Youssef, or Perhaps Not
Escape from Beirut
I've had my share of eventful trips. There was the five hours I spent waiting for permission to enter Palestine, the propeller airplane from Copenhagen to Poland, and the transfer counter I upended in the transit lounge in Dhaka.
But to land in Cairo and hear that the Israeli army just shelled the Beirut airport (for the first time in ten years) from where I had just come, that was something else...
Working with microfinance
I will be joining the Grameen Foundation
in the capacity of Regional MIS Consultant for the MENA region. This is effective middle of March 2006.
I've been with IT Synergy
for the past 13 months as assistant to the CEO; it has been a very positive experience working with open source in a generally friendly, hectic, and constructive working environment.
Now, I look forward to the challenges posed by the intersection of technology and microfinance. To kick off, I'll be traveling to Washington in the middle of March to meet some of the people I will be working with.
I look back fondly on IT Synergy, a baby I hope I helped raise. I look forward eagerly to working with the Grameen Foundation.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: O2 Considered Harmful
As Big Pharaoh reports, avian influenza is airborne. The transmission of H5N1 occurs through respiratory action on behalf of the infected hosts.
Currently, this has resulted in the release of an advisory recommending under-indulgence in consumption of atmospheric air unless absolutely necessary (i.e. if you have a medical condition and need to). People refraining from unnecessary air intake have been found to display proportionately lower infection and fatality rates.
Egyptian authorities have responded positively to this threat vector. The mobilization of air force assets aimed at the reduction of air borne hosts bearing H5N1 constitutes an effective and organized government response to this threat.
Please pass this information on.
The Egyptian Bird Flu Propaganda Machine
The Egyptian State Information Service has been quick to throw up a website devoted to the issue of the H5N1 avian virus in Egypt.
Some of the news releases are hilarious. Here's one good bit:
For his part, Ahmed Tawfik, the head of veterinary services in Egypt, assured the public that farm chickens, if infected, would not in anyway be able to reach consumers because they would not be able to outlive the disease.
The logical conclusions from this statement are truly wondrous. He's saying basically that since H5N1 renders the chicken dead, therefore none of these dead chickens reach the consumer anyhow. Which really means that we should only buy live chickens from Carrefour and Metro because, erm, live chickens... can't have... bird flu...?
Mindless Egyptian Parliamentary Elections Knowledge Propagation
Unsubstantiated rumors from some moron
in Zagazig today:
14:42 <+BooDy> back from the elections
14:42 < YoussefAssad> BooDy: any polling station problems
14:42 < YoussefAssad> ?
14:42 <+BooDy> damn I love this city even the thugs are polite :P
14:43 <+BooDy> YoussefAssad, thugs are seperated to groups they go pay every station a visit and the moment police
forces arrive they run and go to the next station
14:44 <+BooDy> YoussefAssad, police is neutral this time they are protectening everyone even ekhwan's main office
14:45 <+BooDy> protecting*
14:46 <+BooDy> everytime I go to take pictures I'm a few moments late and I couldn't get good pictures of the thugs
14:47 <+BooDy> my sister got cought in the middle of a fight and thugs threatened her with senag but the police was
there on time thank god
14:48 <+BooDy> I heared that someone got killed in the same lagna but I'm not sure yet
Terminology for the unititiated:
thugs = NDP affiliated campaign boosters with a propensity to excessive proselytization
senag = knives which are not used in the kitchen
lagna = polling station, or police highway checkpoint. In this context, the first definition stands
BooDy = Hopeless virgin
Someone at Yahoo News has a sense of humor (INCORRECT)
Army aims to coax back former troops - Yahoo! News
is th title of the story they are running. Go on, click on the link; have a look at that picture. Recognize that scene?
Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick. A movie about Army abuse.
UPDATE: Apparently, I am wrong (as duly pointed out in the comments by craig); this is an actual picture of Marines. For anyone who's seen Full Metal Jacket, you will still see the uncanny resemblance; I suppose Kubrick really does his homework.
Girls can´t do proper science fiction
Life just isn´t fair.
While I love scifi and Chiara doesn´t, these days the cruel irony is I´m having a random assortment of nightmares whereas she gets to dream (as she did last night) of being on a spaceship, of all things.
Let me tell you, if I were to dream of being on a spaceship, it wouldn´t be long before the lightsaber fights broke out and the alien babes made their appearance. If one is to dream of science fiction scenarios, one is to do it right. Essential elements include the abovementioned but can also contain space dogfights, magical powers (I didn´t say Jedi; I want to be inclusive), galaxy-wide quests for rebellions against evil empires, and many other exciting things.
Chiara tells me that the main thing about her science fiction dream was finding herself in a space suit, looking at the boots, and wondering if there was any purpose to the boots having the shapes of toes molded into the exterior.
No laser swords, just amusement at the shape of the boot of the space suit.
Photos of the Sudanese Protests in Cairo
Chiara and I ran down to Gamaet el Dowal street yesterday to get some snapshots of the protesters. I've uploaded the resulting pictures into a flickr set which you can find here
. A lot of these slogans are quite something; you'll do better if you can read arabic. We weren't able to get many before the police chased us off, which I suppose they aren't exactly authorized to do (viva the emergency law). It's a shame, since some of the protesters had invited us inside the protest camp.
My personal favorite is the one stating that the refugees refuse local integration.
Negroponte's Pipe Dream
There has been much chatter recently about Negroponte's 100 dollar laptop
. Working in ICT4D and also in one of Negroponte's target countries, I have been lukewarm to the idea and have decided to put in words the reasons for this. Other people have already discussed the intricate economic compromises Negroponte has had to make, such as the tomfoolery of mandating seven digit bulk orders. I've got other reasons for thinking his project unviable.
The nutshell edition of my reaction is, don't bother. This thing won't take off.
For this thing to work, it requires a social environment where a family regards its primary objective as the furthering of the welfare of the child; otherwise, how do you think a public sector employee can justify spending 4 or 5 months' worth of salary on something like this? In many families in developing environments, the primary economic goal is not stimulation of future economic potential of children, it's keeping them fed and clothed.
Assuming that the family is interested primarily in furthering their children's skill arsenal with computer literacy(which it isn't), then the family provider (usually father) will need a clear vision of how this machine will give his child a clear economic advantage or edge. The fact is that the logical link between computer skills and economic betterment is tenuous enough for it to be easily missed. Most fathers are going to say something like "What is my son going to do with a computer, play games? Why should he learn to program, he should learn how to make furniture or fix plumbing, those people make money." In the LDCs (Less Digitized Countries, to hijack a well worn acronym), the import of computing access is underappreciated and often misrepresented as a frivolous investment or pastime. This requires awareness building on the medium term, something which I don't see Negroponte working on.
Negroponte is right that reduced cost makes for improved access to computing facilities, but he's wrong that this automatically means the cost of a new computer. It's clear that he either hasn't lived in a developing environment for long or, if he has, he's failed to adapt his beliefs to the facts on the ground.
The only way to reduce costs of computing access is to prolong the employment lifecycle of hardware and induce rapid hardware turnover. In other words, letting "obsolete" hardware trickle down in cost and ownership.
If my theory is correct, which I'll bet the farm it is, then we'll have Moore and Gates and the Nvidia/ATI marketing departments to thank for bringing computers to the masses. ICT4D professional finds reason to thank Gates, you read it here first!
Hurricane Devastates Browser
I've seen weird bug reports in my time, but this one deserves a special mention on this blog. Verbatim from the firefox mailing list:
Ever since Hurricane Wilma power outage my Firefox seems to be jumping
on random pages. I checked on a topic similar to this but all my
settings were where they were supposed to be.
I once talked an aunt into believing that her new computer would catch a virus if she left the window open at night. What is disturbing about this guy is that he apparently doesn't need a crafty and mischievous villain like me; he comes up with these exotic and entirely misguided notions in what appears to be a completely independent manner...
The Idiot Parade II
Today, I learnt that it is possible to reach the age of 28 without a functional brain, without medical intervention too it seems.
A certain Mr. A.R. (name withheld to protect the... err. Never mind.) had an appointment for a job interview with me at 4:00 p.m. Said Mr. A.R. seemed to think it would be a bright idea to bring along a friend of his to do an interview too. Commendably, I found the Buddha in my heart and as a consequence Mr. A.R. has not had his limbs torn off.
The only question is which one of them is considered stupider; the one who thinks that a job interview is something he can pass along to a friend, or the friend who shares this lack of respect for common sense.
The good news is that none of them had wedding rings on, so ofr the time being the gene pool is not entirely dead.
I suppose that, much like driving, if you can manage an IT company in Cairo you can manage an IT company anywhere.
Tecchnical Ingenuity, Egyptian Chutzpah
One thing you notice living in this country is that Egyptians can actually be quite ingenious when not being so threatens their bank account.
Another thing you learn is that it is possible for the word 'ingenious' to acquire negative connotations; in other words, there's breeds of genius without which the world would be a far more rational and forgiving place to live.
In this picture, a poor unsuspecting Jeep appears to have had terminal problems with the passenger seat. I think, from an aesthetical perspective, this picture about sums up Egypt in the 21st century.
The UN Invents Self-financing Finance
While digging around for some information on the UN, e-governance, and Egypt I came across this
little nugget:The schedule of daily subsistence allowance rates is available by subscription at an annual cost of US$295 plus US$55 for postage.
The daily subsistence allowance is supposedly what the UN pays for UN personnel who are travelling, apparently.
Sheer genius! Charge people who need to inquire about travel allowance just enough do they actually need
travel allowance! And naming it "subsistence allowance"? Kofi, well done.
Monkey see, monkey doo
It was not something I was able to resist. Chiara says my impression of the guy is rather good, though I suspect it isn't a very marketable skill to be able to look dumb at will.
The Idiot Parade
I get a lot of CVs where I work; there's a certain air of desparation about unsolicited job applications. It's been a veritable freakshow of how someone can do the absolutely worst job of presenting themselves; in many cases it can be something of a challenge looking through a CV for signs that the person it purports to describe may one day have had a brain.
I'm not being mean, I'm not. If you were applying for a job at an open source consultancy would you attach your CV in .exe format?
Permit me to take a random sample of quotations from just one CV I got today:I'm also Cisco uncertified (CCNA)
What, is it fashionable to list on one's CVs the things they cannot do? I think I'll add a line to my CV saying that I am entirely unqualified to perform as midwife. More, from the language skills
:Native language is Arabic. All School years and College instruction language was English. Read and write English very fluent. My conversation skills are as much as I read and write English. I can deal with French but kind a weak. I traveled to the United States and Canada three times during the last five years and was able to communicate and interact without any problem at all.
For varying interpretations of "fluent", I suppose...
Mangle you, Freud!
They're having a perl
(a computer language for people with social disabilities) conference
over in Israel in 2006; a guy called Gabor Szabo anounced it today on the Egyptian Linux Users' Group website
While it's nice that the Israeli perl developers are inviting Egyptians to participate, you'd think that computer nerds could keep the politics out of it. But Freud will have his way; in the announcement, Mr. Szabo invites
us to "mix and mangle
" (his words) with other Linux users. It's possible that he meant mingle, of course, but one never knows...
In any case it's clear that they are planning an apocalyptic scenario; conflict between Arab smelly hardcore nerds and Israeli smelly hardcore nerds. Whatever the outcome of this planned conflict, the rest of humanity stands to win.
Mangle you, Gabor!
I, Strategic Consultant
I was involved as a Local Expert in a study funded by the European Union to assess the Egyptian ceramic sector; we presented last June, and the Industrial Modernization Center
have finally uploaded our study.
I present, without further ado, the link
to the study
(the pdf file).
A man of many talents, I am, bet you didn't know that!
The Egyptian Linux Users' Group's Second InstallFest 2005
I was not an active participant in the installfest this year; partially due to lack of time and partially out of a desire to see the LUG
grow up and find itself new cadres of dynamic people to lead it out of dependence on the four people who founded it (being one of those four myself).
Yesterday was the InstallFest, and I am extremely proud of what I have helped create. The boys were organized, visitors went away intrigued, impressed, and sold on open source. The atmosphere was friendly, relaxed, and exciting.
I'm really proud of what I have helped to create. I am proud of being able to reach people in a way which Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and HP to name a few never will dream of being able to. Evidence? Look at this picture:
If that isn't the most remarkable marketing picture for Ubuntu anyone has ever seen I'll be damned. Mark Shuttleworth, you owe me!
On a pedestrian bridge in Cairo, I saw...
A pile of dog shit.
One dead bird.
The little boy couldn't have been more than seven. He was balancing on the railing two stories above the ground on his stomach, feet off the ground. He asked me for a cigarette, Mister, a cigarette Mister!
Chiara and I have two cats, two boy cats. Our two boys are such extreme opposites that it is considered evidence of the existence of God that nuclear war hasn't broken out at home yet.
Pousky (a.k.a. Pouskin, a housecat and not a memer of the Russian ruling elite, at least as far as I know) is big, white, very fluffy and furry, very slow, addicted to love in the forms of chin scratching, and capable of inflicting unspeakable horror with the hundreds of metric tons of cat shit which his industrial digestive system cranks out. Poushy is my cat.
26 is a street kitten we picked up. 26 is small, jet black, far too fast for anyone's good (including the furniture), and gluttonous as evidenced by his belly which makes him look a little like a furry black football which meows. 26 is Chiara's cat.
Now, while we both own both cats, we like to say that Poushy is mine and 26 hers. So, in the name of teasing and to prove through the vox populi that I'm right when I say her cat is awful, I've uploaded a picture of him to Kitten War
. You can find our rascal here
At the time of writing this, 26 has lost his first Kitten War. Let the losing streak begin!
One of the best pictures Chiara and I got from Newebea; clearly, the camel is getting tired of posing for tourists and is about to slap the guy around a bit.
The great corrupter! My girl starts to blog!
I am, I am!
My better half just opened a blog
; my influence is strong. We'll make a Linux/internet nerd out of her yet! (perhaps in retaliation for her making me do things like eating well). To commemorate this, my hitherto favorite photo of her and I:
The Perils of Linux Advocacy in Sinai
In a flagrant violation of several fundamental laws governing the universe, I was on vacation last week. I spent a week in Sinai, using Newebea as a base from which to inflict my gaunt and nerdy presence upon Dahab and Saint Catherine, both which are topics for another post.
Not this post. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a classical Youssef-style post; yes, this post discusses ignorance, incompetence, stupidity, and imbecility. All, as you would expect, within the context of Linux. Note, this is what I love about me: my first post resulting from a vacation in Sinai revolves around Linux; really, Chiara is a saint.
In Newebea, we stayed at a spartan if relaxing small resort called Habiba. The fish sucked, but that isn't the point (because fish sucks in a general way). Habiba possesses something of a family atmosphere, and as a consequence of this we found ourselves having dinner one night with the entire population of the resort. Participants to this dinner were not well acquainted with one another for the greater part, which is usually a successful approach if the goal is to shatter world records for intensity of boredom and predictability of discourse.
A fat bastard with a veiled wife sat opposite me eating sunseeds and feeling self-important about his position as the mover and shaker in the arena of bringing Latin American tourists to Egypt. He claimed to be Argentinian, but with a name like Mohamed I rather think there might be an area in downtown Cairo called Argentina which I may have overlooked. Maged, the proprietor of Habiba, was sitting on my right hand side and, in response to the universe's preference for entropy we soon began discussing the nature of my work.
Linux and open source being relatively fascinating topics if broached properly, Maged's ears perked up rather quickly and we discussed the open source model, security, code quality and many other issues. Ominously, the guy on my left - a fat bald Italian working for HP in Italy whom I'd been introduced to earlier and had thoroughly ignored since - was following the discussion silenly. I happened to have my Mandrake laptop with me so we could look at pictures with Chiara, so when Maged asked me for a demo I was able to oblige him immediately.
At this point, the story turns dark. Send your babies off to bed, my adoring audience, and pour yourself a stiff one. It gets real filthy from here on. The man from HP, you see, the fat bald guy working for HP's marketing department in Italy, he opened his mouth.
Fat HP guy: "Hey, yea, I've seen that before!"
Slim suave savvy me: "Yes, this is -"
Fat HP guy: "No no, don't tell me, that's UNIX."
Slim suave savvy me: "No, actually, this is Linux. Linux is - "
Fat HP guy: "Yes, UNIX."
Slim suave savvy me: "Actually, you're almost correct. There's several different kinds of -"
Fat HP guy: "HP has a Linux like that, it's called... called..."
Slim suave savvy me: "HP-UX."
Fat HP guy: "Wait, I'll remember what it was called... It was called..."
Slim suave savvy me: "HP-UX."
Fat HP guy: "Wasn't it called something like..."
Slim suave savvy me: "HP-UX."
Fat HP guy: "AIX? Yea, AIX."
Slim suave savvy me: "HP-UX. AIX is IBM software. HP-UX is HP software."
Fat HP guy: "Yes, UNIX."
Brain cell donations welcome, condition irrelevant.
Spam, Irony, Zen
I got spam this morning; it was from Premier Services and Recruitment, and it contained a job listing for a Supply Chain Engineer (which is basically a guy who gets all the crap for manufaturing and procurements fuckups; I know, I did it for two years at Ezz Industries). The job listing contained the following nugget:- Please note that this job requires Excellent English
(so, resumes with very good English will be rejected)
I'm not entirely sure what they are trying to accomplish, though I do have a theory (as usual). My theory is, the inherent contradiction in that line is intentional. They are secretly interested in recruiting people who can meet contradicting requirements. This requires an unusual propensity for manipulation of the raw fabric of truth; it is indeed a sneaky way of finding those rare individuals. They are either building an anti-gravity machine, or looking for prospective members of parliament.
Cloning, Right Here, Right Now!
In an effort to rid myself of my ridiculous workload, I installed the Cloning Development Kit v. 3.51 from Microsoft (where did you think those legions of braindead VB programmers came from?) and whipped up three spare copies of myself.
As you can see, this was a bad idea. I should have known that I would only end up arguing over window managers
with my clones. Thankfully, at least none of them are pekwm
While browsing the Recent Posts
page on EGLUG
, I came across this:
Click to enlarge.
Hm. Something doesn't add up, I thought to myself. What kind of mistake is that, a post having one solitary comment, two of them new. The very elementary nature of the error struck me as very disconcerting. The persons responsible for this site were, to all intents and appearances, very competent computer users. It was outside their domain to commit such a fundamental mistake.
There could be only one explanation, and I am prepared to share it with you, right here.
This mistake, first of all, was premeditated. Secondly, it was unambiguously committed in an attempt to undermine the very foundations of mathematics. Thirdly, mathematics forming the intellectual underpinning for the technological revolution upon which Western civilization has sprung, this can only be viewed as an attempt at the life of our very essence.
We are witnessing, ladies and gentlemen, the seed initiative of a revolution.
These people want control, and they will stop at nothing.
Hide your children and pray.
Violating Microsoft's IP the Egyptian Way
Spotted! There is a new brand of potato crisps in Egypt. They are called Windows (ويندوز) and they come complete with the 4-pane windows logo on the packet. I have ordered a carton of these things and should take delivery tomorrow at noon; expect a full photo-essay and crisp review then.
And no, I am not joking. This really exists.
Transparent Laptop screen
No no no, not transparent as in that lame xorg transparency, that is for little boys who have not oriented themselves with reality yet. What I have here, ladies and gentlemen, is true laptop LCD transparency. Hacked away the back plastic cover. Don't believe? See!
Oh alright, so it's a trick. And I'm lying. At least I can lay claim to being the first to have thought this little nugget up (at Alaa
's place a year or two ago).
Incidentally, since I just started using Blogger I discovered that they won't host images, so I had to sign up for a flickr
account. Part of me is pissed from having to use multiple unrelated services, another part is thinking of doing a writeup of how this is the online services equivalent of the UNIX toolchain philosophy. My flickr page is here