Thursday, November 5, 2009

Internet 4.0: Out of the Stone Age (Second Draft)

(This is an enhanced version of the my earlier post with the results of your comments and my discussions with friends).
With the relatively rise of online social networks and it's uncontrolable availability to vulnerable users (children, teenager and even people with low or no technical background) exposed a huge privacy concerns for everyone. Your data that your putting on the internet are available one way or another to almost everyone. Along with web giants such as Google and Facebook keeping track of every click you make for either targeted services or anonymized purposes. And that made me ask one basic question:
Do they have the right to know all my internet behaviour ?
Lets first state some important definitions that we'll need.
My behaviour is what I the links I click on the internet to browse the web to check, read and edit free online content.
My service request is the link I click to ask some service provider to make something for me.
My main goal is to make my behaviour totally private (owned by me) and my services request authenticatable and both "anonyimizably" trackable (we don't won't google search to fail). So lets see how this can happen.
What I am proposing is an ID that's connected to the internet 24/7 where ever it is. This ID acts as a single point of access to your whole online life from your name, date of birth and picture to your browsing habits and computer and TV preferences to social security number and credit card number.
I guess such a device can have a lot of criticism so let's answer the ones I got so far one by one,
Browsing the Internet:
The major two issues that are of concern here are Behavioural data and Web Pages Personalization that is based on tracking such behavioural data. What's happening now that data about what EXACTLY I am doing on the internet is tracked one way or another by some service and if someone can put all this data together can know exactly my behaviour and use that data the way he wants or event sell it.
This data belongs to me so what I am suggesting here is that each individual behaviour data is processed online and the extracted information should be saved into his ID. That way as an internet baby with no data about you (no character built yet) your ID will start gaining some character using the data that's processed while you are surfing the internet.
As for personalization, a web advantage that we can't afford to lose, web sites can query you ID for the characteristics it's looking for. Standardizing those characteristics should help the spreading of those IDs and make using them easier. 
Shopping Online:
This activity is one basic example of a service request. Those services will need some kind of authentication so that we won't have fake IDs and impersonations with identity theft issues. Other services that will need authentication are location and country based services.
Facilitating such service will make online identity theft a more difficult job for hackers as it for thieves that that are trying to break into a secured house without the proper keys.
The need for a centralized state:
The previous point exposed a very essential issue that such a system will need to gain the trust of the users and the services providers. Having a centralized trusted centre for issuing and maintaining those IDs linking them to their true owners where you can renew and update you basic information. Also where you can track people with criminal records, bank records and other official and important records. That way service providers will be able to trust ID owners if they checked with clean records from that central point.
There are two rules that such a central point should follow, the first is having only the data needed to authenticate incoming IDs, it shouldn't contain data about their behaviour or services request. Think about it in the way the government keep track of social security numbers and driving licenses.
The second rule is having really secured links between that central point and service providers. Strict laws should be made for the violation of the terms of use of such links.
Using Multiple Devices (Extending the idea, a little):
I can imagine such a person carring such an ID and setting in front of his TV and immediately loads his TiVo programs without a click on the remote. Then, he moves toward his computer and it welcomes him while opening his front page. Then while surfing all the websites pops data and advertisement that are meant only for that person. Other websites that he never visited before use the character he already created to help him have a more personalized experience, helping him save time and money by poping only stuff that it knows he'll need.
Also that ID can start processing the data it has to extract information that a single behaviour monitor wouldn't have figured out.
Implementation:
Implementations suggested in "Privacy, Cost, and Availability Tradeoffs in Decentralized OSNs" such as having machines on the clouds or personal computers should work fine. But what I can imagine is a device as small as a flash drive that is connected to the internet through WiMax coverage and with all you data on it. That device have WiFi and Bluetooth cards to help it connect with different devices and a small processor to interact with all that environment around it.
Conclusion:
This system tries to map the world we already live in to the online world. We managed to have a very private real world and with the help of new technologies we're making it more secured and more private and yet leaving our online identities totally exposed. This system will need a lot of work to even come near being a reality but the technology needed is already here, all we need is to realize the value of our privacy and being identified as a single person online.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting over stone age of the internet: discovering agriculture and building homes

If you look at the current internet, giving its age and the type of problems it's facing, you can see clearly that we're still in the middle of, what I'd like to call it, the stone age of the internet.
We're talking about a technology that's only 30 years old, it has yet a lot of potentials to be discovered and drawbacks and problems to be solved. The problem I want to expose here is privacy. I'd like to compare the real stone age (5000 years B.C.) to the internet stone age (1985 to 2009).
The stone age:
During the stone age humans lived in the forests and took cover in caves from the rain, they lived in tribes that shared the same interest and cared for each other's interests. Communication between those tribes was almost impossible and they probably fought over everything (territory, food, women, etc). They slept right there in the open thinking that they are well protected that way. Invented some traps and protection systems to protect them and maybe considered those who got eaten by predators just flows in the protection system they had and they probably had their engineers work on that flow. By the end of the stone age humans made some of the most important discoveries in the history and those were agricultural and building homes. Sick of being exposed to all what nature had hidden for them, they built homes to protect themselves from the predators that intentionally meant to hurt them and other occasional incidents such as rain. Building homes close together they formed cities with a great building in the middle of the city forming the city hall. That city hall is were messengers from other cities went to communicate with that city.
The internet stone age:
I think by now the analogy should be a little bit clear. We're now creating profiles leaving them exposed one some public servers with some security and privacy measures that are broken and patched all the time. Leaving the data of our teenagers exposed to all kind of e-predators and think by having that easily breakable privacy measures we're doing our best. Also we're scattering our information amongst different social networks and services that can't really agree on a way to communicate and that most of the time are fighting over the money coming from the ads business.
We're basically making one "Ahmed Saeed" appear to be 5 different persons because he has 5 accounts on different social networks and services. And by that we're wasting the precious data that can be inferred by knowing that those 5 men are basically the same (Google is working on that but it's just another patch). On the other hand, this "Ahmed Saeed" is leaving his data out there for people he don't know to use in all sorts of ways.

I guess we're close to getting out of the internet stone age as the work suggested in "Privacy, Cost, and Availability Tradeoffs in Decentralized OSNs" published in Sigcomm's WOSN 2009 suggests what's near to discovering homes in the stone age. Probably over time we'll start building homes that are sustainable and reliable to provide us with the online cities we all dream of.

Trying to order the new Ubuntu CD and that's what I get

Demand for Ubuntu CDs is very high, and we're trying to ensure that we have enough CDs for those who really need one. We've noticed that you've already received CDs of several previous Ubuntu releases. You can help us ensure the continued availability of Ubuntu CDs by

* upgrading to the new release without a CD
* downloading your own CD for free
* becoming an Ubuntu member by contributing to Ubuntu, and thereby becoming eligible for more CDs

Thanks for your support of Ubuntu!


I am sure they are trying to do there best but my point of view that people with longest history with Ubuntu are the best candidates to share the CDs with others. Maybe I am wrong but I just want a CD :(

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Video Segmentation: Science fiction coming true

First I'd like to define roughly what video segmentation is then talk about it in more technical details.
The term video segmentation is used with two applications in mind, the first making a long video short by extracting the key shots and images and puting them in a sequence summarizing the long video. So you can think of it as making movies trailers automatically.
The other is extracting the objects that were shot in a video and tracking them through a series of shots; in short making videos of the objects in one big video. So you can think of it as Arnold Schwarzenegger moving as the terminator identifying objects with his "eyes" and getting data about objects he's seeing.
Both problems are challenging and interesting but I'll focus more on the challenges faced when developing algorithms for the second definition.

If you used Photoshop ever then you must have done some image segmentation before. If you still don't know what I am talking about, remember the magic tool. Using that tool you can select objects in a certain image almost automatically. A lot of technquies have been developed for that problem and they are quite useful now. But lets think how complicated it can get with it turns into a moving objects.
A simple answer to the problem would be, video is just a series of images so we can just keep selecting the object in all of those frames.
Simply doing that will raise a question, how can you know that the object you're selecting now is the same object you selected in the previous frame?
Objects tend to move, backgrounds do the same thing and both tend to have at some points parts that make them look as if they were the same objects.
Also objects tend to intersect and hide behind one another making it look as if objects are disappearing.
Another important behaviour is that most objects change the way they look (think of a rubber ball).
With all of those consideration in mind, developing an algorithm that does object identification, object tracking and event detection becomes a very interesting and difficult task.
To wrap it up, I'll give a simple example which I guess must be using video or at least image segmentation. Digital Cameras, cool new digital cameras can detect faces and track them while them camera is moving. Just add some face recognition system and you got yourself a first component of terminator's system :D

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ACMQ: By engineers for engineers

I have joined the ACM recently and I received by first CACM magazine two days ago. I found an interesting ad while reading and it was about a magazine called ACM Queue; I have heard about ACM magazines before but not this one so I thought I should check it out and I guess you should too.
ACMQ is the ACM's magazine for practising software engineers [1]. So it has major guys talking about cuting edge technologies in a very informative way with a very wide spectrum of topics covered.
Not only ACMQ has articles but it also has some cool audio and video casts and Planet Queue. Planet Queue is is an aggregation of practitioner-oriented blogs written by the Queue author community (close to 400 and growing) [2].
The bottom line is go there and start reading :D.

[1] About ACM Queue http://queue.acm.org/whatisqueue.cfm
[2] About Planet Queue http://queue.acm.org/aboutplanetqueue.cfm

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change and International Day of Climate Action

Well, I just wanted to be part of that worldwide event. So I want to mention some stuff that we can do to help in saving YOUR WORLD!
Support forests for Climate
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/forests/forest-for-climate-petition
Say no to Genetically Engineered Rice:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering/hands-off-our-rice/hands-off-our-rice
Ask world leaders to personally attend climate conference:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/climate-change/take_action/leaders-go-to-copenhagen-climate-summit
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT YOU CAN DO, because you'll not be alone in this. If everyone in the world try to make a certain difference it will happen. So let's help the world be a better place for us.
If you're a blogger try blogging about climate change and how everyone can help in making the world a better, safer and greener place.



Also I invite you to be part of the 24th of October International Day of Climate Change. I've thought of having a celebration here in Alexandria. If you're interested comment on this post. Also comment about actions we can do to help save the climate.



Help save the climate the way it suites you but don't stand there doing nothing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Etisalat USB Modem on Ubuntu 9.04 (Huawie E1550)

I had a problem with getting my USB modem to work on Ubuntu as it didn't detect it. The answer to this is simple for Ubuntu 9.04.

First go to "System>Preferences>Network Connection".





Then click on "Mobile Broadband" tab and click on the add button.

Then choose a name for the connection and apply.
Now we're half way there. To make it work you'll have to download this package:
sudo apt-get install udev-extras
Then you'll create a file for the modem by typing:
gksu gedit /etc/udev/rules.d/15-huawei-e1550.rules
Then paste this code in the gedit window:

SUBSYSTEM=="usb",
SYSFS{idProduct}=="1446",
SYSFS{idVendor}=="12d1",
RUN+="/lib/udev/modem-modeswitch --vendor 0x12d1 --product 0x1446 --type option-zerocd"

cAll you'll need next is to plug and enjoy.
The last step was optained from here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

F5100 Flash Array: A new horizon for solid state drives

Sun announced the benchmarks for its new flash array system.

Key thing is, it out performed mechanical hard drives with all the benifits that come with using solid state drives such as low power consumption, mechanical shocks tollerance and ease of deployment. You can find all the technical details explained way better than I can explain it in this video.




For further information check this here

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Non-Computable Problems: Halting problem and others

If you have not studied algorithm complexity analysis this might seem a little strange. There is actually problems that the computer can't solve no matter what happens. To make it a little easier to understand, we usually think that there is nothing a human can't do but can a human fly! We'll it's not possible. You can say the same thing about non-computable problems, it's just problems that the computer can't solve.
Halting Problem:
One example, that always pops to one's mind when asked about non computable problems, is the Halting Problem. This problem is fairly simple "Given a program and an input to the program, find whether the program will run indefinitely or not when processing that input" in other words find if a certain input will cause a program to enter an infinite loop. And the computer can do that!
There is a fairly complicated proof for that problem and you can find it here .
Other Problems:
What made me mention this class of problems is that we've been asked to find other problems that are not computable which seemed kind of interesting so I searched for a while and found some,
The Totality problem: this problem is just a generalization of the halting problem and it states "Given a program, find if this program will terminate on all its inputs or not". And it's fairly simple to proof non computable given that the halting problem is non computable too.
Also there is The Equivalence Problem which states "Given two programs find whether the two programs solves the same problems or not".
You can find more of those problems and there proofs here.
I hope that this post got you thinking about what the computer can really do!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ambience analysis and discovery research

Well it has been a few days after MobiCom and it's time to start blogging it technically.
I'll start with what if I heard of a little earlier would have thought science fiction. And it's ambience/ambiance analysis and discovery mentioned in a paper called "SurroundSense: Mobile Phone Localization via Ambience Fingerprinting" and a poster titled "Highlights: Event Coverage in Mobile Social Networks".
Let's start with the basics before going through them both. First, Ambience is "a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing" Merriam Webster. So if you consider the ambience for a place it'll include the lights, sounds and colors in that place, and for a person it might include movement, facial expressions and clothes colors and styles. If you thought about it a little, every person or a place have unique ambience in some sort.
The ongoing research is concerned with creating a fingerprint for this unique ambience and using this fingerprint it can detect the place you're in, people you're meeting and they type of the event happening now.
How are they doing that?
Our mobile phones became a very good set of sensors that are widely spread everywhere on earth. It's capable of detecting most of the data needed for creating the fingerprint needed through it's microphone, cameras, GPS and accelerometer with very good accuracy and the accuracy is still moving forward.
So in the future just by waving you mobile phone around it will be able to decect exactly where you are and what you're doing because that's exactly what the two researches are suggesting; SurroundSense detects the lights, colors, sounds, movement and wifi and creates a fingerprint using the collected data and then compares it the fingerprints database, that way it'll be able to know exactly where you are after of course having an approximation using the GPS. You can review the paper for more details.
It might sound like science fiction but it'll soon be in your pockets!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

DNIS in SRC: Second Place but What a feedback!

I couldn’t blog about what happened in the presentation right after it because I had places to go and things to do on my last day in China but in short it was amazing.
I asked my new friend Ari to record it in video for me and he did. As you’ll see I was terrible. I was tattering and I paused for a very long time searching for the word ORDER in my head. The bottom line I have not been worse in a presentation. The explanation is simple; my knees were shacking of fear. I was so nervous and I couldn’t help it. As I went last I got to see how all the judges asked questions and how hard these questions were. Also I got to know who the judges were and that made me even more nervous. So at the beginning I was pretty bad but I did good I think in the questions.
Even before the results were announced I knew that we’ll come second as the other guys, no matter how terrible he was on his presentation had some really solid Game Theoretic proofs behind his work and our idea was fairly simple. I was a little sad because I knew I could do better in my presentation and so I went to ask prof. Suman (posters Co-Chair and one of my judges) about my presentation and he told me that the judges liked it a lot but the idea of our project was fairly simple. Also I got to meet prof. Romit afterward and he encouraged me and told me he liked the presentation. That really meant a lot for me coming from those professors.
We came in Second in Mobicom’09 SRC Undergraduate Category. I am really proud of what we’ve did and I hope that we (as in Egyptian students) will have more of this kind of representation in major conferences in the following years

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Before my MobiCom presentation: Fears and Doubts

I want to blog this whole experience to be able to share and also have a good documentation about it. Now it's about 4 hours to my presentation, I am worried and nervous. Also I got this unimaginable pressure of what I am representing, usually I am representing myself, my social community or even my company. This time I thought I was only representing Egypt. But I got this assuring and motivative comment "Remember that you're representing, not only Egypt, but the entire Muslim and Arab countries. You may have noticed that very few, if any one, from an Arab or Islamic university is attending, not to mention presenting." (No Pressure :D).
Well, today I talked with some people I met here and I got this very nice comment, "Enjoy it! You know about your work more than anyone else, so just go there teach and enjoy".
So I am still a little bit worried, but I hope I'll do OK.
Ed3oly!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Egypt's Undergraduate Research is Rocking the WORLD!

Yesterday was my big day, I had to present both the demo and the poster. I had judges coming for SRC and for demo evaluation, and a huge load of scientists and professionals coming to check our work. I started asking new friends I met during MobiCom about the work, and got some very helpful feedback about how to present and also they gave me a heads up one some questions I'll need to answer. But they all thought the work was great.

Now it's time for presenting the work to EVERYONE!

At first people just passed me by not asking nor talking, only more people I met on earlier days. After a while I started getting people asking me about the work. After a while I got to move my poster to be next to my demo and that's when all the action started.
I had Microsoft Research people, professors, PhD students and masters students asking questions about DNIS and discussing what we've done and how we did it. The demo helped A LOT in showing them how real the work is and its significance in terms of network performance.

That's not the only news:

We are SRC (Student Research Competition)Undergrad Finalists



Being SRC Finalists we'll get to present our work to ALL of the MobiCom audience. So, ed3oly!
We're rocking the world guys!
This is to every Egyptian undergrad: YOU CAN ROCK THE WORLD TOO, JUST START WORKING ON IT
For more information about SRC check here and here

Monday, September 21, 2009

First day of MobiCom: New People and New Experiences

It's finally MobiCom!
I woke up a little late and wandered to the conference's venue using a bus and in 3 minutes I was there. The sign in procedure was pretty easy, the registration volunteers are pretty friendly and soon enough I had my package and name tag.
I started worrying about socialization a little after that. It seemed like everyone knew someone and was sitting with each other. But soon after the launch break I got to know one of the organizers due to a problem I had with my network connection. And one after another I started meeting new people from the opposite sides of the world doing research in different and interesting areas.
What I got to learn after some short conversations that it's really a big deal to be an undergraduate and present work in MobiCom. Also that our work is really something impressive as I got a lot of great feedback from everyone I talked to about our DNIS.
WE REALLY DID SOMETHING GUYS!
Here are some picture from my day:
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A map of the posters and the demos, I am 16 and 59:
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

MobiCom Updates: DNIS got into SRC

I am almost done with my tourist visit to China and back to work work work!
Before I left for China I got some very bad news, "we didn't get into SRC".
Let me first introduce SRC or Student Research Competition which is an international ACM competition for students (graduate and undergraduate). You can check its official webpage here.
The process of the competition in MobiCom goes as follows, the committee chooses a subset of the qualified posters to compete for the final places then select one of those depending on their presentations to be finalists and give a presentation on the fourth day of MobiCom. Until yesterday our DNIS wasn't selected to compete. Which was a real bummer for us.
Yesterday we got an e-mail saying that we got into SRC!
Ed3olna :D
You can check our names in the SRC Page and the Demos Page.
Wait for my future updates on MobiCom!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tiananmen Square and Xi Dan

As I read Tiananmen square is a must see in china, so I made it my next place to see. Also I wanted to shop and Xi Dan area was recommended.
As usual I took a taxi to Tiananmen Square and then I found out that my camera's battery was dead.
I searched for someone that sold batteries and after a while I found one. I started taking pictures as usual, it's a really amazing place, very organized and highly secured. I have some recommendations for the visit:
First, go as early as possible because it'll get really crowded and because it's an open area it'll get really hot and exhausting.
Second, you should enter the Mao's Mausoleum but you'll need to put anything you have in the lockers across the street.
Third, Tiananmen Square is just a short walk from The Forbidden City so if you visited Tiananmen Square early enough you can then visit the forbidden city afterwards instead of doing what I did (visiting each of them in separate days).
I wanted to experience as much of Beijing as I can so I decided to take the subway to Xi Dan area. I got help from the police officers which were really nice and helpful. The subway was clean and not the crowded and it was only one stop to Xi Dan.
Xi Dan is a very large area with shopping malls (department stores) everywhere. The department stores I visited categorized its floors, each floor had certain type of stuff (men's wear, women's wear, electronics, etc). Bargaining is a must!
The first department store was a book store, 5 stories building with books about everything all in Chinese. The building had people in every floor reading and buying. I really think that's the only thing worth mentioning in Xi Dan.
I finished my first day shopping and went home out of exhaustion, while I was in the taxi I got to know how big Xi Dan really is. I'll go there tomorrow (إن شاء الله) to see what I can buy.
Here are some of today's photos:

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Third Day in China: Summer Palace

I woke up late, I was in a bad mood, I had no energy to get out of the bed :S
The room service rang the room's bell and I had to get up. When I got up I saw that there is no point of wasting such a precious day. It was 11 AM so I put on some clothes and went to the lobby. I asked the staff to write the name of the summer palace for me in Chinese and changed some dollars to Yuans and off I went.
As soon as I got out of the hotel I found fog every where, I have never seen anything like it before. Maybe in the early hours of the morning but not at noon!
I was determined to go to the summer palace and thank God that I was, because it was really wonderful.
I hesitated to get the full ticket (60 Yuans) or the limited one (20 Yuans). When I payed the 100 bill I had they ALWAYS assume that I want the full ticket but I didn't mind that, I just find the assumption strange. I got the electronic map to know a little about the place. This time I got a different version than the one I got yesterday. This one had a map in it and it blinked at my location in the palace.
The palace's history is amazing as most of it was rebuilt more than once, it has some record holding places (the longest corridor, the biggest pavilion, etc). Also learning about the empress that controlled it and the emperors that lived there! To know all that information is really entertaining and educative.
My advice:
If you're visiting Beijing you should go there, it has some amazing scenes and don't hesitate about taking a boat ride. It is really exhausting so have good sleep the night before.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some pictures of me :D

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My fetar:
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Second Day in China: Beijing and The Forbidden City

When I started reading about places I should visit while in Beijing I always got The Forbidden City as the first place I should visit, and so I did. First I asked one of the hotel staff to write its name in Chinese for me and I went out of the hotel to get a taxi.
The Taxis:
The one thing that made feel a little at home is the taxis here. The way the treat you, some are extremely friendly and some are extremely not, the don't like seat belts, the drive a little fast but here you only pay what the counter says which is usually a lot.

Back to the way to the forbidden city; I started searching for a taxi and got rejected a couple of times before I decided to got on a road heading south as I knew that the forbidden city was south. After another couple of rejections I found a taxi. When I saw the road I knew why I was rejected. It was too crowded and it took me about 40 minutes to get there.
The taxi dropped me off in front of the forbidden city but in a place with no sign nor traffic light to help me cross but I did anyways. I payed for my ticket, which was too much I think (60 yuans about 10$). When I got in I found out that it was too big for me to wander alone not understanding the history of this amazing place. I found out that they had a very nice solution, a small audio device that had all the information you needed and when ever you walk into a place it tells you its history. Also you get a map with numbers on it and if you want to hear about a certain place just enter the number and it'll tell you everything with good sound effects too. You'll have to pay 40 Yuans and 100 Yuans as a deposit that you'll get as soon as you return the device and the ticket you get with the device (Don't lose the ticket, I almost did).
The forbidden city was the place where the emperor and his family lived and where a lot of celebrations and meetings were held. It's a very organized and ingeniously designed place. The colors and the decorations are so beautiful and what makes it much more amazing that all the drawings and the decorations had meanings.
It took me about 3 hours to wander around, take pictures and know about the history of that place before I decided it was time to leave.
When I got out I saw a place just across the street with building similar in design to buildings in the forbidden city. I knew that I wasn't coming here again any soon so I decided to go in. It turned out to be the Jingshan Park which was in the past an imperial park. The park had a hill that showed a wonderful view over the whole forbidden city and Beijing. It was pretty cheap compared to the forbidden city (only 2 Yuans). I wandered a while there, took some pictures then headed home.
It was an amazing second day, I got to learn new stuff and enjoy my time!

In the park:

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In the Forbidden City:

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Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day in China

I AM FINALLY THERE!
After two long flights, a wait in the transit and a long taxi drive I finally arrived at my room in Best Western OL Stadium Hotel in Beijing, China.
The flights were comfortable especially the one from Doha to Beijing, the entertainment system was amazing as I got to watch "Angels and Demos", a "Fringe" episode and listen to some arabic and english music. The staff of Qatar Airways were nice and helpful, the food was OK and I got to sleep on the second flight.
Al Doha transit was OK, I got to meet a Chinese girl called Emma, she helped me pass the boring two hours transit.
For health issues they asked us to fill a form on the plane asking about our health condition, I had a running nose because of the air conditioning and so I mentioned in the form. When I got to PEK airport the doctors had me checked.
The procedures of entering Beijing was smooth, I found out that they had an Automatic Train in the Airport to move passengers between terminals. What helped that every recorded message and every sign was in both Chinese and English.
When I got out the airport I easily found a Taxi and I got to the hotel room, the hotel room is smaller than I expected but it's big enough. I couldn't help but fall asleep right after I got into the room.
I woke up after 3 hours and decided to walk to the conference hotel to see how long it would take me to get there. It was a nice walk and it didn't take long. When I got there I noticed a very high tower that was lit in different colors and blinking in a very beautiful way; I had all the time in the world so I decided to walk to there. I found out it was the Olympic Tower in the Olympic Green. I can't describe how beautiful it is but the pictures will be enough!
When I was walking back to the hotel I found a large bus stop. I asked the driver if he was heading to my hotel and he was!
It was a really great first day, I hope that the next will be much better!

Big Boat

Big Boat


Big Boat

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Big Boat


Big Boat


Big Boat

Big Boat

Saturday, September 12, 2009

1 Day to China: Almost There

Well I am planning to blog about the whole thing so 1 day before it is worth blogging too.
I am actually blogging from Mahmouds's home where I have been living for the past 3 days, benchmarking, rehearsing, testing and fixing bugs. It has been a nice ride working with those guys.
Concerning China, I am learning some chinese like "Ni Hao!" is "Hello!", learning thee way to the hotel from Google Maps and the way from the hotel to the conference hotel and working with the guys here on finalizing the work.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Days to China: DNIS and Ramadan

It's finally confirmed, I am going to China!!
Our work in the Nile University got accepted in MobiCom 2009 which is going to take place in China this year. We thought about who would go to present the work and we came to decide that I would, Lucky me! (or that's how I thought at first)
The permissions:
Traveling for students in Egypt is not that easy. It's actually involves a lot of procedures and steps. First you'll have to make your passport which is the easy part. Then you'll have to get a "traveling permission" from both the University and the Ministry of Defense! The university permission is pretty easy you just submit your ID and get the permission the next day. The Ministry of Defense is the one that's worth mentioning.
As I have to serve a time in the military service, I have to get a permission before I travel until I am older than 30 or so I've heard. Because it's not an easy thing to get I thought I should try to get it before I pay for anything so I won't pay for things I won't use. When I got there (where you get the permission) it turned out that I should have the VISA of the country I am traveling to to get the permission!!!
And so I did, I got the Chinese VISA which required buying a returning tickets, and I payed for that too!
When I went for the permission for the second time, it took me about 2 hours to get it and it turned out that I can't travel after September, 15th!!!!!!!!
The summer ends on the 26th September I'll be back on the 26th, I am going to a conference which is a really big deal in so many ways, I have no idea why anyone should make such a constrain but I agreed to travel before September15th. That way I'll have to spend at least an extra 6 days which is not funded from the Nile University.
I had to rearrange my bookings and DNIS's deadlines and just about everything I had planned for that month. Thanks to the beaurocracy!
DNIS's surprises:
Everything in Testing, Demoing, Postering and taking the results was going great until we came back from NU. First we had to change one of the two laptops that we prepared for testing which had catastrophic results (incompatible windows version, incompatible hardware, unexpected bugs, etc).
The Benchmarks were coming up with frustrating results showing that we've done nothing at all!
And I had Software Freedom Day to work on along all of that.
2 Days to China:
Now it's only 2 days till I get there (إن شاء الله) I have my tickets, my hotel reservation, a work of 2 months and inexpressible excitement.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

DNIS's Acceptance in MobiCom: A Research Internship Result

This summer I was accepted for summer internship at the Nile University under the supervision of Dr. Moustafa Amin. The internship is a research internship at the WINC Research Center (Wireless Intelligent Networks Center) and its main requirements were good knowledge in both C/C++ programming and networking programming.
The kick off meeting was 2 weeks ahead of the internship. Dr. Moustafa gave us a general idea of what became later DNIS (Dynamic Network Interfaces Scheduler). He also gave us A LOT to read, which became the habit later on.
We started the journey of our research project which had 2 phases, the first was systems research and the second is the scheduling algorithm research. (I'll have later on a post on the details of the project).
By the end of the first phase we had some mock algorithms to test the whole idea, which is always the case with research, to see if the idea would really have positive results. When we tested the mock algorithms we got good results that encouraged us to go forward with the idea. By then the Dr. decided to submit the idea as a poster and a demo to a conference called MobiCom.
Now it's time for some definitions (According to Wikipedia):
MobiCom(International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking) is known to be the best conference on Networking and the fifth most influential conference in computer science.
A poster session is the juried presentation of research information by representatives of several research teams at a congress or conference with an academic or professional focus. These are particularly prominent at scientific conferences such as medical congresses.
A scientific demonstration is a scientific experiment carried out for the purposes of demonstrating scientific principles, rather than for hypothesis testing or knowledge gathering (although they may originally have been carried out for these purposes).

Our work A.K.A. DNIS was accepted as both a demo and a poster session in MobiCom 2009.

Since I have joined Computer and Systems Engineering Department (CSED) I have been interested in research. I have been faced with different types of support but after 3 years of trying I have came to believe that there is something called undergraduate research and it's a well established concept (unlike what I have heard over the past 3 years).
I'd like to conclude with this advice: You don't have to join a research center to do undergraduate research, just look for a Dr. that shares your interests, work hard, and don't expect it to come easy. There is undergraduate research in Egypt that was able to publish stuff in the biggest conferences in the world.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Software Freedom Day @ Alexandria University

It's my greatest pleasure to announce Software Freedom Day @ Alexandria University. We are planning on having one of the biggest open source promoting events my university has ever seen, with peresntations, demos and contests lasting for two weeks.
The students' organizations working on that event till now are Alexandria ACM Chapter, Alexandria University OSUM Club and Arabic Wikipedia Team. We are still looking for others two help us make this event as big as it can get.
So if you're anywhere near Alexandria from the first of September till the 15th of it come and join us in our celebration.
RSVP here:http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=124455764728 and here http://osum.sun.com/events/software-freedom-day-6
We're still working on our detailed plan and we'll have it online as soon as possible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where I am Spending my online and Why?

Well I have decided to check where I spend most of online time. You know Google Chrome and Firefox can do that for you so I took their results and my own analysis.
  1. GMX (Global Mail Exchange): My main server. I started using it about 2 years ago when I found out its ad on a PC world page. What attracted me to it was that I could actually have myname@gmx.us, I can have more than one address with the same inbox and it was FREE. Back then the user interface was bad and it took forever to load but I liked that it was desktop like. Now with their new home page, fast loading time, support of POP3/IMAP, largest set of available Arabic addresses and being ads free I recommend it to everyone.
  2. Google Reader: Until 2 months ago I used My Yahoo! to read the feeds I liked. It had a lot of drawbacks, if you have more than 10 feeds you'll spend a lot of time trying to reach them, the boxes were are not a good idea for blogs feeds, actually it was not built to handle 100 feeds with updates happening every minute. But with Google Reader it's all there. I can read all the blogs I like, check all the news and even skip the ones I don't like easily, share what I liked and star links for future use.
  3. FriendFeed: So I wanted to share links I like with friends and found that Google Reader was not enough. A friend recommended FriendFeed. It's that coolest way to share everything on the web. So Facebook is too social, google reader is not alive enough and you can't share everything on those two but with friendfeed you can share everything from facebook comments and google reader shared items to delicious bookmarks and flickr images. Also you can follow some very interesting groups and get links and news that you won't find otherwise.
  4. Twitter: I am pretty new to twitter as I did get it untill 2 weeks ago when I started to follow tweets on FriendFeed. Usually I shared my personal messages on Yahoo messenger and Live Messenger (I don't use facebook as it is too public) but with twitter it's fun to share those 140 charchters to tell people what you're doing.
  5. Google Analytics: Syntax and Semantic is not that famous but I like to know everyday before I sleep how the one or two who visited my blog found it and some information about them. Also I like every now and then get an overview of how my blog is doing.
  6. OSUM Network (Open Source University Meetup Network): As most of frequent readers of my blog know I am a Sun Campus Ambassador and OSU
    M is the social network made for Sun Microsystems by Ning for Sun's open source community of students and academic staff. I usually post their my seminars and presentations and check what is happening on the network.
  7. Facebook: I guess I can't say about anything that you don't already know.
I hope that you'd share with me your online habits and your opinions of the websites I mentioned.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Make a difference NOW!!

Have you ever thought about how you can make a change, improve the world, help others and make your actions count ?? Well, I did. I have no money, no way to travel nor a plan. I found out that you can actually improve the world by just some clicks and signing ups while you´re at home enjoying your usual day.
The two websites that I found that helps you make a difference all over the world without leaving your room are Greanpeace and Save the Children.

GreenPeace: a website that is concerned with protecting the environment from greedy states and multinational companies that are abusing the environment. So how they help you?? Sending e-mails to officials , signing petitions, online demonstrations(banners on your blog, virtual activities,...). Actually they keep coming up with amazing ideas to tell the decision makers that there are people in the world that care and that what they are trying to do is dangerous, whether it´s cutting trees, killing whales, using dangerous chemicals, ...
So how can a simple e-mail make a difference?? actually it´s not just you, it´s 60,000 e-mails, 70,000 signatures and more. You are just being a part of the crowd making it more powerful. And they have a list of victories to tell you their stories.

Save the Children: as the name suggests is an organization that is concerned with children´s well being everywhere. Using the same methods as Greenpeace they provide you with petitions to sign and e-mails to send plus they also have cool ways that make children feel that somewhere people care, you can go and make e-cards for children and send it to them. They keep coming up with ideas.
So if you´re busy studying, delivering projects, reading or even watching TV. Just login to one of the two sites once a week and see what you can do, it would take no longer than 10 minutes but it will have a great impact.
Note: If you know any other websites that does the same thing please tell me about them at ahmad@gmx.us and for suggestions and comments please leave comments on the post.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prezi: An Easy Way to Make Cool Presentations

I was checking out startups that are competing in The Next Web'09. The post is on Tech Crunch. A line that caught my eyes, one of the startups was introducing a way to make presentations. I wanted to check out how they are making a PowerPoint like software on the cloud. To my surprise it had nothing to do with presentation as I was made to know it during my college years.
Prezi introduces a flash software that helps you to make flash presentations. It's easy, looks great, flexible to some point and free.
Prezi is was founded by two designers/computer scientists that found - as I personally think- slide based presentations so boring. So they -as I personally didn't- made their own presentation mapping and Zui Labs was founded, more information here.
Back when I was in high school I thought that soon all presentations will be flash based but what happened is that powerpoint got stronger, good looking and smart and flash made kind of a not worth the effort to make an ordinary presentation using it. What Prezi offers is "the best of both worlds" amazing flash presentations and an easy way to make them.
The editor is web based and they offer you 100 Mbs of space for your presentations for the free account. You can export a .exe file to present offline. The limitation with the free account is that you'll have the Prezi logo in the bottom-left of your presentations, another draw back is that they don't have an offline version for Linux.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why you should be reading NYTimes regularly

I believe this is a technical post SO you should read it. I have been wondering around NYTimes and Man that website is gigantic. Well it's a news website, you'll say. The question is why I am writing a post about it. Here you are why:
The thing is about reading news it’s BORING, also for us CS people "Geeks" it's non-technical and most of the time it has nothing to do with what we do on class and what we will need and it's BORING. What's different about NYTimes is that it gives you the news you need and didn't know you can get which is the opposite of BORING. New technologies, new gadgets, new market, new opportunities and even insights on the future possibilities are a portion of the things you can extract from reading NYTimes. I have been a regular reader for the technology section for 2 years now. What amazes me is that I am seeing stuff that I read was going to happen actually happening, gadgets that I thought great now available in the hyper market I go to, challenges that were seen as a far away future appearing and even some solved. That kind of information about the field of computer science and technology innovation is critical if you want to be ahead.
What we are future Chairmen , future CEO s, future CTO s, future Tech-leads and to make competitive choices to get those future companies a place in the global market is having enough and good information and that's the kind of information I have been trying to get. One of my main sources in NYTimes.
I have seen lately two pages but haven’t got the chance to read a lot: Start Ups as a subsection of the Technology section and Small Business as a subsection of the Business section . They give me ideas, hope, inspiration, challenges... you name it! Young people just like you and me hitting the right buttons, solving the right problems, creating and using the right business models and coming up with smart, new solution and even creating new technologies that technology giants usually buy. I think that would be a great place to start reading.
Also what’s interesting also about the NYTimes is the design and implementation of the website itself. It's a great content oriented, interactive, social website. Usually I can tell two or three things I don't like about a content oriented website as soon as I use it and about 10 more when I really use it but NYTimes is really great and improves regularly offering services that makes using it much more fun. It offer good personalization options and trying to get a little socializing in the mix through allowing you to follow other readers and other readers following you.
I really encourage you to start reading it regularly and I'll try to suggest good articles in a section on my blog.
Some other sources I encourage you to have a look at: Harvard Business Review (HBR), Scientific American, Science, PC Magazine and The Economist.
Waiting for your feedback and comments! and If you have other source please SHARE IT!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

INNOVID, Online Advertising taking a new shape


I have been seeing all the giants two Google and Yahoo trying hard with the video advertising. Google put a lot of effort in the new ads in you tube and the video ads and Yahoo adding pauses between song clips which is kind of annoying. And also I read that an attractive way of integrating video ads with online video streaming which became one of the most used services online. I knew I wasn't going to be the guy to do it, of course I am busy with my term exams, so someone else had to do it. Ladies and gentlemen the new way of advertising through video is here and it's called INNOVID and their Clickable Canvas.
Made by an Israeli startup, which always gives me hope that startups can always contribute to the big market, INNOVID comes with a platform that integrates cool looking ads with videos you already have. What the INNOVID platform provides you with is a way to select lets say a wall in an ordinary video to place an RSS feed, a picture of your product or any other animation you can come up with. You can find a lot of details about the technology they are using and their platform on their website.
Please tell me what you think of it. Waiting for your comments.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Masdar City, a motivation and a dream coming true

One of my dreams is to live in a peaceful and clean environment where I don't have to smell carbon dioxide everywhere, where I can walk in the streets and actually breathe. Today I have came to know a project called "Masdar City". Yes the title's origin is arabic which means the "origin" or "source". It's a project funded by the government of Abu Dhabi which aims to build a zero-carbon, zero-waste, car free city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. The city is to be a home for 50000 people, clean and not crowded (a dream come true). Those who will live there will move in the city using public transpotation or personal rapid transit (something from a science fiction movie). The businesses that will take Masdar as a home are to be commercial and manufacturing facilities specializing in environmentally-friendly products and any visitor will leave his car behind when he enters the city.
You can find a lot of information about it on its website and on its wikipedia page which was the source of all my information, although I first new about it through an ad in Harvard Business Review.
I just wanted to blog about it to tell you that a green future is possible and we all need to work to make it happen. As I see it Masdar is just a motivation to all of us to get greener and work for a greener future.