Blog about the Net, Pakistan and more

Sunday 30th August 2009

Discussion on Pakistani Superheroes


This was a serious status update that I recently made on Facebook about what the Pakistani lawyer movement had turned into. Hilarity soon ensued and it became a discussion of what a Pakistani Superhero should be like. You can read it here:

  • Me:
    Lawyers fighting each other like kids and turning into a rowdy mob. These are the people who'll give us justice?
  • Arsalan:
    Dude let's make a comic character. Pakistan's first super hero(one that's not related to an antibacterial soap)
    You know like captain america! I smell money X D
  • Arsalan:
    No wait that was just a fly caught in my nose
  • Me:
    Hmm, that's a great idea, one you'll now regret. ;)
    I'm going to base Pakwoman on you. A female superhero disguised as a bearded engineer.
    Weakness: flies and pants
  • Arsalan:
    turn ons... women and food : P~
  • Me:
    So a geeky, overweight lesbian, allergic to flies? On second thought, maybe a Pakistani superhero isn't such a bright idea.
  • Arsalan:
    we could give her a cape?
  • Me:
    She'll just make a burqa out of it so what's the use?

So, any sketch artists want to help us out here? We just may be able to find a person matching this profile. Just imagine where we'd be if Pakwoman was real.


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Wednesday 26th August 2009

Linux turns 18


It's finally here. Tux's 18th birthday. It was 18 years ago today, 26th August, that Linux Torvalds unleashed Linux upon the world via this message:

Hello to all those using Minix.

I am creating an operating system (free) (for pure hobby, will not be as
big or professional like gnu) for AT clones 386 (486). I’ve been working
on it since April and is already beginning to be ready. I’d like to get
feedback on what people like / dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it
somewhat (same physical layout of the file system (for practical reasons)
among other things).

So far I’ve ported bash (1.08) and gcc (1.40), and two utilities seem to
work. This means I’ll have something functional in a few months and want
to know what features would be most people. Any suggestion is welcome,
but I can not promise to put them all in practice :-)

Linus Benedict Torvalds

PD. Yes – it’s free minix code, and has a file system thread-safe. It is
NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc.), And probably never work on
something else other than AT hard disks, because it’s all I have :-(

How it has grown from its humble beginnings. I haven't checked the latest statistics, but when someone says server, in most cases you can assume it would be running Linux.

Tux turns 18

Despite its wild success on servers, I'd say Linux has failed on the desktop. If a die-hard fan like myself is considering ditching it in favor of Mac OS or God-forbid, Microsoft Windows, there's definitely something seriously wrong.

Maybe I've just been unlucky, but the recent switch by distributions to the totally useless Pulse Audio system has broken my sound (and that's on different systems, running different distros). Reliable sound was the reason I initially switched to Linux. Too bad the lack of it is forcing me away. Then application support is still a problem. A number of popular apps still don't have a native Linux version, iTunes and Google Chrome being prime examples.

In my older days, I probably would have lived without an unstable Skype or found a way to fix and tweak Pulse Audio (or pry it out and revert to good ol' ALSA). However, the former isn't possible and I just don't have the time for the latter.

Maybe these issues can be sorted out by its 21st birthday, so I won't lose all hope. Happy Birthday and best of luck Linux.

Thanks to for the birthday reminder.


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Posted at 14:23pm PKST  Comments(306) |

Monday 24th August 2009

Renewed hope for Pakistan


For the past couple of years, there hasn't been a lot of positive news coming out of Pakistan and although it has remained quite insulated from the effects of the global recession, things haven't been too rosy.

I was recently reading a nice article on Dawn titled Silly Season in Pakistan that explored the possibility of ridding the country of the current president (don't get your hopes up) and the following part caught by attention:

The macroeconomic indicators have stabilised; inflation is down; the power crisis will ease now that summer is over; suicide bombings are down; a degree of normality is returning to Swat; Baitullah Mehsud is dead and his headquarters in South Waziristan is under siege; the judicial crisis is over; a truce, albeit an uneasy one, is holding in Punjab; the American demands to ‘do more’ against the Taliban are muted; drone strikes are less of a political hot potato; relations with India are edging towards a post-Mumbai phase; parliament is upping its legislative activity — it’s not quite singing-in-the-rain happy, but neither is it the nightmare that was Pakistan in 2007 and 2008.

We have gotten so used to bad news, that we haven't realized that things actually aren't as bad as one might imagine. The wildly unpopular government may be lame sitting ducks, but they must be doing something right.

When I arrived here in 2003, I didn't have much hope for this country. As in the years before that, there wasn't much to be hopeful about. However, the following few years brought about huge, mostly positive, social and economic changes that among other things, provided a lot of hope for the future.

That hope quickly started to fade in the turbulent year that was 2007 and has now pretty much disappeared. Thinking about what the above article said, I have to wonder. Is it time to hope again?


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Posted at 02:28am PKST  Comments(3) |

Friday 14th August 2009

Happy 62nd Independence Day

Pakistan Islamabad

Just got home (at 2am) after being stuck on Islamabad's roads for a few hours. Cars, bikes, vans, you name it; they were all out on the Pakistani flag on a car roads, crawling at a snail's pace and blocking all intersections.

However, it was nothing to be mad about. Pakistan's 62nd independence day is here and the party has just started.

Seeing all these people, one forgets all the trouble this country's been facing. Terrorism, inflation, unemployment, instability; tonight, these appeared to be the last things on anyone's minds.

There were even people riding bicycles while waving the national flag and it's an even bigger celebration than the recent one for the Cricket world cup win.

A friend of mine once called the Americans the most flag-waving nation on earth. Guess he should visit Pakistan on one of these occasions.

This show of spirit, which was partly just letting off some of the pent up steam, is encouraging. I hope we can all continue with such energy and channel it into productive ways.

Congratulations to all Pakistanis for making it this far, despite the odds.


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Monday 10th August 2009

Telenor Persona Weblounge

Pakistan Mobile Web

For the last few years, the growth in Pakistan's telecom sector has been spectacular. Yes, we're still waiting for 3G and there's plenty of room for improvement, but we have one of the fastest growing number of users and among the lowest call rates in the world.

Persona Weblounge

Competition between the various operators has been fierce, but one that has continued to surprise us is Telenor.

It has gained a large chunk of the market in a short time and has usually been the first to introduce a new feature or service. Here is another first.

Along with some prominent bloggers, I was invited to a sneak preview of Telenor's new product that is to be launched in Pakistan today. In a country where it is still very hard to manage anything online (I still have to queue up at the bank or service center to pay most of my bills), the Persona Weblounge lets you do just that and a lot more, all from the comfort of your home.

Looking for a new connection with a golden number or a customized plan? Just select your desired number and complete the online application. Once everything is in order, you'll have your SIM activated and delivered to your doorstep within 48 hours. The same is true for moving your existing number to Telenor (via Mobile Number Portability) or managing the many value added services they have to offer.

The best thing I liked about Telenor was the team's spirit and vision. They seem to be genuinely keen on moving forward and exploring different avenues to expand their services, joining the blogosphere being one of them. Hope they'll continue this trend and also become major sponsors of future blogging events.


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Sunday 9th August 2009

The tech cycle of failure and rebirth


This year has been especially rough for gadgets and tech in general. Murphy's Law has struck not once, not twice, but a number of times and I put it all down to a cycle of life that everything follows.

I lost most of my equipment to power damage a couple of months ago. More recently, I let out my anger and frustrations on the laptop for the last time. Right after doing an SR (long story, but to cut it short, it means bringing one's fist down very hard) on the keyboard, the drive made a click and I witnessed my work grind to a complete halt.

I usually keep enough backups to minimize disruption or downtime, but I was already running in degraded mode with the PC knocked out of service. I had only a couple hours to be fully functional and get back online so I took the fast, but expensive route and got a new power supply, LCD and video card for the PC. Was back to work in a couple of hours, but it cost me and also taught me some cruel lessons.

There is certain data that you usually just don't consider backing up. Drafts for example. I had a number of finished and half-finished blog posts that I was going to eventually post, but are now lost, possibly forever. Photos and videos are another thing that you usually don't bother backing up. Lost a lot of those too.

Anyway, I'm back to redundant mode after getting a new hard disk for the laptop. Both the laptop and the desktop are fully functional and configured to act as the other's backup.

It was around that time when my friend's hosting service wiped lost all of his data, including sites he had been hosting for a lot of other people. Quite an ordeal, especially when you aren't familiar and skilled with the concept of regular, automated backups. The poor guy had to retrieve data from Google cache, but eventually got pretty much everything back. Should have listened when I offered him my mirrored hosting service.

iPhone 3G

Now onto phones. I finally lost my terminally ill and terribly bulky Sony Ericsson P990i. It was already on its last breaths after a fall down the stairs and had had a pretty rough run of over two years. Despite it's numerous flaws and injuries, it had survived until now as my primary camera and as a secondary phone. That's quite impressive, given that I have a history of throwing phones at hard surfaces to relieve stress (I now hit laptops for that).

Anyway, the phone sneaked off somehow while I was at the pool and it gave me an excuse to splurge on an iPhone 3G. And since it hasn't been officially launched in Pakistan, that usually means paying at least twice as much as elsewhere with no warranty. A costly investment, but I'm happy to finally catch up with the rest of the world. It's really great as a phone, though besides that, it's a little more than an expensive toy. I have to wonder if I should have spent that money on an extra laptop.

I still have the Blackberry Curve, which after about a year's use, is also screaming to be replaced. Its keys, one of my favorite reasons to stick with the Curve, have started to fail and I no longer write perfectly spelled, unabbreviated SMSs. The trackball, or pearl, has already been cleaned once, but I've now lost the click in it and have to use the Return key most of the time. Guess will need to do another surgery on it. Was planning on jumping to the Javelin 8900, but after the iPhone, my money can be better spent elsewhere.

Moral of the story: Always be prepared to lose your cool gadgets. They're less faithful than money and thanks to Murphy, they WILL fail. It's just a matter of time.


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