Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Why I have moved to sajshirazi.com

I’ve been blogging for long time now but have never really, until last week, looked into “buying own domain.” I have been using Blogger, and always assumed that “I am doing at BlogSpot what others are doing with own domains. It did fine for me. Was I handicapped?

Friends and fellow bloggers have been telling me that getting your own domain name is a must for a long time. Reasons: You don’t really own your Blogger blog (as per Blogger’s ToS, the domain and the platform are properties of Google though you own content). And it has serious consequences. Having your own domain gives you more credibility (and yes, an ego boost – sajshirazi.com looks much better). And of course it gives you more flexibility.

Above all else, here is another reason. Those who are looking forward to making money from blogs now need own domain. Initially BlogSpot used to be the best way to get your adsense account approved, but later now it’s getting harder to get your adsense account with blogspot. News is that Google may pull down all adsense account on BlogSpot blogs any time. Similarly other paid posting platforms are also offering less and less on free platform blogs.

While I move to sajshirazi.com, I owe big thanks to all my awesome readers. Many thanks to you all for reading, sharing, liking and leaving valuable feedback that kept me going since 2003. Do please come and join me there. Internet (and blogging) is so lonely without friends.

Groupin.pk introduces group-buying in Pakistan

Those of you who keep a track of evolving e-shopping trends around the world must be aware of Groupon. ‘Groupon.com’ is an e-business that offers group discounts to users on it’s network of partner merchants. In easy words, shops and businesses register with Groupon and offer a group deal to customers. The group deal comes into effect only after a minimum number of customers sign up for it.

Following the success of Groupon in the West and similar sites like SnapDeal in India, a Pakistani company Allainet has recently launched Groupin.pk.

This platform is based on the principle of up to 90% discounts offered on group activities. For instance, if there’s a deal on Groupin.pk, you can get its alerts after an easy 3 step subscription process i.e. via email, Twitter, Facebook and SMS. Once you register for that deal, you’ll be issued with a coupon via either of these mentioned means.

If successful, this model will create an interesting channel for merchants & small businesses to achieve scale and offer their products and services to a wider audience. In addition, more established businesses will also benefit by reaching out to customers by offering customized deals to specific segments.

Groupin.pk is currently offering it’s services in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar & Quetta. You can try it by registering at their website and get a chance to win an iPhone.

P@SHA ICT Awards 2010 – The ‘IT Oscar Night’ for Pakistan

P@SHA ICT Awards 2010 image

Pakistan Software House Association (P@SHA) is organizing P@SHA ICT Awards 2010 in Lahore this October. This is the flagship event of the IT & ITES industry in Pakistan and P@SHA organizes this event annually to celebrate the innovation in local ICT industry. The awards are in its 7th year but it is the first time these awards are being held in Lahore. The awards are given to the winners in 24 different categories who will be judged by a panel of judges from the private and public sector.

Event Details:

The event details are as follows.

Date: 8th October 2010
Time: 6 pm – 11:00 pm
Venue: Silver Bell, Royal Palm Golf & Country Club, Lahore (Location Map)

Registration:

Registration is FREE but COMPULSORY!

Register at http://tinyurl.com/pashaictawards and you’ll receive an email confirmation from P@SHA Secretariat to attend the event.

P@SHA Talent Hunt:

There are other attractions as well. This time P@SHA is also providing an opportunity to those aspiring artists who just need a chance to show off their talent.

If you sing, dance, perform magic tricks or are a great comedian, actor or entertainer, and if you are part of the IT community, P@SHA wants you! Put up a demo of your talent on YouTube before September 20, 2010.

The deadlines are already over but I mentioned it again because if you believe you REALLY are the one.. I repeat, only if.. you are the one; you may want to check Jehan Ara’s post on P@SHA Talent Hunt or visit the official blog to see if you can be considered.

Theme Song:

Another attribute of this event is its official theme song. The theme song for the P@SHA ICT Awards 2010 is Green and White which is produced by P@SHA Chairman Yusuf Jan who also wrote the lyrics.

Finally, the sponsors for this ‘IT Oscar Night for Pakistan‘ are Infotech, Microsoft Pakistan, Wi-tribe Pakistan, IBM, PSEB, Mixit, Intel, Dell Pakistan, Oracle, CIO Pakistan and others.

PS: Jehan Ara termed this event as ‘Our IT Oscar Night‘. :)

TEDxLahore – collective optimism, over and all!

31st of August, 2010 saw TEDxLahore return to the city with a whole new spirit. From the jam-packed Ali Auditorium to a comprehensive list of speakers, the experience was quite enriching and motivating for almost everyone who attended the talks. One can easily say that TEDxLahore’s second year with the theme of ‘Collective Genius’ was far bigger and better than the first one.

Some 380 people were handpicked from more than a thousand applicants and all of them showed up! There were students, educationists, trainers, professionals, bloggers; people belonging to a very diverse and interesting group of individuals. Although some of the enthusiastic crowd was present at the venue two hours in advance of the planned timing, the event kicked off a bit late due to bad weather. The stage design was sleek and impressive, hats off to the people behind it. Same was the case with audio system provided by Bose, which apart from slight glitches worked pretty fine.

Arif Hasan at TEDxLahore - Photo by TEDxLahore

Before the talks, a minute of silence was observed to honor the lives lost in devastating floods, Airblue plane crash as well as to the victims of terrorism. After that, Arif Hasan, a renowned architect, took to the stage and discussed socio-economic changes in urban planning after Partition. He was followed by the duo of Omar Sheikh and Jabran Rafique, both of whom are super-mappers and the guys behind Attabad Lake markings and mapping on Google Mapmaker.

The only short-film filmed at TEDxLahore was titled ‘Building Pakistan’ with a patriotic theme depicted in a very innovative way. You can watch the video here.

Some other notable talks featured:

Ajmal Kamal – who talked about his dream of seeing everything written in Urdu available to everyone through print and electronic media.

Dr. Tariq Rahman – shed some light on how code-switching (multilingual overlapping e.g. Urdish & Urdi) is not exactly a bad thing in literature or everyday conversations.

Saima Zaidi – provided a visual treat by presenting the rich visual culture of Pakistan. References included a poster for Jhuley Laal, product packaging for Rooh Afza, Tibet Talcum Powder and a Mughal miniature depicting the folk love story of Shirin Farhad. She concluded her presentation with a resolve that we are a diverse and inclusive society as evident in our visual culture.

Beena Raza came next with her introduction to Sangan Nagar Institute of Philosophy & Arts. Apart from very lengthy text on slides, it was interesting to hear about another effort to revive our culture.

The show-stopper in the first half, without a doubt, was Noor Zehra’s mesmerizing performance on Sagar Veena. She played the instrument with so much ease yet captivating the whole audience in its magic. For those who are not aware, Noor Zehra happens to be Ali Noor and Ali Hamza’s mother.

Almost all of these speakers kept the audience glued to their seats despite some of the participants occasionally snoozing off due to tiredness or inspirational overdose. Just before the second half started, refreshments were served which included samosas, rolls, ras malai and rabrri milk by Nirala. Participants also got some time to network, talk and discuss ideas with each other.

The first half of the event was interesting but more on the informational side. Real surprise was packed in the second half of the evening during which each speaker was generously applauded by the audience. And yes, there were at least two standing ovations for Dr. Zeeshan Usmani and Mudassir Zia who honestly deserved it.

Dr. Zeeshan Usmani is a full-bright scholar and an associate professor at GIK Institute who has developed a very comprehensive computer simulation model for tracking the effects of shock waves after suicide bombings. He currently has the largest database of suicide bombings in Pakistan, which has helped him develop an intelligent model very useful for pre-emptive measures, calculating human causalities and identifying the perpetrators. His genius and humor-filled presentation style won him accolade by everyone in the auditorium. If there was an award for man of the match, it would have easily been shared by Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia.

Mudassir Zia was the only speaker to conduct his talk in Urdu, our national language, and perhaps the highest on inspirational value as he discussed remarkable achievements of his group of friends. His ideal of ‘first do, dare and then dream’ is very relevant to the current reality of our society where everyone talks big but does nothing. Mudassir and his friends have started a charity school (Ghulam Muhammad Grammar School), arranged patriotic street art competitions and conducted blood donation drives all by themselves without any external help or funding. Every member of their team works in his respective profession and then dedicates personal time and resources to all these noble activities.

In addition to Dr. Usmani and Mudassir Zia, other speakers included:

Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque – discussed the paradigm of donor projects and production. Being the head of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, he admitted that our development is devoid of creativity and innovation because we give little creative and intellectual space to our youth. He was true is saying that we focus only on hardware (development projects) and do very less about changing the software (mind-set and intellectual skills of the people).

Live on Skype from London, Majid Nawaz discussed the need to develop national consensus to identify our leaders, symbols, alliances and finally a progressive narrative. Relating to different ideologies, Majid mentioned how every idea needs these four elements in order to be effective and strong enough to unite any nation.

Zubair Bhatti – the ex-DCO of Jhang shared his initiative of pre-emptive feedback gathering from common citizens. The idea is being implemented successfully across various districts of the Punjab where senior government officials call individuals to ask if there was any corruption witnessed by them. An automated telephone feedback line is also being started for recording complaints in this regard.

Dr. Asher Hasan – the founder of Naya Jeevan presented his NGO’s work on provision of quality healthcare to the deserving most in our society.

Finally, Dr. Aamir Khan came up with his dream of quality healthcare for all Pakistanis. With an impressive profile of achievements and successes, Dr. Aamir Khan, as the head of IRD, has initiated the use of mobile phone technology for mapping, tracking and curing pneumonia, TB and STDs amongst citizens of major urban areas in Pakistan. He acknowledged the genius behind mobile phones which has helped his system of paperless medical reports and patient data collection in the least developed areas of Pakistan.

Rafay Alam, scheduled to speak about Critical Mass (a campaign to encourage cycling in cities), could not make it from Delhi due to a flight delay but was generously appreciated by everyone present in the audience for his initiative.

Once the talks finished, Asim Fayyaz, Curator TEDxLahore, presented his concluding remarks which thanking everyone including the sponsors. What came later was a total surprise live performance on drums and dhol by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh and his friends.

Adding on to the suggestions given by other fellow bloggers, I would also appreciate the effort put in by everyone from organizers to volunteers. Although, one can say that the talks did not exceed the TED caliber, still, they were pretty decent; some of them quite innovative and even inspiring around the idea of ‘Collective Genius’. Since, TEDx phenomenon has just started with at least three chapters in Lahore alone, one can easily hope that we will see a marked improvement in the quality and inspirational quotient of talks in successive future events.

Hats off and two thumbs up for the organizers, speakers and audience at TEDxLahore!

Favorite sayings from TEDxLahore 2010:

- ‘Chinese curse: May you get what you wish for!’ – Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque
- ‘The only helping hand is at the end of your arm’ – Mudassir Zia
- ‘The problem with problems: solve one, get one free – so we need to keep working’ – Dr.Aamir Khan

Takeaway:

- Lots of positivity, optimism, patriotism and loads of ideas to bring a change for the better
- A goody-bag with TEDxLahore soundtrack, WWF Natura magazine, discount vouchers on books from ‘…the last word’ Qadaffi Stadium and a cute little plant gifted by the Horticulture Society.

Interactive Talk with Imran Sayeed at LUMS

Pakistan Software House Association (P@SHA), TiE Lahore and Sofizaz in colboration with Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) are organizing an interactive talk with Imran Sayeed who is an entrepreneur and technologist from the US. The event is supposed to be held at NIB Auditorium in LUMS and is a good learning and networking opportunity for entrepreneurs and people who are interested in entrepreneurship.

The event is free but everyone must register to attend. The details are as follows;

Event: Interactive Talk with Imran Sayeed
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Date: July 29, 2010
Venue: NIB Auditorium, LUMS
Register for Free at: http://bit.ly/a4Tn2t

Imran Sayeed’s Profile.

Imran Sayeed, a serial entrepreneur, a consultant, an engineer, a mentor, a rainmaker, and a great supporter of many initiatives in Pakistan including the OPEN-MITEF initiative is going to be in Lahore on July 29.

Imran is Senior Vice President, Global Architecture, Application Development and Management Practice and leads all commercial sector industry practices for Keane, a global BPO and IT Services company with ~14,000 professionals worldwide. Industry practices include Financial Services, Insurance, Healthcare, Pharmaceutial, Manufacturing, Retail, Hospitality & Travel and Energy, and together comprise most of the key business lines and customers for Keane.

To read more about Imran Sayeed and the event visit Jeahan Ara’s blog post Interactive talk with Imran Sayeed.

Don’t forget to read the last line on Jehan’s post to know what will be served after the event. ;)

TEDxLahore – new ideas swarm L-town!

Amid all the chaos and disillusionment that our country is going through right now, all we can and should do is talk about hope. After all, this is our country and we have to bring things in order on our own by uniting our minds and sharing ideas that can bring change for the good.

TEDxLahore is just about one such opportunity that shows hope for Pakistanis that there still are people who can turn things around for our society, country and the greater world at large by using the power of collective genius. Yes, ‘Collective Genius’ is the theme for this year’s TEDxLahore.

For starters, TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) is a non-profit organization that has provided a platform through their annual conferences, talks and website for sharing ideas that can bring change in this world. Notable speakers at TED talks over the years have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Bill Gates and various notable individuals. In addition to TED talks, the movement encourages independently organized events hosted by colleges, communities and people across the world to share ideas worth spreading in their own context. These events are termed as TEDx.

Into it’s second year, we are glad to have another TEDx event happening right here in Lahore on 31st of July 2010. Being supported by the Planning Commission of Pakistan, TEDxLahore 2010 will provide an opportunity for individuals of the highest caliber to express their views and share their ideas for change.

To give you a tentative idea about things to expect at this year’s TEDxLahore, the list of speakers is as follows:

Arif Hasan - An architect, teacher and social researcher.
Dr. Nadeem ul Haque - Head of the Planning Commission of Pakistan.
Omer Sheikh and Jabran Rafique - Super Mappers (Google MapMaker)
Dr. Zeeshan-ul-Hassan Usmani
- A researcher on the effects of herd behavior on impulse shopping
Ajmal Kamal - Editor of AAJ journal for Urdu literature
Dr. Asher Hasan – Founder and CEO of Naya Jeevan
Saima Zaidi - Author of ‘Mazaar, Bazaar’ – an exhaustive review of Pakistan’s visual culture.
Rafay Alam - A lawyer & environmental activist.
Mudassir Zia - Founder & President of Message Welfare Trust.
Beena Raza and Noor Zehra Kazim - Artists, Sitar players and teachers.
Dr. Aamir Khan - Epidemiologist, founder and Executive Director of IRD since 2004.
Zubair K. Bhatti - Ex-DCO Jhang & The Asia Foundation’s Director of Programs, Pakistan.
Dr. Tariq Rehman
- Professor of Sociolinguistic History & specialist on Language Change.

You can find a detailed profile of all the speakers here, which will be more than enough to increase your excitement & eagerness to be a part of TEDxLahore as a present or virtual audience this year.

Let’s all look forward to what TEDxLahore brings for everyone on 31st of this month. Till then, keep following…

Website: http://www.TEDxLahore.com

Twitter: @TEDxLahore

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TEDxLahore

Live Viewing Parties: (click for more details)

Karachi – T2F

Islamabad – Civil Junction

Den Haag (The Hague) – Pakistan House

Google Map Maker for Pakistan: Support it or Oppose it?

Google Map Maker Community and FAST-NU’s ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) hosted an event on mapping and scope of mapping in Pakistan. The event named Lahore Mapping Party was first of its kind in Pakistan and was held in FAST NU’s main auditorium last week on Saturday.

Lahore Mapping Party - Banner

Lahore Mapping Party - Banner

As opposed to what I had expected, the attendees were only a few in numbers and were mainly comprised of students, professors, IT professionals, and people having a background in geography/architecture studies.

Reason of the event cum workshop was to actually aware & train people about Google Map Maker, host a discussion on crowd-sourced mapping and how local/international companies/organizations are using it and what is its scope in Pakistan.

Another reason was to acknowledge the efforts of two Pakistani youngsters who are recognized as the top mappers in the world. Faraz Ahmad with more than 48,000 edits holds the 1st place whereas; Jabran Rafique with more than 44,000 edits is also in the list of top mappers in the world. And also, to celebrate that Lahore is the fastest mapped city in a total of 120 countries where Google Map Maker service is available, and Islamabad is the cleanest mapped city (there’s not even a single error in mapping).

The whole idea is to promote this activity and involve others as well to be a part of Google Map Maker community in Pakistan.

Well when Google launched this Map Maker tool for Pakistan, I also did some mapping just to get my hands on what Google Map Maker is and does it really work or not. I made maps and it was fun playing with the tool quiet a year ago but I stopped doing it because I had some serious security and privacy reservations. This concern was one of the main reasons why I was so eager to attend this event.

Badar Khushnood, the country representative for Google, presented an overview explaining what Google Map Maker tool can do and how companies are leveraging it to promote their business and how can others use it in different other ways to promote different services or even play with APIs to make their own layers over the Google Maps platform.

Badar’s presentation was followed by Faraz Ahmed’s presentation in which he gave the live demo of map maker with other team members and shared his experience that how and why he started mapping on Google Map Maker. Then the floor was opened for questions and the discussion heated up over the security risks involved in mapping local areas.

Four main topics which were in discussion were security, ethics, profitability and ownership. Everyone had something to say and for me it turned out to be a healthy brainstorming session.

Security Risks

Security remained the main topic of discussion. Due to the growing security risks and threats in Pakistan it is natural for Pakistanis to make sure that they are not risking their own security. Some of the attendees were of the view that it will actually facilitate the extremists to make more sophisticated terrorist attacks against locals or law enforcement forces. The threats are not only from within the country but from over the borders as well. So the security issues must be addressed to clear the situation.

Others were quite optimistic about this tool. The map maker supporters responded that this tool will in fact help the government to take better security measures and to plan strategies to curb terrorism in the country (Think about having a security plan for Lahore keeping an eye on its entrance and exit points).

As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that most of the officials are really optimized to use such tools in a way that it helps in curbing terrorism and crime. But in any case if it is going to help those extremists, Google Map Maker is not a good omen for Pakistan.

Ethics

Ethics in mapping is related to the security issues. It includes what to map and what not to map. Think of places like army bases in Pakistan, nuclear sites, borders, and other areas which may fall under national security.

First of all, I believe if it has to be mapped, then it must be everything; whether in Pakistan or in any country of the world. There should be no discrimination over security concerns at international level. Like if Pakistan army bases are to be mapped then why not American and Indian army bases as well.

It is nearly impossible to moderate each and everything being mapped. So, if there has to be a policy, the questions arise are who is responsible or have the authority to decide what is ethical and what is unethical? How many stake holders are there and how can all of them come to a consensus over a uniform policy for mapping Pakistan?

Usually governments regulate the policies regarding national issues and in case of Pakistan if government didn’t pay any attention timely, it would have been too late to make a policy. By government’s involvement I do not mean that there should be restrictions to mapping at all but government can work in conjunction with Google and supervise the process so that it remains beneficial and secure for everyone.

Profitability & Ownership

The point was raised by Dr. Anis Siddiqui, Chairman Department of Architecture, University of the Punjab, that who has the ultimate ownership of the data being produced voluntarily by the people. He was of the view that Google should have some revenue model for the people for doing the mapping because it needs resources and time which are valuable and this value must be converted in some sort of reward for them.

I believe if we ignore the security and ethics part, the value for the effort being put by these freelancers is much more than the effort itself. Imagine where you can use this tool to help you or your business. Think your PTCL’s limited 1217 directory converted and mapped on your screen with more comprehensive and updated information (Local Business Listings – where you find business around you), try finding your house on Naksha.pk, see whether Wateen’s coverage is provided in your area, imagine getting traffic updates in real time, find a gas station near you, measure distance between your house and the nearest police station, get driving details to your destination and a hell lot of other things…

Google Maps: Lahore Before & After

Google Maps Lahore: Before & After

I would like to refer to the efforts put in by Khurram, Asst. Professor FAST-NU and Sarah Ahmad, lecturer Beaconhouse National University for presenting the possible ideas where Google Maps can be used. Updated local info, a new life to businesses, cheap & quick, SMS based white pages, value of getting info quickly, preservation data, geo coding & reverse urban planning, planning and Policy making help in generating demographics, housing variables, income statistics, economic zones and activity etc… were some of the directions presented by Khurram and Sarah.

I believe, if it actually matures enough to a point that we can use it for any product, it will prove a milestone in business and even it may change the way we do business today. I bet corporations have better plans and ideas to develop leverage Google Map Maker API.

Now about ownership, off course Google owns the data and they have the power to turn it off any time they want (you agree to terms & conditions before using their tool… try reading it). But Google provides an opportunity to download the maps to your local machine. In case if you want to volunteer but not for Google, there are a lot of other options to go for where you can help some non for profit foundation in mapping the whole world.

A Case Study

As I said earlier, I had serious privacy issues regarding Google Map Maker and that’s why I stopped using it. But I realized a much better use of this tool when I got the following message from my teacher. Please refer to the image below. It’s about three weeks ago and its self explanatory.

How can Google Map Maker work

Google Maps helped my teacher find an examination center I mapped.

The areas I mapped some months ago helped my teacher finding an examination center.  And this conversation happened about two weeks before Lahore Mapping Party.

Conclusion

In the end, I would like to finish saying that its all up to how any thing is used. It can equally be used for something constructive and for something destructive. So instead of just opposing it, I think we can volunteer to use this tool in a way that best suits our interests; both in terms of security and in terms of business.

Google Map Maker for Pakistan: will you SUPPORT it or OPPOSE it?

Google Maps & Lahore: Mapping ‘Party’

Are you map literate?  Do you reside in Lahore? 

Then you might want to check out  the Google Mapping ‘party’ taking place at FAST-NU this Saturday, 2nd  January, 2010. 

Sneak peak at what its all about— Badshahi Mosque and neighborhood.

Some information from the organizers:

Greetings!

FAST-NU and the Google Map Maker Community in Pakistan officially invite you to a half-day of discussion, interaction and mapping fun! Google Map Maker is an open editing tool for Google Maps, and has allowed crowd-sourced mapping of Pakistan on an unprecedented scale, as highlighted by Google.
In order to take stock of what has been accomplished so far, and more importantly, what opportunities lie ahead, FAST-NU’s ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Chapter welcomes Google to campus to host a workshop and discussion on crowd-sourced mapping of our cities. Take a look at the links below to see Lahore’s map on Google Maps today, to see how Badshahi Mosque’s neighborhood has been mapped, for example.
Now, help shape the opportunities which lie ahead for Pakistan’s urban development using maps, the internet and the power of collective public thinking.
Join us on the 2nd of January, 2010 from 12:30pm to 5:00pm, at FAST-NU (see it on the map)
….(click here to read the rest on the event page on Facebook)

For further information and to register–click here.

Important: You must pre-register at http://local.com.pk/mappingparty  to join in all the fun on Saturday!

If you attend–do come back to share your experience here on Lahore Metblog. :)

Pakistan Top Blogs and Bloggers 2009

Driven by powerful bloggers, Pakistan blogsphere is changing continuously and reaching new heights. Light Within is bringing out Top Ten Pakistani Blogs and Top Ten Blogposts for 2009 in an effort to recognize the best in Pakistan Blogsphere. Please suggest posts and recommend blogs you think are the best. Send your recommendations here.

SIM Information System

Given the security situation in the country (and also reported abuse of communication systems and channels), everyone must be cautious. It is possibility that someone might have got a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) against your ID (CINC). I suggest you check and find out the total number of SIM(s) registered against their respective CNIC number with each mobile operator. Are they all in your use?

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has developed a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) information system to address associated risks on security and to ensure subscription regulations in cellular sector. {From}

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