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This is now my technical-only blog, my non-technical blog is here.

28 October 2006

GIMP: Lomo Effect

Click here to see the original photo.
Click here to see the original photo

The 35 mm LOMO LC-A camera employed an unusual lens which produced large amounts of distortion at the edges of the image whilst keeping the center sharp, it alos increases the contrast and colour saturation of the photos. The camera was promoted by businessmen from Austria with international gallery shows. You can see an example of Lomo like photos here, and here.
The GIMP, is a open-source software, which can be considered as an alternative to Photoshop. It has the ability to add Plug-in's and Scripts (Script-Fu). One of the scripts that I found lately has the ability to give photos taken by cameras other than Lomo LC-A a Lomographic effect.
To install the script -for Linux users only - save the file "lomo2.scm" into the following path, "/usr/share/gimp/2.0/scripts", given that you have GIMP version 2.0.
Script URL: Lomo2 Script-Fu

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Free Hugs Campaign

"The Free Hugs Campaign appears to have begun in 2004, and was widely publicized in 2006 by a music video. It involves individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public settings. The campaign is an example of a random act of kindness, a selfless act performed by someone for the sole reason of making others feel better. The original organizer has stated in interviews that the purpose is not to get names, phone numbers, or dates.", Wikipedia.

Now back to the Egyptian Blogosphere Meme, about the incident reported by Malek. "On October 23rd and 24th, large crowds of men sexually harassed women in the streets of downtown Cairo", MechanicalCrowds.
So, it seems that there are horny people everywhere, but some came out with the "Fee Hugs Campaign" idea, and others preferred to attack every single female in the street trying to touch an inch or two of her body.
As I said in a previous post, "The Middle Eastern society is changing into a Hybrid society, with a mix and match characteristics the Western society and the original Middle-Eastern one".

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26 October 2006

Public Masturbation in a Hybrid Society

I don't know if you've read the article published in Malek's blog lately about sexual harassment. It's in brief about what he saw in Cairo down town a couple of days ago, where dozens of men in the streets were chasing any female in the street, trying to touch an inch or two of her body.

As, you know, in the holy month of Ramadan, people are devoted to God/Allah, they try to pray more and prevent themselves from doing anything wrong during it. So, it became very common here to see people trying to be as good as they can till the month ends, then then as soon as the final day of it ends, they start to do all kinds of bad stuff, such as taking drugs, drinking, watching pornographic materials, and lately sexual harassment. However, from what I read in female owned blogs, it seems that harassment is becoming more common here everyday and everywhere. It's seen in public transportation, streets, schools, and even mosques

But, let me ask, why such thing was not common here twenty years ago. I think one of the main reasons for this is the Hybrid society we live in now. I am going to explain the meaning of hybrid society later on, but let me now do a quick comparison between the western society and the middle-eastern one.

In the western society, people can have girlfriends/boyfriends, they can have sex before marriage, pornographic materials such as magazines and videos are available, people have their independent life and most of them live away from their parents when they get older, and finally, there are laws against sexual harassment.

In a typical middle-eastern society, may be twenty years ago. By the way, I prefer to call it middle-eastern society instead of an Islamic one as these characteristics were common here in our society for Muslims, as well as non-Muslims. So, in the middle-eastern society the term of a girlfriend where not even defined, sex is not allowed before marriage, porn was really hard to get (remember, there was no internet then), people live with their parents till they get married, and so there was no need for anti harassment laws.

Now, with the presence of the advanced communication methods, such as satellite channels, and the internet, the middle eastern society is changing into a hybrid society, with a mix and match characteristics of each of the two models mentioned earlier. the idea of having a girlfriend is becoming more common here, however having sex before marriage is not allowed. So you can have a girlfriend, but you cannot kiss her. Porn is available, from the internet, and even video clips are more into semi-nude models, and on the other hand the western any-harassment laws are not available.

One more thing to take into consideration is that although sex is not allowed before marriage as I said earlier, marriage is not simple. When someone proposes to a girl he has to pay her Mahr - about L.E.20,000 to L.E.50,000 - and bring her Shabka - A diamond ring that costs much too. Some parents put extra financial, sectarian, and many other obstacles.

Sure there are many other reasons for such issue, such as the bad education system we have here, where students don't go to school, and as you know one of the main tasks of a school beside education, is discipline. People don't trust the religious system here - such as Al Azhar - any more, and they now get their religious knowledge from uneducated and untrusted sources. And what I mean by uneducated sources are those underground Sheiks who suffer from financial and may be sexual frustration, and they keep on talking about women as the main source of evil, and focus more on them as an object of amusement instead of a human being. Drugs and alcohol are becoming more common as well. Even the media here, including movies and music, which are supposed to build people's taste and mind are degrading.

Finally, I tried to put here what can be the reason for such shameful acts according to my point of view, however I think bloggeresses comments can help in building a more complete image here.

Update 3:20 AM:
It came out that Zeinobia wrote a great article about the same issue, you'd better read it too.
Egyptian chronicles, Searching for reason
You may also see Mechanical Crowds' "When The Crowds Are Gone".

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23 October 2006

Feed Readers

Google Reader Screenshot

According to Wikipedia, a Feed Reader, or News Aggregator or whatever you want to call it, is a client software that uses a web feed to retrieve syndicated web content such as weblogs, podcasts, vlogs, and mainstream mass media websites, or in the case of a search aggregator, a customized set of search results.

So, what the heck are all these technical names? Let's say you know a group of blogs that you like to read their updates daily. So, they came out with an invention, which is Web Feed. Web Feed is a web page written in a special format, where the updates of a site or blog or whatever content are shown. You may click here to see my blog's feed to know what I am talking about. The point of using a special format is to make it standard so that the Feed Reader software can read and understand it easily. And there are different standard formats, such as RSS and Atom. Now, back to the group of blogs you like to read daily, one solution is to remember their addresses and visit them one by one. But what if they are 10, 100, or even 1000 blogs, how can you manage to remember them. So, here comes the Feed Readers, where you add the Feeds of those blogs, and let it show you the updates in them in a single place. And that's why they call it Aggregator too. One more thing, it is not limited to blogs, you can add feeds from News sites, Podcasts, Photos Sharing Sites such as Flickr, etc.

The Feed Readers can be in the form of a Desktop software, but due to the webifying hype we live in today, there are many web based feed readers. You go to a web page and add the feeds you like there, and then you'll be able to see the updates from those sites, and blogs there in that page. Google Reader, as well as My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Rojo and Bloglines are the most popular web-based feed readers out there

I tried Bloglines a while ago, but I didn't like it's interface, and I am using Google Reader now. Actually, visiting and AlArabiya were more than enough to know the latest updates in the Egyptian Blogsphere and the News respectively. But later on, I wanted to explore blogs from different countries. Limiting yourself to your local Blogosphere is not a good idea, it's like limiting yourself to our local Media such as our crappy Channel1 and Channel2. But the question now, how can I pick the best blogs from zillions of blogs out there. Let's say I want to pick up some Lebanese blogs, that I think they worth reading, one way to do this is to go to a couple of Lebanese blogs, and then follow the links - and comments - there from one blog to another, and read three or four post in each of these blogs to know if it worth being added to my aggregator or not. Another method - the one I am trying now - is to add an aggregate for blogs from a specific country, like Manalaa, there are some locations where you can get aggregate feed from *all* the blogs in a specific country such as Lebanon for example. But the problem with this is that you'll find yourself getting zillions of posts everyday, and that's why I think I am supposed to filter them later on.

One good feature in Feed Aggregators, is that you can categorize/tag the feeds you read, let's say "Egyptian-Blogs", "Technical-Blogs", "MiddleEast-News", Movies-and-Cinema", etc. But the way of tagging the feeds in Google Reader is really annoying, you have to go to the Reader's Settings and edit the feeds one by one. I think, they are supposed to make it easier, let's say by giving the user the ability to drag and drops the feeds in the categorie he/she likes.

Another feature, is that you can make one of these categories public, then you can share it with a friend. The public feed has a unique URL, so if you want to share it with a friend you can send him an email with this URL. However, I think Google are supposed to make it easier too. They are supposed to let people browse each others' profiles in order to see their public feeds and add them if they want to.

Finally, feel free to share your Google Reader public feeds here if you have any. And Happy Eid, i.e. Feast.

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The Netscaping of Symantec and McAfee

Here you are, a copy-n-paste post from Slashdot.
"I mention Netscape because, if you believe Symantec and McAfee, a similar situation is about to unfold within the security industry. Microsoft, again recognizing late that it had failed to seize upon this thing called security, is now about to bundle its own security solutions within Windows Vista and further enforce new security policies that lock out some third-party security solutions altogether. Vendors Symantec and McAfee have looked into the future and realized that people may one day speak of them in the way that we now speak reverently of the early builds of Netscape", By RS232.
But let me add something here, yes windows killed Netscape by integrating their web browser - Internet Explorer - into their operating system, but what about Firefox. The free open-source browser Firefox is eating of Microsoft's browsers market share a year after a year. This is due to their appealing features such as the Addons (Extensions), Tabbed Browsing, Anti Spyware, Anti Phishing, etc. Finally, I think many users, including me, don't think it's really a good choice to depend on Microsoft in securing the computers.

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20 October 2006

Boobs, Beer, Drugs, and Construction Industries

Roba of "And Far Away" has published The Forbes Arabia Top 40 Arab Brands list. According to Forbes Arabia, the brand must have been created and must be owned by an Arab company in order to be included in the list. The list also gauges which brands are most admired and trusted by consumers.
Out of the 40 brands, there are only four Egyptians. Melody (Number 33 in the list) a Music and Video Clips TV channel, Fayrouz (35) Beverage and Beer, Two Apples (38) Tobacco and Shisha-Tobacco, and finally Orascom (40) Construction Industries.
Most of the other brands are from UAS, Sauida, Lebanon, and some other countries such as Kuwait, Tunisia, Jordan, etc.
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18 October 2006

Blogging License

The European Commission proposal would require websites and mobile phone services that feature video images to conform to standards laid down in Brussels. Ministers fear that the directive would hit not only successful sites such as "YouTube" but also amateur "video bloggers" who post material on their own sites. Personal websites would have to be licensed as a "television-like service".
Times Online, Technology
Slashdot, EU Considering Regulating Video Bloggers

The point with blogs and stuff like YouTube are free speech and the ability to say whatever you want the way you want it. It's really helpful in countries where the mainstream media is controlled by the government. So what the heck are these Europeans thinking of!? Can you imagine someone asking for a license in order to upload a home made video, or to publish a poem he wrote!?

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Don't Write It. Sketch It!

OK, we can use some keywords to find some specific pages online. But what about photos!? Keywords are not always the best way to find them. But drawing a simple sketch for the photos you are looking for and asking the search engine to find them can be more helpful.
Retrievr is an experimental service which lets you search and explore in a selection of Flickr images by drawing a rough sketch.

They are still in an experimental phase, but the idea itself is really cool. You may also use different colours in your sketch to get better results

You know what, I had a similar idea long time ago, but it was for music files. Sometimes you know some music but you don't know the actual song's names, so why there is no search engine where you can hum or sing a song for it to find it for you.

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HOWTO: Pretty Woman

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11 October 2006 File Sharing

", is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. The site came online in late 2003 and was founded by Joshua Schachter, co-maintainer of Memepool. It is now part of Yahoo!", Wikipedia.
So if you like some page you add the URL to, and tag it with some relevant tags in order to be able to see it later on, and you can also send the link to any user, and users can surf your bookmarks as well.

"RapidShare, is a free service, where any user can upload files of up to 100 MB without registration. The user is then supplied with a unique URL, which locates the file and enables anyone with whom the uploader shares it to download the file", Wikipedia.
There are many other similar sites, and you can see a comparison of them here.

Now people can upload Movies, Softwares, etc to RapidShare et al (One-click hosting), and then add the file link to and tag it with a special tag. The most important thins, is that users must agree on special tags in order to tell it is a Shared File, and not an ordinary link.

Let's sy you want to upload a french movie called "Taxi", to RapidShare. So, you can tag the file with the follwing:
link:file-video , type:wmv , lang:fr , title:taxi

An mp3 can have the following tags:
link:file-music , type:mp3 , artist:alanis-morissette title:ironic

Update, 12 October 06.
I found this on' blog:

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07 October 2006

Hitler Promotes Brazilian Dentist

A picture of a smiling Adolf Hitler popped up on billboards rented by a chain of dental clinics a few days ago in the Brazilian capital. The Nazi leader was chosen from a list of figures well-known throughout the world in order to advertise for the dental clinics under the slogan, "A smile can change the world". The Ads were removed later on after complaint from Israel's ambassador to Brazil.
Source: Ynet News

You sure still remember the Danish Cartoons crisis. And I am really confused now, what is the difference between the two cases. Why does the Israeli ambassador has the right to ask the Brazilians to remove those ads as they see them offending!? If it is all about free speech, then I think the Brazilians would have the right to keep the ads, but this was not the case!?

May be I am from the Middle East where we don't know what free speech really is, and that's why I'd like the western readers of this blog to help me understand the differneces between the two cases.

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03 October 2006

Baker's Dozen Plus Two

Amira AKA Ha Ana Za! decided to tag me here, and here you are my 15 favourite items.

01. Blogging
02. Programming
03. Photography
04. Cinema
05. Drawing

Oh God, fifteen is too much...

06. Chocolate
07. Music
08. Having a conversation with someone I like
09. Jogging
10. Going to places I've never been to before

Come on, fiften is really too much...

11. Reading *Not Books*
12. Football (Soccer)
13. Swimming
14. Morning Nescafe

Forteen is enough for today.

Now, let's Tag some other bloggers
Ok, I'll tag the last fifteen persons who left comments here
Miss Mabrouk, Layal, Mechanical Crowds, Giancarlo (a spammer), Epitaph, Wonderer, Me2, Madeeha, Sharks, Shirazi, Sha3'af, Naomi, Liz Henry, Faisal Hussein, Forsoothsayer

Update, I was tagged by Nesreen too.

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01 October 2006

Religion, Empirical or Not!?

The whole debate started in Bloggers-Eg chat room, when Iknaton2 was asking about some religious info in order to help in editing and article in the Arabic Wikipedia. I then said that it is hardo to get religious information from Wikipedia. Wikipedia by nature is open for everyone to add, delete, or edit in it. And religion like most of Human Sciences are not Empirical ones. You can not enter you lab and do an experiment there to prove that a certain belief is true. You sure can have evidences for what you belive in. And you can use your reason to find if a certain belief is true or not, but this is still your own point of view, and those evidences may not be valid to someone else, and the relsults your reason lead you to can lead someone else to totally different results. It's not maths nor physics. Pythagorean theorem for example has it own mathematical proofs and even before those proofs it was proved by experiment. Every singl person knows that "The sum of the areas of the two squares on the legs (a and b) equals the area of the square on the hypotenuse (c)". But on the other hand if religion were an empirical science, there would have been only one religion in the world that people belive in. And that's why in an environemnt like Wikipedia you'll see people writing some religious topics according to their beliefs, then comes other who edit it again according their beliefs which are totally different, and so on. It's not only religioun which is like this, but Politics for example suffer from the same thing.

Another bloggeress, Layal, had a typical Middle Eastern response to this, she just said that she doesn't agree with me, and then started to talk about something that has nothing to do with what I said. Even when I asked her to tell me what did she get from what I said she didn't answer. She said that people are supposed to reach their beliefs through thinking and then started to talk about the Misacles of Quraan, etc. Which is all good but has nothing to do with what I said. It's like someone saying that Oranges are orange, and then someone else says, I disagree, Apples tastes better than Oranges.

As Layal said, people shall reach truth through reason and thinking, but there is no garantee that the same reason can lead two different persons to the same conclusion when it comes to Humanities including Philosophy, Ethics and Religion.

The question now is, does this mean that there is no absolute truth when in comes to Religion for example. I myself believe that there is an absolute truth there. And that's what life then Judgment day - Yom Al Qiyama - is all about, it's our mission to find this truth. The point is that with a mathematical theory our own sleves are not a factor in it nor in its results. For me the result of Pythagorean theorem is independent on who am I, or what are my morals and ethics. But the results we come out with in the religious subjects are highly dependent on our own selves and this is what God/Allah want to test in us. At least this is how I see it.

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