Blog about the Internet, Pakistan and lots more

Monday 31st December 2007

2007 in 25 words


Overall it has been a very turbulent year. The Red Mosque siege, protests, explosions, imposition of emergency and the big assassination last week are just some of the major events to rock this part of the world. However, it was a relatively smooth and uneventful year for myself. Here is how I would sum it up in 25 words:

New job where I could be creative
Moved to nicer house and area
New PC after a long time
More exercise and healthier diet


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Posted at 17:55pm PKT  Comments(76) |

Core2Duo dream machine running Ubuntu Gutsy

Hardware Linux

After an unusual gap of around five years, I recently got a new dream PC. For the first time in quite a while, I was able to splurge on some pretty mean hardware though it didn't come without issues.

Selecting the CPU was the first step. I've always been an AMD fan, but they have lately lagged behind Intel when it comes to performance. The choice of motherboards is also severely limited in the local market since for some reason, the misconception still prevails that AMDs heat up and burn out in the hot Pakistani weather.

Core2Quads are readily available, but judging by the benchmarks, the slight performance gain wasn't worth the extra money. I went with the tried and tested Core2Duo family and looked at what was top of the line in that. The E6750 runs at 2.66GHz with a 1333MHz bus. It supports Intel's VT enhancements and fared very well, sometimes better than the Core2Quads, in the performance benchmarks.

There wasn't much choice when it came to motherboards so Intel's DG33FBC was it. RAM is also really cheap these days so getting 2x 1GB chips was well within budget. The biggest splurge was also what caused the most headache though. I decided to go with a 7200rpm, 500GB hard disk from Western Digital with a nice 16MB cache. It may sound excessive, but someone like me, with more than 5 years worth of backups and data, can easily utilize that.

The Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) install went great and I had a running system within minutes with all the updates installed. However, once I was halfway through copying my many Gigs of data, to my utter horror, the system became unresponsive and ultimately froze. Another attempt after a reboot resulted in the same problem though I caught some of the generated errors with dmesg:

[43.400] ata7.00: exception Emask 0x10 SAct 0x1ffe0 SErr 0x4810000 action 0x2 frozen
[43.400] ata7.00: (irq_stat 0x08400040, interface fatal error, connection status changed)
[43.400] ata7.00: cmd 61/00:28:5c:9e:44/04:00:0b:00:00/40 tag 5 cdb 0x0 data 524288 out
[43.400]          res 40/00:84:c6:c0:0c/00:00:0d:00:00/40 Emask 0x10 (ATA bus error)

It clearly says "ATA bus error", but I figured there must be something wrong with the drive, so the next day, I took the system back to the vendor (in Blue Area) and asked them to replace the drive. They were quite cooperative and impressed with the Ubuntu interface, but all attempts to reproduce the error failed. Once back home, the same errors mysteriously returned. A full bad-block scan didn't show up anything so I imagined the issue must lie somewhere else (like those cosmic rays maybe?).

After an extensive search, it seemed like I would have to reduce the drive's throughput to avoid the errors. But then, I tried something different which finally solved the problem. A new SATA cable. It seems that SATA cables are prone to interference and can malfunction if the cable is only slightly loose or bent the wrong way.

I'm still missing a few things on the system (good graphics card, DVD writer), but I can live without them for now. Otherwise, I have a nice and powerful system to work and play with.


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Posted at 10:34am PKT  Comments(109) |

Saturday 29th December 2007

Fallout of the Benazir assassination


When I heard the terrible news of the killing of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, the initial reaction was one of shock which then turned into concern about the fallout of this event. There would definitely be reprisal attacks and things could spiral out of hand. Mobs have been known to wreak havoc on occasions, even within the capital, and an event as big as this could cause chaos everywhere.

Most of my colleagues live in or around Rawalpindi, where the assassination took place, so they left as soon as the news was out to avoid any trouble on the way. Though both my home and office are within the main area of Islamabad, I also decided to stock up on fuel and other basics and head back to my house. Then there was news of riots in Karachi and the rest of the Sindh province, as well as shootings as close as my previous residence near Rawalpindi.

My two major sources of news gave a very contrasting view of the situation. Whereas the BBC's focus was mostly on Bhutto and her life, CNN seemed to portray a country on the brink of civil war with terrorists running amok and the country's nuclear assets at great risk. Though this tragedy is a huge setback for the whole country, we have survived many others and will pull through this one as well.

I finally got out this morning to see what the situation on the streets was like. It was heartening to see that things in Islamabad seemed quite normal. People were out in parks and gas stations were open with long lines of cars. Despite the absence of security personnel, traffic rules were being followed and everything seemed calm. A friend in Karachi also confirmed that the rioting and violence had subsided there.

Now the question is what the future of Pakistan's political landscape will be like. We may have a chance if there is solid evidence of Al-Qaeda's hand in the assassination. In that case, I'm sure the whole nation will unite to get rid of this menace and continue on the path to stability. Otherwise, the blame game will go on and create more unrest in the coming weeks.

With the Pakistan People's Party missing its charismatic leader and Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League boycotting the elections, there is also little point in going to the polls on the 8th January. Not that I know many people who would have voted for either of these, but their participation would have given some legitimacy to the next government.


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Posted at 18:26pm PKT  Comments |

Thursday 27th December 2007

Benazir Bhutto dead


It has been confirmed. Former Prime Minister and one of the major contenders in the upcoming elections, Ms Benazir Bhutto, has been killed in a bomb blast after speaking at a political rally in Rawalpindi. The rally was being held at Liaquat Bagh, named after the first Prime Minister of Pakistan who was also assassinated at the same spot.

It is a sorry state of affairs that things have only gotten worse in the 60-year history of this country. I shudder to think what things will be like for us in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.


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Posted at 18:48pm PKT  Comments(110) |

The peace of Eid


It has been a few days, but Eid Mubarik and season's greetings to everyone. Though it was a peaceful celebration for most of us, it wasn't true for all. A large number of people in the NWFP province were killed by a suicide bomber during Eid prayers.

Nothing can justify the taking of another life, but the ignorant may be fooled into believing that a suicide attack against an infidel would grant them a place in heaven. What boggles my mind is how the hell can this be true if the very people you are killing are in the midst of prayer?

Overall, it was an usual Eid since it coincided with 25th December, another national holiday in Pakistan (no, not to celebrate Christmas, nor a former thug's birthday, but that of Jinnah, the nation's founder). Most Islamabadiites took advantage of these extended holidays and left to celebrate Eid elsewhere for once, while those from out of town had gone back home, leaving most of the capital hauntingly empty.

Empty Islamabad roads

This really disappointed some of my friends who, for the first time, had decided to stay in Islamabad. The emptiness really seemed to get to them. The rest of us however, tried to make the most of it. It had been a while since I enjoyed driving on wide, empty roads without any limits to speak of. The photo is of Islamabad's main highway which isn't this empty even on a Sunday. And there was no trouble finding parking anywhere. The hiking trail was pretty lively though and the good company and nice weather made it one of the best climbs so far.

As for the Eid sacrifice, we didn't get a separate animal this time. That requires scrutiny in buying a flawless animal, then looking after it till the time of the sacrifice and finally cleaning up afterwards. Instead, we took out a share at a mosque and got the meat when it was ready.

The rest of the holidays were lost somewhere between distributing the sacrifice meat (it is to be divided into three equal parts with one meant for the poor and needy, another for friends and family and the third for your own consumption) and visiting relatives or inviting them for meals.


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Posted at 09:37am PKT  Comments(19) |

Wednesday 19th December 2007

Tragedies before the holidays


Just as we get ready to celebrate the Eid festival, two tragedies have occurred that will scar us and the whole country. The renowned artist, Gulgee, was found murdered along with his wife and maid at their Karachi home.

No doubt a great loss for us all. I am forced to wonder why it is the best people in this country that always fall victim to such crimes. What harm could have been done by a great painter like Gulgee, or a philanthropist and scholar like Hakim Saeed, that they should be murdered in cold blood?

Not too far from Karachi, a train wreck has claimed the lives of dozens of people. The final death toll will probably end up being at around 100 which in turn means that many more will spend the occasion in mourning instead of celebrating with everyone else.

It is sad that despite all our advances, such tragedies continue to strike without those responsible brought to justice. Must we see all our talent flee to safer shores? Can't we ever feel safe from such threats?


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Posted at 19:34pm PKT  Comments(104) |

Saturday 15th December 2007

How many 5 years olds can you take in a fight?


This is hilarious:


Looking for payday loan?


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