Category Archives: Misc

How to write Urdu, Arabic or Persian text on Web

unicode

Languages like Arabic, Farsi and Urdu (AFU) use Arabic fonts and write from right to left rather than the usual left to write. To make any browser display text from the right side of the browser one has to define the following within the HTML tag

html dir=”rtl” lang=”ur”

The DIR tag defines the direction writing on the screen. RTL (Right to Left) or LTR (Left to Write). The LANG tag defines the language specified. In this case it is Urdu (ur).

Inside the HEAD tag we need to add the following meta tag to make it support UNICODE characters.

meta charset=”utf-8″

This tells the browser that non-ASCII characters can be expected and therefore should not garble up text when displaying. Wikipedia defines UTF-8 encoding as:

UTF-8 is an 8-bit variable-width encoding which maximizes compatibility with ASCII.UTF-8 uses one to four bytes per code point and, being compact for Latin scripts and ASCII-compatible, provides the de facto standard encoding for interchange of Unicode text.

And that’s it. Now whatever you write will be displayed properly in the browser. Here is verse from Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s epic poem, Tanhai

تنہایٰ

پھر کوی آیا دلزار، نہیں کوی نہیں
راہ رو ھوگا کہیں اور چلا جاے گا

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Insights into Open Data Camp in Amsterdam

Web Foundation Workshop at ODC14

The Open Data Camp had many exciting sessions and workshops packed in two very hectic days at Debalie, Amsterdam earlier this month. Speakers lineup was impressive which included organizations like Web Foundation, Open Corporates, Google.org, Oxfam, UNICEF making the sessions engrossing and thought provoking.

Numerous exciting sessions were scheduled that showcased good work done in open data projects including Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer and Web Index Project. which is measuring the use and adoption of IT in respect of Open Data by governments around the world. This year alone, over 80 countries were considered for the Web Index Project. During Day 2, Web Foundation team led by Aman Grewal and Carlos Iglesias discussed the data collected and issues pertaining to it.

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How to record calls over Skype

evaer video record on skype

When it comes to finding softwares for making online video/audio calls with reasonable voice quality and no cost to anywhere around the world, there isn’t any other software application which nears the monopoly that Skype enjoys. Regardless of what operating system you have installed on your computer, Skype is compatible with all of them and is used equally by their respective users everywhere in the world. With such extensive usage and hence the wide variety of circumstances in which its used, there often occurs a need to record the calls, and as Skype doesn’t provide call recording services itself, it allows access to some third party applications to do the job.

There are a number of Softwares in market developed exclusively to satisfy the said purpose, among which a tool called Evaer seems to tender the most useful and customizable features with a fairly simple UI.

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Software Freedom Day Celebrated in Islamabad

Software freedom day

The open source users community in Pakistan has been growing steadily over the years. In 2013, Open Source Foundation Pakistan (OSFP) was established as a non-profit in Pakistan with the aim of fostering the use and adaption of open source technologies within the government, businesses and homes.

Its founding President, Mr Jahanzeb Arshad explains that “the aim of OSFP is to raise awareness about open source software. It’s not only about price but actually it’s the freedom.” He adds, “Freedom to use, share, change and distribute.”

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Watch Star Wars – A New Hope, like never before

star wars

Ever wondered what Star Wars fans are upto while supposedly spending time programming on awesome projects? Ever wonder, how Star Wars would look and feel like if the computers were berift of Windows and DOS/shell driven?

Well, folks/true geniuses in Netherlands have found a way to keep themselves entertained even on an old Terminal

They have spectacularly encoded the full Star Wars Movie (A New Hope) like never before. You will forget about THX Sound and 3D when you watch it in monochrome green. A throw back to a time when the world was simpler and Internet was a geekdom passion.

Fire up your old Terminal (cmd in Windows) and type the following command

telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl 23

If Telnet is not installed on your Windows system, you can download Putty

On Mac and linux, just use Terminal application that comes pre-installed on your system.

And then enjoy the epic movie

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Crazyflie Nano Quadcopter – Opensource and Hackable

Crazyflie Nano

Crazyflie is an awesome drone. It fits right into your palm weighing less than an ounce. Surprisingly, it can be equipped with goodies like camera and LEDs. You control the drone with a gamepad (Sony Playstation) over wireless radio. Wow.

The best part about this Crazyflie is that it is completely open source and most of the code is written in Python. Hence, it is to extend and port. Already there are ports to Raspberry Pi and Android platforms.

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The Supercomputer that’s Raspberry Pi

RaspberryPi Computer

Watching this video you will feel how innovative and genius some of us are. Look at them, they have stacked 64 of RaspberryPi’s US$25 dollar computers into a supercomputer of some sort. It boasts a memory of 1TB by cobbling together 16GB SD cards in each of the computers running Linux. And what is more amazing is that it is housed in Lego brick casing. Wow.

If you feel like building your own Supercomputer out of these minuscule computers, the professors at University of Southampton have provided a guide and can be downloaded from their website here.

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Marvell has a marvelous plug computer

For a while, I have been searching for a really miniature computer which I could use as an “always on device” to manage various tasks within my home network. Like act as a media repository, file share for home office, manages automatic backups for all PCs on the network and even acts like a small firewall against possible intruders. Marvell plug computer seems to be all that and more.

This little device, called SheevaPlug, is literally built into the power socket. It sports a nice little Gigabit Ethernet for communications and USB interface for external device connections (storage for example). According to Marvell, the device has a Marvell Kirkwood 1.2GHz CPU equipped with 512MB of flash and 512MB of DRAM.

There are also some wonderful commercial uses as well. Here are a few that I would like to use it for:

  • At Trade Shows, no need to carry numerous bulky laptops/PCs/Servers. The organization can carry a bunch of these plug-computers and be in business within minutes.
  • For demos at client location, these plug computers can run applications right off the device and therefore no need to carry luggage around.
  • Act as a miniature firewall within the office environment
  • Act as a small file server for the office
  • Act as a proxy server for all internet traffic
In the coming years, the possibility of other vendors getting into this market including big boys like Cisco who may convert some of its Linux based Linksys devices into miniature servers. And most of them might be powered by Linux OS similar to Damn Small Linux distribution. That will give developers an awesome platform to program and distribute their applications.
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Allvoices – Best Open Media Platform


Allvoices is a paradigm shift in citizen journalism and open media platform. The news reporting model created by Allvoices is probably going to define how news media will be used in the 21st century. It is one of the earliest independent news reporting platform which is not affiliated with any major media groups.

It allows users like you and me to become citizen journalists and not only report our news but also comment and rate various news items published on the site. Hence, the news is reported, read and managed by the community with little or no control by Allvoices itself, or any powerful government bent upon censorship or any syndicate media groups with a hidden agenda. It is therefore, completely independent and free of any biases.

Allvoices allows users to report via the web and through mobile thus allowing us to report the news as it happens. Once we report our news, it is screened for originality (plagiarization is discouraged). The system then searches its database to locate similarly reported news items and aggregates them onto the reported story page. Hence, as a reader I not only read the reported news, but can also read all similar stories on the subject with various points of view.

For example, the ongoing crisis in Gaza is being reported and commented more openly on Allvoices than on any other medium on the internet. It not only has news items from Israeli and Palestinian point of view but also how the rest of the world is perceiving and reacting to it. With the media clamp down by Israel from Gaza, Allvoices allows its contributers to report news from the ground using mobile, Short Messaging Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging (MMS) along with the web.

In another example, in the recent Mumbai crisis, Allvoices was once again one of the few media sites in the world that gave not only Indian but Pakistani perspective on the crisis as it unfolded. The Pakistani perspective, especially, that of the citizens of Pakistan was completely ignored by the mainstream news media and therefore, it was very good to see Allvoices play its role in balanced news reporting.

I have been contributing and reading news on Allvoices since its launch in early 2008. And I am hooked onto it ever since. I log in at least once a day to get the world’s perspective on various news items so that I can get an alternative point of view to what CNN, Fox and other news channels report. I also enjoy commenting and giving my perspective on various items knowing full well that no censorship will be applied to what I or anyone says.

There are various news items that mainstream media will not cover due to its not being as they say “news worthy”, in short, “does not generate revenue”. News on CNN, Fox, BBC must pass various rules before they report and publish. For example, a small health project in rural Pakistan is probably not what any major news media channels would cover or report on the positives of flourishing IT industry of Iran. But Allvoices has lots of such news items from various little places in the world. This allows the little guy out there to report his/her news and let it publish alongside the biggest and most popular news items of the world. Hence, the news, no matter how small, how obscure or how unworthy it is perceived, gets its say on Allvoices.

So I recommend every to check out Allvoices and not only read but contribute news from your region.

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