POSTSCRIPT / October 17, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap to have hard time recovering poll standing

THE question now being asked is not whether or not the latest opinion survey showing a plunge in President Estrada’s approval rating is accurate, but whether or not he can still reverse the downtrend and recover.

Whether the Pulse Asia survey conducted in the first quincena of September was accurate or not has grown irrelevant, because the poll results were readily gobbled up by a public finding confirmation of its negative perception of presidential (non)performance.

A survey that confirms widespread perception, like Erap being on the decline, is readily accepted. Erap-friendly poll organizations like Social Weather Stations cannot now report a steady or even a rising acceptance of the President without seriously jeopardizing their credibility.

What SWS can do is put together its own survey report showing that Erap’s acceptance has, indeed, gone down “somewhat,” but not as low as that net approval rating of 44 percent reported by Pulse Asia.

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MANY media men we’ve asked opine that Erap Estrada will find it difficult to reverse the downtrend. Main reason given is that, like bad stock of the “basura” variety, he does not have the fundamentals to climb again in the charts.

Really, what has Erap Estrada got to show that’s solid and positive, except the faint recollection that way back in the 1998 elections he won by a convincing 10 million votes. That’s all the plus point that his handlers can crow about.

While the same Pulse Asia survey showed widespread objection to an Estrada proposal to amend the Constitution and sell to foreigners such strategic assets as land, public utilities and media, we think that his rating dropped more because people are beginning to see past the actor and his scripted performance.

However loud a drum booms, its impressive sound cannot alter the fact that it is hollow.

* * *

THE people knew from the very beginning that the rainbow that Erap and his prop men painted on the wall was fake. But since they were stuck with a man who sounded earnest enough in his reading of his script, they were willing to suspend judgement and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Erap boomed above the excited applause of his audience that under his administration “walang kaibigan, walang kamaganak…” The scripted rhetoric soon faded in the face of the reality that members of the extended families were swarming all over like cockroaches to get a piece of the action.

Erap promised a bright new day for the poor, but the sun of plenty certainly did not shine on the masa just because the script said so. Jobs continued to be hard to come by, while those who had jobs had to contend with sinking real wages and soaring prices.

Erap promised with bombast to clean the bureaucracy, but his own people, his relatives and cronies blithely proceeded to carry out their own interpretation of how to clean out the government.

Erap promised to banish pork barrel. But he must have thought that people could be fooled by his simply renaming budgetary cholesterol. In fact, he could not resist dipping into the barrel himself and grab the biggest slab of pork of all.

Erap says one thing today and says or does something else the next day. This inconsistency, actually dishonesty, has started to damage not just the President but even the Presidency itself.

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ON something else, if there’s no urgency about changing or upgrading your computer, don’t buy one yet. If your present PC is still serving your simple needs, keep it a little longer before you shop for a replacement or decide to assemble one yourself.

Prices normally go up toward December because of the expected shopping spree, but if enough of us buyers refuse to go with the Christmas stampede and instead make purchases after the holidays, we might just force prices down and grab some post-Yuletide bargains.

The past weeks, the prices of a few PC parts had gone up, particularly memory (RAM or random access memory). Merchants blamed the price increase on the deterioration of the peso vis-à-vis the US dollar and the alleged destruction of some Taiwanese factories in the recent big quake.

But the artificial shortage of RAM chips could not last. Last week, the prices of RAM dropped – as they should. When a 32 mb RAM chip cost P3,100 some 10 days ago, now it’s down to P2,150 in our favorite shop on Gilmore Street.

If our PCs continue to work fine, we can hold on and thereby suppress demand and possibly force prices even lower.

* * *

BUT the main reason for our suggesting that we hold back is the bursting on the Information Technology scene of AMD’s new K-7 Athlon series of processors that have proved far superior to the vaunted Pentium IIIs of Intel, the industry leader. The K-7 family ranges from 500 to 700 mhz.

Intel’s Pentium III-600 mhz trailed the AMD Athlon 600 mhz miserably in the recent benchmark testing in the United States in commercial and consumer applications. On some tests, the AMD’s lead over Pentium was an eye-popping 50 percent!

To us users who assemble our own computers to suit our own needs, this development could pose a knotty question.

Most Pinoy PC buffs who can afford them choose Pentium processors. Not only were they faster and more powerful than whatever else was in the market, including AMD, but Intel’s advertising/marketing is definitely superior.

The dollar proof is that soon after AMD unveiled the super Athlon, it announced a $162-million second-quarter net loss, along with the resignation of its respected chief operating officer. During the same quarter, Intel earned $1.7 billion. Intel’s sales in 1998 hit $26.3 billion, while AMD scored only $2.5 billion that year.

* * *

WITH the dethroning of Intel as king of the cyber racetrack, many users are expected to shift to AMD, especially when assembling high-end computers. Many users will wait for the dust of benchmark testing to settle before making a choice.

One point to consider is price. As before, the AMDs are priced lower than their Pentium counterparts. An AMD K7-500 mhz Athlon costs P9,800 in local shops, compared to the P10,300 of the Pentium III-500mhz.

Another point is that the Athlon operates on a bus speed of 200 mhz, while the Pentium IIIs are based on only 100 mhz. There is industry talk that Intel will soon issue its new processors on a bus speed of 133 mhz, but nobody knows when these are coming. Even if they do appear, they would still be slower than the 200 mhz of AMD’s Athlon.

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A RELATED point is that a processor running on 200 mhz is best installed on a motherboard that also has a bus speed of 200 mhz and with RAM chips based on 200 mhz. Since most boards and RAM in the market are pegged at 100 mhz, the potentials of a 200 mhz AMD processor might not be maximized with a slower motherboard and RAM.

There is also the question of waiting for new software that are attuned to 200 mhz. Without practical applications, what is a 200 mhz processor for?

A check on AMD’s Internet site, however, shows that a number of popular motherboards have been designed for a bus speed of 200 mhz. A similar check on local shops also showed that some of these boards are available here.

* * *

IF Intel produces Pentiums based on 133 mhz, this variation in bus speed will also have to be considered by the makers of boards and RAM. Ideally, the motherboard, the RAM and the processor should operate on the same speed.

We surmise that this is another reason why the price of 100 mhz RAM has gone down. Nobody’s talking, but we won’t be surprised if a new generation of RAM at 133 or even 200 mhz is coming -– depressing the value and price of the present 100 mhz and the earlier 66 mhz RAM types.

With the market teetering between Pentium III and the much faster AMD, and the speculation on what makers of motherboards and RAM would do to adjust to the faster processors, many users will have to wait awhile.

If you ask us, we’d say delay buying or assembling a PC.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 17, 1999)

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