Friday, April 29, 2005

Google Sightseeing

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave, you’ve certainly heard of Google’s newest Service Google Maps which allow you to view Satellite images of North America and recently UK, so it was only a matter of time before someone steps in and utilize its great capabilities in something fun and useful.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out Google Sightseeing and add it to your feeds. This blog takes you to the best tourist spots in the world via Google Maps' satellite imagery, and offers some really amazing images from different parts.
Very interesting site indeed.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Shaam 2005 Part I

Now after a nice break I’m relaxed and refreshed and I can return to my normal habits which include blogging, as I promised in my last post here’s my experience of Shaam 2005:

A bit of a History

As a hardware enthusiast I’ve always complained about the lack of high end products in the market, and the expensive prices of them in case they became available, during the last year and as a part of my work I had several meetings with the major distributors and told them my point and heard their side of the story, to make a tall story short I urged them to order high end products in small quantities and I convinced them how the market is evolving and more people are searching for high performance, and luckily they were submissive and this year’s Expo proves it.

Concerning Hardware this year’s Expo was a huge change, nearly all of major brands (Asus, MSI, Gigabyte) has ordered high end products especially for the Expo and especially for our lab, this brings us to the Issue of Al Rakameiat Test lab which was my responsibility during the Expo.

The Test lab:
As Casual Readers know we do various reviews and group tests in the newspaper, and wanted in this Expo to give all the users a taste of it, so assembled 10 PCs nearly all of them were top of the line concerning hardware and we supplied each PC with the whole suite of our Benchmarks and testing Software, we made all those PCs available for the attendees to do experiments with them and we were there to answer their questions and inquiries, and we did a lot of live demonstrations upon people’s requests and questions,

-We compared Pentium 4 to Athlon 64 in various applications.
-We demonstrated how cooling is important for high-End CPUs.
-We performed live overclocking, and we proved how much performance you can get from it
-We demonstrated the difference in games between Mid-Range Graphic Cards and High-End ones
-And so on…

We told the Major distributors about the concept of our lab prior to the Expo and they were all very enthusiastic about it and supplied us with more than enough Mid-Range and High-End Products to fill a dozen PCs, our top PC was a blast to see and experiment with, all the time people were gathering around it waiting for their turns to experiment and play with it, and here’s the specification of it:

-AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (the fastest CPU in the world).
-Asus Star Ice Cooler (Special Cooling for the CPU) it’s definitely the biggest cooler you’ll ever see, it was really the star of our show everybody was stunned by the view of it.
-Asus A8N-SLI (one of the best Motherboards with SLI Technology which gives it the ability to run two Graphic Cards in parallel)
-Dual Asus GeForce 6800 GT 256MB GDDR3 (2x of the best Graphics Cards around)
-Dual (RAID 0) 74.3 GB Western Digital Raptors 10.000 RPM (the best Hard Disk installation in the world and the most expensive too)
-BenQ 26in LCD-TV (very beautiful colors yet very expensive)

Our other Hardware was amazing too, we had Gigabyte 3D1, it consists of Gigabyte SLI motherboard and a Graphics Card with Dual-Cores GeForce 6600GT (the only one in the world), we were running it on Athlon 64 3500+, All of Pentium 4 Equipped PCs were based upon the new Socket LGA 775 and half of them were running PCI-Express Graphics Card.
We assembled all of our Hardware inside glass cases so that everybody can see the hardware running all the time.

The result (thank god) was a huge success to our lab, everybody was more than pleased and many of them told me that our hall was the best thing in the whole Expo, and you can expect how our hall was crowded nearly all the time and we barley had time to breathe, in the first day we didn’t have time for lunch.

That's it for now, I've said enough for the time, next I'll try to talk about the Expo in general but that's another stroy for another post.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

It’s been a While…

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and it’s mainly due to Shaam 2005 (Local IT Expo), as some of you know I work at Al Rakameiat the Local IT newspaper, this year our participation was the hugest ever, My job included overseeing the test lab and the hired crew and answering people’s endless questions, we were showcasing 10 PCs nearly all of them are top of the line, and they were equipped with the latest Benchmarks and testing programs.
Overall it was a fun but exhausting experience, I’ll try to post the details about it soon, but the most important thing is that now I can have my normal life back, I really missed it.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Yahoo! 360, Better late than never

Once I heard about the debut of this new service , I was pretty excited and wanted to try it badly, so I asked the coolest Yahoo Employee Jeremy Zawnodny for an invite and luckily he didn’t turn me down and sent me one right away.
That was 2 weeks ago, unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to play and tinker with it until recently so here’s my already-late review of it.

Everybody knows that is the second most popular portal on the Web (ofcoures the first is Google), so it was surprising that it took so long for Yahoo to enter the market, and nearly all of its competitors were ahead of it, Google’s, MSN Spaces and even Ask Jeeves (through but as they say better late than never.

In 360 Yahoo decided to build on MSN Spaces rather than, so it’s better that we refer to this service as “Social Networking” Service rather than a blogging service, because blogging is merely a part of its functions and IMO it’s the lesser part of it, and If you plan to use it mainly as a blogging tool you’ll be disappointed especially seasoned bloggers who demand advanced features and easy customization and that exactly what the service lack, it’s easily the most simple blogging service available in the market, and obviously it is intended for beginners and newbies.

360 is tightly integrated with other Yahoo services like Y! Messenger, Y! Groups and even Y! Music, 360 allows you to import your contacts from Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Address Book and even Microsoft Outlook.

What I most like about Yahoo! 360 is how easy I can share things with friends and other people; you can share your Photos, your Reviews, Music you listen to (through Y! Music), Yahoo! Groups you’re subscribed to, and also you can share your list of Favorites (Movies, Books, Music,…), and you can decide who gets to see any of your things and how private or public to make your lists.

Also 360 allows you to connect to your friends very easily and helps you find new friends, and through your 360 main Page you can see who’s online and who’s not from your group of friends, and you can notify them to certain important things using Blast messages which you can share with all your friends or a specific group of them, and you can even send regular Messages or IM (Instant Messages) to your friends using 360.

In Short Yahoo! 360 in its Beta period is Excellent and pretty comprehensive, it represents a unified platform for all your social interaction needs.
But Yahoo needs to work on improving Blog hosting service and add advanced feature and customization options so that it can attract bloggers.

BTW my page is here: but it’s still work in progress.

Like Google, Yahoo chose to offer invites during the Beta period of 360, so unless you recieve an invite you can’t try it, fortunately I have 100 invites remaining, so anyone willing to try this new service drop me a comment with your E-mail in it so that I can send you one.

Grab em while they last.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

State of the Blogosphere Part II: 31.6 million blog and counting…

According to a new survey by CBS released today, the number of blogs that have been created on the different hosting services has reached 31.6 million blog, and it is expected to grow to 53.4 million blog by the end of the year.

That means the number of blogs will increase by 68% in the next 8 months and that’s a huge increase in such a short time considering that blogging has started getting famous in 2002.

Blogging is increasing in an unexpected speed; if it keeps that pace maybe a couple of years later it’s going to be one of the main uses of Internet beside E-mail.

About blogging market share, the current market leader is Google’s (also known as, it’s hosting more than 8 million blogs or 25% of all blogs, in the second place there’s then comes, also worth mentioning here is Microsoft’s “MSN Spaces” hosting service which managed to host 4.5 million blog in beta period alone (which ended a week ago).
I’m sure the future is bright for MSN Spaces and in less than a year from now it’s going to be one of the three major players in blogging.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Do you feel safe blogging?

If your answer is yes, then fellow blogger you’re definitely wrong and you should reconsider, blogging is not as safe as you might think, and everything you write on your blog can be used against you if it upsets/insults certain people, and it might get you fired from your Job like Mark Jen who was fired from Google because of some info he posted about the company and turned out to be confidential (Detailed Story here), there’s a lot of other people that got fired or didn’t get certain Jobs because of what they wrote in their blogs, you can find a list of them here.

Well… I got you scared, didn’t I? No need to panic if you don’t plan on writing things that might affect/disturb someone, but if you still insist to use blogging as a way to complain/vent then you need to take a look at this guide for safe Blogging.

Take care and Safe Blogging.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Google way of finding free music

Search Engine Google is so powerful you could even use it to find free downloadable Music, just enter this term in the search box
-inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" mp3 "kill bill" (I used this term to find Kill Bill Soundtrack) and replace Kill Bill with the name of Artist, Album, Song, Whatever… and then navigate through the first few links and you should find your music of choice ready to be downloaded, simple isn’t it?
Be sure to tell me if it works for you.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Do you speak Blog?

If you’re one of those new bloggers, you could benefit from this Article “Understanding Blog Speak” it contains a list of common blog word definitions (Aggregator, Blogosphere,…) and the Author “Duncan Riley” is asking for opinions on what he’s got so far and what he might be missing, so if you have other terms be sure to drop him a note.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

State of the Blogosphere

As a new blog owner it’s natural that I am constantly browsing new blogs and other blogging services, recently I registered at Technorati and claimed my weblog as a way to help its enormous community find and search my blog, as they recently celebrated 1 billion links Tracked also it’s now tracking more than 8.4 Million blog and that’s a HUGE number by all means.

I think Technorati is great and offer many helpful services besides indexing your blog like Watchlists which enables you to track what is happening on the web concerning any topic you choose, or you can track certain websites and blogs.
Also you can install their Search service on your blog, but what they really lack is the analytic power of its competitor BlogPulse.

BlogPulse provides amazing services for everyone, Top Links, Key Phrases, Key People, and Conversation Tracker but the best tool they have is Trend Tool, with it you can create your own Trend Graph comparing whatever things come to your mind to see what was popular and hot over any given period of time, you could play with it for hours without getting bored.

For an example here's a screenshot comparing Apple to iPod and Mac mini, and here’s a list of things that we can easily read from this Graph:

Posted by Me

1- It proves that Apple popularity is mainly due to its iPod (no surprise here) especially after iPod Shuffle announcement that took place at MacWorld Expo (9-13 Jan).

2- The obvious spike in iPod Graph before Jan 1st is the result of its popularity as a Christmas gift.

3- iPod is generally increasing in popularity among bloggers.

4- It seems that Apple popularity is more closely related with iPod after MacWorld Expo, even with the introduction of Mac mini, maybe it’s an indicator that iPod Shuffle really filled a gap in the MP3 Players market for Apple.

I could go on and on with this analysis but it’s not my focus, the main point is to prove how much information you can gather from Graphs like this and how they really applies to the society and the changes that occur within.
Just imagine what you can come up with from thousands of other comparisons.

Blogging in general and Advanced Services like BlogPulse gave us a great way to measure the Pulse of the Tech-oriented society, and how every change affects them.

On the Business side, I’m sure Intelliseek is a perfect buy for any company willing to gain upper hand in the blogging world, like Google or MSN or even Yahoo, it’ll be a great companion to their blogging services, I’m wondering which company will make the move first or even if one of them is in the negotiation process right now, only time will tell.

In other news, I added a hit counter using and it’s great so far, with more than enough info on blog statistics.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

“The Great New Ideas” Where do they come from?

Another Excellent blog Entry from Tom Evslin, in it he talks about the source of great new product ideas.

“The point of this story is that no survey or focus group will ever tell you what the next great thing is going to be. That kind of idea, that kind of product, comes from visionaries who understand a new technology well enough to dream up an unintended use and who are stubborn and skillful enough to implement what nobody even knew to want.
These are the products and services that change our lives.”

I completely agree with him that successful companies or projects don’t always have to follow customer’s wishes or desires, and sometimes personal innovation is the key to achieve the next hit.

That doesn’t mean the market is insignificant and we shouldn’t listen to it, on the contrary the market is always right and you should always pay attention to its needs and growing trends and act accordingly, but also one should try to read “between the lines” and realize where the hidden potential lies, and how some existing resources and technologies could be utilized to create a completely new capabilities and uses that shape up the next great product.

Search Engine giant Google, One of my favorite companies, realized this thing and encourages its employees to innovate by allowing them to spend 20% of their work time on projects of their choice, also they are not afraid to release a lot of Beta products and services whenever possible, as it helps them test the market response and feedback to determine which of them worth dropping and which is worth further improvement.

I wish all companies do the same and trust its Employees, and I’m sure their performance will improve.

Monday, April 04, 2005

"Brothers in Arms" Review

This is my First complete Review in English (I've written quite a lot in Arabic) hope you like it, I didn't intend it to be this long but there was a lot to tell, Enjoy

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
The Latest WWII Game (is it any different?)

“Oh no… not another WWII game” this was my reaction when I first heard about this game, so I wasn’t expecting anything exceptional from this game, as I thought we have seen everything that can be done in a WWII game, but his game proved me wrong and it demonstrated how WWII theme has something new to offer, Kudos to Gearbox on this fine job, and this is my in-depth review of the game.


It’s almost the worst element in the game, not that it’s real bad just nothing spectacular or worth mentioning and it just pales in comparison to the amazing Graphics we’ve been spoiled by in games like Doom3 and Half-Life 2, and that proves that the game is a direct console port and the developers did not work enough on improving the Engine to benefit from the powerful PC Hardware, so you can expect that every model and mesh in the game is low-Polygon count and low-res Textures, particle effects are good and allows for realistic-looking explosions.

The Developers added to the graphics a bloom effect (like StarWars BattleFront) it’s one-thing-suits-all effect that its generally used in console games to blur out all the details in the game, it’s generally used as a cheap substitute for Anti-Aliasing, character animations are top-notch and their movements are so life-like that you can’t get bored from looking at your teammates watching their idle moves.

I must not forget to mention character models which despite of being low in Polygon count, the developers did excellent job on their faces that they look detailed with Amazing expressions on their faces like fear and caution.

Battle Effects such as explosion and getting pinned down by bullets are great and adds to the realism with blur and de-saturation.


This is where the game stands out, it was a relief to see that the game does not follow the steps of all WWII FPSs like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, which to this point follow the same rule “very-scripted-heavy-action”, instead this game relies on squad leading and tactical fighting.

You Play Sergeant Matt Baker a newly assigned Squad leader which has been dropped in Normandy in the night before D-Day, and the game missions take place in the next 8 days.

The missions are generally good and most of them is exact recreation of real missions that took place in that period from every building, hill and road to the mission objectives which they varies from assaulting enemy positions to defending conquered areas, Level design is interesting and clever and allows for different approaches in completing the mission.

You’re charged with leading one or two teams into the fray, and you use real tactical maneuvers throughout the game, Like suppression and flanking, but that doesn’t mean the game is hard and requires a lot of team management on the contrary you can issue all your orders with just a few buttons, the controls are cleverly simple so that you can get accustomed to them fairly quickly and then use them as an experienced leader.

All of the above could’ve been in vain if team mates AI was bad, but fortunately team AI is excellent and they can take care of themselves even without your orders, when they get fired upon either if they’re moving or standing still they quickly run for cover and start to fire back, also they cover each other when one of them needs to reload, and the AI is very aware of the surrounding environment so they cleverly find appropriate cover when needed, and sometimes you see them switch for another cover if they got hit or don’t have a clear view of the enemy.

Enemy AI is fairly good and manages not to spoil the experience, but it’s not great and could’ve been better, you rarely see the soldiers leave their cover or try to flank you instead they remain behind their cover shooting till you kill them.

Situational awareness System, allows you to monitor the Battlefield from bird-Eye view and you can zoom in any of your units or enemy units to examine its surroundings, it supposedly allows you to plan your attack and approach carefully, but in practice it’s not really necessary, I remember myself using it only dozen times in the whole game, but maybe some other player will find it useful.

The game tries to reflect the horror of the War, by getting you to experience the death of your friends and teammates throughout the course of the game, but it doesn’t work so well because the game does a poor job in introducing them and getting you to really know them, so you can’t feel emotionally attached to them from a only couple of minutes with them, I even didn’t know their names until after they died, they should’ve prolonged the scenes where your friends are talking and maybe introduce some bits about their former life, Men of Valor did a better job than this game and also did Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault.

I must not forget to mention the excellent checkpoint system in the game, the developers made a wise decision to ignore regular save system in PC version which would’ve spoiled the game, instead they used checkpoint system and they placed them according to the pace so they don’t seem too far or near, but as always there are some exceptions I noticed in a couple of places

Another thing worth mentioning, is that when you keep dieing in some Area for a long time (6-7 times maybe) you get an option to heal yourself and your squad and reload, this option helps greatly in certain areas where you or your squad are very low on health and can’t finish the mission.

The Weapons are great and they act as you expect them to do in real life, like the weapons recoil after you fire and the shaky aim that takes a few seconds in the crouching position so that you get a fairly steady aim.

But also the game has its share of problems; the most annoying one is the Effectiveness of the weapons and the damage done, one shot to the head is not enough to kill enemy soldiers most of the time, so you have to shoot them twice in the head or more in other parts of the body to take them down.

And the Enemy tanks have like Magical Awareness of you, no matter how I managed to sneak and hide so that I can reach the tank from behind, I find it waiting with its guns pointed at my direction or even worse it starts shooting before I appear from cover.


The Sound in this game is on-par with the gameplay, weapons sounds realistic also do explosions and the sound of whizzing bullets and all other Sound Effects, concerning music the Theme music is excellent and suitable, but the game chooses to forego music inside missions to keep the experience realistic as possible, but I would’ve preferred a bit of music in certain critical moments of the game to add to the feelings, like when losing a teammate or in a critical fight, something Call of Duty did.
Voice Acting is decent and convincing, but nothing exceptional.


The game is very short, I mean real short that you can finish it in one day if you got carried out in the action, but luckily it’s replayable thanks to the non-linear feel of missions, you can always go back and execute the missions using different approaches and it’s rewarding each time especially when playing in higher difficulty, also the game encourages you to replay the game as it has a lot of Extra content that you can’t unlock unless you finish missions in higher difficulties

I have to mention the Extra content which is great, and lots of it explains how the Developers designed the game and the missions using real photographs and reconnaissance photos in addition to documents and journals from that time.


Brothers in Arms is great game and can easily be put in the same league as Call of Duty, it’s certainly one of the best WWII games and IMO it’s the best game we’ve had so far this year (not that it’s been long enough), I strongly recommend this game to all WWII and First Person Shooters Fans.

Friday, April 01, 2005

My First Entry

This is my first blog, so I’ll start it by talking about blogging in general and why I finally chose to add my thoughts to the blogosphere

The first thing that drew my attention to blogging was the incident of Mark Jen blog after he started his work in Google and how he then was forced out of it because of what he stated in his blog and turned out to be disclosed information (for detailed Story read here), this proves how powerful blogging was and how it moved from being Online personal Journal to a form of Media that has its influence and consequences.

And my reasons in joining the blogosphere can be summarized in these points:

1- Its one of the hottest issues in the Internet, and I don’t want to be left out of it.

2- Its about time I start to write and document my thoughts and notes on everything that occurs to me, as I have bad memory and I forget things very fast, so blogging will allow me to document my ideas and thoughts so that I can access them anytime I want when the need arises.

3- Sharing my ideas and thoughts with friends and other readers, and getting Feedback on my writings.

That’s it for now; maybe someday I can talk on the blogging issue in detail.