Blog about the Net, Pakistan and more

Monday 30th June 2008

Where there is a boom


I heard a distant bang about an hour back and assumed it was another bomb blast. Suddenly there was speculation that it could be in retaliation to the recent renewed offensive against militants by the Army. The news said there were two explosions somewhere around the Army House in Pindi, but nobody could figure out where exactly.
(BBC post)

I started to suspect it could have been the sonic boom from a jet. Called my mom and she said the booms were really loud around my house. That must be at least 20km from the suspected epicenter of the blast so if it was a bomb, it would have had to be a really big one. Else, the Air Force probably has a better explanation.

Still no confirmation on what happened, but I hope it really was just a sonic boom.

Update 23:00 PKST The Pakistan Air Force has confirmed via an official statement that it was indeed a sonic boom, created by one of their jets on a routine test flight. Amen for that.


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Posted at 13:06pm PKST  Comments(16) |

Sunday 29th June 2008

Futuristic huts near Islamabad


A good friend of mine has launched another construction project by Futuristic hut the name of PakHuts. Their focus is on the futuristic design and construction of huts in the beautiful mountainous region around Islamabad. The chalets are quite affordable and can be great for weekend getaways or as ideal places to live in peace.

Friendship aside, I'm really impressed with the designs and the previous projects that these guys have done. Everything is so futuristic and unlike most local contractors I've come across, they pay meticulous attention to detail. I've stayed in a couple of places designed and built by them and the average Pakistani house just can't compare.

Best of luck with everything guys. Hope I'm able to move to one of these soon.


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Posted at 19:30pm PKST  Comments(121) |

Football and the late Malam Jabba ski resort


Playing football has been the most enjoyable thing I've done within the past week. Though I've played it on and off for quite a while, this must be the first time I've actually been good at it. And I'm not even talking about competing against my above-30 (and overweight) friends. These are my current and ex-colleagues, mostly in their 20s, who aren't all that bad at footy (maybe it's due to the cool new shoes).

Puma football shoes

Football, however, still isn't the most enjoyable sport I've ever played. It's been over 5 years since I last snowboarded and have longed to do it again, yet any plans to explore the wonderful slopes of Pakistan's Northern areas have suffered a serious setback.

Pakistan's sole ski resort, the one at Malam Jabba, has been burnt to the ground. It appears that the militants who have lately terrorized the beautiful Swat valley, decided that the resort was too good a thing to leave alone and torched it completely.

That shouldn't stop an avid snowboarder, but it's unlikely that I'll have the time, money or the company to organize a trip to the still safe and untouched mountains up north. A trip that will involve searching for a suitable slope, mapping a route down and a way to get back up again. Another trip to Hokkaido will probably be easier.


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Posted at 17:52pm PKST  Comments(5) |

Wednesday 18th June 2008

Firefox 3 download day

Internet Web

Today is the day Firefox 3 is released and a campaign is underway to set a new record for the most downloaded software. So far it has managed about 1.7 million downloads.

Download Day - English

Though I may not be switching over completely yet, it looks a lot better and I'm hoping it'll solve some of the stability and memory issues of previous versions.

I'll try to post a detailed review of it after I've used it a little more. For now, download and be counted.


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Posted at 04:42am PKST  Comments(39) |

Monday 16th June 2008

Home built Wind Turbine and Solar Panel


With no end in sight to the severe power shortage across the country, I was thinking about what could be done to make the darker hours easier. With the cost of generators touching the sky (not to mention the maintenance hassles, noise and air pollution and the all-time high fuel costs), other forms of energy look very attractive.

Wind turbine

This HOWTO on building your own Wind Turbine was an interesting read and could be useful if you live in a windy area and can get your hands on a few good DC motors (or a full-fledged generator).

It just came to me that we may even be able to use one of those used kabuli car generators for this. They are readily available with most car mechanics and should be a lot cheaper than a commercial generator, though I'm unaware of their actual efficiency.

The same person also constructed a cheap solar panel system though it may be quite difficult to make use of it on a bigger scale.

I wish I had the time to thoroughly study and try out something like this. Maybe an enterprising Pakistani could take this up as a project and open up a lucrative business after ironing out the kinks.


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Posted at 01:39am PKST  Comments(125) |

Sunday 8th June 2008

Million rupee cash prize from Mobilink

Mobile Security

I recently got a call on the BlackBerry number informing me that I had won a million rupees in a lucky draw conducted by Mobilink and that I should call back on the same number to claim the prize.

Mobilink actually does have such a scheme for their Jazz customers, but the fact that my package doesn't fall into that category and the manner in which I received the call aroused my suspicions. Why would Mobilink be calling me from another, recently released mobile number instead of through a call center? And why should I have to call them back to claim my prize? Why did the person on the other end sound more like a kabaddi wrestler than a customer support rep?

A search for mobilink cash prize revealed a number of stories on such scams, like this one by The News and this blog post by The Pakistani Spectator. The usual tactic is to get as much of the victim's details as they can and then ask for pre-paid scratch card numbers or a small amount to facilitate the transfer of the cash prize. That's a lot like the Nigerian 419 fraud emails we receive every day, but with a more local and personal touch.

Convinced that it really is a way to swindle money out of people, I thought I'd have a little fun and see where things would lead, so I called them back. The first attempt resulted in a busy signal (they could have fixed this part to make it more believable). The second call connected me to a new person who put me on hold with the real Mobilink jingle being played.

After I had listened to the full ad, another person came on the phone and greeted me in broken English with something along the lines of "Mobilink customer support. How I may you help today?". I pretended not to understand English and he simply guessed that I was calling about the prize.

Another warning sign with such scams is that they emphasize on the urgency of the matter. That's what this guy did by telling me how late I was in calling back and how I should quickly contact their "MD sahib" (the actual prizes can be claimed within 30 days). While giving me the MD's contact, he tried making casual chit-chat about what my name was and what I did, but I finished the conversation without revealing anything useful.

After calling the new number, another person with a similar accent answered and put me on hold again with the Mobilink tune playing. This call was cut off and I didn't want to waste more time on this so just let it be. However, the earlier person called me after a few hours and asked if I had talked to their Managing Director. I said that the number got cut off, but that I'd be willing to pick up the prize in person from any Mobilink office.

This put the goon on the back-foot and he asked again where I was calling from. When I said Islamabad/Rawalpindi, he said that I would have to go all the way to the Mobilink head office in Karachi and that it'll be more convenient to just talk to their managing director and get it finalized over the phone. After the call, I was tempted to call them again in a few hours and tell them that I had taken a flight to Karachi (who wouldn't do that, given the money involved?), but then decided that it was enough fun for the day.

A lot of people regularly fall for these kinds of scams so be wary and don't get suckered into losing even a penny to them. If you really have won something, you'll know about it through more reliable means. If there's anyone who I can help in catching these guys, please get in touch.


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Posted at 00:12am PKST  Comments(336) |

Saturday 7th June 2008

FUD campaign against the President


Soon after this years elections, a wide-scale campaign seems to be in place to bring down President Musharraf. Ironic, considering that those fueling this campaign are the very people that were allowed to return to power by his government.

Retired generals, failed politicians and anybody with a personal vendetta against the president is coming out of the woodwork and hurling all sorts of accusations at him. And they won't be content at simply getting him to resign. They also want to see him burnt at the stake for crimes as grave as treason.

All the emotionally charged speeches are working well to stir up trouble across the country and I guess it's a little hard to hope that ordinary people see through these and force the new overlords to get their act together and do something positive for a change. However, one thing that perplexes me is that the majority of people I know are much in favor of President Musharraf as the leader of the nation. Then where is the majority that opposes him? Or maybe it's just that I don't move around in those circles.

After a lengthy silence, the President faced the media today and cleared up a number of accusations against him, emphasizing on the reconciliation of the different parties and the betterment of the country. Off course, the media that his government liberated doesn't have any qualms about questioning whatever he's said and demonizing him in any way they can.

Maybe we don't deserve a democratically elected government just yet. Maybe there's a reason we've prospered in the last few years under a "dictatorship" while the elected governments have only brought trouble. God bless Pakistan.


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Posted at 16:49pm PKT  Comments(5) |

Monday 2nd June 2008

Updating Ubuntu for daylight savings time

Pakistan Linux

Wasim Baig thankfully posted a link to the updated tzdata file that includes the updates for Pakistan Standard Time (PKST). You can get it here:

If you're using Ubuntu Linux, updating the system is a simple procedure, just extract the file for Asia and run zic:

tar xzf tzdata2008c.tar.gz asia
zic asia

That'll update the timezone data and you can verify it by checking your system time/date. The timezone will show up as PKST instead of PKT.


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Posted at 16:20pm PKT  Comments(6307) |

Bombing at the Denmark Embassy


There was a bomb explosion nearby a few minutes ago and we felt the shock quite strongly. Though most people thought something had fallen off the roof, my worst suspicions were confirmed when we looked out of the window and saw a pillar of smoke in the distance.

It looked like some part of sector F-6 and my first response was to call my cousin who works around the area which I thought was the source of the smoke. He is fine, but all the windows in his office had shattered.

The news has just confirmed that it was the Denmark Embassy which was the target. More details later.


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Posted at 12:21pm PKT  Comments(7) |

Sunday 1st June 2008

Daylight savings


Though a common practice in much of the Western world, daylight savings time, or summer time, is an alien concept for most Pakistanis. It was last attempted here in 2002 as an experiment with little success, and is in place again from roughly 2 hours ago.

I wasn't around the last time this was tried and may look like a bit of a hassle. However, I'm sold on the benefits and have moved the clocks forward by an hour. The best benefit I see is that it'll still be light outside at 8pm and "theoretically", there'll be more time for outdoor activities (not that I'm ever free for anything other than work these days).

I'm sure there will be a great outcry from the masses, most who don't quite understand it (took most people I know a while to "get" it, and they were a bit more intelligent than the average Javed). And already, people are accusing the government of disrupting their prayers (the timings of which are based on the position of the sun and have nothing to do with PKT anyway).

The biggest hassle I'll face is getting the servers and my digital toys to play nicely. Had to manually change the time on the BlackBerry and the SonyEricsson, the latter of which also conveniently and quite wrongly, adjusted Los Angeles's time by an hour. Even this post will be dated an hour earlier since timezone data seldom changes on servers and I haven't gotten around to patching it manually.

The main reason for the change, saving power in wake of the severe shortage we're seeing, may be questionable since there will likely be an increase in energy used for cooling and little savings on that used for lighting. However, it might help us improve our daily routines for once and just maybe have more leisure time. I say make full use of it.


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Posted at 02:27am PKT  Comments(69) |

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