Wednesday, September 29, 2004

PASHA: ICT Awards on Saturday

On Saturday, Pakistan Software Houses Association, the trade body representing ICT companies in Pakistan, is celebrating its first ever awards ceremony.

Nearly 14 awards are being presented to various software houses for their products. See the website for details on nomination. 300 people are expected at the ceremony taking place in Karachi. One of the more interesting cateogries is a prize for student projects and I'm hoping publicity by the media will help both PASHA and educational institutes and varsities to pursue this more actively next year. All details courtesy Jehan Ara, president PASHA. Will bring you up to speed with how the colorful ceremony turned out. If you know students who are interested in volunteering at the event [they are needed on Friday and Saturday], then email me [zd at spider dot tm]. Both the Minister IT and Black Fish are expected to show up ;~)

The only national IT awards Pakistan has seen so far have come from NCR. For the past four years, NCR has celebrated the IT industry's various assortments and achievements including a variety of categories. The process is self-nomination, followed by an evaluation by an NCR selected panel.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Microsoft To Sell Win XP Starter Edition In Russia

Microsoft plans to distribute in Russia the low-cost, stripped-down version of Windows XP, called 'Starter Edition.' This release of Windows is aimed at markets in developing nations, and is known for not allowing more than three aplications to run at the same time and not being networking capable. This product will not be avaiable on retail, but will be distributed by OEM vendors in new PCs, at an aproximate price of US$36. On a side note, the article also states that the MS tax payed by vendors to Microsoft for Windows XP licenses is $70 or more.

Now if only Microsoft had also removed internet access, they would have actually gotten a good sight closer to a truly secure OS! The real question is when will they set up shop in Pakistan? Though 36 dollars is still way to expensive, especially for the limited features this offers. The interesting thing is, considering your average pc is running a ton of spyware/adware programs, even a new installation of this windows will be rendered unusable in about 2 minutes or so of being on the internet. It'll reach the program limit and then... and then what? Since spyware can't be terminated easily, and you won't be able to run an anti-spyware cleaner (remember, 3 programs only) the only remaining is a reinstall every three minutes! Tech support around the world are already cursing Microsoft for this smart move...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Piracy losses in Pk.

According: "to the latest global software piracy study released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a group of the world’s leading software manufacturers, 83 percent illegal software installed on computers last year represented a loss of over $16 million to the Information Technology (IT) sector." Only $16 million? I thought the figure would have been in billions.

NetSol Technologies to Grabs contract with State Bank

NetSol Technologies Inc. has been awarded the contract to design and develop the country's new central banking Electronic Credit Information Bureau (eCIB). The project will enable more than 40 state banks to access credit information electronically, as well as share information with government agencies, other financial institutions and large corporations."

Internet Fraud at AKD Trade

According to this scoop: "Last July some employees at AKD Trade,an Internet trading arm of brokerage house AKD Securities, from the information technology, settlements and trading divisions colluded to conduct unauthorized trade. This resulted in a loss of Rs 29 million of which Rs 9 million has been recovered. Brokers estimate the losses on those trades to amount to Rs 100 million to Rs 150 million.
The Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has asked AKD Trade to submit a report to the apex regulator about this recent incident at the firm."

Want to join Orkut?

Read this by Bill Thompson. Any body who is not on Orkut and still wants to join; email me and give at least one reason for wanting to join. I will send the invitation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ufone to expand its GSM/GPRS Network

"Pak Telecom Mobile Limited (PTML),a wholly owned subsidiary of PTCL, has selected Nortel Networks to expand its Ufone GSM / GPRS network over the next year under agreements estimated at US$125 million. Nortel Networks will upgrade Ufone's existing wireless systems and supply new GSM/GPRS core network and radio access equipment, including Mobile Switching Center, Home Location Register (HLR) and advanced Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).
PTML launched Ufone on January 29, 2001 and, later that year, deployed a GPRS solution to enable a wireless Internet capability. Since its inception, Ufone has been a highly successful venture both in terms of subscriber uptake and network coverage. In its first four months of operation, it attracted some 100,000 subscribers and in its third and most recent expansion, in 2003-4, it raised capacity to over 1.5 million subscribers." Also has anyone noticed that ever since Ufone gave out about 4 lakh free phone connections, one gets frequent network busy messages when trying to make a call?

More evidence of a Google browser

On April 26, 2004, Google registered gbrowser.com. Here's the relevent bit of the WHOIS for gbrowser.com:
Registrant:
Google Inc.
(DOM-1278108)
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View
CA
94043 US

Domain Name: gbrowser.com


Very interesting. Now all Google needs is a instant messenger... a web based word processor and a few other bits and pieces and one could live in a entirely google world. There's more speculation at Slashdot.

Why You Should Never Lose Your Digital Media

What would you do if you found someone's digital media card from their camera in your taxi? One such individual has decided to provide the world with 227 days of entertainment. I Found Some Of Your Life will post a photo a day and accompanying fictional narrative for the next 227 days using the photos found on a digital media card left in a cab. Is it pure genius or pure evil? Who cares? Just be thankful they're not your photos.

Long as it's someone else...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

New DSL service providers

Daily Times reports: "Around 10 Internet service providers are gearing up to launch digital subscriber loop (DSL) based broadband services in 15 cities within one month.Currently, only four major players monopolise DSL-based Internet operations including, Micronet, Multinet, Rafiq Habib and WorldCall. "

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Apocalypse, when?

First it was to be machines vs. us. Then a huge network breakdown. And finally, a computer-assisted [hmm, not sure if I used the right word] terrorist attack that would leave the world in utter darkness. Sci-fi writers are never short of doom theories. But the press picks it up and soon the wires start spilling it out as the last word in science. Intel's CTO is quoted all over the net saying "WWW is 'running up on some architectural limitations'", thanks to spammers. Noticed this one on Slashdot two days ago and I forbid you to go anywhere else for the real story for its there in what the Slashdotters have to say [financial, networking, expansion, technical--they've covered it all] about WWW's ultimate death ;~) Besides, all the online newspapers need a password to get in. In this case, that's a bliss.

I found this one hilarious: "Pentel, the world's leading provider of 0.5mm mechanical pencils has predicted the World Wide Web cannot continue to function at its present level for much longer. Pentel is offering an alternative, called WSD, or Writing Stuff Down, that is virtually immune to scaling problems currently plaguing the Web. Industry experts have been slow to respond to this proposal but their responses are expected any day now, via another new technology called the Post Office."

Internet cities, IT parks and us

Last month, I received a letter from the CEO of National IT Park who said our coverage of the building on Shara-e-Faisal, Karachi was not justified. I was reviewing the actual outcome of setting up such spaces. I visited the 'Park'--five floors dedicated to IT shops in Ceasar's Tower, sponsored by PSEB. Although getting paperwork and KESC to follow through took years, its taken just over 5 months for these floors to be taken over by small offshore BPO/call center units and software houses. Up in Islamabad and Lahore, Software Parks have fared cosiderably better over the years. I suppose the assumption is: if you build it, they will come, as they did.

Sameer just pointed out another 'grand' project: the UAE governemnt will help GoP to build three internet cities [obviously in KHI, LHR and ISL]. According to our fairly new Sindh IT minister, an "arrangement of 200 acres of land in the outskirts of the metropolis for the setting up of internet media city, close to the proposed educational city" has been mapped. Good on us! We are set to follow two remarkable experiments by Dubai [Knowledge Village and Internet City]. Does anyone agree such facilities should not be launched, funded or built without research, or am I being skeptical what's good for UAE [superb infrastructure and delivery] isn't neccessarily good for us?

Carnegie Mellon Receives $20 Million from Bill Gates

Carnegie Mellon University announced today that they have received a $20 million gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build the new "Gates Center for Computer Science".

When Bill Gates made his first visit to Carnegie Mellon's campus last February, he said he believed "the most interesting problem of all in computer science -- the one that's always been the most appealing and the toughest -- is artificial intelligence. Carnegie Mellon...was a pioneer at looking at those problems and thinking about what progress could be made."

Stanford University already has a "Gates Building" for Computer Science. I wonder how many buildings a person could want bearing his name...?

Brazil is the world's Hacking Capital

To all those out there who think they're great hackers, I hate to break it to you... Brazil is the world's Hacking Capital, with 80% of the world's hackers based there. And last year, the number of hack attacks launched from Brazil were six times those launched from any other country!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Broadband over Power Lines

I accidentally discovered that this is quite a hotly debated topic. The idea is instead of physically laying fiber, coax, or some other kind of cable and building a whole new network -- use an existing one. And what is the largest network that already exists in any country? The power grid!

So the idea is to use the already existing power lines to transmit data -- at broadband speeds. Wired has already covered this here. So have ZDNet and PCWorld. Everyone has differing opinions about the idea -- some think it's great while others think it's bad. However, AT&T and PG&E are already running trials for this in Menlo Park, California (which is about 10 minutes from where live -- and I didn't even know about it!).

A Google search for "broadband over power lines" (without the "") will show innumerable results on this topic.

This could really be something great if we can utilize it in Pakistan. WorldCall would no longer need to lay cables anywhere in the country. Where there is bijlee, there will be Internet. The downside, of course, is that when there is no bijlee, then there is no Internet. But when there is no power, you're probably not using your computer anyway.

Worth an article in SPIDER, I think...

Hal named 'top sci-fi moment'

BBC reports here that a panel of experts has decided that the moment when "HAL" goes insane in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey as the most important moment in our science-fiction history.

Personally, I think that "To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before" was the most important moment in sci-fi history. But that's just me.

Another fun fact: The computer was called "HAL" because they took "IBM" and used the previous letter of the alphabet for each of the three letters: "H" comes before "I", "A" comes before "B", and "L" comes before "M".

Booming, yet facing an imminent shortfall!

So yes, India is still booming. However, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) has predicted that despite graduating 2.5 million IT graduates each year, India will face a shortage and could lose market share to other countries.

Can Pakistan be smart enough to capitalize on this? Or do we first need to make a policy on how to do that -- taking long enough on the policy that we lose the window of opportunity?

India is still booming

CNN reports in this article, that India's software industry will grow about 30% in the next fiscal year. In the 2003-04 fiscal year, software exports totalled $12.5 billion. That puts next year at about $16 billion!

Friday, September 10, 2004

A 'spatial challenge' at MIT

MIT spends $3 million to design and construct a 'spatial challenge' so why should educational brands in Pakistan fall shy of such challenges simply to innovate? Rodney Brooks writes a motivating note on the newly built Ray and Maria Stata Center on the MIT campus. Designed by Frank Gehry, it will inspire technophiles who will learn to do/undo traditional approaches to research. That is my humble summary. I encourage you to read his article appropriately titled "The Idea Factory" and see the Center in all its complicated glory.

Should porn have a place in our society?

Did you know that according to BBC statistics, 60 per cent of Internet users in Pakistan regularly visit pornographic websites?
In an essay titled 'The East is Blue', that is also set to published alongside images of American porn stars in a book entitled XXX:Porn star, Salman Rushdie claims "A free and civilised society should be judged on its willingness to accept pornography". In her recent article Miranda Husain, a writer for the Daily times, supports this view saying that "we should perhaps modify Mr Rushdie’s assertion: only a society that accepts the existence of pornography and also accepts the need to promote the forming of emotional bonds between the sexes can be described as a truly free and civilised society." What do you say?



ITU Telecom Asia 2004 Report

Report::
"-South Korea has offered to impart training to 30 Pakistani experts in the broadband, Internet and e-government sector.
-Awais Leghari says Pakistan is aggressively working on the formulation of a broadband policy, which would be out very soon to roll out.
-Awais Leghari offers the Chinese minister to set up software technology parks in Pakistan.
-Advance Communications, an Islamabad-based software company draws appreciation from all the global telecom giants exhibited at the ITU 2004 event."

Call Centers in pk

The daily times reports:
"-The turnover of call centres operating in the country is expected to double to $20 million this year, from $10 million last year, the equivalent of about 9 percent of total software exports of $110 million.
-Of the 90 call centres currently operating in the country, more than 60 were registered in 2004.
-In India IT-enabled businesses is worth $2.8 billion and employs over 285,000 people.
"

9/11 Commission Report Online

For those interested, the 9/11 Commission has published its complete Report online (without any copyrights attached to it), in PDF and HTML formats.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Keeping regulation at bay

It is music to one's ears when regulators talk like this: "Broadband voice services are a new and emerging market," said Stephen Carter, Ofcom Chief Executive. "Our first task as regulator is to keep out of the way."

Ofcom, UK's communication regulator, is currently working on a framework to make voice over telephony services user-friendly and popular. Their plain english summary is worth a read for people not keyed into VoIP.

Solar Powered Computers

Two weeks ago, it was InfoThelas. Now, India is planning to power computers with solar energy in villages where there is either no power or frequent power failures.

Solar energy instead of KESC, anyone?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Political blog?

Unfortunately not yet! This article on BBC News claims that politicians still have a long way to go where blogs are concerned.

The Economist Survey on the Car Industry: Perpetual motion

For much of the 20th century, carmaking was the “industry of industries”. Now it has to reinvent itself, says Iain Carson

Happy Birthday Internet!

Yup, the Net turned 35 on September 2. Here's a short commentary on some of the good stuff it has given us.

SETI@Home Finds E.T.?

How many remember SETI@Home? The first piece of software that used some real distributed computing world-wide? Well, it may have found extra-terrestrial life somewhere out in the universe.

CNN reports here that a signal has been picked up three times, causing great excitement amongst astronomers world-wide. However, SETI@Home's Chief Scientist is claiming that these reports are highly exaggerated.

E.T. Phone Home?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A new blog-related service

There seems to be no dearth of websites offering services to track visitors coming to a certain blog. However, Blabble seems to be a little different. According to a Yahoo news item, "Blabble releases beta of blog tracking service", this new service can "track, aggregate and evaluate opinions from more than two million blogs."

Dealing with spam email

Microsoft has come up with a new way of tackling spam email: authenticating email users by a sender ID. However, in this article Keeping How the Net Works Open to All, the writer argues that this new way to combat spam email is actually bad news for the Internet users, and yet another way being adopted by Microsoft to monopolise power on the Net.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Cybercafes

Can anyone guess when/where the first cybercafe opened in Karachi [or Pakistan]? Any intelligent guesses are welcome.

I first spotted one in 1996 [main University Road, Karachi] and started using it. I had heard of singer Shehki's cybercafe in Clifton earlier, though can't recall when.

This BBC news item says the first cybercafe opened in Britain 10 years ago. I found the news item more interesting because within the report, the webmaster has inserted a note asking if the reader is in a cybercafe: "Are you reading this in an internet cafe? If so, tell us where and what it's like. Send us a picture too."
Cool! The response this news item generated has been significant so far. This is how a news organization is supposed to serve its community today--by involving them.

CDMA2000 1X Data Services Come to Pakistan

Telecard has launched what is the first CDMA2000 1X Data Service in Pakistan. Using its digital CDMA2000 platform which offers fixed (land line) telephone services topped with digital services like VMS, SMS etc, Telecard is now offering Internet services to its WLL customers.

The users can buy scratch cards from retail outlets for use with their CDMA 1X terminals. The connection is portable and offers a better-than-dialup experience to the users. Due to the regulatory fact that Telecard is a WLL license holder, the service is currently not available through a CDMA PC card that could slide into the notebooks of the roadwarrior although there is technically no bar in having that available. The product is similar to the GPRS service provided by Ufone, one of the cellular service provider but the user experience is far superior as GPRS service is limited to 20 kbps while the CDMA2000 1X users can experience up to 153 kbps (bundle of 17 channels of 9.6 kbps each) while using Internet.

In the next upgrade which is already underway with the help of Lucent's solution, Karachittes would be able to enjoy the upgraded version of CDMA2000 EVDO which offers an average 600 kbps of end user experience over the same infrastructure.

The cellular coverage is currently out-door only and is somewhat patchy with the network rolled out keeping in view the voice aspect of the business. However, as the company puts up more base stations, coverage is expected to get better.

Microsoft Launches MSN Music

Microsoft vs. Apple

MSN Music vs. iTunes

IBM Recalls Notebook Adapters

Affects IBM ThinkPad i Series, 390 and 240 Series and s Series notebooks mostly in the Asia-Pacific region. Free adapters exchange program. Read more.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Tecnomen to deliver MMSC and VMS for Telenor

While there can be too much information about who is signing up with whom and for what, my thanks to our friend Murali in Isloo for pointing this one out.

"Telenor Pakistan and its network infrastructure provider Siemens Information and Communication Mobile have chosen Tecnomen to supply its Voice Mail System (VMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service Centre (MMSC). Delivery will take place this month."

A Whole City Going Wi-Fi

And not just some small city, mind you. CNN reports in this article, that the city of Philadephia is considering providing wireless internet access over 136 square miles! It will either be free, or significantly cheaper than commercial broadband that is currently available. One of the aims is to make high-speed internet cheap (or free) for poor neighborhoods. They're planning to install their transmitters on lampposts.

That reminds me of a company I interviewed with once -- Metricom. In those days, Wi-Fi and GPRS were unheard of. 3G cellular technology was just beginning to make some news. Metricom would install their transmitters on lampposts too, and provide 128K of bandwidth. But then the world caught up to Metricom. They filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

India to construct five IT parks in Iran

IT parks in Iran:: "Besides providing training to 5,000 people the project will set the stage for creating 300,000 jobs in local industrial sector worth 300 million dollars"

Muslim marriages over the net declared illegal

According to this report: "The decree came in response to a question asked by a man in Pakistan. Mohammad Zahirullah Haqqani, of a seminary called Darul Uloom Haqqaniya of Naushera town in Pakistan, had sent a query to Deoband. He sited an example of a Muslim man in the US who married a woman in Pakistan over the Internet. The two saw each other through a web camera and spoke to each other by voice mail. They then got married over the Internet.Haqqani asked Deoband scholars if the nikah was valid.
At the department of fatwa in Deoband, the committee comprising Maulana Mahmood Hassan, Maulana Zafiruddin and Maulana Habibur Rehman pronounced the nikah invalid."

Innovative 'spam'

Haven't come across this one before: "I have visited this website and I found you in the spammer list. Is that true?" The email came with a virus attached to it. I say, these guys are getting creative with their writing skills.