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Phuket Live Wire: Get legal, get locked down

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PHUKET: Last week I talked about the likely increase in the amount of spam being generated by botnets running on PCs here in Phuket. I don’t have any numbers – nobody does – but Thailand’s Internet Service Providers are getting blocked left and right by spam filters, all over the world.

The reason is simple. An enormous number of people in Thailand are running PCs that have been taken over by botnets, and 99 per cent of the people running infected PCs don’t even know it.

Here’s how to increase your chances of getting infected:

1. Run Windows XP. If you really want to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, run a pirate copy of Windows XP. Yeah, even the “good pirate copies” that say they’re genuine are susceptible.

2. Use Internet Explorer 6. It’s like sticking a placard on your PC that says, “infect me”.

3. Keep using an old version of Flash, or Adobe Acrobat Reader. About two years ago, Flash and Reader became the number-one “vector” for PC infections: right now, more PCs are infected via Flash and Reader than all other exposures combined.

Last August, Avast published the results of a six month study that found 74 per cent of the rootkit infected machines they scanned were running pirate copies of Windows XP. (Rootkits are infection programs that run “underneath” Windows and are thus very hard to detect and remove.)

Minimizing your chances of being infected is easier than you think – and it doesn’t need to cost you anything, if you have a genuine copy of Windows.

The vast majority of PCs in Phuket are running pirate copies of Windows – even the PCs sold by the leading computer shops come with pirated Windows, despite you asking for a real copy when you bought the PC.

I’ve heard of many, many people who brought PCs to Thailand, took them to a repair shop, and had them returned with pirate copies of Windows installed. For no apparent reason, the repair people took it upon themselves to blast away a good copy of Windows and replace it with a counterfeit one.

If you think there is any chance you have a pirate copy of Windows, take these steps:

Step 1: Click Start, right-click Computer (or My Computer) and choose Properties. At the bottom you’ll see if the copy of Windows you have has passed ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’. Even if the notice says you have a “Genuine” copy, you don’t necessarily have a genuine copy. Keep going.

Step 2: Get rid of your old antivirus software and install Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It’s free, fast, and very accurate – and you’ll never be bugged to pay for antivirus again.

Bonus #1: If you can install MSE, you have a close-enough-to-genuine copy of Windows.

Bonus #2: MSE catches many rootkits that other AV products miss.

Step 3: If you have got MSE installed, download and run Windows Defender Offline (WDO). That’s the only tool I know that can find and disinfect most Windows rootkits. You can’t run WDO from inside Windows, it has to be run outside. Full instructions on the Microsoft site. Warning: in rare cases I’ve heard of WDO wiping out pirate copies of Windows. Back up your data before you run it.

Whether you have a pirate copy of Windows or not, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

Step 1: Download and install Internet Explorer 8, if you’re running XP, or Internet Explorer 9, if you’re running Vista or Windows 7. You should download and install the latest version of IE, even though I don’t recommend that you run it – I recommend Firefox or Chrome. See the next step.

Step 2: Download, install and use either Firefox or Chrome. Both are free. Personally, I’m using Chrome more and more these days. They both co-exist with IE with no problem, and neither is as susceptible to active infections as IE.

Step 3: Don’t use Adobe Reader. Download and install Foxit PDF reader. It works almost as well, and doesn’t have as many security problems.

Step 4: If you use Firefox or IE, get Flash updated to the latest version. Chrome has a Flash player built in and sandboxed – one of the main reasons why I use Chrome over Firefox these days.

Step 5: Get Windows and your Microsoft applications up to date. Click Start, Programs (or All Programs) and near the top click Windows Update or Microsoft Update. Follow the instructions to download and install all of the current updates.

You may have to re-boot your machine several times, and you may have to go back to the Windows Update app several times to get them all installed.

I keep a running series of recommendations about Microsoft Update at AskWoody.com, and I tell people when to patch and when to hold off. But if you haven’t patched Windows in the past few months (or years), it’s much more important that you get patched up now.

After you’re caught up, follow my site for recommendations about when to install Microsoft patches and when to hold off.

Step 6: Download, install and religiously use Secunia PSI which scans your computer constantly and figures out if there are updates for any of your programs.

Optionally, it will automatically install all of the latest updates. Free, and it’s worth its weight in gold.

These are the simple, basic steps that every Windows user needs to take, to keep their PC protected. While there are lots of fancy things you can do, just following these steps should ward off the vast majority of problems.

And, if you are running a pirate copy of Windows, for heaven’s sake, get a real one. There are lots of corners you can cut in the PC industry, but that isn’t one of them. I’ve been recommending for almost three years that people install Windows 7 on any PC other than old laptops (which can’t handle it).

If you have friends in North America or Europe, they can buy copies of Windows 7 Home Premium for $50 or less, in three packs, and about $100 for single packs.

The cheapest copies of Windows 7 I’ve found in Phuket are at SuperCheap, but there are many alternatives, and they aren’t a whole lot more than 3,500 baht.

Do yourself and your PC a favor, and get legal, at least with Windows, OK?

Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes hold computer sessions under the tutelage of Seth Bareiss every other Wednesday afternoon, from 1 to 3pm. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, drop by one of Seth’s free afternoon sessions. Details in the Phuket Gazette Events Calendar.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter: @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe and facebook.com/phuketgazette.net.

— Woody Leonhard

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Tourism

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more?

The Thaiger

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What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Naka Island - The Luxury Travel Expert

by Anthony Lark

“Let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp”

Until the collective nightmare that was 2020, many of the so-called high-end hotels had a reputation for trying to convince guests to pay for often dingy guestrooms lacking any real views inside an otherwise ornate structure with a storied, celebrated past, where the first impression was a check in often akin to applying for a bank loan. Defined as “luxury”, in the good old days they got away with it.

Over the thirty years I spent running Amanpuri and Trisara on Phuket, I heard hundreds of people complain of feeling ripped off at “legendary” and “iconic” hotels by staff that rudely treated them as anything but guests.

How many of us did not tip the head waiter after dinner on the first night, to return the next evening and find ourselves stashed at a table by the kitchen door, or getting ushered past the prime and utterly empty deck chairs (with a book on them) by an indifferent pool boy rushing to count his bounty at the pool bar.

As we in the hotel business look towards vaccine jabs while collectively praying for people to start travelling again, let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp. Emerging from the darkness that was 2020, we hoteliers need to consider that life will not bounce back to all that, nor should it. Good riddance to the seller’s market when hotels could charge like the light brigade for sub-par accommodations and indifferent service while expecting our guests will automatically keep coming back for more.

Merriam-Webster ‘luxury’ definition #1: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort.

“There will always be people willing to pay,” said the late, great Natale Rusconi of the Cipriani in Venice and Splendido in Portofino.The size of the room didn’t matter, he observed, nor did the price of a cup of coffee, as long as they felt cocooned in an ‘exclusive’ world with an established reputation of being the “best.”

A classic negroni or a plate of risotto on the terrace at Cipriani is luxurious, not so much because of the ingredients of the food and beverage (although it is the best), but because it’s a rare experience.

Sonu Shivdasani, owner of Soneva resorts, hits it on the head when describing luxury.

He points out “Our external communication focuses much more on our brand proposition of “Inspiring a Lifetime of Rare Experiences”.

For example, we touch upon the point of our guests being able to walk barefoot for a week. This is rare and hence a luxury.

Change is in the luxe-wind

There is definitely change in the post-covid wind. In virtual conversations with many wealthy, well-travelled former guests of mine living in the northern hemisphere, they are explicit about what they yearn for on the other side of their drawn-out lockdowns.

These people are the ones who every year asked me for the largest villa with the bluest views and the most kitted out yacht for a day on the Andaman Sea and now I sense they seek something distinctly less material. While I am not surprised to hear them in their Bel Air mansions and apartments overlooking the River Seine asking for deals, what they say next piques my interest. “Anthony, I don’t need the presidential suite when we come back,” they say without a whiff of disappointment to downgrade. They are increasingly asking not for the specs on yachts but for news of wellness offerings and rare, secret local experiences.

One company already excelling in this beyond luxury space is Six Senses, purchased in 2019 by the behemoth InterContinental Hotels brand but left to run relatively independently under CEO Neil Jacobs. In interviews and on panels throughout the pandemic, Jacobs has spoken often of his personal aversion to the very word ‘luxury’ as well as to ‘exclusivity,’ which he sees in direct opposition to Six Senses’ holistic ethos.

Community engagement, he argues, is not only an aspect of the brand’s sustainability guidelines but also critical to “the intrinsic value of the content around what is being offered” at each individual property.

Like Jacobs, I noticed even before Covid that bragging rights back home no longer focus solely on price-tagged acquisitions. Those same guests who regaled me during lockdown with tales from their past travels, talked about meaningful encounters with Bhutanese textile weavers, Portuguese sourdough bakers, Colombian coffee farmers or Thai fishermen with whom they shared meaningful encounters on immersive, often unexpectedly transformative journeys. Perhaps we all learned in lockdown that these memories endure far longer than we can linger on even the most decadent bed linens or the hotel’s fluffy-as-a-cloud bathrobes.

Even before any of us had given a thought to wet markets in Wuhan, our industry was abuzz with these ‘experiential’ and ‘transformational’ travel offerings, and we see smaller, more nimble independent hotels and resorts luring guests away from staid grand dames of the past, while commanding higher rates.

I suspect we will now enter a new era, best described by Morris Sim, one of the smartest marketing minds I know.Travellers he predicts, will be embracing the idea that “ luxury is the outcome of an experience, not a product.”

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2: something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary.

To be clear, this is not a rallying cry to spend amidst an economic crisis. Luxurious experiences may be as humble as a thoughtful gesture or act of kindness by a staff member. It’s surprising our guests on their return to the hotel room to find their laundry cleaned, folded and tied with a beautiful bow, or that feeling of being cared for to discover one’s toothpaste, sunscreen and deodorant arranged like tiny soldiers on the bathroom vanity.

Going forward, those hotels that also help guests to make meaningful, immersive connections with the surrounding culture and environment while also delivering unpretentious, anticipatory service with thoughtful human touches will redefine luxury.

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2b: an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease

Throughout the heady 1990s, we opened a new Amanresort every year or so. While now considered places of beauty that were undeniably desirable, they were initially revolutionary upstarts compared with the most famous resorts of the 70’s and 80’s where gold sink taps stood out against bathrooms laden with Carrera marble.

Into this arena where remote controlled toilets that blew air on your arse were regarded as luxurious, Adrian Zecha’s vision for each Aman was unashamedly simple in design and utterly lacking in superfluous finishing’s. The late architect Ed Tuttle, who mastered this design of understatement used to tell his team (including his lead designer Pin Tan, who now holds that title at Six Senses) and clients that “it’s not about embellishment, it’s about owning the space.”By this he meant that humans are most at ease in spaces that function well when for them rather than for shelter magazines and marketing brochures.

As we look towards leaving hibernation behind, I strongly believe our guests will gravitate to uncluttered places where simplicity reigns, where they can look better and feel better about their emergent selves and where they can enjoy consequential encounters with fascinating strangers, after feeling cut off for so long.

At Trisara Phuket, the team here serves local residents and Bangkokians down for the weekend gourmet Thai-inspired lunches prepared by chefs under a Thai carved sala roof overlooking a charming lake at the resort’s nearby working farm, engaging with locals tending the farm while keeping comfortably cool and exquisitely sated.

My personal view is that successful hotels must throw off any remaining shackles of our industry’s past definitions of ‘luxury’ and pivot towards delivering authentically local guest experiences and anticipative service that surprises and delights.

Are we headed towards a new paradigm where our job is to nurture the “outcome of the experience” rather than the showmanship of counting threads of Egyptian cotton and embroidering initials on pillowslips?

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is 'less' more? | News by The Thaiger

Anthony Lark is the founding and current president of The Phuket Hotels Association. He also runs his own luxury hospitality company focused on resort and residential villa design & master plan concepts, plus management auditing of existing properties as hotels prepare for a post-covid world.

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Thailand

Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways

After nearly 9 months on the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with problems balancing their accounts, Thai Airways will resume flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok and Phuket later this month. The flights will start back up on Christmas day.

Flights from Bangkok to the 2 key tourist provinces have been grounded since April 1. Starting December 25, the airline will run 3 flights a week on both routes. A source told the Bangkok Post that the new schedules will run until at least February 28.

Thai Lion Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Air and Bangkok Airways have returned to the domestic skies since July and slowly adding frequency to their routes.

In addition to resuming the domestic flights, the Thai Airways is relaunching some international flights from January 1 to March 27 including weekly flights to Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Seoul, Manila, Taipei and Osaka. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo will be available 3 times a week and flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong will be available every day.

Thai Airways has been tackling bankruptcy throughout the lockdown and trying to make up for more than 300 billion baht in losses. Since many flights were suspended due to travel restrictions, Thai Airways has tried to make money by business ventures on the ground, like a pop-up restaurant serving in-flight meals and selling off unwanted equipment from their warehouse. There also disposing of much of their older fleet, including all of their Boring 747-400s.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments

Maya Taylor

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97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

97 police officers, from 41 police stations, are currently being investigated for an alleged scam involving Covid-19 payments meant for officers who worked extra shifts during the crisis. The case was assigned by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk in November, when it came to light that some officers may have fraudulently claimed allowances meant for others.

In one incident, an officer responsible for transferring extra payments to police on the southern island of Phuket transferred the money to his own accountant instead. At the time, the transfer was dismissed as a mistake (in his favour), with the officer in question receiving a warning, and payments then made to the qualifying officers.

Wissanu Prasatthong-Osot from the National Internal Affairs Police says the investigation should reach a conclusion within the next 10 days.

“The result of the investigation should be ready in 10 days. Currently, 97 officers in 41 police stations ranging from non-commissioned to generals are under investigation for being involved in the swindle. The bureau aims to provide justice to all policemen involved. After the investigation concludes, the victims will receive their full allowance, while the offending officers will be punished under the law and disciplinary standards.”

Nation Thailand reports that a full list of alleged offenders has been sent to Suwat, with Wissanu promising that none will escape prosecution.

“The National Police chief had also ordered the transfer of offending officers at the commander and sub-commander levels out of their areas as per the investigation procedures.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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