Oct 22, 2007

my woes with the new machine

its been almost a month with the new computer, the issues I have had so far are:

1- I cannot control the volume on the optical/spdif output, that means my objective to eliminate the receiver remote control is in jeopardy, in lay-man terms the computer sends out all six audio channels (5+1) to the receiver using AC3 or DTS format, these formats are the original unaltered audio signal and to make changes to the volume it would need to uncompress the sound modify it with new volume info and then re-compress it, this would effect the audio quality so its not done this way, the sound card lets the audio pass unaltered all the way to the receiver, the only straight forward work around to that problem is that I take the six individual analog audio outputs from my computer and plug them to my receiver/amplifier, for this I would need to buy a new receiver as the existing SONY STR-K740P doesn't accept individual audio channel inputs (it accepts optical and coaxial), I wonder if the audio signal on HDMI cable is AC3/DTS or something else, if it behaves well, it can be another viable solution.

2- I am still using legacy IDE instead on SATA AHCI mode which if I enable would let me plug in hard drives with out starting/stopping the machine, plus it supposedly have a more intelligent Queuing algorithm, which should translate in to more efficient seeks, this problem is still outstanding, no drivers out there seems to be able to fix the issue.

3- the 720p flat screen displays currently in the market have a max Resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, my VGA card sees the flat screen as a generic nPNP monitor and hence doesn't let me set the max res to 1366x768.

4- I don't use the native Denovo Edge method of connection, since I need the bluetooth functionality so
I run a small binary that changes the IDs of the bluetooth dongle in the registry so that windows Vista views the dongle as bluetooth, this is not a very elegant solution as when the machine comes out of sleep mode it doesn't always connects seamlessly to the keyboard.

5- the price for internal HD_DVD drives and Blu-Ray are still prohibitive.

6- vista 32 bit cannot address 4GB memory

I would consider the project complete once I have all these issues resolved, I will update this same blog with any resolutions that I come up with.

Oct 10, 2007

new machine

recently changed the computer setup in the house by moving away from a 'laptop-centric-strategy' to a more 'sturdy-central-server'. Another thing thats different this time is that I decided to put together a machine myself instead of going with a mainstream vendor, 10 years ago thats what I use to do but then Dell made it economically unfeasible to go through the hassle of DIY projects.

Some of the problems that I attempted addressing:

1-whether its writing a blog, watching a Ron Paul youtube clip or reading something on techcrunch, your family might want to chime in to all those activities, and if you are spending a lot of time on a laptop, then they are are pretty much being neglected and are also being left out of the whole experience, my solution to this is to bring every one in to that fold.

2- laptops due to there very design philosophy (mobility) make it almost impossible to have them running 24/7 on an available network, having a server that serves as a file server, hobbyist web hosting platform etc. etc. on a decent bandwidth sounds pretty appealing.

3- I think we are right now moving in to a new era of computing, from 65nm chip fabrication to 64-bit computing to hdmi to clear QAM HDTV tuners, SATA instead of IDE, everything is getting a face lift and a lot of these components are really affordable by themselves, this has left a lot of bundled hardware providers scrambling to play catchup (they need to upgrade there over all lineup as well as cut down the prices for there existing top-tier offerings), what sony, dell, lenovo and hp are offering is not everything that i am looking for, and in the instances where they are offering it is at a price I am not willing to pay.

4- what was a I looking for? a machine that can do a little bit of everything, it needs to be a decent server so that I can run VMWare on it and experiment with different Operating systems/technologies without messing with the main machine and it also needs to support HTPC functionality (run all kind of multimedia apps, interface with a lot of different gadgets, is able to do HDMI/optical output, edit video etc.)

5- Most importantly when I put together my shopping list I was looking for something that can scale, hence a casing that supports lots of hard drives and a motherboard that supports all PCI and PCIe slots,16 GB 800Mhz SDRAM and AM2 socket for future processor upgrades

here is what I plan to run on the new machine:

1- Vista 32 bit with Windows Media Center
2- fedora 7.X under VMWare server

and here is what I have put in to the machine:

1- GIGABYTE GZ-X1 BLACK 0.6mm SECC / ABS Front Panel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply
2- GIGABYTE GA-MA69G-S3H AM2 AMD 690G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
3- AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Windsor 2.6GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADA5200CSBOX
4- nMEDIAPC ZE-C68 All-in-one USB 2.0 Card Reader w/ USB Port - Retail
5- G.SKILL 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL5D-4GBPQ
6- 2 Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500JB 250GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive
7- 1 300 GB external NDAS (networked) hard drive
8- Logitech diNovo Edge 2-Tone 84 Normal Keys 9 Function Keys USB Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard
9- SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S203B
10- HDHomeRun Networked Digital TV Tuner

with a Brother all-in-one WiFi printer and a UTStarcom F1000 WiFi phone I think I feel pretty much in-sync with the times.

things that are still on my wish list for the near term:

1- 36-bit physical address (PAE) support for Vista (so that I can use the existing 4GB of RAM (all of it, not just 3.2 GB) and also when I add more RAM I don't have to upgrade my OS (at least not now when the driver support isn't that great for the 64 bit OS)

2- working SATA AHCI drivers, so that I might experience the joys of NCQ and hot-pluggable hard drives (right now I am running in native IDE mode)

Aug 26, 2007

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 5) final

In conclusion, its in ruling classes own interest to have a libertarian view on regulation, for Pakistan it would make sense for everyone to think about the following:

1- Tighter population control: no matter how much a country produces the population is growing at an unsustainable rate it will eat it self up.

2- education: not just quantity but quality, we have a generation that was raised with out any civic sense, they have no idea what it means to be a democratic capitalist society (in contrast to feudalist), its now ok to take bribes (ok meaning, some one can very casually say that they take bribes amongst family and friends, like there is no 'sharam' (shame), to cut lines, to not stop on stop lights, to splash public restrooms(if you can find any) in the name of ablution with total disregard towards others who might also want to use a dry and clean restroom, anything goes as long as you can say inshaAllah /mashaAllah before and after every sentence that you utter.

3- Wide power base: meaning they should not rely on only a particular segment of the society for legitimacy (not just the rich, not just the literate, not just the young, not just liberals)

4- Genuine power sharing formula that has real representative of the people empowered: it’s not enough to have politicians and businessmen on your side, what’s most important is having people who have really served the community that they represent, people who have a history of social work behind them and so the people they represent really trust them. They represent there people out of there genuine interest in there constituencies well being

5- establish politics as a profession hence an institution: since we are living in the World envisioned by Adam Smith, it might not be in the interest of the people themselves to take the attention of social workers away from there calling, the next best thing is to have professional bodies that regulate a politicians conduct, also folks can take subjects and hence can be trained to think in terms that make there representation more useful for the people and for the government

6- give up control : , there is too much control on everything people do, lets embrace capitalism in its truest form, let people practice there faith and follow morals anyway they like and let businesses do what they do, make money, governments role is to facilitate those things not to raise barriers as Thomas Jefferson once said “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

7- create a sense of belonging to a single cause of progress amongst the masses, let them have clear goals and tell them what there role will be, that message can be delivered through the community representatives ( union/labor unions can tell the labors what is expected of them, teachers can tell there pupil what they need to do, teachers can be told by the principle what is needed from them, (see why we need strong institutes?? if nothing else just to better organize the society in to more efficient specialist units).

8- tell the people about the golden age of Islam, and for a change be honest and precise about the details make them realize how great things were but make sure to tell them that those times were great because there was wide spread religious tolerance, appreciation for art and craft, you will see statues of dogs in the veranda of great mosque in Spain you will learn about great Muslim musicians, its all the finer things that make that era a golden era, when people praise the time they praise the civil law and order, the arts and crafts , the city municipality, they don’t praise the role of mullahs or the role of prayers 5 times a day or that every woman use to wear a naqab, or that all men use to ride there pants above there ankles?? those aren’t the reasons why the Muslims in Spain were so successful, I think Muslims of that era were like a blank slate where ever they went they took interest in there surrounding, in all the new things , just like when a kid goes to a candy store, and with a kids learning agility they embraced all that and become a guiding light for the rest of the World of that time, what people need to understand is that one of the things that happened towards the end of the golden era was that Muslim fundamentalists from the northern African countries raided Spain and burnt down as many books as they possible could, they believed that the Muslim rule was crumbling in Spain due to the relaxed religious atmosphere, what they failed to see was it was a system that worked since the 8th century and it could have been the many other factors that were present at that time (too many ambitious Muslim generals, crusades, the awakening of the Christian Europe etc. etc.) Warren Buffett describes three phases in the economic life cycle of a company, first stage is development stage when the company looses money as it develops products and establishes markets, next stage is rapid growth when is company is profitable and generating enormous profits (Islam’s Golden age?) , third is when the company matures and growth rate slows, In the last stage the company suffers decline, I think we as Muslims are right now in the 3rd phase, there are not many great examples of turn around at this stage (IBM is one success story) but still there is, and the only way a turn around is possible is by being more creative and being accepting of the new ground realities.

Empires and nations also go through the same cycle, Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, Incas, all were great empires at one time, the Hindu ideology has faced extinction several times during the course of history, but its ability to bring change from with in in response to changing times has made it last this long.

Since we live in the post industrial world we need to learn and apply the new rules of the game, if we try and run a circus with out teaching the dog any new tricks I don’t think there is going to be any crowds looking our way.

Aug 25, 2007

Rwanda's genocide spilled over into Congo

Rwandan Genocide was the killing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis by two extremist Hutu militia groups, the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, The Interahamwe had the backing of the Hutu-led government. A majority of the killings were perpetrated by the Interahamwe. After the genocide many of these malitia members ran in to neighboring Congo and continue to carry out there barbaric actions.

Mike Thomson from Radio 4 interviewed a young Congo mother who had been abducted, raped and forced to kill her own baby, there are a 1000 people killed in any given day in Congo today. We cannot turn our eyes away and let them butcher themselves.

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 4)

As we move forward in time another big reason for Muslims in particular was there inability to realize the importance of strong institutions and professional bodies to promote or protect various aspect of life other then religion, Muslim scholars made huge inroads in science and philosophy, but there knowledge did not help form think tanks that would influence the people long after they were gone, there books were more regarded as badge of honors among the Muslim society rather then a source of useful knowledge, Europeans on the other hand took those books and since they had no reason to associate any reverence or pride to the text , just utilized them objectively taking what was useful (and perhaps proved in an experimental lab) and leaving what they didn’t find of any particular application, there intent to benefit from the real world prizes with in that text was an early sign of entrepreneurial ship.

Another reason for Europe’s emergence was that unlike the constant turmoil faced in the Muslim empires around the world, they were relatively shielded from out side attacks, when they become too rowdy the church was smart enough to raise the banner of crusades to get all trouble makers out of the city and send them away to far off lands to fight and die, I guess the combine effect of 1- yearning for maximum profit, 2- lack of man power (a-due to plague, b-due to crusades, c- due to generally low birth rates) 3-less regulation; was what lead to the industrial revolution, and then nations that jumped on that bandwagon early on had an enviable lead over the nations that didn’t.

In England, even before the start of the industrial revolution it was common to have two levels of workers in and around the city, when the work for the city workers was too much to handle they use to 'outsource’ it to the workers in the suburb, and so there were certain rules of the game being followed way before it became a global phenomenon.

Industrial revolution was the final leap that set Europe way ahead of any thing that any other civilization had ever achieved, this revolution was only a natural extension of all the activities that were already going on in that region, once trade started flourishing demand rose, it rose to such extents that there was no other way but to look for automation, and hence countries who had already hoarded wealth and know-how were able to invest in bigger and better means ( say machines) of production to handle that demand.

As the size of a factory started growing it became almost impossible for the cottage industry to compete with the factory and so the entry requirement in the industrial segment become so high that countries who had earlier missed the boat were left out for good, only now in the 21st century when the demand has again risen so much that the work needs to be outsourced further out is when we see the poor nations getting in to the industrial revolution (and that too mostly thanks to investment from the West).

Unlike the Europeans who had the Greek school of rational thought to fall on, Muslims had no such school, people like Ibn Rushd who tried to bring the Greek philosophy in the Islamic fold was not successful in the long term, due to lack of institutions.

On the political front the big win for the western civilizations was the French revolution where they proved that there was no need for religion to play any kind of a role in governance hence one more layer of regulation removed.

Other then the Muslim Spain, amongst most Muslim countries innovation and research was driven not by reason but by faith, which is to say that if any scholar came to a conclusion which even hint at a difference from what is in the holy book would be put down, and so only that research was sanctioned that yielded results that were in tune with what the theocracy of the time believed was in the book.

As mentioned earlier west was infatuated with mechanical toys and gadgets, reasons for the gadget and machine to flourish was the low birth rate and the plague (which at that time was seen in the Muslim circle as a curse on the infidels) which further exacerbated the labor conditions, This adoption of machines did not happen over night, west was eager to find new avenues for finding cheap (read slave) labor and once production was high there started a search for open markets, the British made it in to a science, for example they took over the Indian Sub-Continent, used the readily available cheap labor to grow tea, made that very nation addicted to the product, and made a fortune doing that, repeated the same formula all over the World (this is where the present day corporations learn there lessons for developing a market for a product) and hence the vicious circle of capitalism saw its roots first in mercantilism/imperialism.

It wasn’t until the 19th century when the sub continent first started using the printing press (I guess this reflects on another aspect of our nature, for any meaningful change we have always looked outward, it was the Mughals who introduced a love of finer things in life to the region and then it was the British who introduced us to the industrial revolution.

Aug 24, 2007

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 3)

Eastern civilizations are more willing to comply and willing to make compromises with there surrounding probably because of over exposure to ultra strong leaders (as in emperors) and extremely hot weather (one can wear warm clothes to deal with harsh cold weather, but what can one do to deal with hot and humid weather) the same attitude is seen in there behavior towards following religion (absolute servitude, no questioning, no will to rebel) on the contrary the Europeans even a thousand years ago were seen as vulgar barbaric, ill mannered , loud and of course promiscuous by the eastern civilizations, which if you think about it might be a sign of there free spirit :)

This mind set is somewhat common amongst all humanity, Stanley Milgram in the 1960s proved through well documented obedience studies that human instinct is to not to question higher authority. I think this in turn reflects on the dual nature of democracy, if practiced amongst politically immature people it can yield undesirable results (point in case German Nazis party victory in the mid 20th century ) .Fareed Zakaria (editor Newsweek international) in his book future of freedom discusses why Democracy is not inherently good, I am of the opinion that there is no better political system then democracy given that there are strong institutions that breed great leaders, yes leaders are bred, they are sculpted there innate abilities are cultivated just like pedigree dogs or championships horses, you need a good set of genes to begin with but without the right environment, a dedicated teacher (who knows what he is doing) and the right opportunities there is no leader.

Aug 23, 2007

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 2)

wealth is a by-product of progress.

Progress has taken different meaning in different times. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks were considered progressive for there unique approach towards the understanding of a variety of subjects ranging from health, politics, philosophy, etc. Egyptians were once considered progressive for there construction and people(read slave) management skills. Muslims were also once the most progressive force on Earth for there works in the fields of medicine, philosophy and architecture. They were considered the teachers of the World in the post-Roman era.

I think since the industrial revolution progress means the application of science and technology in everyday life to make life more organized, hence freeing up time for more intellectual pursuits.

(have we gone back a full circle? Are we living the Greek philosopher's dream?)

The story goes that on the broad spectrum of time we can see Eastern civilization’s infatuation with empires, we had the Chinese empire, the mogul empire, the ottoman empire , the Egyptian empire etc etc., the last great empire that the Europeans saw was the Roman Empire (the British empire was there more for business reasons then anything else, plus the Western Civilization had already established itself as a progressive power to reckon with by the time the Empire theme emerged, I will also comment on mercantilism and imperialism in a later post), which was essentially different on many levels from its Asian counterparts.

The bad thing about empires is that they tend to regulate all and every aspect of the society which hinders free thinking which in turn hinders innovation, Chinese invented paper, water clock, printing press and so many other things hundreds and thousands of years before anyone else but all there inventions were geared towards the dynasty's rulers and not for the service of common populace, hence no concept of free market economy, anything and everything that the people got was due to the benevolence of the emperor.

Weather was also a factor, in Algeria when the French took over the place, the hot weather made it next to impossible to spend long hours outdoors, working in the fields and even those who did try doing that use to become victims of malaria and so many other diseases, (on a side note the French came over that problem by draining a lot of stagnant water pools no idea why the indigenous didn’t think of it) .

Aug 20, 2007

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 1)

picked up a book couple of months back (right now alternating between 'the Warren Buffett Way' and this one) titled 'the wealth and poverty of nations, though I might differ with David Landes's opinion on a few things but generally he makes a sound analysis, in his book he talks about the vast disparity of wealth and progress that one sees between todays developed and not so developed nations. Being from Pakistan, I couldn't help but draw analogies between his reasons for failure of the Eastern civilizations and the state of affairs in Pakistan, I will try and do a series on what I think are issues that threaten Pakistan's present and future in historical perspective (my opinion may seem effected in large by the book in question).

Aug 14, 2007

fastest guitar solo 1000 NPS

ok so it turns out the original 1000NPS video on youtube was fake, check out this video where this guy has blown the cover off the fastest guitar solo.

Aug 9, 2007

security analysis

these have been testing times for many of us invested in the stock market one way or the other and so this has become an opportunity for me to reflect on my own investing strategy/idiosyncrasy. Lately I have been skimming through works of Ben Graham and Philip Fisher on the behest of a friend of mine, who I respect for his investing acumen and also for sharing his valuable investment ideas with me. I don't think I am any better at understanding intrinsic value or margin of safety than I understood them before but then the way the market has behaved in the last week or so its really hard to find anything that meets the conditions to pass Ben's quantitative analysis. It kind of makes you humble when you look at your portfolio and wonder how much does one really knows about the underlying securities, if nothing else I can at least make out the difference between an investment and a speculation, but then as Descartes reminds us 'It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.'

Jul 20, 2007

capitalism vs socialism and democracy

its a documentary called 'wealth of nations', this is part 1, I would highly recommend folks to watch all 18 parts.

Ron Paul on American foreign policy

Jul 15, 2007

Dan Case

recently watched a youtube video on revolutionhealth.com the new Steve Case online venture and that made me think about Dan Case to whom all AOLers will always be indebted for believing in Quantum (AOLs predecessor) and introducing it to Steve Case who whirled it to such success in so little time. If you are in search of a role model for your kid (or yourself) Dan is the man, he was brilliant in every meaning of the word (not just academically), extremely successful in his investment banking career and even though, according to his friends, was always the smartest man in the room yet his legendary, down-home humility was nothing short of a miracle. We can all learn from him.

Jul 14, 2007

culinary delicacies

watched ratatouille, the new pixar animation, I think it was nice, though they some how managed to keep away from the more renowned French culinary exports, but then there is at least one delicacy for each living specie out there in the French cuisine and I guess it would have been really boring if the movie was to focus on the cuisine rather then the little chef. All and all the movie does make you want to go to Paris for you next vacation.

Escargot, de foie gras, cavier and truffles. I have my own theory about these delicacies, I think it was the chef's revenge on the French aristocracy, they came up with an ingenious plan that would not only work to satisfy there masters but also give them a way to get back right at them, this was executed so well that even today people happily pay a premium for fungus (truffles), now the interesting thing is that China is now the biggest truffle exporter, they are putting out more truffles then Italy and France combined, and so here is the dilemma, truffle prices are going down which again doesn't sit well with the Europeans, so they are saying that the Chinese truffle quality isn't as good, come on guys potato potata, big difference.

culinary dictionary:

1- goose liver (foie gras)

de foie gras (French for "fat liver") is "the liver of a duck or a goose that has been specially fattened by 'gavage'. Liver from a regular goose doesn't become foie gras, its the force feeding, that bestows that honor on the goose

2- truffles (fungus)

most decadent expensive foods on Earth, a pound of white truffles can sell in excess of $2000 per pound. Truffles are a fungus of which there are over 70 known varieties. The two most prized varieties are black truffles from the Périgord and Quercy regions in France and Umbria in Italy . The second most prized variety is the White truffle from Piedmont in Italy

3- cavier (fish eggs)

4- escargot (snails)

Jul 12, 2007

washington dc careers:lobbyist

legend has it (as popularized by Willard Hotel propaganda/marketing folks) that right around the time when the unionist were wining the civil war, Grant who was the Union army General use to smoke in the hotel lobby while visiting DC, since he was the leader of the winning side therefore a lot of people were conveniently found hanging around the lobby seeking favors from the leader, hence the term lobbyist, the job description of a lobbyist hasn't changed much since then, though it might be much more complicated now but then we are talking about the capital of the free world where free trade as preached by Adam Smith is on full swing, and as they say over here every thing is a marketable asset from the senator's robe to the senator himself, not to sound as if the senators take bribes, they do not, just that voting a certain way for causes that are dear to some corporation may well make the next campaign a well funded one. Anyways extending the earlier post 'Washington DC careers' Google 'lobbyist' and you will find the following traits desirable in a lobbyist:

1- should have the power to persuade
2- presentable personality
3- in most cases friendly demeanor (confrontational folks need not apply)
4- should have in depth knowledge of the cause they are pushing
5- should have the ability to cultivate a network of resourceful people

Jul 11, 2007

more walkable neighborhoods

if you live in the fairfax/loudoun county area you cannot help but notice folks riding there bikes on major routes such as route 7, route 50 and route 28 and that too at night. There is something fundamentally wrong with that picture, how can you end up with vast spreads of neighborhoods without any consideration for people with out cars? ok so you would imagine then there would be an extensive network of public transport right? wrong. I think these are counties that were probably designed with the oil and automobile industry folks leading the charge, the reason why I say that is because most of these areas are hopelessly not walkable, come on you cannot tell me walkable neighborhoods are a new idea, people have been living in bustling cities all around the world since last hundreds of years, you get down from your apartment and shop for everything you need with in a few blocks, but the problem doesn't end just there, most of these folks that you see on the road are not making any effort to be seen by the driver in the car whizzing by, specially at night pair of dark jeans and jacket are not a 'smart' thing to wear as it makes a bad situation worst, folks living in the Northern Virginia region are not even use to looking out for folks on motor bikes let alone on bicycles, this is one of the unsafe places to be on two wheels for that reason alone, sad part of the story is most of the folks on bikes are not casual bikers, they are riding there bikes to work and many of them are riding them late at night of them are our Hispanic brethren who may not be working jobs that provide health insurance which means if they get hurt they cannot afford the hospital bills.

I think we need the following to happen to make things better:
1- make a 2 foot wide dedicated bicycle lanes on all routes (ALL ROUTES)

2- educate bike commuters to wear bold flashing headgear/clothes, this education needs to come from the church, the employer, the Hispanic TV and radio stations, schools shouldn't be the only place for this kind of education because mostly people I see doing this are not teenagers but grown men, who seem to be recent immigrants

3- start a dialog between employer and employee, so that if the employee's only transport is his bike the employer can put him on a day time shift

4- driver-ed should include a comprehensive section that puts an emphasis on looking out for bikers.

5- enforce a universal health care system at the county level. There are too many rich folks paying too much tax, Universal health care shouldn't be a problem here.

An atmosphere that encourages less cars on the road is
1- good for the environment
2- good for the general health of people and
3- its a good way to tackle the traffic problem,

how many council members does it take to figure that out.

by the way those of you who would like to attend a conference related to environment here are a few happening in/around Washington DC in the near future:

www.eesi.org free day seminars
www.energyconversation.org DOD sponsored, free
www.greendrinks.org - International Group with DC monthly bar meeting
http://www.2020vision.org/ July 12 program in DC full day $100

Jul 10, 2007

washington dc careers

this is a good time to be in the greater DC metro area as the career choices that are available here right now are simply splendid. A few that come immediately to mind are:

1- lobbyists
2- Non-profit/Social worker
3- career diplomat
4- authors
5- doing business with the govenrment
7- homeland security
8- aviation industry (3 airports)
9- investment banking
10- management consulting
11- tour guides
12- technology workers (contractors and full time employees)
13- chefs
14- event planners

some might be surprised to see chefs on this list, well Washington DC is quickly becoming one of the top spots on the list of culinary tourists, the proof of which is that Last year in the District alone, $2.3 billion was spent on food and drink, according to Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington! arguably some of the most prominent chefs in the East coast (Michel Richard (Citronelle)) run a kitchen here.

Jul 9, 2007

big company life

the flip side of working for a big company is the risk averse nature of job for most employees, Adam Herscher an ex-Microsoft employee blogged on his reasons for leaving that life to tryout something different, I find his reasons interesting and agree with the timing as there couldn't have been a better time, the economy is doing good, job market is fine and as he puts it he is still young and dependent free, its better to start out sooner then later.

The things that he lists as reasons for him to leave the job:

1. lack of work hard-play hard culture
2. not much room for individuals to take big risks and reap big rewards

his solutions:

provide a risk/reward system in which one's work can have a direct impact on their stake in equity.

he makes a lot of sense, you should read his blog too.

Jul 3, 2007


1986 is when I first came to know of the Transformers. I was visiting some family friends in Queens, New York and like all the other larger then life things that New York has to offer, I instantly associated them as being New Yorkers. Although, later on I came to realize they were from Cybertron but that didn't make me doubt even for a minute that had they been Earth natives they would most definitely be from New York.

I didn't like the way they killed Optimus Prime in the original animated movie, however the trailers make me think that Optimus Prime is back, giving proof to the saying 'Empires Rise and Fall, But Heroes Live Forever'.

I really like the theatrical trailers of Transformers, I just hope those aren't all the key moments of the movie, I don't wanna go to the theater just to see how a movie ends, I don't even mind if people tell me the ending, that doesn't spoil the movie for me, I enjoy the whole journey to the end, so what spoils the movie for me is when all the key moments have already been shown in the promotional trailers, my beef with the movie studios has been that now a days many of these sci-fi movies aren't based on a solid story all they have going for them is these glorious moments, these outrageously beautiful cinematic effects that are sprinkled (often sparingly) here and there, and since the only way the distributors can make any money is to literally get the customer's foot in the door, so more often they just give away all glorious moments in the 1 minute trailer which in turn takes the air out of the whole movie watching experience for me, if you have seen the trailers then you have pretty much seen any thing noteworthy in that movie.

I have a feeling this is not the case with Transformers, but then you never know, I don't think War of the Worlds was anywhere near what I had hoped for it to be or maybe, at least in my opinion, Steven Spielberg has become a victim of his own success, I have such great expectations from anything associated with him that no matter what the final product its never good enough.

Transformers has a legacy and an existing fan base (in-there-late 20s/early 30s which is a very lucrative market demographic), what remains to be seen is if Micheal Bay/Steven Spielberg will deliver what that fan base expects, they sure seem pretty confident about it, there are already talks of a sequel slated for a release in 2009, but then as they say in Hollywood You don't really choose a blockbuster, it's the blockbuster that chooses you.

Jul 2, 2007

David Pogue on New York Times

David Pogue is a technology columnist for the New York Times, he posts his video reviews on the NYT website every now and then, I find his analysis more consumer centric, like he would tell you not how many pixels a certain camera is or whats the advertised network capability of a particular wireless router, rather he will synthesize all that information and tell you how good the picture looks or how quickly can you transfer large files over a network using that particular router, as I learn the hard way, numbers don't always tell the whole story in todays Digital World.

Jun 26, 2007

The 'not so' Open Line to the West Coast

Just finished listening to a radio show that a friend who recently moved to California recommended, its a talk show called 'The Open Line to the West Coast' on KGO and the host is Dr. Bill, he is a scientist (according to Wikipedia, the radio website and his own resume) and from what I googled, my friend isn't the only one listening to him, he seems to be spearheading a slightly different (more rooted in the conservative approach) ideology regarding the environment, though whats interesting is that he is mostly at odds with the established proponents of the present day main stream environmental movement (which we can say for most part of the US revolves around sierra club, Al gore and the broader Democrat caucus) he seems to talk on many different topics, though I don't think all of his assertions regarding those topics can be followed blindly, though his credentials and his convictions makes you want to do just that. In the show that I listened to, he was constantly challenging the Sierra Club and the US forest service for a face off, though according to him they never respond, the colorful labels he gives them are though quite amusing in there own rite, here are some of the things he called them that I can recall from the hour long show on the ongoing lake Tahoe fire:

1- vulgar pyromaniac criminals
2- vulgar criminal hypocrisy
3- so called eco saviors
4- so called environmental saviors
5- eco-freaks
6- eco-frauds
7- bunch of do nothing nuts
8- bunch of dummies
9- eco-nerds

He is as condescending as they come, specially towards those who call in to share equally valid but different opinions, about those who think nuclear energy is not part of the solution but actually the problem, he says 'its only a problem in the eyes of the ignorant and the idiots who tell the ignorant that its a problem'

my favorite line from the show: 'talking to you is like wiping your nose on a grind stone'

things I agree on with Dr Bill:

1- right now Nuclear plants are the most viable solution to the impending energy crisis
2- the long term fix for forest fires is forest thinning
3- natural gas power plants aren't that great they also produce green house gas emissions just as coal burning plants
4- spent fuel rods from nuclear plants can and should be processed to reduce nuclear waste
5- bottled water is a fraud

What I don't agree with him on:

1- California is already doing energy conservation to the fullest and there is no more room to conserve.
My response to that: thats really load of baloney (in Dr. Bills own words) if thats so true then how come we still see SUVs occupied by single occupants hogging CA freeways, why don't we see more neighborhoods transformed in to walkable ones, why don't we see billions of dollars pouring in to mass transit projects and I can go on and on and on...

2- nuclear energy plants are problem free.
my response to that: chernobyl

3- his total irreverence to people with a different point of view.
my response to that: diversity of thought is one of the things that make this country great, your age old beliefs and opinions shouldn't be a hindrance to your ability to listen to new ideas and castigate those who present them, thats not very productive, scientists should know better.

I started off thinking I will blog on the lake Tahoe fire, but ended up rewriting the whole piece on Dr. Bill I guess thats the thing about polarizing personalities, they take your focus away from the issue, but then there is already a lot being written on it, my adding to it would just be adding noise to the coverage.

Jun 18, 2007

more clean, more efficient

some stunning images of cars fit to appear in a scifi movie (next installment of "minority report"?) came out of the 2007 Geneva auto show, if this is what the new prius is gonna look like, then so long rest of the automobile industry.

Speaking of green vehicle options VW seems to be working hard at trying to cash in on green car buzz, as they just rolled out another model that gives you 62 miles on a gallon, no news of the long awaited honda diesel for the US market though like always there is this rumor of a large diesel engine for the Amrican market, the new buzz comes with a news of a 'plasma' technology that keeps the emission squeaky clean (some electric generator/reactor that breaks nitrogen oxide in nitrogen and oxygen ( most of earths atmosphere is made up of nitrogen) again something really cool, the reported mileage (62MPG) also sounds fantastic, plus its gasoline equivalent V8 power makes it good enough to be my next car (in 2010), all thats needs to be done on Honda side is to make sure they come out with there next generation of Nav system (anti aliasing fonts, bluetooth with PBAP and A2DP support, plus i wanna use traffic info/alert via the internet connection from my wireless provider, make it open standard based and drop the monthly fee, also let me create and upload my own POIs?, simulate a route before I start the journey) give me altitude info also, let me download my travel stats and map them to google map after all that all thats left for me to do is look for a house next to a Macdonald's where i am gonna get my supply of bio diesel, (it will work with bio-diesel with out any mods right?.

Speaking of cleaner high efficiency cars, you should for sure checkout this article by Daniel Weiss, though I do not support think tanks with any particular political leaning as I think that effects there objectivity but nevertheless this one is a must read as it comes with a lot of statistics in favor of higher government fuel economy standards, I think numbers speak louder then words.

Apr 15, 2007

afternoon tea in washington dc

afternoon tea is a national past time in England. For the Anglophiles living across the pond, its a charm to find a nice nook around the capitol where one can enjoy a cup with friends and family, just couple of weeks ago had tea with the in-laws at the peacock lounge in the Willard hotel, I have only good things to say for the ribbon sandwiches and the assortment of teas, not to say the ambiance was in any way less, for some one like me who loves not only the drink itself but the whole ritual surrounding it, its a gem of a place, on that note want to share this article by Ali Noller in Washington Post, this was published in 2003, but still is quite relevant. We haven't witnessed a tea renaissance in the Americas (yet).

Apr 13, 2007

Honda diesel for US market

Last year when i was in the market for a car, I thought something with a diesel engine would be more earth friendly then any other car (even a hybrid), so i looked around and all I could find was a VW Jetta, but then although I was willing to go for a clean(er) fuel car, but I was not willing to do that at a price of technology/available gadgets, Jetta was miserably lagging behind in that department (a noisy diesel, very basic navigation system, no integrated bluetooth etc.), the only other option was to wait for the Japanese to come out with there diesel for the US markets, there was a rumor for Honda working on a V6 diesel for there odyssey/mdx lineup, but then that was to happen in 2009, so I ended up buying a Toyota Prius, I cannot say how happy I am with the decision, the PZEV really puts a smile on your face when you are stuck in traffic, its a buzz for your eco-friendly conscience. The way gas prices started dropping recently made me wonder whether plans for a US diesel will ever leave the boardroom discussions but now the price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil is again on the rise and that gives me hope that our Japanese brethren will live up to the rumors. (Haven't seen anything pointing to the diesel development in the 2007 New York Auto show.

Apr 12, 2007

Earth day

April 22nd is Earth Day, this day has been celebrated in certain circles since the 70's, this year is special as the live green message has never been this strong probably since the last ice age, I would say the most obvious reasons for this change in our attitude towards global warming is thanks to citizen journalism, people from all around the world and from all walks of life are discounting the idea that environment is not an issue they care about by showing that they care, there has been a steady rise of blogs from all corner of the Earth addressing Environmental deterioration, main stream media follows the story and so the story has arrived. As they say Earth is fragile and we all share the burden of caring for it.

Apr 11, 2007


Joost just came out with a new release of there client software (0.9.2 beta), judging by the channel lineup(they signed Viacom in February), application feature set and the technology under the hood (p2ptv) this may very well be what video.aol.com should have been in the first place.

for those of you not following the joost evolution (pronounced juiced), all bets are on for them to become the killer app for 2007, they are certainly generating a lot of buzz (viral marketing at its best), internet blogging community loves them, they have a great line up of original content providers and a great development team (Geir Magnusson, a household name amongst the open-source community recently left Intel for Joost, he has been at the forefront for the non-Sun Microsystem open-source Java platform initiative) spear headed by Niklas Zennstrøm and Janus Friis who have earlier delivered the likes of skype and kaaza.

Apr 4, 2007

India outsourcing moves to front office

somebody sent me this link to an article about the state of outsourcing in India, found it quite interesting, also to get an idea of where Pakistani software exports stand today go read the industry overview on Pakistan Software Export Board website.

when the princess carriage turns to pumpkin

well something quite similar is supposedly happening overtime with the fancy processors that are at the core of our computers, research at the Illyria University's Information Technology department reveals that processors loose speed over time. you can read more about this story here,though I would say read this with a grain of salt, as I wasn't able to figure out whether this university even exists or not. Also this was first reported on April 1st which makes me think of this as an elaborate prank, the only thing I found with the University name was a geocities website which was last updated in Jan 2004. I think we will hear more on this research in the coming weeks, nevertheless I will update this posting with the facts if and when I find them.

Mar 31, 2007

oracle acquisition timeline

Just when we all thought Oracle was done shopping (at least for now)after spending more then $20 billion USD in the last 3 years, we got the news of yet another acquisition, case in point Hyperion Solutions. Starting January 2005 we saw Larry implementing the then new growth strategy which puts vertical market product acquisitions squarely in the center. Oracle believes that for it to reach its 20% growth target for the next 5 years it has to pursue the new strategy as it can no longer rely on just organic growth. Oracle's chief geek executed this strategy by targeting industry segments such as retail, government, and financial services, where key rivals like SAP and Baan have not yet found a huge audience (Baan ERP is now owned by infor and is known as SSA ERP LN, It is basically Baan ERP project "Gemini" that runs on Unix servers).

The only thing left to be seen now is how oracle leverages these pure play acquisitions and makes them work with its core competencies, if Oracle is able to actually deliver on its promise and pull it off, it will be a success story that will be taught in business schools and told in corporate boardrooms for years to come.

oracle acquisition timeline


Just to give an idea of how much depth oracle added to its product suite here is a time line of its acquisitions between 2005 and 2007.

Since I have long been working on Portal Infranet Billing System implementation extension and deployment, therefore that acquisition last year was of particular interest to me, one thing that strikes me immediately is that with Portal Infranet and Siebel, Oracle is now the only enterprise solutions provider that can provide a truly end to end single vendor CRM solution for Telecoms and ISPs, and if you tie in to this equation PeopleSoft, it becomes a solution that can give SAP executives many a sleepless nights.

Just added (Saturday March 31st 2007): I saw another news release regarding Communications Billing and Revenue Management System (CBRM, previously Portal-Infranet) being now available for the Linux platform, I think given that linux is the one of the most deployed web hosting platform, its a very smart move on behalf of Oracle to align themselves with the open source platform, though I think if given the fact that MySql is maturing very nicely and is catching up with many of the features readily available with Oracle, MySQL will be the first database choice for all those willing to host on an open source database.

I guess Oracle's remedy for that is theInnoDB and SleepyCat (Berkeley DB) acquisition. everything has a sale price and Larry seems to always make an offer no one can refuse.

Mar 30, 2007

summer of 2007 in Pakistan

Pakistan tourism website has posted a 2007 events calendar, I thought I'd post summer events from this calendar here on my blog.

April 2007
1st - 10th; International Youth Performing Arts Festival at Lahore
11th - 14th; Baisakhi (Hasan Abdal) A spring festival of the sikh Community
12th - 13th; Baisakhi Mela (Festival Sakhi Sarwar)
13th - 20th; International Mystic Music Festival, Lahore
25th - 27th; 49th meeting of UN WTO, CSA and CAP
27th - 29th; Train Safari - Khewra Salt Mines with a Cultural Program A railway journey through the incredible Salt Mines

May 2007
11th-15th; Chitral and Kalash Festival A culture mix of celebrations
16th-21st; White Water Rafting, Azad Kashmir A gripping experience
25th - 27th; SAARC Tourism Mart, Karachi

June 2007
9th; Golden Jubilee Celebrations of First Ascent of Board Peak (8047m)
15th June - 15th July; Pakistan Women Kushek Training/Expedition, Hunza Building the spirits and exploring exotic destinations
15th June - 30th August; Pakistan Board Peak Golden Jubilee Expedition Be apart of the celebrations for the completion of the 50 years of climbing the Board Peak in 1956-7
22th - 29th; Shogran Festival A colourful cultural event in the lap of Himalayas
25th - 27th; Hunza Festival & The Tourism Convention

July 2007
7th - 9th; Shandur Polo Festival (Chitral - Gilgit) with Festival at Kalash Polo at the roof of the world
10th - 15th; Karakorum Car Rally Adventure at its Peak
15th - 17th; Broghil Festival
23rd - 28th; Mountain Marathon (AJK - Kaghan)

August 2007
12th - 14th; Freedom Jeep Rally, Gaddani Beach, Baluchistan
14th; 60th Independence Day Celebrations
23th - 24th; Mahodand Mountain Jeep Safari to the source of river Swat (9000m above sea level)

Mar 29, 2007

Karachi, Pakistan and Urdu

World Social Forum 2006 (Karachi, Pakistan)
Originally uploaded by skasuga.

in the not so distant past whenever someone mentioned Karachi, political unrest is what use to come to mind, these days it seems the city is struggling to get back to its roots, roots that run deep in the soil of culture. Culture whose biggest symbol is the Urdu language.
Not only in Pakistan but any literati from the South East Asian region (India being the biggest country in that region) will acknowledge that Urdu language literature has been the prized asset of the people from that region.

Urdu brought out the cultural and literary sophistication of the region, if it wouldn't have been for Urdu, we would have still been living in a World dominated by Persian Literature.

Urdu is a symbol of culture and civilization (adab/aadaab, tehzeeb aur saqafat) and I am happy Karachites are realizing that, best of luck in finding the lost glory.

saw an interesting blog on Karachi by Raza Rumi, he has interesting things to say about a lot of things, you might also enjoy his Karachi brief.

The Bourne Ultimatum

the final installment? of my favorite action/thriller series is coming out this summer, August 2007

Mar 28, 2007

cell phone blogging

I think being able to publish a video or a picture on your blog instantaneously via cell phone is really cool, though websites that let you do that in a minimally invasive way are still scarce.

flickr.com and youtube.com have been somewhat leading the charge in that arena, recently came across a relative new comer mojungle.com, there technology shows lots of promise, what remains to be seen is if they can build enough value in there offering that can challenge the current status quo.

Here is an idea for a product, how about a working relationship with ip camera manufacturers (for example Panasonic Wireless 802.11 b/g Network Camera (BL-C30A)) where instead of they letting you view the live feed on just the proprietary website, you make there feed avaliable on say mojungle. I think it would be the most streamlined way of sharing local events globally (or letting the grand parents back home keep an eye on the kids while you work on the next blog) imagine the endless possibilities :)

Mar 27, 2007

famous lines from GodFather trilogy

famous lines from the GodFather Trilogy

1- Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day - accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day
2- I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.
3- Drugs is a dirty business.
4- It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brassi sleeps with the fishes.
5- It's not personal, Sunny. It's strictly business.
6- Do you know who I am? I am Moe Green. I made my bones while you were going out with cheerleaders.
7- Every family has bad memories.
8- Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement.

and the most quoted line of all times from the same movie:

9- Never take sides against the family again, ever...

Pakistan Cricket and Religion

saw a tribute to Bob Woolmer in cricinfo by Shaharyar Khan, the former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, he made many good points here is an excerpt:

"The second obstacle that Bob faced was control of the team. Here he found that the captain's spiritual hold on the team prevented his holding full sway with the players, especially the senior members. Bob had some cricketing differences with Inzamam-ul-Haq but these were addressed through dialogue and mutual understanding, even though for days the captain would go into a brooding silence while Bob attempted to overcome the problem through rational discussion.

The more serious issue was that Inzamam was not only the cricketing leader but the spiritual talisman of the team who expected - and was mostly given - total obeisance by his team-mates. I recall Bob telling me, several months before the England tour, that he was severely hampered in addressing team issues because the players were constantly at joint prayers - at lunch, tea and after play. He said he never got a chance to coach the team. I advised him not to interfere in religious matters and to work round the issue. Several weeks later he came to me and said that he had appreciated my advice and added that he had found that praying together several times a day had let to bonding and a welcome team spirit in the team."
this article can be read in full length by clicking here

Mar 24, 2007

"The Awakening"

If you have ever taken a boat trip on the Potomac river around Washington DC, you can't help but notice the giant arms and legs sticking out of the ground right at the tip of the East Potomac Park, well thats a cast iron sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. it was put there in 1980 as part of a Sculpture Exhibition, though the theme of the sculpture (awakening giant) is quite different from that of the other monuments, memorials and sculptures found in DC, but it does stay true to the newer era of memorials that are designed not just to aggrandize a person or an event but to make it easy for on lookers to interact, examples being the FDR memorial, Vietnam memorial and more recently World War 2 memorial.

I wonder what is Mr. Seward Johnson's thought process, a mythical giant from someone who sculpts in realism. I for one see something full of nuance, so many things are being said in so many ways.

Here is an interesting (but extremely rushed) take on Washington DC tourism 36 Hours in Washington, D.C.

greg has left the building

Last night Greg took us all out to Bucca di beppo, to celebrate quite a few milestones, he is a loan free guy, his biggest debt was his SL500 which he paid off, he is moving to miami, as he found a job down there, so now he will be living on the beach.

The photo caption is a little misleading, as it was no way just a supper, though buca is a franchise (I will explain in some latter post why that matters) but they have quite an interesting take on servings, all there servings are family size, plus the food tastes really good, so you willingly clean your plates (and make mommy happy), they have a very authentic feel, great ambiance and very knowledgable and friendly staff (btw it was our server's 8th year with Bucca, that's an impressive employee retention record).

Checkout an interesting piece on SL500

Mar 19, 2007

what I want in a media center pc

ideally a machine under $800 with

1- Blu-Ray/HD-DVD read/write
2- hdcp compatible
3- HDMI (output configurable so that I can program sound not to go to monitor)
4- 7.1 Dolby stereo output
5- cable card compatible
6- Ethernet/wifi/bluetooth/infra red
7- OS similar to windows Vista
8- PVR
9- 1GB RAM
10- gaming capable video card

Mar 18, 2007

sunday still counts as a weekend

Saturday was spent getting the car serviced, and watching some of 'Naqoyqatsi'. I like watching documentaries ( I guess thanks to Michael Moore, now a days everybody likes watching them ), but this one didn't interest me at all, its an essay done in images, I switched to tv and watched a home improvement episode on HGTV.

I wish making a stone patio, putting hardwood floors and resurfacing kitchen cabinets was as easy as they make it seem like.

I guess Pakistanis (though not knowingly) celebrated St Pats day by turning green with envy on the Irish cricket win. Pakistan lost miserably to Ireland, that made a great St Pats day present from Pakistan to Ireland.

if you watch one movie this month make sure you watch 'The Namesake'. Though myself not very fond of fiction (you might have guessed that by looking at my book list) but it seems like these days you can't help but hear about Jhumpa Lahiri, she is quite an author as my literati friends tell me, but then Mira Nair is no ordinary director, though namesake might be her most significant work yet after Salaam Bombay. Yes its that good.

weekend talkies

for us, Fridays use to be all about socio-political events happening in Washington DC, there is something happening here everyday, anybody who has anything to say, has to say it in DC.

lets try and name a few event genres in a single breath, here we go, events on the embassy row, Georgetown/GWU/GMU events, Book reviews at politics and prose, lectures at the Smithsonian, political show downs at bus boys and poets , live performances at Jammin Java, award ceremonies at the Kennedy center, and if you happen to be part of any NGO then fund raisers and silent auctions.

But i guess movie and a dinner is the least common denominator and can entertain the widest segment of any society, not many have an appetite for politics and even fewer would want to use the limited evening hours commuting all the way to DC and back, so thats what we all end up doing more.

Last movie we saw was 300, it was a must see for me, as a friend of mine who traces his origin back to Greece-(birth place of logic) gave me a background on the battle of Thermopylae and then after wiki-ing it up it was hard not to see, a story of bravery, valor and sacrifice (agreed the high definition- action-packed trailers also helped)

Recently had dinner with a few friends at the Afterwords cafe in Dupont circle, its actually a pretty good place to hangout, you are surrounded with books and so even those who may not be voracious readers end up finding a book or at least a cause that they can stand for (or against). plus the actual cafe is an open air/out door arrangement which gives the place very nice ambiance.