Malaysia’s Chip Exports Decline for Second Year

By Julian Matthews

November 10, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia’s exports of semiconductors in the first seven months of 1998 declined by 4 percent, the Finance Ministry’s annual economic report said.

Exports of semiconductors declined to US$8.07 billion from about US$8.4 billion in the same period in 1997. This is the second year exports were down, signaling the heady days of double-digit export growth rates are over.

Exports contracted by 0.8 percent over the same period last year, a significant fall from rises of 24.9 percent in 1996, 25.6 percent in 1995 and 29 percent in 1994.

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Banks Seek to Comply with Y2K Amid Financial Upheaval

By Julian Matthews

November 6, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia is confident that its finance, banking and insurance companies will be Year 2000-compliant by Dec. 31, 1998, a full year before the Y2K computer software problem must be resolved.

But even as financial institutions strive to meet the government-imposed deadline, experts are concerned that it may be too late for their corporate customers.

A Securities Commission report indicated that only 93 companies or 12.7 percent of 734 companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange were Y2K compliant as of Sept. 24. The official national registry of Y2K-compliant companies, which was set up in May on the Internet at www.y2k.gov.my, has yet to register a single company.

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Malaysia to Build Multimedia Corridor Despite Recession

By Julian Matthews

November 4, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — The Malaysian government is pushing ahead with its plan to build the Multimedia Super Corridor although its economy will shrink by about 4.8 percent in 1998, for its first recession in 13 years.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the project is crucial for the country to achieve his dream of attaining developed nation status by 2020.

However, the project’s lofty plans to turn a 750-sq.-km former rubber and palm oil estate into an industrial park have come under criticism amidst the political and financial crises.

Mahathir, who assumed the position of finance minister following the sacking of deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, presented a national budget on Oct. 23 in deficit for the first time in six years.

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Banks to Launch E-purse Pilot

By Julian Matthews

Six local banks will launch a commercial pilot for an electronic purse system in January, the first of its kind in the country.

The system uses reloadable chip-based cards which are the forerunners to the national multipurpose card the government plans to rollout as part of its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

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Penang Mooted as Removable Disk Drive Center

by Julian Matthews

A disk drive industry pioneer has predicted that Penang will become the removable disk drive capital of the world by the year 2000.

Castlewood Systems Inc president and CEO Syed Iftikar said this at the launch of the first Malaysian-owned plant to build 2.16-Gbyte magneto-resistive (MR) removable drives in August.

“If Singapore is the hard disk drive capital of the world, then I look forward to making Penang the leading manufacturer of removable drives in the world by the next millennium,” said Syed, who was the founder of SyQuest Technology Inc, and a co-founder of Seagate Technology Inc, where he invented the first 5.25-inch hard drive.

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Four Charged with Spreading Riot Rumors over Internet

By Julian Matthews

September 30, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Four people were charged in a Malaysian court on Sept. 24 with spreading rumors of riots in the capital city over the Internet.

This is the first such case of its kind in Malaysia.

A woman and three men claimed trial to the charges and were released on bail. The timing of the start of trials might be a warning to local Internet users not to use the medium to stir up incidents in the city, already troubled by demonstrations in the last two weeks over the sudden sacking of deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

The woman, logistic trainer Tan Lai Yee, and three men, finance manager Wong Yoon Sing, bank officer Au Yong Wai and site supervisor Lee Chun Meng, were charged in separate courts with committing the offense under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code.

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Homegrown tech talent

By Anita Devasahayam

SURESWARAN Ramadass, head of the Network Research Group at the School of Computer Sciences in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), earned his Masters of Science in Electrical/Computer Engineering from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida in 1990.

He graduated with honours and is currently pursuing his PhD in Computer Science at USM.

The 32-year-old is actively involved in the networking movement in the region. He is the head of Asia Pacific Advanced Networks (APAN) in Malaysia. APAN is the high bandwidth ATM network project aimed at interconnecting Asia Pacific countries.

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From R&D to commerce

By Anita Devasahayam

MULTIMEDIA Research Lab Sdn Bhd (Mlabs) opened its doors for business in October, 1997.

The Penang company, formerly known as Profound Blue Sdn Bhd, is a spin-off of venture capital firm Compquest Sdn Bhd that was responsible for funding the Multimedia Conferencing System (MCS) research work.

Compquest holds a 35% stake in Mlabs, while the balance is divided among individual shareholders.
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The MCS ‘generations gap’

By Anita Devasahayam

SO WHAT is it about USM’s Multimedia Conferencing System 4.0 (MCS) that differentiates it from the rest of the pack?

According to the head of the network research group at USM, Sureswaran Ramadass, two concepts — “RSW control criteria” and a distributed processing method — place the product two generations ahead of its closest competitor.

He claims that other vendors have begun to follow in their footsteps by introducing similar concepts that were pioneered by Sureswaran (Sures) and his research team.

“They are beginning to catch on the concept that you need different things to do different functions, but they are talking about it and have not implemented it,” he claims.
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Ahead of the pack, and local too

By Anita Devasahayam

BEING a lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) means Sureswaran Ramadass has two roles to fulfil — teaching, and getting involved in research and development.

The lecturer at USM’s School of Computer Sciences loves both aspects of his profession, but proving theorems right and turning hypotheses into reality seems especially sweet.

But even he was surprised when a product birthed out of four years of research work was recognised by the Multimedia and Distributed Systems Journal, published by the renowned Kluwer scientific publishing house, as being two generations ahead of others available in the market today.

The product in question, a desktop multimedia video-conferencing system called — simply enough — Multimedia Conferencing System (MCS), is essentially a “video-chat” tool. But it differs from like products offered by well established names like like Intel, Intellect Visual Comm, CoreTech Software or PictureTel.

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