Ng: Unscrupulous businessmen and your AVR-A A +A
By Wilson Ng
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
ONE thing I’ve learned over the years is the fact that there are businesses that take shortcuts. One of the main reasons for this is obviously the price competition. When people are driven to look for the cheapest alternative and do not try to understand why it is cheap, then you will continue to have substandard products --- items whose weight or size does not conform with standards, products that may use materials deemed not acceptable, or products that are not what they seem to be.
From expired products to fish washed with formalin to make these look fresh, to milk that is laced with melamine, fresh fruits mixed with damaged ones, or meat injected with water to make it heavier, there are millions of ways unscrupulous business people can trick customers.
For years, one of the most stable products that we sell together with computers is the automatic voltage regulator or AVR. Practically in most computer purchases, buyers also purchase an AVR. The AVR automatically does two things that are important -- it provides a voltage fuse so that when there is a sudden electric surge, the fuse breaks and cut off current, protecting the computer. The other function is that if there are sudden surges or drops in voltages within an acceptable range, the AVR will automatically adjust and continue to deliver a clean and consistent electrical charge.
Living in a country where we probably have almost daily occurrences nationwide of fires because of faulty electrical wiring (and the same penchant or carelessness in delivering a standard product or service), you can be sure that people are really convinced that they need to invest in one.
Well, if you do invest in one, make sure it’s something you can use and will indeed protect your equipment.
I was told recently that there are unscrupulous businessmen who are selling AVRs that have almost nothing inside it to do the things it is supposed to do.
Even if my company sells a lot of these things, I’ve rarely opened one. I’m sure you also do not open your AVRs. But inside the device is supposed to be a small transformer and relay that regulates the flow and also a place where a fuse can be inserted. This fuse, when damaged, can be changed. I’ve noted that there are some AVRs in the market that really have nothing inside except for some wires that connect your input to the output. In short, what the buyer gets is a box that somehow just acts like a wire extension and which does not protect the computer at all. If you have doubts on your unit, maybe you should check it.
MAN VS. MACHINE. On another note, I think you may remember one of the most famous computer challenges in history, when world chess champion Gary Kasparov was challenged to compete against a computer named Deep Blue in a game of chess. In the end, Kasparov lost. With chess being one of the most mentally challenging games, Kasparov’s loss ended the superiority of man’s intellect to the brute computing speed of a computer.
IBM’s engineers are at it again. This time, they are setting up a computer to rival two human champions of Jeopardy to a match in the speed of answering questions in natural language. The computer’s name is called Watson, and this has another implication as well. When I was writing this column, the results of the first day of a three-day challenge seemed to show the computer neck-and-neck with the humans.
This has implications on the computer’s ability to understand the meaning and context of the human language and its ability to rapidly process answers to complex questions, which is the basic premise of how a computer can help us accomplish more in business and in our personal lives.
Years ago, I watched a science fiction movie in which a computer was deemed intelligent enough to recognize the written and spoken words. For the last 20 years, this has become a Holy Grail because although there has been a lot of progress done in computing power, a computer’s ability to recognize a human being or written and spoken words of people and process the information was not at par with intelligent humans.
When will a computer recognize irony or humor? I guess it will just be a matter of time. This contest in Jeopardy, if successful, may mean that the computer’s
superiority over the human intellect may be nearer than we imagine.
As I’d like to ask, when can a computer be good enough to write this article for me?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2011.