Monday, June 27, 2005
The Pakistan Wiki

Pakistan has now its first WikiPedia. The information, as the site suggests, is limited to only Pakistan. The basic idea behind it is a national project, a "Pakistan Information" database to which everybody can and does contribute...You can read more at About US section, but for now, let's get to down to business; the business of information. What is Pakistan? What's going on in Pakistan?

Visit the site here.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Game Over for Blu-ray, HD-DVD Deal

The possibility for a single next generation optical media format seems to be gone. While Sony has previously opened itself up to discussions with Toshiba on coming to a compromise in the upcoming Blu-ray versus HD-DVD format war, Sony Computer Entertainment chief Ken Kutaragi, in comments shared with the Nikkei Electronics, now states that it's "Game Over" for a compromise. According to Kutaragi, Sony does not want to delay production of the PS3 in order to wait for negotiations.

So it looks like the PS3 will ship with the format that SCE announced when first making mention of the system prior to last year's Tokyo Game Show: Blu-ray.

Elsewhere in the Nikkei story, Kutaragi made a few peculiar comments on the Cell processor. According to Kutaragi, the decision to include eight SPE units in the Cell was made with aesthetics in mind. When asked if the fact that only seven of the eight SPEs actually work (the eighth is there for "redundancy") is a violation of aesthetic principles, he states that this is itself an extremely good aesthetic, as it shows great engineering sense in improving yields of the chip.

Kutaragi made a few controversial comments about aesthetics with regards to the PlayStation Portable's hardware design a few months back. This time around, though, we don't think too many people will complain about one of their SPEs not working.

Source : IGN PS3


The Science of Your Brain on Games

As we progress into the 21st Century, the videogame industry annually increases in size, complexity, and power. Games might be getting easier in hardcore players' minds (and they're right), but the reach of this medium is increasing to more "casual" and normally non-game-playing folks every day. Even my mom has heard of the game Grand Theft Auto. Eclipsing the movie industry in annual income, and in many ways mirroring it, videogames, one could surmise, are becoming the entertainment choice of this and the upcoming generations.

This is precisely the reason more researchers are studying how games affect our brains, behavior, and social interactions. There seems to only have been two kinds of studies. On the one hand, there are those that say games are bad for us. Titles such as DOOM are considered "murder simulators." They disrupt our focus, feed anti-social behavior, and teach us that shooting people is an okay "solution." These studies are generally politically inspired, using the "results" as moral lessons. The say that videogames (like movies, television, and even radio in earlier generations) are destroying our already-decaying culture.

On the flip side are the researchers, professors, and psychologists (perhaps more optimistic) who are interested in how games affect human nature. They're analyzing games from a more objective perspective. They often say that videogames are good for us. They don't promote violence; instead they engage our imaginations and test our hand-eye coordination. They are no worse than playing war games in the street with other kids, playing with Army Men, or engaging in imaginary role-playing games. They might even provide logic puzzles and challenge our intelligence from time to time. These folks generally say it's okay to play games, and just like with anything, to play them in moderation.

What we really need is a study that shows how ordinary people play games, and what, if anything is learned from those studies. What happens to their behavior? Do they look at things differently? Do they learn? Can they translate those lessons in a beneficial way to their lives?

Find out the answer here at IGN PS3.


Monday, June 20, 2005
PDC 2005 :: Day 3

It was 7 AM in the morning when I woke up. It was the third and the last day of PDC 2005 and I was quite anxious to get there as soon as I can. I left home at about 8 AM and went towards "Tower" to complete some pending work. The first session was about to start at 9:45 AM and INETA Pakistan Country Leader Mr. Saqib Ilyas was going to speak on Security in Indigo. So I hurried towards the hotel. Thank God I reached there on time and didn't miss anything. His session came out to be awesome. Got to learn some basics of english. Yes we learned ABC, hehe... Just kidding. I know he was having tough time installing the RC 1 release of Indigo, but the demos worked absolutely fine and showed no errors at all. There was another parallel session of Hammad bhai in the next hall on Web Pars in .NET Framework 1.1. I wish I could attend both sessions as I was really interested to see web parts in 1.1 version of .NET, but dont wanna miss the oppertunity to learn and see Indigo in action. After the session I went up the rostrum to talk to him but he was swamped with people. I found Faisal sitting at the back of the stage and we both are upto no good :).

Its the tea break. So I decided to get some tea and refreshments. The next session was of the great Mr. Clemes Vasters who would be talking about Avalon. This is something that I was anxiously waiting from the first day of PDC. So I finished my tea and hurried towards Ball Room A. The gate was flooded with delegates so I took another route, clever me ;). I was lucky enough to secure the front seat. After a short while, he started his talk on Avalon and the first few slides were just the introduction of this new technology that Longhorn promises to bring. I was anxiously waiting to see some hands on code on XAML which is a new language introduced with Longhorn to design the next generation of UI's for desktop and web applications. But I was surprised that he showed pre-made demo by Microsoft which used to search audios or videos over internet. I have already seen this demo on Channel 9 Forum.

On the next hall, Mr. Adnan Farooq was talking about Speech Server 2004. I was so mad at me when the presentation on Avalon was over. I thought I could've attended the session on Speech Server and have learned something new, rather then just sitting and watching something which I already know. Anyway after the session I headed toward the refreshments area. Took lunch and met Zubair bhai. He travelled all the way from Dubai to attend this event. We talked alot about .NET and about the things I missed in the last session. He was in the Speech Server session and I got to hear some good stuffs from him. After finishing our meals we both headed towards the community lounge. The lounge was full of people and I met a couple of new people there. This was the best addition to the PDC this year. I really like the idea of having the community lounge where people can come and ask their queries regarding the sessions and the .NET community or just hang around. The next session which I was going to attend was on Master Pages by INETA MEA Regional Manager Mr. Goksin Bakir. But me and Faisal Nasim had to miss this session as we were going to start capturing interviews from various speakers of PDC for Channel 9 Forums. How cool is that :).

We first approached Clemens who was there at the lounge and we didn't wanna miss this great oppertunity. Faisal was taking the interview and I was behind the camera shooting the video. I prepared the questions. After that we setdown together with our INETA Pakistan speakers and took their interviews. This was the most fun part of PDC. Adnan bhai and Hammad bhai kept on throwing jokes which made us laugh for ever. We spend an hour or so for capturing the video. We tried to catch Lara but she just disappeared. So we wrap up the video and headed towards the next session on Indigo from Clemens. I was confident this time that I would gonna hear something new as I had very little experience in woking on Indigo.

This session was good. This time he showed his own demos. After this session we went back to the lounge and then joined a never ending que for the ending ceremony. We were told that some acting president is coming for the ceremony so they tightened the security. After spending about half an hour in the que we finally managed to get inside the hall. The VIPs came about an hour late which is I guess their hobby. They like to waste others time which they might think increases their value. Well anyways it was fun applausing all the speakers especially INETA PK people who stepped into the hall, instead of the acting president. Mr. Rahat Kazmi is now back to host the ending ceremony. After the first speech Mr. Rahat Kazmi made a very nice comment to them which was send indirectly (encrypted) and they were intelligent enough to decode it... :) hehe.. I guess he was annoyed like all of us for their never ending speeches. We were getting bored so Faisal asked me my copy of Spider. He started solving a word puzzle which he ended before the ceremony concluded. I was also able to solve a few but he solved the major portion. The X-Boxes were given to the 7 people through lucky draw. I was hoping to get one as I blown up the lasor of my beloved PlayStation 2. But I wasn't that lucky. The ceremony concluded and I headed towards the community lounge. In the end I was able to catch Goksin for the interview. After returning the camcorder to Sir Saqib I said good bye to our INETA Speakers and left towards home.

So this was PDC 2005. I enjoyed the event and learned alot. Made some new friends. Community lounge was great, however things didn't come exactly as we planned. However will come with some improvements next year, insha Allah. I will be posting updates about our video for channel 9. I hope they will approve it.

I definately missed my brother Farhan Muhammad at this year's PDC. He spoke at all past PDCs. We had lots of fun together during past events. Wandering at Karachi streets whole day, going to Area 51, playing PS2 together and beating him on Need For Speed (NFS) races, our trip to Northern Areas, buying him lots of DVDs, watching video of our dept annual function together and pausing at some special moments ;) are just to name a few. The world just rocks when we are together. Opening up my picture gallery to refresh some memories.


PDC 2005 :: Day 1 Continues

The last session by Stephen Forte was great. He talked alot about XQuery in SQL Server. He became extremely tired after doing 3 consecutive sessions and throwed a very few jokes. However he was able to show us some really cool demos. After Q&A session we left the hall and went twards the Panel Discussion which was held at Ball Room A. It was nice to see our 3 INETA Pakistan Speakers Saqib Ilyas, Hammad Rajjoub and Adnan Farooq Hashmi sitting amongst the top industry professoinals who travelled from all over the world for this conference. Mr. Naseer Ghazi of Multinet hosted the panel discussion. After an hour the discussion was concluded and I left for home. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the 2nd day of PDC. I really missed Rafal's session on Cryptography. However the most interesting stuffs came out in the last day of PDC. See my next post for that.


Friday, June 17, 2005
PDC 2005 :: Day 1

I woke up really early in the morning at 5:30 AM. I used to sleep at this time, but it was fun waking up really early. Took a shower and got ready to leave for PDC 2005. Reached at Hotel Pearl Continental, where PDC is held at about 8:15 AM. Went to Ball Room A. The opening ceremony started at 9 AM. Rahat Kazmi was great as always. Mr. Jawwad Rehman gave an opening speech followed by a Key Note by the great Rafal, who is considered a .NET Legend. Its always great to hear him talking all good things about .NET and its future. There was other speeches as well after Rafal which were really boring and nothing to do with the developers. They just talked blindly about the IT in pakistan and its progress. Man who wanna hear such boring people. Our class lectures were considered the most boring stuff that any student wanted to hear. But after attending the opening ceremony of PDC, my thoughts are changed now. I think I can proudly take lectures from now on... hehee... Well anyways after a long opening session the tea break finally announed which was somewhat considered a relief for everyone. Went for the tea and to revive my senses. I met many people during the break, it was a good reunion with everyone after a long time. The break was gonna over, so we finished our tea in a hurry and went to attend the first session by AddulmaleK Kemmou on "Overview on ASP.NET 2.0."

This session was somewhat not upto my expectations. I already worked a little on ASP.NET 2 and know almost everything he told us. I learned nothing new in this session and was completely dissapointed. This was another boring session from the morning and I thought I would better stay at home and learn some new stuffs or start my new writing assignment. Well anyways I opened up the agenda and found that the next session of my interest is on "Caching in Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005" by "Stephen Forte."

After a very bad morning, I got to learn something good in the afternoon. Stephen is good, infact great as always. He is so energetic and his sessions are so lively that no one wanna miss. The room was full of people and some unlucky one's who came late were unable to find seats and were standing at the back. It was my first experience attending his session. His throwed a lot of jokes during his session, targeting mostly Microsoft, which is great. Man it is so good to make fun of Microsoft, Ha. He not only told us how to do caching at server level in .NET Framework 2 but surprisingly in Framework 1.1, which is somewhat beyond my expectation. He believe that people should master their skills in existing technology and then go furthur to explore the new stuffs that are still in beta and crash all the time. He showed us some really cool demos. After attending this session, I decided to attend his next session on XQeury in SQL Server 2005.

O God! my MSN is flodded with messages, donno when it signed itself. Thats the bad part of always being online. The reason why I prefer Orkut over IM for offline messages. Atleast its less distracting, and I don't have to reply at the moment. Its been long since I talked on MSN, I think it will take sometime to answer all these people who must be mad at me!.. heheh.. Ok this is due and will definately gonna come back and post more details on remaining sessions of PDC. So stay tuned for more !!


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Yesterday I went to Hotel PC (Pearl Continental) to collect my Delegate Kit of PDC 2005. The kit is good and contains a Spider Magazine June 2005 issue (which have my article too), 2 ASP.NET Training CDs with a sample demo application, our INETA Pakistan first Newsletter in print, a PDC 2005 resource CD, a brouchre containing PDC Agenda and speaker details, Pen and notepad, a few resources on MS Offices and advertisements, my PDC student delegate ID and instruction leaflet for the attendees. All these are inside a PDC 05 bag. We received some complaints about the PDC kits at our INETA Pakistan mailing list, but I think the kit is good. Leaving for PC again within an hour to setup our INETA Pakistan community lounge there. Will write more as soon as I return. See you at PDC 05.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Code Run 2005 :: Huge Success

INETA Pakistan arranged a Speed Programming Competition named "Code Run 2005" for NED Students. The competition is a huge success. Students participated from both BCIT and CIS departments of NED. In the beginning we received about 20 registrations for Code Run from which we selected senior most 15 students from both departments. Later on with the availability of more computers in our CIS Computational Lab, we selected 2 more teams, giving chance for junior students to participate and prepare for such future events.

The event started at about 11:15 AM with the introduction by Faisal Naseem on the contest. I then followed by introducing the prizes for the winning team and the runner ups. Questions papers were given to the teams and the clock start ticking. They were given 2 and a half hours to solve 5 mind juggling questions to prove their skills to be amongst the best coders in NED.
Pizzas and Sodas were served to the participants and teachers during the competition. 3 judges were assigned to moniter and approve/reject the enteries send by the teams. The competition ended at 1:45 PM. The remaining enteries were checked and the winners were declared. The team which end up in solving 4/5 questions were from Third Year CIS Department. BCIT ranked 3rd in the competition. In the ending ceremony we gave Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 and ASP.NET Web Matrix Book to the winning team. VS Beta 2 were given to the runner ups and all volunteers. It was an exciting event and I am sure everyone enjoyed whether they were writing codes, judging enteries or serving the lunch or completing their last minute assignment :) .

I would like to thank Sir Saqib Ilyas - Country Leader INETA Pakistan, Code Run volunteers, organizing committee and all participating teams for making this event a huge success. See the event pictures on the contest blog here.


Monday, June 06, 2005
Taking the bull by its horns

Often countless hours are spent looking for a particular song, a random picture or an all-important document amongst the slew of files that clutter up everyone's personal computers (PCs). As hard drives increase in size, it has become more and more difficult to keep track of where everything is stored. Up until now, the most efficient search facilities available for the PC have used technologies that are distinct from the operating system's, but those days may be over as soon as the latest version of Windows (code-named "Longhorn") is released.
The technology behind Longhorn is based on three main pieces of technology that are named Avalon, Indigo and WinFS. Avalon is the code name for the Longhorn graphical user interface (GUI) that software developers will use to build applications. Indigo, is the unified programming model and communications infrastructure for developing connected systems applications for the next generation of Windows. Last but cetainly not least, WinFS is the new storage subsystem that will revolutionise the concept of the file systems. Confused by all the jargon? Here's an insight into what this new technology will offer.

Read the rest of my article in June 2005 issue of Spider Magazine on page 64. Don't be shocked to see that Windows Server 2000 shipped preinstalled with the .NET Framework. It was Windows Server 2003. However, writers are humans, so do expect to see some mistakes :)


Saturday, June 04, 2005
"SOA" doesn't really exist, does it?

The term “Service Oriented Architecture” implies that there is something special about architecture when it comes to service orientation, Web services, XML, loose coupling and all the wonderful blessings of the past 5 years in this wave. But if you look at it, there really isn’t much special about the good, old, proven architectural principles once you throw services into the picture.

This is what Clemens has to say about SOA. More detail on his blog.


Friday, June 03, 2005
An interview with Rafal Lukawiecki

One of the experts invited to this year’s PDC (Pakistan Developers Conference) is Rafal Lukawiecki. As strategic consultant and director at Project Botticelli Ltd, a small consulting company based in the United Kingdom, Lukawiecki is responsible for analysing, planning and forecasting changes in the field of information technology (IT). Lukawiecki was one of the highlights at PDC 2004, and is this year expected to focus on security, study of programming models and management of large software development projects through frameworks. Spider catches up with Lukawiecki to discuss trends in security and Pakistan’s role in the IT world at large.

Read the complete interview online here, or buy June 2005 issue of Spider Magazine. And yes don't forget to read my article on Longhorn in the pipeline section.


New managed Speech API

The new Speech API is included in the latest Avalon bits that were just released last week. Robert Brown on his blog gives us a bunch of the relevant details, including how you can download the latest bits and try this stuff for yourself.

If you've ever wanted to build an application that responds to your voice, this video from Channel 9 Forums covers the basics.

Source : Channel 9 Forums