19 October 2007

The Great Idea That Was

It was announced today that stolen mobile phones can be disabled to prevent its use and resell. I think that's a great idea but I don't think it'll work well, especially after learning that there will be a fee imposed on the service.

Think about it - you've just lost your RM500+ phone plus all your invaluable contacts. And to add salt to the wound, you have to pay a small fee to disable the phone. Why should you pay more to punish the criminal? I thought our tax money already goes into justice and law enforcement. The cost should be borne by the authorities.

And I'm very dubious about the technology. It works by blocking the phone's unique IMEI code, but what's stopping thieves from changing them? People once thought MAC address filtering constitutes good access control, until simple software downloads allow you to spoof your MAC.

The best way to implement this is to incorporate the cost of disabling the phone into the phone's purchase price. This can be regarded as a one time "insurance premium". It raises phone's prices by a little, but by charging consumers from the get-go, it reduces cost of operations and brings the cost of disabling a phone closer and closer to RM0, similar to SMSes nowadays.

And if a phone is disabled, one only needs to make a call to their telco, verify their identity, and the locking operation is carried out. As for hackers changing the IMEI, well, that's the way life goes. Why? You have a better idea?

04 October 2007

Too Convenient

In today's news, police reported that 80% of crimes are committed by locals, and only 20% by foreigners. This seems to me like an over-convenient application of the 80/20 rule, with no hard numbers quoted in the news item at all.

So I decided to put on my armchair economist hat and do some simple calculations to determine if we actually have more to fear from locals.

The number of crimes reported to the police (consisting of violent crime and property crime) (2004): 156,315
80% of that would be... 125,052, while
20% would be... 31,263

The number of legal foreign workers (2003): 1.1m
The number of illegal foreign workers (2005): 1.2m
So the estimated number of foreigners in the country is about 2.3 million.

The number of locals over 18 (2005): 15.7m

So... 125,052 crimes are committed by locals (15.7m) while 31,263 crimes are committed by foreigners (2.3m). If we assume that a crime is only committed by one person and the criminal only does it once, that would mean:

0.796% of locals are criminals, and
1.359% of foreigners are criminals (almost double!)

In other words, though the percentage is small, a foreigner is twice as likely to be criminally-inclined compared to a local. That's worrisome enough!

So in fact we *still* have more to fear from foreigners than locals, but not as much as I initially thought. There are a LOT of caveats to the numbers I used, so don't go quoting my page in any research paper you're doing.

02 October 2007

A Dream is Delayed

So.... I've just got an email that BodyJam training has been canceled due to low participation.

Oh well. Wait for next one... (dark clouds in the sky)