For the heck of it

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Free Speech? My A***

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what Wikipedia is. It's THE best and FREE encyclopedia you can ever lay your hands on. It's the biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the internet, and contains over 7 million articles in over 200 languages - which is still growing on everyday.

Virgil Griffith

Most of the content on Wikipedia is user generated - so you can imagine the size of its content database. Users log on to the web site to contribute new entries and edit and update existing entries, too. With power in the users' hands, it's no brainer that people who already have an entry on their name on Wikipedia, will jump on the editing bandwagon, to make themselves look good.

So, to identify these people, Virgil Griffith - a student and a hacker - created a software program called Wikipedia Scanner, which discovered that Wikipedia entry editors included giants such as Microsoft, Coca Cola, Apple, FBI and the Vatican. These entities altered text on Wikipedia, which showed them in bad light.

Wikipedia Scanner

This list shows some of the things, Griffith's software managed to find out:

  • Apple adds negative comments to entries about Microsoft.
  • The Vatican edits Irish Catholic and IRA leader politician Gerry Adams’ page.Exxon Mobil edits text that highlights environmental damage in the oil spillages article.
  • Scientology removes criticism and negative articles from the Scientology page.
  • Al Jazeera TV station adds that the foundation of Iraq was just as bad as the Holocaust.
  • Amnesty International removes negative comments about its working.
  • Social networking website MySpace removed paragraphs when their website was hacked.
  • MSN Search is “a major competitor to Google”. That’s what MSN added to their page.
  • Dog breeding association deletes whole paragraphs about fatal attacks by dogs on humans.
  • Portuguese government removes entries about Prime Minister’s scandals.

This is just the tip of an iceberg. To find out, who's been editing what, check out Wikipedia Scanner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Finally A Home We Can Call Ours!! (I Hope)

Everyone knows how it is to be single in Dubai. I can say it in one word - SAD!! No, it's not that the girls here aren't pretty (or hot!!). Neither do I intend to say that the night life sucks. It's just that there aren't many places in Dubai, which single people (bachelors and spinsters) can call home.

Take my case as an instance - me and three of my roommates used to live in this beautiful and huge studio in Karama happily for a year and a half. But that's until our lease contract expired. Taking the rising real estate prices in Dubai into consideration, we thought that our real estate agency would ask for more money to renew our contract. Instead, we were slapped with an eviction notice for no fault of ours. The contract read:

"This is to inform you that we do not wish to renew your tenancy contract for the next year. Hence, we give you a month's notice as required by our agreement, to vacate this flat by <> date. We thank you for your co-operation."

Co-operation?? My ass! Why the F*** do you need us to co-operate, when we can clearly see that you are asking us to vacate the flat for no reason!! For those ignorant enough see, single people don't have enough say in anything in Dubai. Even if it's not their fault. And this is what we discovered when we asked for the reason for our eviction notice. Instantly came a reply, "You are bachelors. Bachelors are not allowed to stay in a building where families stay" in resounding "Mallu" English.

We have been renting this flat for about 6 years (I moved into the flat only 1.5 years ago, but the other guys staying there, had been there for six years). So all these years they didn't realise that we were bachelors - and then suddenly, one fine morning, they said to themselves - "Let's kick these stupid bachelors out. They won't agree to a 70 percent rent increase, when we renew their tenancy contract for the next year."

And so, we had to vacate the flat. After hunting for places around, I gave up. Then I enquired around, and I came across this real agent agent, who said that he might have a bedspace vacant in his two bedroom flat in Golden Sands area, in Bur Dubai. It was the building next to Golden Sands 10, behind Spinneys. I went to check out the bedspace - I was to share a room with three other guys.

Since I didn't have any other choice, I moved in. Everything was going on fine for three months - then suddenly another notice to vacate the flat. The same stupid "bachelor"reason was given. Our third accomodation hunt started. For about three weeks, we checked everything - from the classifieds in newspapers and web sites, to notice boards in Spinneys and Lulu Supermarket.

Then, one fine day, we came across this posting in the classifieds section in Gulf News, which read, "One room available for bachelors in Satwa." We immediately went to check it out and we were impressed. It was a huge room, which could easily accomodate four guys and the rent seemed nominal by Dubai standards. We signed the deal.

We moved in, and were just starting to continue with our lives, when we were served another notice. First we were shocked - it hd been just two months since we moved in. But we were pretty sure that it can't be the same "bachelor"problem. That was because the Dubai government had recently passed a ruling that bachelors around the city were free to live in flats, except for villas. And we were staying in a flat.

So we argued with the guy who had the sublet the room to us. He said that he had rented out the flat from the landlord for commercial purposes. However. he then started using the flat for residential purposes, which essentially breaches the contract. Hence, the landlord asked him to vacate the flat. We then asked him, why we weren't even informed that the flat was essentially a commercial one? Had we known that, we wouldn't have even agreed to move in. He had no answers.

Our fourth hunt for home started. We searched the entire Dubai for a place, where could stay peacefully, without anyone bullying us to leave, just because we were bachelors. After a week of careful searching, we finally found a room in a two bedroom flat, in Old Pakistani Consulate area of Bur Dubai. It's an amazing room, with a view of the Deira creek.

The view from our new home.

We move on Thursday. I just hope, nobody asks us to vacate again, because we are bachelors!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Fake iPhones in Dubai

Chinese-made fake iPhones are flooding the Dubai market, reports Gulf News. According to the news report, a mobile phone store in Bani Yas Square, is selling a fake version of the phone (made in China), parading it as a genuine Apple product.

The Real iPhone

The imitation retails for AED1,400 ($381) and no warranty is on offer. The news report also claims that the salespeople selling the fake phone are telling customers that no refund or exchange is possible, once brought. The iPhone costs $500 (about Dh1,836) or $600 (about Dh2,203) in the United States, depending on the phone's capacity.

The imitation available in Dubai, runs a version of a Linux operating system that is commonly found on Motorola phones. Once you turn on the phone, Apple's logo is followed by a background image of fish and coral, similar to the one seen in iPhone commercials, on the screen. Check this video out - it's again a fake Apple iPhone.

EnGadget meanwhile claims that there are a hell lot of fake iPhones, currently doing rounds on the market. However, if you are one of those, who look at their current phones and think: "I wish I could have an iPhone. Those iPhones, I've heard, are darn pretty hot," you have two options. Either buy the real thing, or you can try software applications that can enable many phones with some, if not all, of the features that Steve Jobs has shown on his fancy magic slab.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How I Kicked a Virus on its Butt, When it Said "I DNT HATE MOZILLA BUT USE IE OR ELSE..."

I got home from work yesterday and switched on my laptop. I wanted to check a few mails and so connected to the Internet. I double-clicked on the Firefox icon on my desktop to open my favourite web browser. Firefox opened for a second and then closed abruptly, displaying a message in my face, which said "I DNT HATE MOZILLA BUT USE IE OR ELSE...".

And it just had an OK button. I tried again, and the same thing happened twice, but this time with different messages - "Orkut is banned you fool, The administrators didnt write this program guess who did?? MUHAHAHA!!" and "YouTube is banned you fool, The administrators didnt write this program guess who did?? MUHAHAHA!!"

So this was a serious issue. I opened IE and immediately Googled out a solution to this problem. It turns out that this virus called w32.USBWorm, spreads through USB flash drives. I remember plugging my roommate's USB drive into my laptop, because he wanted me to copy some of its contents on my laptop. Apparently, he wasn't able to browse through the USB drive's contents simply because when he double-clicked on the USB drive in My Computer, nothing happened. I tried opening the USB drive on my laptop and the same thing happened.

My antivirus (AVG) was unable to detect the virus. I am told that most antiviruses don't detect it. So, you will need to manually remove the virus from your PC. The following steps will help you to remove w32.USBworm completely from your system. First you need to see all the running processes on your system, for that you need to press Alt+Ctrl+Del. This will launch 'Task Manager' then click on Process tab to see all the running processes. Then you need to manually search for 'svchost.exe' (you will find many but you need to carefully select the one which is having 'User Name' as your Windows login name).

After finding the process, right click on the process and click 'End Process Tree', and then click on OK. This will kill the running virus on your system. To remove the worm completely from your computer, you need to remove Registry keys written by the worm

Press "Window key" + "r" or go to Start-->Run, then type "regedit" (without quotes).

You need to navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE,SOFTWARE\
Explorer\Advanced\ Folder\Hidden\SHOWALL, checkedvalue" And reset the “CheckedValue” key back to 1. This is to show all the hidden files.

Then navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE,SOFTWARE\Microsoft\
policies\Explorer\Run " and delete the "winlogon" key. --- This will stop the worm installing at the start up.

Now you need to search for the worm which is located on your hard disk. For that you need to use the windows search and search for svchost.exe in your hard disk drives. Delete the file, which looks like the one below:

Also, once you are done, you might want to format the USB drive to reuse it. I for one, will always scan everything I plug into my laptop hereon, before opening them!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Freelance Writing: Always Ensure That You Get Paid for Your Services

Though I have a full-time, I have also been into a freelance writing gig for quite sometime now. Three good reasons for doing so:
  • Extra income does help. I can earn more by using my free time (including weekends).
  • I don't have to limit myself to writing about technology. I can try my hands on different styles of writing: lifestyle, trade, industry, travel, case studies, press releases, and so on.
  • I can build my portfolio and my contact list, which will be of help when I plan to switch companies.
Though the money has been good so far, I have also learned one thing. Every freelance gig comes with its share of risks. While most companies I have freelanced for, have been good paymasters, there are some shameless firms, who have either refused to pay me (even though they have used / published content developed by me), or haven't paid me for months (they keep telling me that my cheque has been sent to the head office for approval).

Then there are some who want me to write a sample article for FREE. They say, "Can you write a sample article for us? If we like it, we will publish it and then you can start writing for us regularly for a fee." I have been here too. Some months ago, I sent a FREE article to one of these magazines. I was hoping that if my article got published, they would send me requests for paid articles. Well, turns out that my article did get published, and I haven't heard from them since.

And there are some who say, "This a low paying job. But if we like what you write, we will double the money on the next assignment." While there are some publishers who have such a plan in place, there are many who don't and won't.

Here are some things you need to take note of, before taking up a freelance gig:
  1. Writing an article involves time and effort. So, ensure that you are getting paid for the your time and effort invested.
  2. Never respond to queries such as "Write an article for us and we will pay you if it gets published." Usually, these companies collect as many samples as possible, sell it to publishing companies and make money.
  3. Don't fall for schemes such as "Low paying job. Will increase money on the next assignment." If the company likes your article, there isn't any reason why you shouldn't be demanding the right price for it.
  4. Follow up on your payments. If you don't, the content buyer might just take you for a ride.
  5. Insist everything in writing. Don't rely on verbal contracts. It's better if you can convince the content buyer to provide you a small percentage (usually 30%) of the agreed number as an advance, with the remaining amount being paid on completion of the project.
Remember - you aren't investing your time, skills and efforts for charity.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Slim and Trim

Samsung has unveiled its smart and stylish designed external slim slot-in drive. The model, named SE-T084L is a slot-in type DVD writer with USB connection for both Lap-top and desktop users. With easy insert and eject function that slot-in drives give (just push the disc to insert), this drive has special features that sets apart it from other external slim or slot type drives is the point that this drive supports disc burning from USB BUS power.

While most of drives in the market support USB BUS power reading, SAMSUNG supports both reading and writing media, unleashing you from heavy carriage. It means that you don’t have to carry AC adaptor (which is as heavy as the drive itself) with you. 8cm disc support is another attractive point that only SAMSUNG ODD presents.SE-T084L supports 8cm disc reading and writing so that you can have much compatibility with your Disc Camcorder which uses 8cm disc inside.

In case of black out or damaged PC, or in case you turned off the DVD writer forgot to take the disc out SAMSUNG slot-in DVD writer suggests an easy and simple way. You can pull the disc out by just tipping the emergency hole with included pin. No need to connect the drive to PC or AC adaptor again. The drive reads and writes DVD+R and DVD-R at 8X speed and DVD-RAM at 5X. It reads DVD+R Dual Layer at 8x and write at 6X, about DVD-R Dual Layer reading and writing speed is 8X and 4X each.

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