Blog about the Internet, Pakistan and lots more
Monday 30th July 2007
Exotic outdoor footwear
And now for something completely different (thanks to BoingBoing). You've probably seen 5-toed socks before and if not, you must have seen the type of sandals that ninjas usually wear. You know, the ones with one compartment for the big toe and another long one for the rest of the toes. I have socks with the same design and I just love them. Anyway, check out what this company called Vibram Five-Fingers has to offer.
They sell five-toed sandals that act as a protective skin on your feet while providing the comfort and grip of a bare foot. They look very cool too. Like something out of a futuristic sci-fi novel.
The only drawback (at least for people like me) is that they don't deliver outside the States or Canada or else I would have ordered a pair by now. Would be excellent for my daily hiking.
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Giga vs Jiga
When I got my first PC and came into the world of hard drives and operating systems, I used to pronounce Giga with a soft G, or J sound (as in giant). Don't ask me where I picked up this habit (maybe from the Doc in Back to the Future or maybe from Singapore), but that was the accepted sound for the unit used to represent a billion, as far as I was concerned.
Hence, it was a cause of much embarrassment when people made fun of me for this "wrong" way of saying gigabyte or gigabit and I soon switched to saying Giga with a hard G (as in giggle).
It seems that I didn't have any reason to be embarrassed. Giga is derived from the Greek word 'gigas', meaning giants and was likely pronounced the same way we say "giant". It is also how a lot of people, especially those that have worked with computers for a while, use this prefix. More info on the Wikipedia page for giga.
These days, the accepted way of saying giga is with a hard G so I'll stick to this method.
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Thursday 26th July 2007
Costs of bandwidth and mobile calls around the world
I meant to post about this some time back, but it got relegated to the back of the blog pile. Below is a comparison of the per megabit broadband charges for some of the world's countries:
Broadband prices per megabit
- South Korea $0.34
- Sweden $0.65
- Japan $0.70
- Amsterdam (FttH 100/100) $1.39
- France $1.68
- Finland $2.85
- Italy $3.45
- Norway $4.14
- Netherlands $4.42
- Denmark $5.05
- Iceland $5.13
- Amsterdam (20/1 ADSL2+) $5.38
- Germany $5.33
- Austria $6.14
- Belgium $6.68
- UK $11.31
- Portugal $11.80
- Spain $12.79
- Poland $13.33
- Ireland $14.18
- Luxembourg $18.97
- Switzerland $22.28
- China $23.18
- Czech Republic $24.75
- Singapore $28.63
- Thailand $30.36
- Greece $34.06
- Sri Lanka $40.90
- Philippines $43.62
- Australia $45.33
- Hungary $49.46
- Slovakia $51.48
- Pakistan $80.43
- Malaysia $88.61
- India $88.61
- Turkey $118.83
- Myanmar $261.75
- Fiji $354.45
- Indonesia $2,453.87
No surprises about South Korea, Sweden and Japan topping the list or bandwidth in Pakistan being so expensive, but it is interesting that countries like Malaysia and India, that claim some of the fastest technological growth in the world, are even more expensive.
Looking at the heading, you may also be expecting such a list for mobile call charges, but this is actually something I myself am searching for. If anyone has managed to find such a list or has compiled one, please do share.
The thing I want to see is where Pakistan stands when it comes to cellular tariffs. With so much cutthroat competition among giant mobile operators, local call charges have fallen dramatically during the last few years. In this area at least, it could well be one of the world's least expensive places to use a mobile.
As far as broadband is concerned, the costs in Pakistan are likely to drop very fast once the competition really heats up (it soon will). On top of that, technologies like WiMax are being deployed left and right and this could soon make it one of the best places to own a laptop.
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Tuesday 24th July 2007
Surviving a free fall
We have all been brought up to believe that a free fall from any height greater than the distance between the bed and the bedroom floor would be fatal, 100 percent of the time. It seems that our parents and our righteous teachers were all wrong. We were duped. In reality, you can jump out of an airplane, without any parachute, and easily survive.
Ok, that was an exaggeration. "Easily survive" and "jump out of an airplane" (sometimes even with a parachute) are 2 very contradictory statements. However, in case you ever have the misfortune of finding yourself in such a position, you may just be able to beat the odds and maybe get away with a few broken bones instead of a nice 6 foot hole in the ground.
Think of Nick Alkemade, an RAF tailgunner who jumped from his flaming turret without a parachute and fell 18,000 feet. When he came to and saw stars overhead, he lit a cigarette. He would later describe the fall as "a pleasant experience."
The article Unplanned Freefall? Some Survival Tips should be a highly interesting read for anyone. I read it with great awe and though I have no intent to test out these tips, the piece has managed to spark my interest in the limits of the human body and the laws of physics related to these limits. From the article:
Think of the pluses in your situation. For example, although you fall faster and faster for the first fifteen seconds or so, you soon reach "terminal velocity"—the point at which atmospheric drag resists gravity's acceleration in a perfect standoff. Not only do you stop speeding up, but because the air is thickening as you fall, you actually begin to slow down. With every foot that you drop, you are going slower and slower.
Read the whole thing for some good tips and anecdotes of people who did manage to survive. Who knows, maybe one day you may be able to brag about surviving such a desperate situation. Just remember to mention where you got the info from.
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Wednesday 18th July 2007
Thoughts on Islamabad blast
Last night's blast at a rally, that was to be held by the ousted Chief Justice, has left 15 people dead and more than 40 people wounded. It was reportedly a suicide bombing, something that was unthinkable anywhere in Pakistan and especially in the capital, until very recently. There were also reports that Islamabad's two five-star hotels were also intended targets, though by whom remains a mystery.
Although I have spent most of my life in various other countries, I have always returned to the calm and peaceful city that Islamabad once was. Though something is always happening in Pakistan, Islamabad was always the most secure, most serene and least crime-ridden city in the country. With regards to these merits, it even beat some of the other cities that I have lived in; cities like London and Rabat.
After last week's Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) siege, and the ugly threat of suicide bombings, like the one last night, Islamabad seems no better than Kabul or Baghdad. All the recent development and investment by large multinationals seems to be pointless if the end result is a place where people are afraid to go out or where you are constantly subjected to invasive screening.
I'm tempted to think that this is all part of a bigger conspiracy. That there are deep political motives behind all this. That these occurrences will lead to a situation where it becomes crucial to impose a state of emergency and postpone any elections or supreme court decisions. Or that these are intended to cast the current government in a negative light and undermine its authority.
Whatever the motives and whoever is responsible, the sad fact is that it is normal people, people like you and me, who suffer. And the chances of any improvement are starting to look more and more bleak.
Tuesday 17th July 2007
Bomb explosion near office
I was out for a walk in the F-9 park when there was a very loud bang at about 8:30pm. It was a bomb explosion in F-8 sector, very close to our head office, and soon there were sounds of ambulances. The latest reports have confirmed 10 people dead and 35 injured. Apparently, the Chief Justice was supposed to arrive at the scene for a rally and the bomb was supposed to be targeted at him. However, he hadn't reached the scene yet. More details later.
Monday 16th July 2007
DDoS attack on hosting provider
Some of you may have noticed that my sites were unavailable since last night. I was typing a blog post last night when this server that is hosting my sites stopped responding. Digging a bit deeper, I found out that the whole net block which my server is a part of, was unreacheable. The hosting service's website wasn't opening either so I assumed that it must be some major issue with their infrastructure.
The good thing about Cari.net is that they keep you informed of such things, unlike other cheaper services. This morning, an email from them was waiting in my mailbox, explaining how one of the sites hosted with them suffered a denial of service attack and this affected my server as well. They also listed the precautionary measures they are taking to prevent this from happening again.
Hmm, I doubt it'll happen again, but just in case, I should come up with a redundancy solution for this server as well (I'm already doing it for my other server, which is hosted with a cheaper, less reliable service).
Tuesday 10th July 2007
Abdul Rasheed Ghazi killed
The news just came in. Abdul Rasheed, the mulla (or cleric) at the head of the Lal Masjid mosque complex insurgency, has been killed by security forces in a crossfire after refusing to surrender. The official figures are at about 50 militants dead and 50 women and children rescued. Still no word on any other casualties, though it's likely that a few military personnel and even some civilians have lost their lives. It shouldn't be long now before the whole thing is over.
Blue Area, Islamabad's main belt of commercial activity, has been sealed, allegedly after a few stray bullets hit some of the buildings. There was also news of a person getting shot in the ankle from a stray bullet in F-6 sector though that is at least a couple of kilometers away and there's been no official word on these incidences yet.
Lal Masjid war zone
Just felt a large explosion. Troops stormed the Red Mosque complex in the wee hours of today and a full-scale operation is now underway after negotiations broke down. Though we might never know what is actually happening, it seems that 23 militants have been captured and at least 40 militants are reported to be killed in the assault while about 20 children have managed to escape unharmed.
It's a bit strange to think that there is a war zone barely 4kms from where I'm comfortably sitting, with no noticeable signs of the operations apart from the occasional gunfire and the shockwave of an explosion. I have also heard that all major hospitals and medicals centers have a large military presence and the wounded and the dead are continuously being brought in.
Islamabad Metblogs has excellent and up-to-date coverage of whatever is happening. This should be over by the end of the day though I hope that no more innocent lives are lost and that all those responsible for this dark chapter in this otherwise peaceful city's history are brought to justice.
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Saturday 7th July 2007
Firefox spell checking
I have come across forum threads and mailing lists where discussions about GUI and operating systems often include complaints about the lack of a global spell checker, despite this feature being available in word processors and other softwares for a very long time. With more and more applications shifting to the browser, maybe we are about to finally achieve this goal.
Lucky Seven times three
The number seven seems to have at least some significance in most cultures. Some consider it lucky while others just treat is as a special digit. The Wikipedia page for 7 lists some of the amazing properties of the numeral.
Today happens to be the 7th day of the 7th month of the 7th year of this millennium, and people are getting ready to celebrate it with a bang. On a more sombre note, today is also the second anniversary of the London subway bombing. May the souls of those who perished rest in peace.
I thought of posting this at exactly 07:07:07am to get another pair of triple sevens, but that's about 4 hours too late for Pakistan and a bit too early to use the local time of this US server.
Thursday 5th July 2007
Intense firing and explosions
I just got back from hiking in the hills. While going up, we started hearing gunshots at around 6:15pm which continued for about half an hour. At about 6:45pm, there were sounds of large explosions and highly intense firing. We couldn't see anything until this time, even from that height, but soon after the explosions there was lots of white smoke from the area around Lal Masjid (Red Mosque).
Still nothing in the online news, but with that amount of gunfire and explosions, things are likely to end soon. I heard that the people inside are refusing to surrender and that the security forces are instructed to complete their operations by the end of the day, so it won't be a clean sweep, though I hope that the end is decisive and rids us of this extremist threat once and for all. Will try to keep you posted.
Mullah in a Burqa
The standoff between the government's security forces and the pro-Taliban radicals inside Islamabad's Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, continues. However, in a hilarious turn of events, their leader, the revered Abdul Aziz, tried to flee the scene last night disguised as a female ninja in a burka and was caught (as shown in the Aaj TV image below).
This humiliation should have been enough for the rest to throw down their arms and bring things to a conclusive end, but other than the almost 2000 who have surrendered so far, the rest are still defiant, led by Abdul Aziz's younger brother. The brother was interviewed live last night by the media and was having quite some trouble explaining his demands and the escape of his brother. Judging from what he said, it is entirely possible that these "men" have gone out in burqas before, which would explain a lot of things.
I think last night's event would lead to a single, most unexpected and least violent outcome of the situation. Any other way (like say bombing the area and vaporizing the idiots early on), the radicals would have had the upper hand and things would have gotten messy for everyone. Whether it was the government's extreme patience, or cowardice, holding out for so long has gone in their favor. It almost seems that the whole circus was a pre-planned conspiracy.
Wednesday 4th July 2007
New richest person in the world
It seems that Bill Gates is no longer at the top. Surprisingly, Mexico's telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world's richest person. Maybe it is a sign that telecom is where the money's at and that software has had its day. The weirdest thing is that Mr. Slim comes from an area that you may have previously joked about, when compared to Billy's own wealth.
Now, let's just hope that this guy can do something really interesting with his money. Whatever happened to the richest and most powerful building monuments, wonders and just being crazy?
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Tuesday 3rd July 2007
Action against Lal Masjid radical mosque
Just got news that there are clashes happening between the security forces and the radical students of the Lal Masjid mosque and madrassa, situated at the center of the capital.
I must be 4-5 kilometers from the area, though there isn't any sign of the event. Can't hear any gunshots and there isn't any smoke rising. However, it is reported that at least one person has been killed. Hope things come to a conclusion soon.
Monday 2nd July 2007
Show my IPv6 IP
My latest success was the setup of a working IPv6 site that tells you which IP you are connecting from and if it is an IPv6 IP address. After requesting a subnet from the BT Exact Tunnel Broker, a service that I mentioned earlier in my IPv6 intro post, my laptop is now IPv6 enabled.
The above screenshot is the result from ShowMyIP6.com which tells you if you are IPv6 enabled and what your IP address is (plus some additional info). My location shows up as United Kingdom (GB) due to the IPs belonging to the BT service, but it should be accurate once the World's ISPs (and users) have shifted to IPv6 (still pretty far off).
For the backend, I reused my Python script from WhatisMyCountry.com and didn't really have to make much changes. Even the whois lookup worked fine (though it does get stuck at certain times).
I haven't tested this with any host other than my laptop so please let me know if the results aren't what you expected.