 3/ SG$ 4) to avail of the Tokyo 2020 Premium from a particular cable provider.

Thing is, the whole Olympic coverage in the Philippines is locked to the MVP group of companies. You wanna follow the games, you’re gonna have to do it on one of their platforms.

Here’s an excerpt from their press release on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic coverage:

“Sports fans will have comprehensive access to the Olympic Games — from the Opening Ceremonies all the way to when the games conclude — on free to air via TV5 and One Sports. One Sports+ on Cignal TV will also dedicate a significant amount of their daily hours to broadcast the events, with Cignal also opening up two exclusive channels dedicated to broadcast the games 24/7. Cignal Play, in addition to live channels TV5, One Sports & One Sports+, will be offering exclusive channels broadcasting live updates to its subscribers, along with exclusive content not available on the TV broadcast. Cignal TV’s One News leads the group’s round-the-clock news coverage, featuring results, updates, and highlights.”

Comprehensive? Maybe. For platforms within the MVP group of companies. If you’re not subscribed to any of these, well, that’s just too bad. It’s good for business and I completely understand how the whole thing works. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The coverage also missed to televise or showcase Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold medal win in the Weightlifting competition. If you’ve been following sports news, the Philippines was expected to get a medal in this event. Sadly, the moment was only known following updates from reporters on the ground.

How I wish it was handled

I’m sure there’s a lot more that goes into it in terms of TV and broadcasting rights, but we’re literally at an age where plenty of folks have decided to cut the cord and rely on streaming for content.

On YouTube, you can buy and/or rent movies and shows. The platform and structure exists for pay-to-watch content. They could have even made tiers or packages like charge a certain amount to gain access to all the games, a different and lower amount if you just want to follow a certain sport and/or a certain event.

Maybe the potential earnings to do so didn’t justify the costs to implement it. Whatever the case, it’s still incredibly frustrating.

Sure, I can go through the hoopla of setting up a VPN and look for streaming sites. But that’s more even more cumbersome. I don’t mind paying a convenience fee if it means that after a long day of work I can kick back, relax, and watch some damn sports.

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Smartphones

Oops! I was wrong about foldable phones

They’re here to stay in the years to come

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Illustration by Migs Buera

When the first foldable phone came out, the words I blurted out of my mouth were “Who the F needs that?” At the time, no one really needed it. It was a showcase of what the future might hold; a glimpse of where we’re headed.

For someone whose work requires him to be appreciative of technology, I wasn’t particularly receptive to change. Inherently, I believe that necessity is the mother of the invention which is why I was hesitant about the whole foldable concept — and even called it a fad. Smartphones are doing fine, why change what’s not broken, right?

Yes, my thoughts are the same about the flip phones that resemble the phones of the distant past. An ex-lover and I were jokingly discussing how impractical these phones are, despite working in the electronics and technology industry.

But the same thing cannot be said to the most recent foldable phones anymore, especially in 2021. There’s a certain allure with the Galaxy Z Fold2 that you can only experience when you use it. And the same goes with the Huawei Mate X2 when Michael Josh decided to play around with it. And I couldn’t agree more.

Using the Galaxy Z Fold2 for quite a while now made me realize how it fills the gap in the smartphone industry, and how they can help keep the technology industry from pressing forward.

Not the usual smartphone, not yet a tablet

By now, you probably know this foldable’s form factor. So I don’t need to go into the technical details and let me speak from experience.

The first time I got my hands on the Galaxy Z Fold2, I was afraid. It felt like a delicate flower that evokes grandeur and beauty. When folded, it’s nearly the size of average smartphones that you’re familiar with. It’s just thicker to hold and quite slippery that you might want to strengthen your grip to be on the safe side.

Opening it requires a gentler approach, but this is where the magic begins. The Galaxy Z Fold2 offered a bigger screen that I can hold for a longer time, which a tablet can’t even provide. It gave me the ability to work elsewhere without carrying my laptop all the damn time.

Though you can’t do heavy work in it, I was able to keep my social platforms running and I was able to hop on a meeting, check my designers’ works, and coordinate with my team — even if I was outdoors eating at an al fresco restaurant.

It’s also a head-turning accessory, seeing how foldables are unique to the average consumer’s eyes. And honestly, I liked the attention I got from it.

Okay, enough with its allure. Let’s talk about what my issues were and how it’s relevant to the future of smartphones.

Pushing the boundaries of what a smartphone should be

One of the issues most tech reviewers had with the foldable phones is the creases that, frankly, make or break an experience. I can live with it, but not a lot of people can (probably). But my issue was how most apps aren’t optimized for a foldable phone, yet.

This is why depending on how it pans out, foldable phones can turn the wheels again and make the whole industry move forward. Smartphones are getting boring and obsolete.

When every smartphone manufacturer releases a smartphone every damn three months, we get bored seeing how all of them look similar or offer a minor reiteration of the common slab devices. Remove their brand and coating, and they all look the same.

Companies have nearly perfected the design and experience of flagship smartphones. Midrange and budget phones, on the other hand, need a little bit more refining.

Other companies like LG — whose mobile division already shut down — started working on different form factors like the LG Wing. And we love it. Even ASUS made the whole Zenfone 8 an engineering solution, packing heavy features in a compact smartphone by shrinking some of its components.

Although frankly, we can all agree and settle with foldable phones as the next form factor. It’s starting to make sense, at least when you get your hands on it. With Samsung and Huawei leading the race on foldables, it’s certainly a phone war we’d love to watch from beginning to end.

The next standard of premium phones… or the future of smartphones?

If more people adopt foldable phones, smartphone manufacturers will be forced to step up their game and go where the demand is. Except, foldable phones still aren’t made for general use.

It still is a phone for those who have the money to burn, who want to be on the cutting-edge of technology, and those who need a device that fills the gap between a smartphone and a tablet to augment their lifestyle.

But whatever the future has in store for us, I’m certain that foldable phones — if done right — can be the next standard of what makes a phone premium. That, or it could be the next generation of our smartphones. Nonetheless, my mind has changed thanks to the Galaxy Z Fold2. And now, I’m excited to step into the future.

SEE ALSO: I’ve grown attached to the Galaxy Z Fold2

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Entertainment

Netflix’s Trese: Beacon of hope for Filipino storytellers

According to a graphic novel writer

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Illustration by Migs Buera

The wide, deep, and varied world of comics or graphic novels was something that remained unexplored until I was forced to because of work. As an introductory lesson to comics and graphic novels, Trese was a part of my reading assignment. And since they did not have all the volumes of Trese, I went on a hunt for it.

The one I got is the Trese: Book of Murders which is in English. It was a quick read but I was more curious to read the Filipino version. Either way, I finished it within the same day I purchased it. And I loved it.

Though I did not delve deep into the fandom, I was curious enough to join the Facebook group and to check on updates every now and then which was why I cheered when I saw that there was going to be an animated series based on the comics.

“Sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.”

On keeping the art and story

It had been around three years since I last read the entire thing and I needed a refresher. I finished it just an hour before the series was available for streaming.

I watched the entire series in one sitting. Starting from the surface, the art is gorgeous and very pleasing to the eyes, but maybe a tad too Western than what I would have wanted.

Trese

I am not saying that they should have copied the exact art style from the comics but maybe it could have been a bit more Filipino-looking. As much as I adore how Alexandra Trese looked, she looks almost American-Japanese. But, nevertheless beautiful.

Story-wise, it did not change a lot but it surely compressed it a bit. Maybe a bit too much that they had to rely on voiceovers and flashbacks in order to touch on important parts and deliver the story without leaving too many loopholes.

It was understandable but some parts felt dragging just because it was compressed. But that could also be due to other factors. And sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.

“I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza.”

The never-ending discourse about the dub

Now onto the part that everyone has been talking about even before it started to stream―the dub. There’s Filipino, English, Japanese, and Spanish the last time I checked.

I tried it all and I have mixed emotions. I originally went for the Filipino dub mainly because I wanted to get the full Filipino experience. Out of curiosity, I rewatched one episode and tried the other languages.

The Spanish one was almost natural but maybe that’s because of the familiar words that we have adapted. The Japanese one was interesting, giving that anime feel that was kind of cool and maybe had the most emotion among the dubs.

Trese

The English dub was also nice but some Filipino terms and names tend to sound kind of slang. With the Filipino one, it was the most natural one… vibe-wise.

But what I did not like about the Filipino dub was the lack of emotions in some parts and mainly from Alexandra Trese. Though it was established that Alexandra was not that emotionally expressive, she sounded so monotonous throughout the entire series.

Maybe, just maybe, Liza Soberano was focusing on her enunciation that she was not able to deliver enough emotions in her lines. But other than that, I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza. Just a bit more voice acting workshop, I guess, and she’s good to go.

TRESE (L to R) CARLOS ALAZRAQUI as SANTELMO and SHAY MITCHELL as ALEXANDRA TRESE in episode 101 of TRESE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Setting up the stage for other storytellers

It may not be perfect and polished as others may have hoped for but I do hope that Trese can pave the way for other Filipino comics, and other local stories to make their way to a more global or international scene.

Philippine mythology is filled with deities and creatures, which are varied depending on every region of the country. The most common deity mentioned and used is Bathala, the Supreme Being in the Tagalog region, while the most common creature used is the aswang.

Even in the American fantasy TV series “Grimm”, they featured the aswang, but I personally think we have other creatures that are far more horrifying. There is the sigbin which looks like a dog but it walks backwards with its head lowered and it sucks its victim’s blood but during Holy Week, it hunts children for their hearts. That’s just one of the many.

A lot of Filipino creators have shared their vision and interpretation of our mythology and folklore such as Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo, Mythology Class by Arnold Arre, Ella Arcangel by Julius Villanueva, Janus Silang by Edgar Samar, and more. From popular titles to independent creations that you would see at a smaller comic convention, more artists and writers are showing appreciation for what is ours.

Plenty of mythology to explore

At first, I was not aware of just how vast our own mythological world is and I only knew very little folklore. But when I started to work in Epik Studios Inc., I had to read and learn more. What made me delve deeper was during the time that I was tasked to write the modern take on Bernardo Carpio. Instead of sticking to the popular creatures for the villain, I researched creatures that are barely used. Not only did I find a fitting villain for Bernardo Carpio, but I also found inspiration for new stories that I want to write in the future.

We have a rich folklore and mythology that has yet to be fully showcased but we have a lot of storytellers who wish to show it to the world. It’s about time that we do.

Watch Trese on Netflix.


This opinion piece was written by Patch Aviado, a creative producer and a writer who worked on graphic novels such as Bernardo Carpio, Pedro Penduko: The Legend Begins, Maria Makiling, and Osyana. Together with Viva Books, she published Garden of Sunflowers. Currently, she’s working on an online novel entitled Blue Hearts, Purple Roses. When she’s not writing, she’s busy fangirling.

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