From https://www.flickr.com/photos/49889874@N05/6101434856/

Will you miss your password?

Companies are conspiring to kill the password. Bill Gates predicts its death will come soon. Smartphones and soon tablets equipped with fingerprint and eyeball scanners are the answer. With recent internet security flaws, everyone is asked to change their passwords, and in many sites, it is getting more and more impossible to come up with memorable password. Your password now must be more than 8 characters, with upper case, lower case, numerals, and special characters. Good luck remembering it next time you login. The “Forget Password” became one of the most important features of sites with the complexity of passwords.

Although security experts warn against it, many people still use names that are special to them, significant dates or someone, or favorite things (TV, Movie, object, etc..) to help them remember. Few bother to use password managers and random password generators and have passwords like yQLttMZ1jm!QA3.

But reading the news I couldn’t help remembering my early password choices, and how I choose words that are linked with a memory I wanted to keep, or an object I was attached to. Back then “Remember Me” feature wasn’t there, and you will have to enter the password daily, or perhaps hourly if you are using command line as I did.

Will passwords be missed? or everyone is waiting for it’s death along with ATM Pin codes?

Arab Commons

When you follow someone like Anas Tawileh, one won’t be surprised of where he will head next. Never I saw of him anything less than determination and hardware to make it work. “It” here is “Open Source, Open Content, Open Standards” or in one word, Openness. The most recent project he is in, is Arab Commons.

Arab Commons project aim to promoting “Creative Commons” and it’s use in Arab world. The site work on indexing and listing creative work, of art, science, and literature, from Arab creative people, who placed it under the open license of “Creative Commons”. Many Blogs in the Arab workds are under Creative Commons license. As well, most of the photographs taken by many of our best photographers are under Creative Commons in Flickr. I will would like to urge you all to list your creative “products” in Arab Commons, and help make this project succeed.

Skype in Jordan: Back online

I noticed it yesterday, and it is confirmed now (Thanks Ahmad), the TRC (Telecommunications Regulatory Commission) reversed their bad decision of blocking Skype. It seems that Skype is no longer a security threat.

اللهم احفظ اردننا سالما من كل شر ومكروه وسكايب وياهو وجوجل وماسينجر و……

God keep our Jordan safe from any Harm, or Evil, or Skype, or Gtalk, or Yahoo Messenger, or MSN Messenger, or…..

Skype Blocked in Jordan: A Big Step Backward

A coworker informed me today that few days ago, the site of Skype (http://www.skype.com ) is no longer accessible from Jordan. It seems that they are following the steps of countries that live in the dark ages when it comes to Internet. To confirm that you don’t have a “Network Error” or that the site is down, and that the site is actually blocked, try to use any of the Internet Anonymizer services (http://www.freeproxy.ru/en/free_proxy/cgi-proxy.htm ) and see how you will be able to access it.

What really aches me the most, is that Jordan was really one of the countries that have the highest level of freedom of access in the Internet, and even daring to block sites to protect the commercial interests of few companies is the worst thing that could happen to our Internet industry. I really hope that some reasoning and sanity get to the heads of the decision makers in Jordan. The Internet is Free, I can still get the skype client from 10s of other sources, and I can make calls using 100s of applications, the only way I would use licensed services by companies in Jordan is if they give me same level of service with lesser price, and we know that this will never happen.

UPDATE: the block seems to effect the ability to download Skype client, and not using it for those who already downloaded it. So, for those who are already using Skype, it seems that they can continue to do so, but without the ability to download, or update their Skype Client.

UPDATE2: Thanks Omar, here is the official letter confirming that the block was requested from the Telecomunication Regulation Commission:

TRC Skype Block Letter

Searching in Arabic ? Use Araby.com

ArabyBeing first is nothing new to Maktoob, the provider of the first arabic email service.. Early this morning the Arabic Search Engine Araby.com making it the first arabic search engine. Samih Toukan, CEO of Maktoob announced it in his blog few hours ago.

Wait a minute! you are saying first ? there were search engines before.. or at least attempts .. Well, yes, I am saying first. The “Search Service” attempts that was before didn’t succeed, mostly because of the lack of coverage, lack of funding, or the lack of Arab language understanding. Many “Directory Search” sites pretended to be Web Search, while it was far from it. A Directory search have records of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of sites, with their information, and when you search, you match the site information. A search engine is far more than that, it is covering 10s of millions of Arabic pages, and storing relations between pages, and links between them, and different forms of the texts in the body, and more.. all that to bring a speedy and accurate search results.

Now I must say that I had been involved in Araby for the last months, and so, you might not take my word for it, but I am telling you, when it comes to searching in Arabic, Araby.com is by design, and practice a powerful engine. A query and a document goes through several stages of linguistic analysis and modification to provide users with the best and maximum matches possible. Can you remember the number of times you search in arabic in the global search engines such as Google (which I adore) or Yahoo, and turned down with poor results due the possible variations of Arabic language. try to search for any word in google, and put a simple Harakat, Hamza on Alef, or other variation, and notice the drastic difference in results. For someone to “claim” to be best in Arabic, those need to be taken in consideration, and we did.

One thing that a blogger will be familiar with in the home page of Araby is the Top Searches, in a “Tag Cloud”, as well, we implemented many Web 2.0 design and technology concepts, that should maximize the user experience. Another thing that a visitor will notice is that there are different search “types” or as they are called around here “Verticals”, the verticals where designed according to user feedback, and knowledge of Arabic web, which Maktoob have. Islamic, Blogs, Forums, Pictures, and News could be considered the first set of verticals that are designed for Arab users.

One thing for sure, Araby.com, and the verticals in it have a long way to go with development, We only released early to give users a peak into what is cooking, and get feedback on it. So, please send it forward.. and pass it forward.. I can tell you with complete confidence that the next very few weeks still have many features and enhancements that didn’t make it to the beta launch, so stay tuned, and make sure to bookmark it :)

Apple in Jordan: Premium Prices, for Sh*ty Support

OK, I had it, I can’t stand this anymore, and I got to spill it out. I love my Macbook Pro, and I can’t imagine how I was computing before it. But, the level and quality of support an Apple user get in Jordan is basically, the worst anyone can get.

I bought my Makbook Pro as soon as it was available, and I was from those unlucky ones with a defect in the battery, where the machine randomly shutdown when it was getting near being empty. As well, a dent or a swallow in the back of the battery appeared, looked like it is gonna explode, and dangerous to use. So I stopped using the battery, and went looking for Apple support in Amman. That was around the 1st of June 2006.

First stop was a shop in Swaifiyeh, that identifies itself as an Apple Reseller, and Support provider. Went to them, they checked the laptop serial number, and they reported back “Your laptop is not covered with support, replacing the battery will be 200JDs” (That is 300$USD), WHAT ! I asked “Is my laptop less than 2 months old”, they answered “Yes”, I asked again “Is there an Apple Laptop that is sold without Warranty”, they said “No”, “So How-come my Laptop isn’t covered with support” .. no answer.. So, I left the shop, and went to the other Apple Provider located in Abdali.

There was a totally different experience, it seems to me that the people there know what they are doing, but the package (offices, dress-code, etc..) isn’t as pretty as the shop in Swaifiyeh, but it didn’t matter, I wanted the battery replaced. The guy there entered the laptop serial number, saw the same message that the other store saw about coverage, and smiled “It seems that the shop you bought your Laptop from didn’t fill your purchase information, or it didn’t sync yet with Apple Database” and they asked me for the contact information for the shop I bought from, and photo copied the invoice, and told me “It will take 6-8 weeks to have the battery arrive”.. that was June 5th.

Since then I had been using the laptop without a battery, I can tell you that the MagSafe works.. I lost count of the number of times that my laptop went dead because the power connector popped up and disconnected because of a movement near the laptop, it is supposed to “protect” the laptop from being cough up with the power wire if someone or something pull it off, but it ended up as the reason I have countless improper shutdowns for the machine.

Now, I had been emailing the Apple Agent in Amman almost weekly, asking them with an update, and getting answers such as “We made the Order”, “We are waiting for Approval”, “It is being shipped”, “It reached Dubai”, “it should come next week”, “it didn’t come with this shipment, maybe with the next one in few weeks”, etc… It had been 3 months now (13 weeks), and I am still waiting.. What bugs me the most, is that a client in USA, who probably have double my income, and payed for the same Laptop half the price I payed, is getting his battery exchanged in 2-3 days using mail, or immediate if he heads to one of the Apple stores or authorized service centers. Why is that ? Is the problem with Apple, focusing on US? and leaving their customers in this region under the mercy of bad service, or it is our problem for asking for a premium service when paying premium prices ? Tell you what, I don’t want premium service, I just want a service, any service.

UPDATE: After 4 months 9 days, and more than 50 follow up call, I got the battery, at Oct 16th.. At last, my Apple Portable is portable.

Allah Ywafgak

Is it just me, or there is a big spike in begging in the streets of Amman ? I just took 3 minutes walk, from office, to super market, back to the office, and I was stopped and interrupted by: One Young Man who need 1JD to get back to Gwaismeh (Meskeen, Magtoo3, and can only use taxis it seems), 2 ladies ( separately) – each with a baby- asking me for money to feed the baby, and last, one lady without a baby (maybe it is not her turn to use the baby today).

If there is one thing that I believe in more than Open Source, then it is that those beggars are big manipulative liars, every and each one of them, no exclusions.. and they come in different packages:

  • This-is-my-first-time-asking-for-money needing money for transportation type
  • Feed my baby (using own or rented baby)
  • I lost a leg, or can’t walk type (there is this one in Shmaisani that I see in the same place for years, near the bird park)
  • knock-knock-give-me-food-at-Iftar-time-in-Ramadan type
  • and so on

There are many other derivatives and mixtures of the above basic-types.. it can differ according to location, such as in front of a mosque, or near the burier places at funeral times, and so on.. and they are all big “thin” liars.. call me cruel, but I would never give a penny to any of them. If one is to help, then there are trusted organization, that take donations, and take the extra effort of checking the illegibility of those asking for money, and it is those organization that should be given money regularly, and not those pretending to wipe your windshield at a traffic light.

Allah ywafegko, don’t give money to any of those..

PS. to check the street I got 4 beggars in less than 100 meters, it is near the fifth circle, in front of the Sheraton.. Near Hotels .. mm.. interesting coincident ..

Lose the CAPs

If there is one thing I hate the most when chatting to someone, that is IF THEY HAVE THE CAPS KEY ON, AND NOT NOTICE HOW ANOYING IT IS. But I never those of having a campaign to ask hardware vendors to remove Caps Lock from the keyboard. But Someone did. CapsOff is a group created to campaign for this noble cause, which remind me of another noble cause of Banning the use of Comic Sans. Such causes makes me feel that the world is in good shape. Keep it up, and let’s have a Caps-free Comic-free computing.

Iranian President new Blog

I know I haven’t written for a while, but I found a certain piece of news about a new blog for Ahmedi Nejad the Iranian president. It seems that the blog was announced in official news agencies. Now I must admit that the Iranian blog movement had always fascinated me. What amazes me is how it was “embraced” by the government in Iran in a way that no other country did. I even read earlier last year that the ministry of culture organized a “Blog Awards”.. imagine this, it is amazing..

The way I see it, it is the smartest middle-eastern country when it comes to dealing with blogs.. instead of “blocking” it, and making it a taboo, they made it “pro-government”.. so the “anti-government” voices in the blogosphere will just fade in the waves blogs that are pro-gov. Now that’s smart.. The number of blogs in Iran today are in the 100s of thousands last I heard from my friend Hoder when he was in Amman. Now, I am not sure if the Iranian experience on blogs could be implemented in other countries, and infact I am not sure I want it to.. So far we are enjoying the government ignorance, blindness, or dismissal of blogs, it gave us a space that we might not have if they paid attention…

So let them stay away o ghanilo..

Elephants Dream: The first 3D open movie

I am currently downloading “Elephants Dream” (http://www.elephantsdream.org), which is an Open 3D movie made using only Open Source tools (Mainly Blender for 3D work). It is the result of about 1 year of work, coordinated by Blender Foundation, community-financed, and supported by Netherlands Media Art Institute. “Open Movie” means that is is licensed under an Open Content license, which is Creative Commons, which basically allows you to “freely reuse and distribute this content, also commercially, for as long you provide a proper attribution”.
What caught my eyes is that the director of the picture is a Syria-born Bassam Kurdali (Link1, Link2, Link3 (not working as I write this) ) who seems to be a seasoned animator. So I was double proud of the movie (first of using Open Source tools, and second for an Arab Director).

As I said, I am currently downloading the movie, and I invite you to do so, but I would like to ask you to download it using the torrent file instead of the direct download. All you have to do, is to download the small torrent file available in Elephants dream site, and use one of BitTorrent clients to open it, and it will start downloading, you can select any of the following torrent clients (BitTorrent, Azureus, BitTorando). When you download the movie using torrent, you help the project by saving them bandwidth, and you might as well get higher speeds there there are enough people “seeding” the file. You can as well buy the DVD to enjoy watching it, along with the special features, and support the project.

I will be reviewing the picture one I watch it, so stay tuned (as if I am a credible reviewer)

Fake News? what’s new ?

I was reading a story in the Independent about an investigation that is taking place in USA by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) about having news stations air “fake news reports” about the success of war in Iraq, that was tailored by Bush adminstration, and corporates that have businesses in Iraq.

I am not sure why I wasn’t surprised, when I first read it I thought “so, where is the story?”, doesn’t this really fit with the consperency theory that we all believe in ? Anyhow, for some unknown reason I remembered a certain article that I read some time ago in Alghad (Arabic).

Google Translates Arabic

Google introduced the ability to translate from and to Arabic/English. I first heard about it last year, from my friend Basem, and it was until I saw it, and tested it, that I knew it is a good translation tool.

To test it, I used a text from BBC (Arabic and English News) about a recent car bombing. I started with the Arabic-English. I used text from this news piece (81 Words):

أفاد مراسلنا في العاصمة العراقية بغداد أن انفجار سيارة مفخخة في مدينة كربلاء أدى إلى مقتل عدد من الأشخاص لم تعرف بعد حصيلتهم وإصابة عدد آخر بجروح نقلا عن مصادر رسمية عراقية. وكانت مصادر في الشرطة العراقية قد أعلنت أن سيارة مفخخة انفجرت قرب محطة حافلات رئيسية في وسط كربلاء وقرب مقر المحافظة. وتقع كربلاء على مسافة 110 كيلومترات جنوبي بغداد، وتضم بعضا من أهم الأضرحة المقدسة عند الشيعة، وقد شهدت في الآونة الأخيرة عددا من الهجمات والتفجيرات التي شنها مسلحون.

And it was translated as (101 Words):

A correspondent in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, a car bomb explosion in the city of Karbala which killed a number of people did not know yet hard and wounding a number of others were injured, quoting official Iraqi sources. The sources in the Iraqi police have announced that a car bomb exploded near the main bus station in the center of Karbala, near the headquarters of the governorate. Karbala, located at a distance of 110 kilometers south of Baghdad, including some of the most sacred shrines in Shia We have recently witnessed a number of attacks and bombings mounted by gunmen.

It seems that the system was able to translate the text with above average accuracy. The English translated text although contained some grammatical mistakes, was generally readable, and one could understand the context of.

For the English-Arabic translation, I choose a different kind of article, a Blog post by Natasha.. The original text goes like this:

After nearly six months absence, Mental Mayhem’s opinion poll is back. The topic this week is the ongoing Hamas debacle. So far the poll’s results are in favor of the Jordanian government version of the story. Part of me wants to believe yesterday’s airing of the confessions of Hamas members on Jordan’s national TV would alter the opinions of skeptics out there. But I think I might be mistaken. A quick sift through the comments posted on different Jordanian blogs here and here and on my own blog seems to prove otherwise. Sadly enough, and for reasons I won’t get into now, it seems that there is a segment of society that insists upon doubting anything coming from the Jordanian government — no matter what; even if it involves their own security.

I wonder if those that continue to deny Jordan was eyed by some Hamas members as a possible military target have forgotten that Jordan was recently attacked. Jordan has been — and still is — a target. That’s the sad reality we have to grasp. Whether the perpetrators were Alqaeda or Hamas, I believe Jordanians should stand up and condemn these attempts instead of resorting to the old Middle Eastern option: embracing conspiracy theories.

As for the translation:

بعد غياب نحو سته اشهر والفوضي العقليه في استطلاع للراي عاد. موضوع هذا الاسبوع الجاري حماس الكارثه. حتي في نتاءج الانتخابات لمصلحه الحكومه الاردنيه روايه القصه. من يريد ان يري لي امس بث اعترافات اعضاء حماس في الاردن في التلفزيون الوطني ان تغير اراء المتشككون الي هناك. لكن اعتقد ان الخلط. سريع خلال التدقيق تعليقات علي موقع مختلف الاردنيه بلوغس هنا وهنا بمفردي بلوغ يبدو ان يثبت خلاف ذلك. المحزن ، ولاسباب لن ندخل في الان ، يبدو ان هناك شريحه من المجتمع الذي يصر علي الشك في صدور اي شيء من الحكومه الاردنيه — مهما. حتي ولو كان ينطوي علي امنها. اتساءل اذا ما واصل رفض الاردن مراقب بعض اعضاء حماس علي هدف عسكري يمكن ان ننسي ان الاردن مءخرا لهجوم. فقد ظل الاردن — وما زال — هدفا. وهذا الواقع المءلم وفهمه. اذا كان مرتكبو القايدا او حماس اعتقد ان الاردنيين الوقوف وادانه هذه المحاولات بدلا من اللجوء الي الخيار القديم الشرق الاوسط : تبني نظريات المءامره.

Not that good, I am not sure why, but the output text contains many spelling mistakes.. most of them are related to the Hamza. According to sources, people working on the Arabic translation for Google are not native speakers of the language, nor with good knowledge of it.. if that is the case, I think that the output is acceptable. It is worth noting that it translated “Blog” to “بلوغ” which is a transliteration of the world rather than a translation.Google marks Arabic translation as BETA, so it is right assume that it will be better in the near future. I think that such service will be of great value to the arabic internet audience, as it will help opening more doors, and lowering the language barrier for them.

Syndroms

It seems that as Nader got cured from his Draft-but-not-publish syndrome, I caught it up. I discovered that my latest post was more than a month ago, and what’s worse, it was about IE7 :) Now, since then I wrote many drafts for posts, about several topics: Google Arabic translation, how excited I am about my new laptop, about my observations for the interview with slashdot a couple of months ago, the latest meeting for JP, and so on.. but they never got published because I was either too lazy, or found them not good enough.

Which brings me to another related “Syndrome” that I caught from some bloggers. The “I-can’t-write-because-I-am-so-exposed” Syndrome. For those who didn’t notice, some JP members contact us everynow and then asking for their removal from the planet. It seems that the exposure that Jordan Planet gives to them, makes them think more than once before hitting the publish key. While there are always the brave of us who are always willing to hit “Publish” regardless, other think twice, and then save as draft or delete. While this was a known issue even before the exposure that JP might give, it seems that JP only made it worse. I am not sure if I do have such issue, but I am sure that many do, so why not me :)

Last, but not least, I have the can’t-follow-up-with-everything syndrome. Probably this comes from bad personal organization and management. I know that many of my readers are waiting or expecting something from me: Ohoud on the Bookclub, Laith on another matter, Ammar, Lina, Salam and the list go on and on.. not counting those who submitted their blogs to JP, and wait for the slightest indication that their blog submission was read by someone :)

Now, I will be working on having my long draft list published, and the queue of people waiting for something from me shortened. And hopefully this post will make me overcome such fear-to-publish issue if it exists.

Jordan Planet and IE7

A couple of weeks ago, we got a very interesting email from the “Contact Us” in Jordan Planet site:

Topic : RSS Feed issue with IE7
Message : I’m a Program Manager for RSS on the Internet Explorer team.  I’m contacting you because we have received a report that your website’s RSS feed is not compatible with Internet Explorer 7, and we’d like your cooperation in resolving this issue.
The feed in question is: http://www.jordanplanet.net/rss20.xml

On investigating, we discovered that your feed contains a reference to a DTD (Document Type Definition) used to help XML parsers with validation of the document.  However, DTD validation is a potential source of a security issues for XML parsers, and they are not required for RSS feeds, so Internet Explorer’s parser rejects all feeds that contain references to DTDs.

The DTD reference is not necessary for your feed to work in either Internet Explorer or any other aggregator. To enable users to subscribe to your feed in Internet Explorer 7, simply remove the reference to the DTD.
Please feel free to contact me about this.

Now, I was surprised that anyone from Microsoft would bother to check or send me a report about the feed of Jordan Planet.. So, in appreciation of thier time, I spent some time researching about it. I didn’t find any mention of that “security issue”. It seems that all Drupal-based sites (including the popular news site The Onion which uses Drupal as well) have this DOCTYPE/DTD declaration in their feeds.. So, basically, IE7 (according to the Program Manager for RSS in IE7) won’t work with Drupal feeds :)

As non-sense as this seems to me, I removed the DOCTYPE/DTD declaration from JP feeds.. I might return it soon though, as thinking more about it, the feed is XML/RSS valid, and it doesn’t make sense that IE7 completely ignore the feed just because it have a DOCTYPE/DTD declaration.  They can just ignore checking the DTD they are very worried about security.

On another note: 59.9% of Jordan Planet visitors use IE, 22.1% Firefox 1.5, 7% Firefox 1.0,  3% Mozilla 5.0..

Slashdotted?

More than a month ago, I got an email from an old friend, Robin Miller (Roblimo) of OSTG checking on me, and asking me if I might be interested in having an interview for one of my daily visits and favorites, Slashdot. Happily I agreed, and I was delighted and overwhelmed by the questions that slashdotters asked in the question collection post. Today, the answers of the top 12 rated questions were published. One must be glad to see his name in one of his favorite sites. Thanks Roblimo, Thanks Slashdot.