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

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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.