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31 December 2007

6 Tips to Stop Spywares and Adwares

Every now and then one of my friends or family members tell me that he has got a Spyware or Adware on his PC, and asks me what to do. There are many free Antispywares out there, but in fact they never succeeded in helping those guys. Antivirus vendors are mocking us by claiming that Viruses and Spywares are two different things, I think they keep saying so just because their Antivirus softwares are not able to remove Spywares.

Here you are 6 tips to protect yourself from Spywares, Adwares, etc. In fact I cannot see any difference between Spyware and Adwares so I'll call them all from now on Crapwares.

1. Beware of Toolbars et al:
I have to put this as number one, Crapwares are always hidden inside Browser Toolbars, Screen Savers, Games, and MSN Plugins. For the love of God, please do not install such crap on your PC's. Away from the Spywares, please tell me what's the point of downloading a freak toolbar in your browser to make it look ugly and crowded, and what's the point of installing a plugin in your MSN or Yahoo Messenger to tell you who has blocked you, let those who block you go to hell.

2. FOSS instead of Free:
We all hate to pay money for Software's. But instead of looking for Free softwares, search for Open Source ones. Open Source Softwares are free but their code is published as well for anyone to see it. It's almost impossible to hide Crapwares in them. Linus Trovalds believes that Software is like Sex, it's meant to be free. And let me add here, it's like Sex, you cannot sleep with someone without knowing what she is hiding under her clothes.

3. A Firewall and a good Antivirus are your Shields:
As I said before, an Antivirus is not the best cure for Crapwares, but an extra layer of security will not hurt you. And most of the time, Crapwares need to connect to their mother ship every now and then to get themselves updated, so a Personal Firewall may not stop them from infecting you but it will stop them from getting updates and morphing in Crappier-wares.

4. Beware of malicious sites:
But wait a minute, how can we identify malicious sites? Ok, McAfee decided to do this for us freely. You can just download their SiteAdvisor Plugin, and every time you search for something in Google or Yahoo or visit a certain web site, it will mark safe sites in green and malicious ones in red.

5. Firefox instead of IE:
Internet Explorer, or sometimes known as Internet Exploder, it the dominant browser out there, So Crapwares creators and malicious sites tailor their softwares for it, so why not use a better yet not very dominant browser such as Firefox or Opera. I know this is somehow Security through Obscurity, but believe me it helps sometimes.

6. Pop-ups are bad:
Sometimes, pop-up windows try to deceive you by making themselves look like Windows warning messages and claim that you PC is infected or not healthy. They may ask you to click on a certain link in order to fix this problem. So, please beware of those evil pop-ups. I know, that sometimes normal use pop-ups, so it's hard to ask you to totally block pop-up, but what I normally do here is to block them by default and allow them only on the sites I trust.

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20 December 2007

Firewalls Evolution - From Application Aware to UTM

As mentioned earlier, Firewalls were very successful in segmenting the Network into different Zones and protecting those different zones from each other by controlling who is supposed to talk to who using which protocol or application. But later on, applications such as FTP, SIP, etc. started to open dynamic ports, and firewalls were forced to evolve and become more application aware. So firewalls were not limited to Layers Three and Four (Network and Transport Laters) as they used to be, but they were able to decode the Application Layer as well.

On the other hand Proxy Firewalls such as Microsoft ISA - I know it’s a piece of crap - but such firewalls were able to see the application layer, add rules to prevent people from downloading ZIP and MP3 files, Inspect SMTP for spam, etc. So firewall vendors were forced to compete with them in this, especially that such Proxy Firewalls are popular in SOHO (Small Office and Home Office) and SMB (Small to Medium Business) networks.

So Firewall vendors decided to focus more on the Application Layer, but this time it wasn't just an evolution. A new device was introduced to the market which is UTM.

A Network Layer is a Network Layer, but when it comes to Application Layer, we have dozens of Applications and each have its own security requirements. For SMTP, Spam is your enemy. When it comes to File Sharing, CIFS, FTP, HTTP, SMTP and POP3, you should check the files being transferred to make sure they do not contain Viruses. IPSs and IDSs are needed to protect you from the different worms and exploits that span from layer 2 up to layer 7. So, this is what UTM’s are doing, it’s a box - mainly a firewall - with many other addons such as Network Based Antivirus, Network Based Antispam, and Network Based IPS.

Some people may argue that UTMs are not mature enough and they add complexity to the network. They also believe that an all-in one solution may not be suitable for large networks with high throughput. That's why when it comes to ISP's and large Data Centres they prefer to install separate best-of-breed devices - Firewall, IPS/Deep-Inspection, AntiSpam - each is responsible for a certain task. But in some other locations an all in one box (UTM) can reduce the cost and complexity. Also it's sometimes hard to find a good stand-alone Network Based Antivirus or Web Filtering Solution and in such case having those components in a UTM may be your best choice.

Finally, most of the Firewall vendors now are moving towards the all-in-one solution and I guess in the near future the UTM's will be mature enough so that stand-alone devices will be something from the past.

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13 December 2007

Intrusion Detection Systems

In order to be able to continue my discussion about Firewalls Evolution, I have to take you today to a different subject. As I said before, "Firewall is a device that divides the network into different Zones, and controls Who's is supposed to talk to Who, using which Applications (Service), across those different Zones". But once Client (C) is allowed to talk to Server (S) using Application (A), he is then allowed to send whatever traffic he wants to that Application.

What's the difference between a Firewall and an IDS?
Let's say that Application A is Vulnerable to XSS (Cross Site Scripting), i.e. it has a bug, and Attackers can send Malicious Traffic to this Application that can harm that Server or those people who deal with it taking advantage of this bug. A Firewall can only block people from accessing this Application or permit them, but it can never know if this traffic is Malicious or not. A Firewall is only capable of inspection up to layer 4 (The Transport Layer), hence another solution is needed in order to inspect traffic up to layer 7 (The Application Layer). This solution is called an IDS or Intrusion Detection System.

How does an IDS work?
But what kind of magic does IDS's do in order to detect those attacks. We are now in the application layer and there is no 5-tuple to inspect anymore, so IDS's use various techniques to detect attacks. Let's go back to our XSS example.
Imagine a web forum where different users can post articles and comments etc. So an attacker can forge his post to contain some HTML tags or JavaScript in stead of clear text. So the result will be the execution of that HTML tags or JavaScript in the other forum visitors' browsers.
Gr33n Data: Cross Site Scripting - XSS
So a simple IDS can look for a certain pattern - here it will be an HTML Tag - in the traffic sent from the Client to the Web Server. The HTML Code is normally sent from the Server to the Client and not in the other direction. This kind of Intrusion Detection Technique is called Signature Based Detection. Another Technique used by IDS's is Behavior Based Analysis or Traffic/Protocol Anomaly Detection. When someone's PC is infected by a worm, it normally tries to connect to hundreds or even thousands of other PC's in order to try to infect them. This is how worms normally propagate and this is what differentiate worms from viruses. So an IDS that is able to detect Traffic Anomalies will know that a certain PC is infected by a worm when it starts sending traffic to a large number of PC's in a short period.

By they way, the Antiviruses you use on your PC use similar techniques to detect malwares. And you know what, the Antivirus updates you download every now and then are files containing those signatures used by it in the Signature Based Detection. And yes, an IDS needs tp get periodic updates too, just like Antiviruses.

The Signature Based Detection is more accurate than Behavior Analysis in detecting Attacks, but Signature Based Detection can detect Known Attacks only while Behavior Analysis can detect both Known and Unknown Attacks, which are sometimes called Zero-Day Attacks. That's why Intrusion Detection Systems depend on both techniques together and sometimes they implement more proprietary techniques.

Accuracy, what do I mean by accuracy?
When there is an Attack and the IDS doesn't detect it, they call this False Negative, and on the other hand when there is no Attack and the IDS thinks that there is one, they call it False Positive. A good IDS is the one that tries to minimize both False Negatives and False Positives.

IDS is dead, long live the IPS
IDS is more complicated than a Firewall, it needs more processing and analysis that may impose some delays. It's also not accurate. That's why people preferred not to deploy them inline. The traffic doesn't pass by them, they just see a copy of it, and they do not take actions to block or permit traffic, they are just passive devices that fire an alarm whenever they detect an attack.

And that's why a few years ago a new technology was born, an IPS is just an IDS but it is deployed inline and capable of tacking the decision to block or permit traffic. By doing so IPS vendors were forced to increase their products accuracy as well as processing power.

IPS Vendors
Now a days that top players in the IPS field are Tipping Point (3Com), IntruShield (McAfee), NetScreen IDP (Juniper), and ISS Proventia (IBM). Cisco also have their own *quote* IPS *quote*. And if you are an Open Source fan, you can try Snort, these guys have good documentations and papers here.

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09 December 2007

Firewalls Evolution

As discussed in the previous article, a firewall simply inspects the traffic, and takes the decision to permit or block the packets based on the different fields in the third and fourth layers headers. In face, this task can be done by the Access Lists found on all the available routers in the market.

The Access List decided to permit or block the traffic based on the following 5-Fields:
1. Source IP-Address
2. Destination IP-Address
3. Protocol (TCP, UDP, ICMP, etc.)
4. Source Port
5. Destination Port
In the late nineties the idea of Stateful Firewalls was introduced. As you know, when two hosts communicate, they keep sending and receiving packets. So in the case of Access List, two rules have to be added in both directions for those hosts to be able to communicate. But Stateful Firewalls on the other hand are smarter than this. They keep track of the Session, and that's why in Stateful Firewalls you only have to create one rule from the Client to the Server, traffic from the Server to the Client will be treated as a part of the session, and that's why you won't need to add an extra rule in such direction.

Stateful Firewalls are also more secure than Access Lists, as packets that doesn't belong to an active session will be dropped. The presence of Session Table in Stateful Firewalls improves their performance as they only need to check the rules in the first packet of the session.

Notes:
1. Please tell me if the subject is not clear enough, or if you feel that I have to write more details in order to clarify it.

2. You can read more about Stateful Firewalls here and here.

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08 December 2007

The Firewall



The Firewall, it's the cornerstone of the Network Security design. In today's networks, a Firewall is a device that divides the network into different Segments (Zones), and controls Who's is supposed to talk to Who, using which Applications (Service), across those different Zones.

Most of the time in enterprise networks, they have two layers of Firewalls, one at the Gateway - Just behind the Gateway Router - and the other one in the Data Centre.

The Gateway firewall is also called the Perimeter firewall, its main task is to control which resources on your local LAN are to be accessed from the outside world, normally from the Internet. And on the other direction, it controls what your local users are allowed to do when going outside, normally to the Internet. The Data Centre firewall on the other hand is intended to protect the resources in your Data Centre - mainly Servers - from the outside as well as from the different Zones in your local network.

Notes:

Sometimes, people who have a tight budget consolidate the Gateway and the Data Centre firewalls into one firewall. Also this is suitable for remote branches and small offices.

The computers in the networks world communicate by sending and receiving packets. These packets contain beside the date (payload), the source and destinations addresses (IP Addresses) of the sender and receiver, as well as the service they are using (Protocol and Port Number). So let's say, if you want to define a rule in your firewall to let user A in the Users Zone, connect to the Web Server B in the Data Centre, the rule will contains the address of A in the source IP field and the Address of B in the Destination IP field, and the Web Service (Protocol=TCP, Destination-Port=80) in the Service field.

It's really funny that a company like McAfee claims that they are a Security Vendor, while they do not have firewalls in their products portfolio. If I were in there shoes, I would have bought some firewall only company such as Fortinet, Checkpoint, Stonesoft or even a start-up like Palo Alto Networks.

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Post-Forking

About 10 days ago, I wrote a post about forking my blog into two separate blogs. And now you are here in the technical one. So what are my plans for this blog?

During university years, I was fond of subjects such as Computer Architecture, Networking and Programming the most. I was also introduced to Linux during my graduation project, which was an implementation of Differentiated Services using Linux Traffic Control. Later on after graduation, I worked in the field of Computer Networks and Network Security. So I am planning to focus on Networks, and mainly Network Security. I think, I'll try to write about the various trends and technologies in such field, I may also try to write about the market trends and do competitive analysis. I will try to be as vendor neutral as I can, and will try sometimes to focus more on the Egyptian market.

Finally, these are my plans for now, however I am looking forward to hearing your feedback.

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26 November 2007

Grenaissance


A couple of weeks ago I was in Carrefour buying some stuff. We needed a shampoo then, and I usually don't care much about what brand to buy. But at that time, I found myself getting that Shampoo in a dark container called Clear. Most of the time, when it comes to such kind of products, their marketing campaigns address women only, as if they are the only ones who are clean on this planet. So, when Clear created a new marketing campaign claiming that their product is made specially for men, I found myself buying it without thinking. We like it when we feel that people are creating products specially for us. Even if the generic products are going to be as good as those custom ones, or even better, but we still like the feeling of being privileged.

I used to blog in English only, and then when I decided to write in Arabic too, I decided to do my Arabic blogging in a separate blog. May be, cause I am sure that not all the ones who read my English blog - Arabs or non-Arabs - will like reading my Arabic blog too, and vice versa. And now when it comes to my English blog, I write about technical or non-technical (Social, Political, Humanitarian, etc.) issues, and here comes another problem, not all those readers who like the non-technical issues here will like those technical ones too. I even had plans to write some deep technical stuff, but I always back off because I was afraid that this may freak some of my readers out. And, you know, most of the professional blogs such as ProBlogger, TechCrunch, and LifeHacker are mono-themed blogs, they have one main theme or domain of subject, and most of the posts there fall into that domain.

So after some thinking, I decided to split this blog into two separate one. This blog (Gr33n Data) will be for technical posts only, while the new one (Not Gr33n Data) will be for the other topics.

I don't know if this is going to be a renaissance for Gr33n Data, or let's call it Grenaissance for short? Or is it going to be the first nail in the tomb of my blogging experience? Anyway, let's wait and see, and looking forward to seeing your feedback.

Oh, wait a minute, here you are Not Gr33n Data's feed, if you want to subscribe to it in your Feed Reader:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/NotGreenData

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21 November 2007

Resident Lions for Evil Lambs

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to the cinema in order to see "Resident Evil", but the cinema was "Complet" then, so we decided to see "Lions for Lambs" instead. It stars Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise. So the cast was enough to expect an acceptable movie. You know, we have our own scale to rate movies. A movie can be either Good, or a Computer Movie, which is the one that doesn't worth the money paid in the cinema ticket, a Computer Movie is one of those movies that you can see after downloading a pirated version of it on your PC.

Lions for Lambs, I really don't know why they insisted to translate its name here into "Osood wa 7emlan", which mean Lions and Lambs. Anyway, this movie is a typical Computer Movie, the main idea of the movie is really good, but it is more like News Headlines than a real movie. Meryl Streep is a journalist who had an interview with Tom Cruise the senator. The conversation between them was mainly about the War on Terror, and how the Republicans - whom Cruise belongs to - have involved the United States in continuous unplanned and useless wars. The university professor, Robert Redford, who is also the director of the movie by the way, inspired two of his students to volunteer in the army in order to do something important with their lives and for their country as well. He later on realized that the country needs good men in decision making positions more than its need for fighters. Redford's students who represent the American people, are the Lions who have the will and the power to pay their lives for their country. While the Senator - Tom Cruise - represents the Lambs who take critical decisions for their country from the Air-Conditioned offices.

As I told you, the main idea is not bad. But the movie itself is really boring. I also think it is a weak movie from a technical point of view. I like what Matt Pais of the Chicago Tribune wrote about it; "Lions is more of an imitation of life than a reflection on it". The only reason to enter such movie is when the only other choice is to see "Resident Evil", which I watched last week. "Resident Evil" is a typical action move made for teens where a group of hot chicks keep slaying some nasty zombies and nothing more. In fact, if "Lions for Lambs", is a computer movie, then "Resident Evil" is just a turned-off computer movie.

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10 November 2007

Yahoo Pipes


You may have many friends on Facebook, but most of them don't know your blog. You can add the address of your blog to your Facebook profile so that they can visit it. You may also edit the "My Notes" module there, so that your new posts are automatically grabbed from your blog feed and displayed there. But wait a moment, what if you have more than one blog, and Facebook allows you to add one feed only!?

Yahoo Pipes, can solve this problem, it's a tool where you can do various operations on your feeds. For example I mixed the feeds of my blogs (I mixed the feed of this one with my Arabic Blog) and then sorted the output by date in order to have a new sorted feed ready for being imported into my Facebook notes. You may also filter your feeds in order to remove some posts from there based on any criteria you want.

Playing with Yahoo Pipes is so simple. You have different modules there and each module does a certain operation. You just drag and drop those modules and connect their inputs and outputs to each other.

In my case for example, I connected the output of two modules of the type "Fetch Feed", to the input of another module called "Union". "Fetch Feed" is used to get the content of a certain Feed. "Union" then mixes the output of those feeds. I then added another module called "Sort" in order to sort the output of the "Union" module by date. Then you have to put another module called "Pipe Output", in order to tell it that you want the resulting feed to be taken from there.

You may find more uses for Yahoo Pipes, just keep playing with it and tell me about your plumbing experience.

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02 November 2007

BlogRush

You may ask what is that grey box found on the right hand side of my blog template. You know what, I am one of those bloggers who like to check their blog statistics everyday, and keep some fireworks beside their PC in order to celebrate the event of having 100,000 visitors to their blog. BlogRush is ... do you still remember Web Rings, it is a bit similar to Web Rings. Posts from other bloggers are displayed in this box, and so are your posts displayed on other bloggers blogs. It's like sharing traffic with other bloggers. However BlogRush is more intelligent than Web Rings, whenever someone visits your blog, you earn more points, and the more points you get, the more your posts are displayed on others blogs.
BlogRush is a "Cooperative Syndication Network." It's a network of blogs that run a small "widget" on their pages. Each time this widget is loaded it will contain 5 clickable headlines which are the blog post titles to other users' posts. Clicking on any of these links will open a new browser window and load the blog and full post. Users earn "syndication credits" based on each time their blog loads the widget as well as each time any of their referrals (users that signup after clicking the "add your blog posts" link on the widget) loads the widget. They also earn additional credit based on all the activity through 10 generations of referrals. 1 Syndication Credit = having one of their recent blog post titles served inside the widget on another member's blog.

Any way, if you like the idea and want to have a similar widget on your blog, go and click on the "Add you blog posts" link found on the widget.

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20 October 2007

Facebook Events to Google Calendar

Hey, you can add your Facebook Events onto your Google Calendar. Here you are the steps for doing so.
1. Click on the "Events" link found in the left menu of your Facebook account.

2. On the top of the page you'll find a link called "Export Events". Click on it, and copy the URL that appears in the pop-up window.

3. Go to Google Calendar, and press on the "Add" button, found in the "Manage Calendars" box there. Then select "Add by URL".

4. Enter the URL you've just got from Facebook there, and click on the "Add" button.

5. Voila, here you go.

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09 October 2007

I Don't Like This Template

Hey, I don't like my current blog template. However I'd like to know what do you think about it. Shall I change it immediately, or can I leave it, as I am too lazy to change it. Or do you ... ehmm ... like it?

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08 October 2007

Egyptian Blogoshpere Review - 8 October 2007

The Egyptian Blogger Amr Gharbeia, sent an Email on the Egyptian Bloggers Mailing List today asking us to participate in Global Voices Online, by translating some of the Egyptian Blog Posts written in Arabic during the last few days into English, in order to help the Egyptian Blogospher get more coverage there. So, I'll give it a try here and looking forward to hearing your feedback. I'll select some posts from the Egyptian Blogs I am subscribed to in Google Reader, and will write a brief about each post if needed and then translate parts of them.

One of the main events was on the 7th of October, when many newspapers, mainly independent ones, decided not to appear on that day in order to show their stand against the detention of the Egyptian Journalists who were detained for publishing news about the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak which came out not to be true. Many Egyptian Bloggers (may be hundreds of them) decided not to post anything on that day as well. Most of them put logos showing their solidarity with the Egyptian Journalists, while some Blogs such as Kareem El Beheiry of "Egyptian-Workers" decided to write a short paragraph about it.

"The Egyptian Workers Blog decided to be closed today in solidarity with the respected newspapers which are not going to appear on news-stands on Sunday, as Blogging is considered to be related to Journalism. We are also going to boycott the the National - Governmental - Newspapers because of their failure to publish what really matters the Egyptian citizens, and for not standing with those newspapers asking for freedom of speech, and for their continuous submission to the government. And we ask you to boycott them, and on top of those newspapers comes Al-Ahram and Al-Gumhureya", Egyptian Workers Blog.

Another main event was the Anniversary of The Sixth of October War which took place between Egypt - ehm Arabs - and Israel. Zeinobia decided to share with her readers a link for an Arabic Web-Site dedicated to the war.

You sure know that the Israelis have succeeded in converting the Egyptian victory in October war into a defeat using their non-stopping propaganda. And you know, many Arabs - We normally use the term Arabs to refer to the rest of the Arab Nations excluding Egypt, and some times we use it to refer to the Gulf Countries in specific - as well share the same view with the Israelis.

So it is our task as Egyptians to publish the truth and not to be bored from doing this even if nobody listens to us for hundred years. Because this is the least we can do for those great men who didn't hesitate to pay their own lives in order to liberate our land and re-gain our national dignity.
Zeinobia, Waqaee Masreyah

And here comes one of my favourites, a blog post about El Ahly football team, grrrrr. Beit El Reyadah, wrote about El Ahly qualification to the African Champions League final match.

"Not only congratulations to El Ahly fans, but also congratulations to all the Egyptian, as El Ahly football team was qualified to the final match of the African Champions League, and it will meet the Tunisian team Etoile Sahel there. And El Ahly will win Inshalla and will become the first team to be qualified for the third time to the FIFA Club World Cup championship", Beit El Reyadah.

Another controversial post by Malek - AKA MaLcoLM X - about federalism in Iraq.

"I know that this post is going to piss many of you off, and it will piss me off as well. But I can't stop myself from thinking.
What is the problem with dividing Iraq into federal states? Why are people everywhere complaining about it? And the most important question, if the majority of Iraqis are with federalism and they are going to vote for it in a democratic voting, what is our problem then?", MaLcoLM X.

Finally, an Egyptian Shiite activist was detained by the policy for nothing but for being Shiite. So Rasha - like many other bloggers - decided to write about this in her blog.

Reciting "Al Fateha" (a chapter from Quraan) in the third and fourth "Rakaas" (parts) of their prayers or not. "Tasbeeh" (calling the name of God) in the third and fourth "Rakaas" of their prayers or not. Calling Imam Ali an Iman in the first "Rakaa" of their prayer or not. Calling the names of the twelve Imams after their prayers or not. Praying on a carpet or on El Turbah El Husaineyah. Adding the phrase "Hayy Ala Khair El Ammal" in the "Azan" (call for prayer), like Sunnis adding the phrase "Al Salah Khayron Men Al Nawm" in their "Azan". Reciting "Duaa" after ending their prayers instead of "Tasleem".

I don't know how was the police detective able to accuse Muhammed El Durainy of saying "Tasbeeh" in his prayers?
He asked him about his prayers and beliefs, and then accused him of "Disrespecting Religions"!

Each time, and in each new case, the regime proves its fascism against those who are different from them.
Rasha, Ay Haga (Anything).

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Jihad on Jihad



Jihad On You, it's yet another proof that social softwares can be totally pointless.

"Jihad on you! is a social website based on venting the frustrations we all feel on a daily basis by declaring a holy war against anything and everything that annoys us, no matter how petty or insignificant. Obviously the whole idea is a bit toungue-in-cheek", Jihad On You!

In this site you declare holy wars on stuff you hate in your life and people can see wars created by others, and use digg-style voting system in order to vote for the wars they like.

But wait a minute, why did they use the term "Jihad". Did the creators of this site choose an Islamic term in order to tease us? They even have a logo with a skull and bones in it like those used by pirates. Let's face it, those Scandinavians painters who drew Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), gained international fame by teasing us. And at the end of the day, people like me may find themselves forced to write about them in their blogs. May be others will arrange demonstrations and keep cursing them on TV and organize speeches to tell people the true meaning of Jihad. What a brilliant free marketing campaign for a silly web site!!?

"We’re not entirely sure how wise it is to borrow an Islamic religious term, and a somewhat twisted translation of its true meaning, in this post-9/11 world as your site’s title. It would strike us as a quick way to annoy a significant portion of the world’s population before you even get off the ground", Mashable.
"This is a great site, because the name is so random/offensive, that it will go viral in the blogosphere, bringing in tons of traffic. Kudos to the owner!", Mashable - Comment by Collin LaHay.

But don't you think that we are responsible for this!? We never tried to stop Bin Laden et al. from attacking civilians in the name of Jihad. We never tried to tell others that this is not Jihad, nor even Islam. We also continued to prove to everyone that we are as silly as children and all what they have to do is to tease us and will will start burning their countries' flags and demonstrate everywhere.

Finally, let me ask you, don't you have anything in your mind now that you want to declare a holy war on?! ;)

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06 October 2007

Dignity Day

Egyptian Soldier - October 1973


"At 2:00pm on 6 October 1973, more than 220 Egyptian warplanes flew over the Suez Canal and attacked Israeli command centres in the Sinai. "Operation Badr", soon to be known as the October War, had been launched, and a new stage in Egyptian and Arab history was opened", Al-Ahram Weekly.

October War, also know as Yom Kippur War as it began in the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, was our only choice in order to liberate the land occupied by Israel earlier in the 1967 'Six Day' war. It was also our only choice to regain our national dignity which was lost 6 years earlier.

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18 September 2007

Office Ethics II - Company Resources

I will try in this post to focus on company resources that people sometimes use for non-business activities.

As you know, most of us have telephones on our desks, but the point is that many people use these phones to call their friends or relatives. It's a bit easier for me as we have mobile allowance in my company. And I haven't paid any penny for my mobile calls for the last four years or so. So I normally use my mobile phone even for business and international calls as it is easier. But I believe that if there weren't that mobile allowance, I am still not supposed to use the company phone for non-business calls.

I also don't think that I am supposed to use to use the printers there in order to print private documents and stuff. The same for the photo copiers and ... ehm scanner. Look, I am not sure about the scanner, as I consider it a permanent resource, ie. it doesn't have a significant running cost.

One more thing, the Office Boys and Messengers. Is it ok to send them out to buy you some stuff or get you some papers from somewhere? As for me, we have a policy that we can send them to do such personal stuff, as long as they have nothing to do. And such orders will take the lowest priority if they have other stuff to do. But I believe that if there isn't such policy in a certain company, then people are not supposed to send them.

Finally, I think companies shall try to define a certain policy for such issues. As they may allow their employees to use the available resources there within certain limits. But as long as there isn't such policy, people are not suppose to use the resources there without permission.

You can read the previous post, Office Ethics I - Internet, here.

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16 September 2007

MSN Personal Messages III

This is the third episode, of "MSN Personal Messages" series.

* No good deed goes unpunished.
* A hungry man is an angry man.
* People lose their health to make money, then lose their money to get their health back.
* To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.
* Don't wake up a hungry tiger.
* Life is nothing but a big test.
* You are what you eat.
* We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
* I am not what you are searching for.
* Impossible is nothing.
* It's only after we have lost everything, that we are free to do anything.
* I am not supposed to love you, just because you love me.
* You can have anything in life if you are going to sacrifice everything else for it. And you might not have it after all.
* All of us search for love, but some of us, after we've found it, wish we hadn't.
* A man is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.
* Love is for the Lucky and the Brave.
* There is nothing more dangerous than an idea, when it's the only one you have.

See episodes one, and two.

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15 September 2007

Office Ethics I - Internet

You know, it's now Ramadan here, and people try to improve themselves during this holy month, they try to get closer to Allah (God), and do good things. And this inspired me to pick a new topic to talk about here, let me call it "Office Ethics".

I'll mainly focus on questions like, Is it ethical to do so and so?, and most of the time I'll wait for your answers, because I am not a preacher and I need your feedback to guide me.

Most of us have Internet connectivity at work, they work on PC's and they have IM's there such as MSN, AOL, etc. They are also allowed to surf the Internet and download music. So the question is, when you are supposed to work from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, is it ethical to do non-business activities during the working hours, like chatting with your friends, checking your Facebook profile, watching videos on YouTube, downloading movies, etc?

You may say that it is not ethical for sure, and you are wasting your time. But on the other, we are humans not machines, we cannot work continuously without taking any rest. For me it is a bit more clear. In the company I work in now, there is some kind of unwritten agreement, that people are allowed to was as much time as they want as long as they finish their tasks in time. Some other companies have certain softwares to block MSN, and P2P applications as well as blocking some web sites, but for sure they cannot block everything. I used to work in one of those companies before, but when I needed some rest I used to grab a paper and pen and start drawing. So at the end of they day, people are going to waste their time even if you lock them in a cages and order them to work continuously. The funny thing is that in that company I used to leave at 5:00 PM sharp, but now I can stay for many hours after 5:00 without being pissed off. I am also more productive in my current job.

But, is it all about delaying your tasks!? Sometimes people download movies and stuff from the internet, and this may slow down their co-workers connection, and affect their business related online activities. Sometimes your chit-chat may disclose some of your companies secrets? I hate it when people send me jokes and religious-stuff on my business email.

So finally, I want you to tell me:

* Is it ok to do non-business online activities during your working hours? (Yes - No - Yes, with limits, please mention them)
* Is it ok to send jokes and funny mails to your friends or co-workers on their business mail?
* How can you tell if downloading a movie, or doing a voice call is going to harm your co-workers connectivity? Aren't we supposed not to use those bandwidth intensive applications at work?

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05 September 2007

Blog Hacking

I've received the following question a while ago, so I think it'd be nice to publish it here.
Amre El-Abyad said:

Dear Tarek,
What iss the best way to protect one's blog against hacking?
And here is my answer:
Dear Amr,
First of all make sure that you have a strong password that no one can guess easily.
Also, some Add-On's and Widgets are not trusted, they can bring you Advertisements and steal your account credentials (user name and password), especially those free Toolbars and the untrusted programs that people add to their browsers.
Make sure you have the latest Antivirus in order to protect yourself from key-loggers and the other Malwares.
Sometimes Antiviruses cannot protect you from every single Malware, so having a personal Firewall as an extra layer of security can block those softwares from contacting their original servers back.

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17 August 2007

The Bourne Legacy

Last weekent I went to the Cinema with some friends to watch The Bourne Ultimatum, starring Matt Damon, and the good looking actress, Julia Stiles. I was waiting to watch that film, especially that it is a sequel to The Bourne Supremacy, a film that I watched a while ago on my PC. What I like most about The Bourne series is the rhythm of them, and the overall style of the action scenes and the suspense there.

The three movies - my Firefox dictionary now refuses the word Movie, after changing it to a British-English one. Anyway, those films were written by Robert Ludlum who died in March 2001. And since he didn't write but just three novels in this series, it is not expected to have any other The Bourne Whatever films soon. But wait a minute, there is another writer called Eric Van Lustbader who decided to write other spy fiction novels based on Mr. Ludlum's work. But the question is, are we going to see The Bourne Legacy in theatres soon? And is it going to be good as the other films based or Ludlum's novels or not?

I also went to an Arabic film called El Shabah - The Ghost - and guess what, it shares with The Bourne Ultimatum the idea of someone suffering from amnesia, and trying to escape from some bad guys while on the same time he wants to know his real identity. But believe me, comparing El Shabah to The Bourne Ultimatum is like comparing a Zastava 750 to a Porsche 911.

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This Day in Gr33n-History

Till I find new topics to write here.

17 August 2005, The Israeli Model.
17 August 2006, Beta for Blogger.

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07 August 2007

Brain Exercises

It's been a while since I've written anything here. I don't know why is that. May be my mind is empty, or I am a bit busy. May be I find most of the blogging topics that pop-up in my mind more suitable to my Arabic-Blog. Anyway, I am writing this post to tell you that I am still alive and kicking. And also to post this link, that I've just read now.

Recall that technology facilitates function, purporting to make life easier. As a result, it does to your brain’s wider potential what McDonald’s did to the hamburger: it standardizes it to death. Consider:

* Camera phones: They mean you’ll never have to describe anything again. A picture is worth a thousand words, but those are your words; don’t give them up so easily.

* Text messages: You sacrifice spelling, word choice and description on the altar of convenience. What’s sacrificed today becomes habitual tomorrow.

* Emoticons: Those moronic faces have no business in a world in which true emotions are far more complex; they belong on grade school lunch pails. Are you really “happy,” “sad” or “winking?”

* Shorthand: The likes of “LOL” should embarrass all of us. How many times are you really laughing out loud when you type that?

The following 5-day workout routine features three elements: A small change to encourage mental flexibility, a focus on a perceptive sense to foster the imagination, and a critical thinking tool to apply throughout the day to nourish a healthy skepticism. On the weekends, feel free to be as stupid as you want.

PS1. Don't forget to tell me how did you find those exercises.
PS2. If you are Egyptian (or Middle Eastern), then "Monday = Sunday", "Tuesday = Monday", etc.

Link: AskMen.com - Brain Exercises.

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09 July 2007

Favourite, favourite, favourite :P

One of the cool features in Firefox is its built-in spell-checker. In fact I cannot live without spell-checker either in office or web applications, especially when writing an new blog post. But it used to annoy me each time I write the word "favourite" this way. I even started to believe that my spelling was wrong. But today I knew the reason after seeing this link. And the good news is that you can download different dictionaries for Firefox - including the one for British English - that work with the spell-checking feature in it.

And now, I can simply write words like "Colour", "Favourite", "Centre", and "Criticise" without Firefox bugging me any more.

Special thanks for Lady Banana who gave me the link to Firefox dictionary files.

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26 June 2007

Facebook - Friend Requests

Sometimes you receive friend requests for Facebook on an email address other than the one you used to register on Facebook. The problem is that when you press on the link at the end of that email, you have no choice but to register for a new account using the mail you received the request on.
Here you are an example of the links you receive in such emails:
http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=1111111&k=1111111&r&v=2
So, in order to overcome this, just remove the "&r" part of the link. and you will not be asked to register for a new account then.

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23 June 2007

Egypt - Is it Still a Regional Leader?

We were taught in schools that Egypt is the leader of the Arabs and their big brother with its bzillion years history and wise role. But, is this still true now!? In fact I think the Egyptian leadership has shrank due to many reasons.

Some may claim that Mubarak's regime is focused on some minor internal affairs such as preparing his son Gamal to succeed him. And this is the main reason that Egypt has lost its regional place.
"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime has focused much of its energy on ensuring its continuation. Egypt has entered a period of political uncertainty; given Mubarak's advanced age (he turned 79 in May) and deteriorating health, the president could either die or become incapacitated in the course of the next year. Mubarak's absence would destabilize the country's political system, as questions would arise about his potential successor's ability to govern as effectively as he has. Thus, Mubarak is working assiduously to hand over the reins of power to his son, Gamal", Intelli-Briefs.

Soft Power.

To be honest, I do not think this is the only - or even a major - reason. Let me first define what is soft power.
"The basic concept of power is the ability to influence others to get them to do what you want. There are three major ways to do that: one is to threaten them with sticks; the second is to pay them with carrots; the third is to attract them or co-opt them, so that they want what you want. If you can get others to be attracted, to want what you want, it costs you much less in carrots and sticks", Soft Power, Wikipedia

"Soft power is the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. It differs from hard power, the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will", Joseph S. Nye Jr., The International Herald Tribune.

So you can sometimes use the Media or any other source of advertisement in order to affect the others and capture their minds and let them want what you want, and do what you want them to do.

Another concept that we may need to define here is " The Sphere of Influence"
"A sphere of influence (SOI) is an area or region over which an organization or state exerts some kind of indirect cultural, economic, military or political domination. Also, in some areas of habitation, shopping or retail outlets or indeed destination outlets, have a sphere of influence over towns of certain areas. A country within the "sphere of influence" of another more powerful country may become a subsidiary of that state and serve in effect as a satellite state or de facto colony", Sphere of Influence, Wikipedia.

The Death of One Leader, and the Birth of Another One.

In order to unite the neighboring countries, Gamal Abdel Nasser called for a pan-Arabian unity, where he focused more on the ethnic (Arabic) characteristic of those countries. He supported the revolutions there and one of his goals was to have neighboring countries with similar secular and social ideologies in order to position those countries within the Egyptian sphere of influence hence obtain a leadership position among them. Radio stations such as Sot El Arab (Voice of Arabs) were established in order to help in spreading Nasser's propaganda. Then it was 1967 when the Arabic armies were defeated under the leadership of Egypt, and the idea of pan-Arabian unity became more foggy. During that war, Ahmed Said of Sout El-Arab famous incident when claimed that we were kicking the Israeli Army's ass and later on people realized that he was bluffing. Such incident and many similar ones made such pan-Arabian media looses its credibility. Twelve years later President Anwar El Sadat sign a peace agreement with Israel, and Egypt's membership in the Arab League was suspended for about 10 years.

On the other hand, many others believed in a religious-based instead on an ethnic-based unity. You can take the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudia as examples. During the 70's Saudia started to market their own version of Islam (the Wahabism), either by printing low-price books, or by sponsoring preachers and scholars across the Arab word. Many people went to work in Saudia especially because of the high standard of living there, thanks to the oil explorations there. The presence of Holy Mecca there made people see them as the only infallible source of Islam. It was even normal to see people here in Egypt wearing the Saudian dress (Jalabiya), and listening to Quraan reciters from the Gulf area instead of the famous Egyptian ones like Mohamed Refaat and Abdel Basset. Several books and fatwas were produced targeting the major Egyptian symbols. "Nagib Mahfooz is Kafir", "So is Taha Hussein", etc. Cinema, theater, and various forms of art were attacked in the name of Islam, simply because this was of the main methods that Egypt used to spread its culture across its neighbors. And as a result Saudia started to emerge as an alternative Arab leader instead of Egypt, with a sphere of influence that covers most of the Sunni world.

[Updated] In fact the Egyptian government has committed many mistakes. First of all it helped in the spread of the Wahabism, because they wanted to benefit from their ideas about obeying the ruler regardless of his deeds. The government control over Al-Azhar which is also financially dependant on it helped in affecting its image and people started to loose trust in it as well, and accepted the Wahabism as the only alternative to Al-Azhar.[/Updated]
"First of all, I think the regime now plays a dangerous game for letting the Wahabism spread , [because] Wahabism calls to obey the ruler whether he was good or bad. Don't forget [that] this sect was spread in Arabia with the help of Britain in order to stand against Mohamed Ali and his influence. Another why it is spreading in Egypt, simply because now the people don't trust Al-Azhar because it follows the state", Zeinobia.

The CNN Effect.
"The CNN effect or factor refers to the process by which the coverage of foreign event by CNN causes that event to be a primary concern for its audiences, which in turn forces the federal government to act", Robinson, The CNN Effect.

Here in the Middle East there is Aljazeera effect instead of the the CNN effect. Aljazeera news channel started broadcasting in 1996, and since then it became the main source for news for both the Arab citizens as well as politicians. If you come down to the streets and ask people about their opinion in stuff such as the Iraqi Resistance, Hezbollah's war against Israel last summer, or even other local issues in their countries you will sure see Aljazeera effect in their answers. In 2002 another competing news channel Al-Arabiya started broadcasting with its own agenda too. CNN became what it is because they were able to have reporters behind the enemy lines during Gulf War I. They were able to cover the war from the battlefield. Aljazeera gained its position during Guld War II, and the fall of Baghdad. Now if we look at Egypt, it didn't try to have its own news channel in order to have its effect on the Arab streets. And please don't tell me that we have Nile News, because I am sure that no one watches it.

The Sticks and The Carrots.

Sure soft power is not enough. Even USA depends on its economics influence and military force all the time. So what about our sticks and carrots. Many Arab countries such as UAE and Saudia now have multi-billion dollars investments here in Egypt and for sure they can use such economical influence when needed. On the other hand I don't think Egypt has significant investments outside its borders. About the military force I am sure Egypt is supposed to have the biggest army in the region but since the last war that we were engaged in was more than 30 years ago, it is really hard to prove if we still have our sticks or they are broken now.

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22 June 2007

Wget and DOS For Loop

Most of the time when you want to download a file, you righ-click on its URL in your browser and choose "Save Target As", to save it somewhere in your local hard drive. But imagine the case where you want to download about 100 files, saving each file individually will be really boring and time consuming. So let me first introduce you to a tool called "wget"

"GNU Wget is a free software package for retrieving files using HTTP, HTTPS and FTP, the most widely-used Internet protocols. It is a non-interactive commandline tool, so it may easily be called from scripts", GNU Wget Page.

The good news here is that they have Windows binaries in order to run it on your Windows PC. Now, one more thing to mention is that you can write a simple "For" loop in DOS.

FOR %variable IN (set) DO command [command-parameters]

Let's say we want to download the Holy Quraan from Islam-Way website. Each Sura is stored in a separate file, and these files are named "001.mp3", "002.mp3", etc. And the files are all stored in the following location, "http://download.quran.islamway.com/quran3/133".

So, go to "Start Menu" and click on "Run", and write "cmd.exe" there and hit the "OK" button. Repeat this step three times in order to have three command prompt windows open. Then write the following commands in the open windows to download all the files. Now, make yourself a cup of coffee and grab a book and start reading it till your computer finishes downloading.

for /L %i in (1,1,9) do wget http://download.quran.islamway.com/quran3/133/00%i.mp3 -O 00%i.mp3
for /L %i in (10,1,99) do wget http://download.quran.islamway.com/quran3/133/0%i.mp3 -O 0%i.mp3
for /L %i in (100,1,114) do wget http://download.quran.islamway.com/quran3/133/%i.mp3 -O %i.mp3

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09 June 2007

IP-TV: Joost and Babelgum

If you're not that much into networking and TCP/IP stuff, please skip this paragraph. A long while ago a friend at work - he now works in Cisco Systems - was preparing for an IP TV and VoD (Video on Demand) demo for one of our customers. We then had a debate about Multicast. In fact I was never able to like nor understand such technology. In web content, you request a page from the server and it gives it to you, then another user requests the same page, and so on. But when it come to a continuous stream of data like TV broadcast, it is hard for a server to serve that huge number of subscribers continuously at the same time. So my friend's point was that in order to stream the content from one point to a huge number of subscribers, the streamer has to send one stream to a multicast address and this stream shall then be copied/splitted by the routers in the path in order to deliver it to the appropriate subscribers. I was then obsessed by the P2P (Peer to Peer) technology, so I told him why don't we make some kind of Media Player that can take a stream and distribute it to other neighbor nodes in order to reduce the load on the main streamer. And guess what, it seems that my idea then wasn't really bad.

Joost and Babelgum are two new softwares which are trying to create a new way of watching TV online. Believe me, after a short while everything will be online. They have signed contracts with TV channels and content producers in order to broadcast their content to the users. According to their model, users will not pay any fees, but they will make money by having Ad banners in their softwares. They both depend on a Torrent-like P2P technology where the content is broadcasted from a certain location, and each client (node) acts as a small streamer. So beside watching the content you are also copying it and passing it to your neighbors. Today I wanted to try one of them, but you know the creators of Joost are those who created Kazaa a while ago, so I was afraid to install it and find my PC filled with Spywares and Adwares later on, so I preferred to try Babelgum instead. The content there is not that rich, but may be it is because they are still in a beta-trial phase.

The problem with those softwares that the content there will always be tailored for their main users in Europe and USA. And that's why I think people here shall start creating our own version of IPTV softwares and sign with the local content producers such as ART, Show Time, etc. Egyptian Radio and TV Union can also provide them with Arabic movies, series and documentaries. Such project can be sponsored by local ISP's. By the way the (co-)founder of Babelgum Silvio Scaglia, is also the chairman of one of the Italian ISP's.

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07 June 2007

Social Vulnerability

I know that many of you are discussing Social Networking Services. We are all now obsessed with Facebook, Flickr, Twitter as well as Blogs. But let me ask you, isn't it risky to expose our personal info for anyone to see it. Photos, family members and friends names, daily routines, and much more, are just published and seen by hundreds, if not millions, of strangers.
Forget about those freak conspiracy theories. In fact if the CIA is going to waste its time gathering info about you and me then they must be idiots. But people with bad intentions can do various things with such info, from digitally manipulating your photos to Social Engineering.
Please watch this video to know what I am talking about.



One of the main problem with the published info online, that once it is out there, it is really hard to de-publish nor remove it.

But on the other hand, isn't it really fun to share what you are doing with your friends, I admit that despite all these concerns, I do blog and have a Flickr and Facebook accounts. I was able to find many old friends and create new ones as well from such services. Flickr made me interested in photography, and having an account there was the main motive for me to buy a dSLR Camera.

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30 May 2007

Information Warfare

The U.S. Department of Defense recently reported that the Chinese military "has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks"
Source: Computer World Magazine

Is the Internet going to be the battlefield for future wars? Will this be a good choice for developing countries which don't have fancy weapons? Actually, I think that today information warfare is just a complementary weapon beside traditional ones. But for sure it is an effective one. We all know the economic impact of virii outbreaks and DoS/DDoS attacks. And I am sure countries shall start training computer experts and building security teams in order to develop cyber weapons as well as security systems to protect their assets. What really scares me is that almost all the softwares and network equipments that we use are made in USA, Europe or even China. We can never be sure that they do not have back-doors. People who call themselves hackers here are nothing more than script-kiddies. We have to have more advanced education programs in our universities. The government has to sponsor some local projects in order to build our own security products. One other solution is to have open-source softwares. I know that open-source security products are not that good. But having Snort as a second layer of defense beside you McAfee or Juniper IPS is a good option. Students in Computer Science faculties shall study open source softwares and learns from them or may be build their own softwares and add-ons to them.

By the way, I don't want to be very pessimistic here. I am sure that having an American firewall is much better than not having a firewall at all.

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28 May 2007

Geek Hacks

Since I have nothing in my mind to blog about now, so let me introduce you to some geek blogs that are on my Google Reader.

1- gHacks, I guess the 'G' in their name is for Geek. You can find there many tech news and geek hacks.

2- Life-Hacker, it is not always computer related stuff. As you can see from their name, it has info such as "How to tie a Tie", "How to speed up your Adobe Acrobat Reader", etc.

3- Boing-Boing and Tech-Crunch are two of the most famous technical news blogs out there.

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15 May 2007

Excuse me ma'am, may I shoot your butt?!

There is a Flickr Group called "24 Hours of Flickr", where all the members were supposed to take photos on 5/5/2007 and submit the best shot they took then to the group, and they will pick the best ones and publish them in a printed book later on. So I decided to go down to the street on that date and started taking photos of Cairo streets. But while I was taking photos near the Corniche, a police soldier started to ask me why I was taking photos, and then asked me politely to finish quickly before an officer sees me.

Yesterday they wrote in Al Arabiya news site that an Egyptian guy was arrested for shooting women butts in the street

So let me ask you now, do we really have here in Egypt a certain law that tells people when they are allowed to take photos, and when they are not allowed to? Even in that women-butt-obsessed guy case, I know that it is sick, but is there a certain law against doing so? What if he was shooting their faces instead? I am sure that many countries have different rules and laws, but do we really have such thing here in Egypt, or it is just random?

*** Update ***
Zeinobia's comment inspired me to add this. Away from the law, let me ask you, is it ok to shoot people you don't know in the street? Or, shall you take their permission first? What if it is a group of people, shall you ask each one of them? What if you are taking a photo of the pyramid and there is someone standing near by, shall you ask him/her too?

I know it is common sense. But sometimes common sense in not very common.

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08 May 2007

Sarkozy

The president of the Union for a Popular Movement, the main French Right-Wing political party, has been elected as the new French president for the next seven five years. I think you all have heard that famous saying that "Latin America is moving to the Left", after the election of many Left-Wing parties leaders there. And on the other hand, I think "Europe is moving to the Right", with the presence of Right-Wing political leaders in the two major countries there now, France and Germany. Sarkozy was welcomed by the US President George W Bush, he is seen as a strong ally of Washington, is often described as "Sarko the American" by opponents in France, who criticize his open admiration for American values. I guess he is going to be the French version of Tony Blair when it comes to foreign policy. I am afraid that the hopes of having Europe as an opposing power against the United States absolute power are dead now. Sarko is also known for being against the Turkey's entry into the European Union, with his famous saying that Turkey's entry to the EU would mean the "death of political Europe". His policy is not expected to be very welcoming to the immigrants, and you sure remember when he famously described the young demonstrators in the Paris suburbs in 2005 as racaille, or "rabble".

But I don't want to be very pessimistic here. One of the main disadvantages of the former French regime is that it had strong relations with many Arab leaders and that made them not to criticize such regimes nor even comment on any of their non-democratic brutal acts, and they were also biased toward them against their opposing parties. This may be clear in Lebanon for example, where they were biased toward the government against the different opposition parties there.

By the way, will we ever see a woman in our presidential elections here? And will any one vote for her?

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Sandboxie

I you are one of those who like to try new softwares, then you'd better have a look on Sandboxie application. When a software is added to Sandboxie, it will be able to read from you hard disk, but not writing to it. It will act as a virtual layer between the software you are running and your hard disk, it then can monitor the read operations and force the write operations to be made into a virtual location that can be erased easily.

This can be really useful in testing non-trusted softwares, especially that access to the following classes of system objects are supervised by it such as Files, Disk Devices, Registry Keys, Process and Thread objects, Driver objects, Named Pipes, Mailbox, etc. The point is that I am not sure how will such application protect you when installing a certain application that has a certain Adware/Spyware bundled with it. Shall you run the installer itself into Sandboxie or what!?

PS. I haven't used this application yet. So please try to send me your feedback when you try it.

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03 May 2007

The Thinking Bloggers Award


Nousha, the Photographer, Aikido Player, and Bloggeress has tagged me. And I am supposed to write down five blogs that makes me think. I don't want to repeat myself, so I'll try to pick non-Egyptian blogs this time.

Hammorabi, an Iraqi blogger, mainly political posts.
Remarkz, a Lebanese blogger, mainly political posts.
Life Hacker, The Blog Title says it all.
Digital Photography School, although Darren is Canonian, but his blog is really cool and informative.
Lady Banana, stay tuned and you will discover many Web2 services, humor, and cool ideas.

Finally, I'd like to thank Noushaaa so much. In fact I do not have much time now a days to read every single Egyptian blog post as I used to do before. So I added my favorite blogs to my Google Reader's list. And Nousha's blog is one of those few blogs that are on this list.

I am not sure if any of the bloggers mentioned above really reads my blog. So I cannot guarantee that this tag will not come to a dead end here.

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28 April 2007

Sortak.com

Sortak (Your Photo) is a new Egyptian site, where people can upload their photos and share them with others like in Flickr and Zooomr. It's free, and so far I cannot find any limitation on the number of photos (kilobytes) you can upload there. The good thing is that you can also let them print selected photos from your account and send them back to your home. The different photo sizes and their equivalent printing prices can be seen here.

URL: http://www.sortak.com/

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23 April 2007

When Twitter Met Foxy Tunes

I don't know if you use Foxy Tunes, but it is a Firefox plug-in that I use in order to control my Music Player from my browser's interface. The creators of Foxy Tunes have created another plug-in called Twitty Tunes, it allows you to publish the music you're currently listening to to your twitter account.

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17 April 2007

Is The Blogging Hype Over !?

I may be wrong in this, but I think that the blogging hype is dying. A couple of years ago, it was really normal to see people blogging about their own cats, or how they brush their teeth. And this is what I meant by the term "Blogging Hype".Every one has a blog, and they all write about everything. Later on many other technologies were introduced, and they all share the collaborative nature of blogs.

Twitter for example is a tool where people write what they are doing for their friends to read it. Try adding twitter to your IM, and you will really hate yourself after getting zillions of updates from your friends every minute. Flickr and Zooomr - One of the main reasons that I don't use Zooomr is that I never remember how many o's are there in its name - are site where people can upload their photos and leave comments on other people's photos. Facebook is todays hype, it is a social network where people can meet new friends, but it also has a mixture of Flickr, and Twitter's features.

So the point is that many bloggers started to emigrate from blogging to those sister-technologies. People interested in photography will sure prefer to use Flickr to upload their photos than customizing there blog or photolog, especially that Flickr has built in forums where they can have further discussions about cameras, techniques, etc. and it can be a good alternative to their blogs commenting system. Those people who prefer to consider their blog as a personal notebook, where they write their daily routines will sure prefer to use a purpose built system for that such as Twitter. And as a result, many bloggers started to use alternative tools to fulfill their collaborative needs, and hence the blogosphere is really changing now.

May be this means that blogs are getting more mature, or may be they are becoming more dull. After having a quick look on my Google Reader, it was obvious that most of the blog posts there - at least for the Egyptian blogs - are political ones, especially the holy mixture of Leftist, Islamic, and Anti-Regime blogs. By the way, here in Egypt, the religious parties are located on the left side of the political spectrum instead of its right side as in everywhere else.

Finally, I do not want you to jump to a conclusion that blogs will die. Blogs will sure be there in the near future at least. However the blogosphere will be different from what it used to be a couple of years ago.

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01 April 2007

Do You Turn Your Wireless Router Off At Night?

Many of you have a Wireless ADSL Router at home, so let me ask you, do you turn it off at night when you go to sleep for health reasons!? You know, we are always scared of waves, our mobile phones, WiFi, Microwave ovens, DECT phones, etc. And many people turn their mobile phones off when they go to sleep, however I do not do so. So, back to our question, do you turn your wireless router off at night, or it is just placed in another room so you don't care, or you have your own reasons not to turn it off, or what?

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300 Spartans

Tonight I went to the movie 300, which took place in ancient Greece in 480BC. The movie is about the Battle of Thermopylae, where Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the last man against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army.

The movie itself is not that good, however the visual effects are brand new. Do you remember The Matrix, and the rotating camera - also known as Bullet Time - that was really cool, and many other movies imitated it later on. As well as many other visual effects. I also think that 300's visual effects will be copied in other future movies too. The colors and lighting where intended to make it look like a fantasy comic book. In some scenes, it was hard to tell if they are Black and White, or Colored. Some other scenes looked like Film Noire to me. The movie itself was based on a comic book with the same name by Frank Miller, and this can explain the presence of beasts, giants, and strange creatures in the Persian army.

The question now, don't you think that the current tension between US and Iran has inspired the move creators to shoot this movie. Greek is always considered as a symbol of the western civilization. Sparta is shown as a democratic state in this movie, while the Persians were shown as a slave empire, which is however a historic error, since slavery was also very common among the Greeks. The image of the Persians where they were shown as homosexual, handicapped and/or deformed in some way, was intended to show how evil they are, and how brave the Spartans/Americans are.

By the way, since it is the 1st of April, has any of you come out with a cool April's Fool for this year!?

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31 March 2007

PayPal Guys need Geography Lessons

Glasses

Today I wanted to see how can I upgrade my Flickr Basic account to a Pro one, but unfortunately all the online payments have to be done through PayPal. PayPal guys on the other hand need to go back to school or at least visit Wikipedia to know that there is a country called Egypt that is not there on their payment form.

So I think I'll stick to my Flickr Basic account for a while till I find someone abroad who likes my photography that much to buy me an account.

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17 March 2007

Oly E400


I told you before that I want to buy a digital camera. I also told you that I want it to be a dSLR. The only two brands I knew were Nikon and Canon. Till I went to PhotoEgypt2007 Exhibition last Friday.

Canon had a big booth, in the center of the Hall. They were showing their EOS 400D, they told me that it's price is LE 7,800, which is really expensive. May be because it's the most famous brand here, that's why they put high prices on their products. The camera was locked in a glass stand, and visitors were not allowed to play with it. They didn't even have brochures for their products.

Nikon almost has no resellers here in Egypt. Fujifilm had some Nikon cameras in their booth, but they only had the D80 and D200, when I asked them about the D40 or D50, they told me that they've never heard about them. They don't even know their own Finepix F30.

Most of the other exhibitors were either small shops selling old cameras with fishy prices, or companies selling printers, inks, frames, memory cards, lighting units, etc. I didn'r even see brands such as Sony, Sigma, Leica, and Pentax.

I then came across an Olympus distributer called Optoscient. They were showing two dSRL models there, E-330 and E-400. E-400's price was LE 5,500. I took their address and camera brochures and decided to add Olympus to my dSLR short list.

It came out that Olympus has great cameras, it has internal sensor cleaning system for example which is not in any of Nikon cameras nor Canon's EOS 350D. It's 10 Mega pixels with spex comparable to Nikon's D80 which is about 50% ~ 75% more expensive. I like their four-thirds standard, which allows for the interchange of lenses and bodies from different manufacturers. So when buying Oly I will not be limited to their Zuiko lenses. So I went last Thursday and bought that camera and I am really happy with it.

Looking forward to learn more about digital photography and add more photos with my new camera on Flickr.

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14 March 2007

Spanish Inquisition

In joint event in Chicago marking 21 years since establishment of relations between Israel and Spain, Spanish consul general apologizes for expulsion of Jews from his country in 15th century. He also stated that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was an "almost barbaric" act.
Source: Ynet News, Jewish Scene.

But the question is, were the Jews the only ones who faced discrimination and were kicked out of Spain at that time!?

On March 31, 1492, the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims was issued. Approximately 200,000 people left Spain. The Muslims of the newly conquered Granada had been initially granted religious freedom, but pressure to convert increased, and after some revolts, a policy of forced expulsion or conversion was also instituted in 1502.
Source: Wikipedia, Isabella of Castile, Expulsion of the Jews and Muslims.

After the fall of Granada in 1492, the Muslim population was promised religious freedom by the Treaty of Granada, but that promise was short-lived. In 1502, Muslims were given an ultimatum to either convert or emigrate. The majority converted, but only superficially, continuing to dress and speak as they had before and to secretly practice Islam and use the aljamiado writing system. This led Cardinal Cisneros to use a more forceful approach, which resulted in an uprising in 1500 to 1502. This was suppressed, and the Spanish authorities took that as a pretext to void the rights and obligations in the surrender treaty. As early as 1508, authorities banned traditional fashion. In 1567, Philip II of Spain issued an edict requiring Moriscos to give up their Muslim names, their traditional Muslim dress, and even prohibited the speaking of Arabic. They were even told that they would have to give up their children to be educated by Christian priests.
Source: Wikipedia, Moriscos History.

I agree with the Spanish consul general, that expulsion of the any specific sect from any country is an "almost barbaric" act. In fact, I think the the whole Spanish Inquisition was a barbaric act. But he has to apologize to the Muslims who faced similar discrimination too. Which is not the case, and no one ever thought of apologizing to them. May be because our regimes have similar Inquisitions in the Muslim countries now a days, so we are supposed to be used to this, and we shall be grateful to the Spanish people for teaching our regimes such thing.

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