Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fine use for the One-Laptop-Per-Child

The One Laptop Per Child, OLPC, was a project started at MIT some time ago by Nicholas Negroponte. Its main goal was to create a durable laptop that can be used in harsh environments by children. It was supposed to cost about US $100.

From their website
Our goal: To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

It took sometime for the vision to become a reality, and just recently some OLPC's have reached children from around the world. Third World.

The latest use for some of these laptops? According to a story from

The One Laptop Per Child initiative has reached new heights by delivering internet porn to third world children.

According to a report Thursday from the official News Agency of Nigeria, laptops in a primary school in Abuja "have gone awry as the pupils freely browse adult sites with explicit sexual materials."

It’s heart warming to know that the efforts of the well meaning folks behind the OLPC project are delivering real results on the ground; providing the same opportunities for teenage boys to access internet porn no matter how impoverished they are or where they live.

The party however will be short lived; a representative of the One Laptop Per Child group was reported saying that the OLPC computers would now be fitted with porn filters.

I really don't know whether to laugh or cry. But as is usual with many things in life, even the best intentions can have some very bad consequences.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Goodbye Windows Start Menu, Welcome Launchy

I hate the Windows XP Start Menu. It tries to be too smart, and never really works. I usually switch back to Classic Menu on any machine I start using. I even hate the Vista Start Menu more so. Heck I hardly use Vista anymore!
Anyway, I'm a keyboard guy, I love VIM, and I find myself pressing Windows Key + R to get a Run command and then typing notepad or calc to start some applications. I would rather not use the mouse whenever possible.
So if you are remotely like me and would like to start your applications and even documents with the keyboard, then you really should give Launchy a try.

In a nutshell, after you install Launchy, you see nothing. It is running in the background waiting for you to press its hotkey, the ALT-SPACE is the default. Then you can type a program name or a document name and it will start it for you. You can even let it look for MP3 files, for other documents, or perform a Google Search all from that simple bare-bones interface.
To get menus of all of its options and customize it, just right-click the Launchy window, around it's border or anywhere except where you'll enter text.

Don't wait, go and get it now!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

ATM and Card Fraud

You probably heard about the Bulgarians that copied ATM and Credit Cards in Bahrain some time ago. You may also have heard about some people who said they had all of their money vanish from their accounts, and saw some transactions on their bank statements that they did not make. Or all sorts of "fraud"... What are they talking about? What's happening?
The current cards use a magnetic strip to store your account number, name and other data. It does not store the PIN. This data is very easily read and then copied. This is called "skimming". The card data is copied by attaching some device to an ATM, or at Point of Sale devices. When the card is skimmed, many copies can be made and used not just in Bahrain, but around the world. Don't ask me how, but it is dead easy, and will cost no more than BD10.
Skimming cards at ATMs in Bahrain was, and still is, a very serious threat, and banks recently used some quick and dirty solutions on their ATMs to prevent skimming devices from being attached to their ATMs. You probably noticed some weird device on most ATMs in Bahrain attached to the ATM just where you enter your card. But that is not the solution. Cards can be skimmed outside Bahrain. And skimmed cards can be used inside Bahrain.
Q. So what is the solution?
A. New Chip, Smart Cards, or EMV cards, which are now becoming normal in Europe are impossible to copy. These cards store more data in a very secure way. The cards also provide for other services.
Q. So why are banks in Bahrain or the GCC not using these Smart Cards yet?
A. Cost. It costs more to the bank to implement a solution that uses Smart Cards. And of course banks would rather bury their heads in the sand and deny any problems or fraud rather than invest in this costly technology.
But now that fraud is becoming a real major issue that starts to bite from banks profits, and because of pressure from international organizations, banks are rushing to use and issue EMV cards. It will take time before we see them in wide use in Bahrain.
Q. Until I get to use one of these Smart Cards, how can I protect myself from fraud or my card being skimmed?
A. Use your card in trusted merchants and report any suspicious activity or device you see at a Point of Sale or any weird device attached to an ATM to the concerned Bank.
Try not to have all your eggs in one basket. If you can, do not put all your money in one account and link it to the card. If that card is skimmed, all the money in the account can be stolen via your skimmed card before you even notice.
Check your account regularly and report any transactions you did not make. The bank "should" refund you and create you a new card. But don't assume they will do it easily.
If you suspect your card is skimmed, report it as Stolen immediately.
Try to hide your PIN when you enter it at an ATM or POS machine. Your card may not be usable without a PIN. When the cards are skimmed, there is either a small camera or somebody that tries to see the PIN you entered. Make it difficult for them to see your PIN.

Happy and Safe Banking!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And now the 500 Server Errors

As if the many disconnects we get here in KSA is not enough, now many pages return "500 Server Error" and I need to refresh and refresh to display the page. I initially thought the problem was with the site I visted, but no, it;s some proxy somewhere between me and the internet. Sometimes half the page loads, and sometimes only the text loads with no images...

And because ADSL is sold by STC and we got our ISP from another company, you can imagine what will happen if you call either one with a problem! They each blame the other....

Grrrrr.. I hate to say it, but Batelco was better! Service with Batelco was generally reliable, and not half the internet was blocked! It's so annoying when browsing a Google Blogger page, and just seeing half the images stored on Blogger. And it's not because they have any porn or obscene images, it's because for some reason, the URL contains some sequence of characters that the Great Proxy did not like... Take for example this page, by my friend about Jelly Fish, I can only see the first image, the rest are blocked...

Damn it, I'm getting these errors while trying to post this!!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Freedom of Speech vs. Respect

I saw Remember the Titans few days ago, and loved it. One of the best lines in the movie was when Denzel Washington was talking to the two groups of his team. The team at that time was not getting along and extremely racist black and white groups. He told them:
You don't have to love each other, but you have to respect each other.
And just as we do not need to agree with each other on many things, we need to respect each others' opinions and differences.

Another thing I feel directly related to this is freedom of speech. Everyone has the right to express their point of view. We may not agree with that opinion, but we should be willing to at least listen.

However there is a thin line between freedom of expression and showing disrespect. The problem is that this line is not concrete, and what may be freedom of expression to some, may be regarded as disrespect and wrong doing to others.

My own "line" is much closer to freedom of expression. But for many people, their line is much closer to disrespect and they see anything and anybody that disagrees with them as completely wrong.

Do you see any line? Do you have your own limits?

Monday, July 02, 2007

That tune is in my head!

I'm trying to get rid of this tune that's been playing and playing in my head for some time now. It's the very old tune used as theme from old Bahraini program Cinema Al-Video. Remember that program? By director Thawwadi?

Does anybody know what is it called? Composer?

Well, THERE! Maybe now I can get rid of it, or if I'm lucky, I can find it somewhere :-)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Google AdSense

Unless you have something like Firefox Adblock extension, you may have noticed the Ads By Google column in my blog. Actually I have Adblock, and I thought my AdSense account did not work!

So anyway, I'm not really trying to make any money from this blog. But I am just curious how the whole AdSense concept actually works. It's actually pretty cool when in my Weddings Post you see some Wedding Planning Sites in the Ads By Google column.

If you have a Google Blogger account, it is as simple as one two three and you'll have Google Ads on your blog. You can even make some money!

Of course you are free to click away on my Ads and get me some points ;-)

Just Google it!