Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Unblock Mahmood.tv

UPDATE [02 nov 2006]: Mahmood.tv is unblocked. Congrats to all bloggers

I never thought this day will ever come. Mahmood is a great inspiration to every single Bahraini blogger. We were homeless; reading foreign blogs, and commenting on topics that are not related to us; until Mahmood.tv came out. Shame on you Min. of Info

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Great Open Source Weekend

What is it with me, open source, and weekends these days. Both Fedora Core 6 and Ubuntu Edgy are released and I downloaded them immediately. I have 2 Ubuntu desktops so I scraped the not-very-much-used one and installed fedora 6 on it. I haven't spent enough time on Fedora 5 as I had it as a virtual machine running in Ubuntu and I rarely logged into it. As for the Edgy upgrade, the Ubuntu partition is my main desktop now so I'll keep the upgrade for next weekend.

The first thing about Fedora 6 is the new and spectacular DNA driven theme and the logo change. It seems I was away of the fedora community for so long that the initiative had changed gears and had a major restructuring without me noticing much. I read sometime ago about some changes in the way the fedora project is managed by Redhat and I noticed the logo change in version 5 but never paid enough attention. Anyways, it seems what happened is definitely for the betterment of the community. Fedora 6 is very promising and the Gnome based user interface with the DNA background image is very neat.

I haven't installed much of tools on it yet due the very noticeable issue of network access slowness. I suspect it has to do with IPv6 because I remember lots of posts online complaining about it on some old versions of fedora and its bad effects on the network access speed so this could be related. Ubuntu apt-get installation tool is extremely fast and the Ubuntu repositories are fast too. Fedora's yum is no where as fast and it is very irritating in comparison to apt-get. I'll keep you posted with my fedora endeavors so keep tuned

Since I have both of the Ubuntu and fedora desktop screens in front of me, I thought it is a good chance to share one keyboard and one mouse to work on both of them. I tried Synergy sometime ago but couldn't make it work on windows and I thought I'll give it another try. It is a software based KVM tool that makes sharing a single mouse and a keyboard between multiple computers very easy. I sudo apt-get install it on Ubuntu and su -c 'yum install' it on fedora. It took me a couple of seconds to create the config file on my Ubuntu to make it as a server and run the synergy command to run it. Another second to run it on fedora as a client linking to the Ubuntu IP address and viola the keyboard and mouse are shared between the two. Very neat and smooth and works like a charm. Now I can move between the two screens easily with a single mouse and I can even copy+paste between them. me happy :)

Here is a good Howto for setting up synergy on Ubuntu.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Crypto Book

Thanks to iCon, I'm back reading again. I always had a thing for cryptography. If not for the tons of books I have about the topic. And the tons of print-outs from the mid 90s that are still on my bookshelves. I printed them off the net when I was a part time web site developer then. We had a slow dial up connection that was shared by 6 PCs. I never complained. Most of the crypto articles were in plain text and would download in no time. I read all of them and I'm still hungry for more.

Is it that almost all of the modern cryptography systems are totally dependent on Math? But I never got interested in Math's real life implementations. I was a purist in college and still is. I do Math for Math's sake. Nothing less; nothing more.

How come then I got so interested in cryptography?

I think it is the notion that a person can have the freedom of expression and the choice to maintain his privacy in front of the peeping eyes of corrupt governments. I never really analyzed it before but I can see that it is neither the science of cipher nor its art that made me a crypto geek.

I'm more inclined to see it driven by the agony implanted in my mind of a 6 years old child deprived of his right to be a son of a devoted and loving father. Is this really what drives me to dig deep into the complicated crypro algorithms and the detailed biographies of the crypto icons? Is it because of a father that was lost for 21 years; kicked out of Bahrain and separated from his beloved wife and 3 children?! That's something for TIME to answer!

Back to the book which I got years ago and never managed to complete. I picked it because it was simply a cryptography book. I however ended up having one of the best portrayal of the legendary Whitfield Diffie.

This is not a technical book. It is about the politics of secrecy. It is a story of a free spirit; a man who envisioned a society that has the power to maintain its privacy. It is about the people who picked upon his ideas and charged ahead towards the future. Towards our presence. Towards times that have Diffie's public-key crypto as a cornerstone of every single online purchase. Every single stock trade. Every single Internet transaction.

I finished the book this time and enjoyed every single bit of it. If you love to know the history of the people who brought to you secure and safe Internet shopping, this book is for you.

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak to all.

Let's make it a celebration of love, sacrifice, and unity.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ubuntu Linux

There are few weekends in somebody's life that are unforgettable. Today is one of them for me. No, no, this is not sex related :). But maybe it is close. Well, I spent the whole day with Ubuntu Linux. And let me tell you it was a hell of an experience. I'm not a Linux newbie, but the surge of adrenaline pumping my heart, definitely qualified me as one.

I'm a redhatter for years now. I experiment a lot with Fedora and never bothered looking at any other distro. Until recently. Ok I stayed with Monopix for sometime but for the mere reason of testing mono development. mono is a port of Microsoft.net platform for Linux. The guy behind it,Miguel de Icaza, worth his own series of articles on my blog so I'll keep the details for then.

Confession here, I'm not anti-Microsoft and I make a living playing with their technologies.

It was not planned for me to use Ubuntu at all. Fridays are sacred days for me. I release all my tension, stress, and frustration through being a vegetable. A dead meat. I'm no Mahmood :) I don't do anything, unless the wife's beastie side comes out, then it is something else and let's avoid it for now :)

The best thing about Ubuntu is that you can boot from the CD and explore the system without any installations. It detected almost everything in my DELL PC and the system was functional in minutes after I put in the boot CD.

Partitioning a hard driver is always a difficult thing. Partition Magic, the universally used partitioning tool gave me lots of nightmares with Windows NTFS partitions throughout the years. Not with Ubuntu; the partitioning software is very good and you don't feel intimidated at all playing around with it. I shrunk my main NTFS partition and made room for Ubuntu.

The community behind Ubuntu is amazing. Was it luck that I stumbled by ubuntuguide.org website in the first google search looking for ubuntu guidelines? Maybe that's why I felt good about the community.

I just finished reading an article through digg.com that compared 3 Desktop ditros and Ubuntu came number one. Hurray

TAGS: Ubuntu, Linux, Desktop, Fedora, Community, ubuntuguide.org

Monday, July 10, 2006

Interview with Eric Schmidt - Google CEO

I just watched an interesting video interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. It's a short one and absolutely worth it. He highlights the way they manage creativity throughout their organization. And they have this 20% rule whereby they encourage all engineers to spend 20% of their times on their own ideas. It seems lots of their recent successful projects were built accordingly. Would it be possible to have a local/regional company that has a similar attitude? If you know of one then drop me a line. I'll apply for a job immediately :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

I got myself an iMate K-Jam :(

It was a weird decision. I went with my wife to GOSI complex to buy a Nokia 9500 mobile. I went into a shop and picked it. I was about to show it to her and explain why I think its a good mobile. She mocked the hell out of me saying that it's a Tabooka, a brick, and went on and on saying this and that about it. I hated it. I just picked the most obvious alternative; iMate K-Jam. I hate windows based mobiles, and out of the blue I ended up buying one. God has his ways I believe.


My friend Ayman lent me an interesting book. iCon. It's a biography of Steve Jobs, the Apple Computers co-founder and the legendary IT industry leader. Being in IT, you always hear and read about Steve and continuously admire him. But this book takes you beyond all this. You become closer to his day-to-day life, his peculiar business practices, and his decision making rituals. You loose yourself in the wavy corridors of Steve's mind and his business adventures. It's not an autobiography though, so you don't have the truth from the horse's mouth, but it is still entertaining and stimulating. You'll get as close as possible to Steve's Reality Distortion Field.

Reading books is one habit that was heavily hurt since I changed my job a couple of years ago. Although I was reading articles daily, books were a far reach. Not anymore I believe. This book brought the book-reading passion back. I made time to enjoy this book and I'm sure I'll make even more time for the dozens of books I recently bought and couldn't read.

If you don't know enough of Steve's life, his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 sums it up in a neat and mind-boggling statement.
Stay hungry, stay foolish

This book is highly recommended. Enjoy it.

Batelco ADSL pricing scam

Batelco is emailing its ADSL customers about the changes in their ADSL Packages. They claim it's for the better. Unless I don't understand English, or Arabic as well, nothing is better in these new crappy packages.

There are lots of observations I have on Batelco's conduct when it comes to the Internet and the Web. Things I avoided to publish but critically addressed to concerned managers in Batelco. But this scam is beyond any rational sanity I would ever maintain.

And this stupid mailing list setup that allows others to reply back to their announcements. We are pissed-off Batelco so you better be ready for the mail bombardment

This makes me boiling to research into how to battle threshold measures that would be definitely the norm in the coming few years. I'm sure others with better political sense would rage a good campaign against batelco but there must be some technical loopholes that can be compromised.

Be Positive, Be Positive. Damn Batelco. One thing else I'll definitely look at is QoS and packet shaping technologies.

Microsoft Unlimited Potential

Microsoft is doing an amazing job in supporting communities all over the world through their Unlimited Potential initiative. In a joint effort with Bahrain Internet Society, they've localized it for Bahrain, as Career Connection, with a focus on training unemployed Bahrainis on basics of computers.

The project started March 2006 with a batch of +100 students and I had the pleasure of being an instructor in the 10 weeks course. The curriculum is well designed and helped me and my students to navigate through the material with great enthusiasm. It included material on basics of computers, internet, web design, and of course the Microsoft Office suite of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc.

I had a mixture of skill sets in my students. Some were university grads with good basic skills. The course went on smoothly and I was quite content with the student feedback. I had a couple of set-backs though with people in the mid 20s who can't distinguish a right mouse click from a left mouse click but in general the attendance and the commitment were both high. High praises to well-committed young Bahrainis.

It's a pity though that there was NO media coverage of the program. I recall there was a press release which I can't find on the net, but nothing else. I already told Microsoft and BIS gentlemen about this and I believe they'll handle it better with the upcoming batches. I know BIS was very busy preparing for the Future IT event, but it is over now and they need to get their act on.

I'd like to thank Microsoft and BIS for their distinguished efforts and for giving me the opportunity to remember my old days of teaching Math and to reassure myself that I'm still a very good teacher :) And special thanks to Ghassan from Microsoft, Ahmed from BIS, and the team in AIT institute for organizing the program.