Monday, November 29, 2010

First snowfall of Winter in Germany - too much snow

Last Thursday, it started snowing for the first time in this winter. Overnight there fell a lot of snow. On Friday morning, everything was covered in snow. The city's snow cleaning services were working and clearing snow from roads and footpaths.

But Friday afternoon, it started to snow again. Till the evening it got very bad, so that the city had to restrict its bus system. All buses going on hills were stopped. My city lies on hills, that means many destinations were not reachable through public transport. My university has many campuses around the city. The campus where I work is on a hill. So no bus was coming to my campus as well. A colleague was nice enough to give me a ride home in his car, otherwise I would have to walk down the hill and up another hill to my home.

It has been snowing almost everyday since then and the little snow that melts during the day is replaced by new snow overnight.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Won a robotic competition in Germany

On 2nd October, one day before the national day of Germany when East and West Germany got united, we participated in a robotics competition for which we were preparing since last year. The competition was organized by a renowned German company building laser sensors and other stuff, called SICK. The competition is thus called SICK Robot Day. It comprised of a circular area with numbers drawn on big posters and hanged along the boundary of the arena. Within the arena, multiple obstacles are placed at different places on the ground. Each robot has to recognize the numbers and drive to them in sequence while avoiding the obstacles.

There were 12 German and 4 European teams. Our robot (called "Attempto") completed the whole task in 3 minutes. Our robot hit some obstacles, so including the penalties, our task time was 3:18 minutes. Each robot was given a time of 10 minutes to complete the task. The robot at second position completed the task in over 6 minutes. No other robot was able to correctly complete the task. One other robot completed the task, but it misjudged one of the numbers. Here is the video of the successful run of our robot:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Slow Tsunami - worst floods in Pakistan

These are the most destructive floods in Pakistan's history. After the flood, the real destruction starts, as the crops are destroyed, livestock killed, roads and bridges dismantled, houses unusable, and worse, diseases spreading from standing water.

United Nations is repeating calls for aid. Please help.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Google Blogaward for my Blog

Since a couple of days I was receiving comments on my blog congratulating me for winning the Pakistani blog award. I checked the section of the Google+CIO award website containing my blog, but there was no announcement there, and my blog still had less votes than some others. So I thought of these comments as spam.

But today I received congrats on an email forum of old students of FAST-NUCES, which made me very curious. I went to the home page of the award website and there I found the announcement. It was a pleasant surprise for me since I entered my blog very late in the competition and thus it had received less votes.

It was a beautiful 5-hour event and I missed it :(

Country Manager of Intel Pakistan (Ashar Zaidi) was the judge of my category, and hear his flattering comments about it:

They even made an animation about my Blog Award on youtube :)

More details of the event: 

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Solution of Pakistan's administrative problems?

Recently, there has been much talk in media of increasing the number of provinces of Pakistan to solve the many administrative problems. Both politicians and TV anchors have repeated this plea. Now that the constitutional reforms have been agreed upon, maybe the Government should focus on this issue. It is often said that the provinces of Pakistan are too big to manage, either population-wise or area-wise. This has resulted in the focus of govt resources on provincial capitals and around. Creating new provinces will also solve the problem of separatists and smaller provinces complaining about bigger provinces. No province will then become the center of power. All the developed countries of the world and neighbours of Pakistan have many more provinces or states than us.

So how should new provinces be created? There could be many ways and the parliament would know the best. But here are two scenarios that come to my mind:

Scenario 1: Divide each of the provinces into two parts. Since Punjab is the biggest, it may be divided into three parts to get a balance with other provinces. Then we would have 9 provinces: Quetta, Kalat; Hyderabad, Sukkur; Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan; Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan Divisions.

Scenario 2: Another scenario presented in the media is to convert all the previous divisions into provinces. This scenario has two potential subscenarios: First is the divisions before 1990s. Then we would have 20 provinces:
Quetta, Kalat, Sibi, Makran,
Hyderabad, Sukkur, Karachi,
Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Hazara, Kohat, Malakand,
Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, Dera Gazi Khan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Bahawalpur.

The second subscenario is the divisions that existed till 2000. These were 26 in number, thus creating 26 provinces:

Quetta, Kalat, Sibi, Makran, Naseerabad, Zhob;
Hyderabad, Sukkur, Karachi, Larkana, Mirpur Khas;
Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Hazara, Kohat, Malakand,
Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, Dera Gazi Khan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Bahawalpur.

Many people complain that only 5 cities are being heavily developed, and most provincial funds are spent on the provincial capitals. Creating 26 provinces would give an immediate benefit that instead of 5 cities, we would have at least 27 cities which would be developing fast.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Final solution to my slow notebook: parts replacement by Dell

This weekend, my laptop came down to an agonising slow speed. It was getting heated too much. The voice of the fan had also slowed a lot. I decided it was time to call Dell again. So I called them Monday and explained the problem with my Dell Inspiron 1521. The guy agreed to replace its motherboard. The next morning, a technician came with a motherboard, fan and heat sink unit. He laid out a rounded sheet and plugged its wire to the power output. He wrapped another of its wires around his wrist. I asked if it was a protection against electric shock, but he said that it would protect the notebook against any static charge. he opened up the complete notebook and replaced the three parts. I asked him many questions. He mentioned that the typical life of a notebook is 6-7 years. He also showed me a ball of thready dust (about the size of a big cherry) that was stuck in the fan. He told me that the notebook has a protection mechanism such that it reduces the processor and graphics processor to reduce the heat, if fan or heat sink is not working. If that doesn't work, it shuts down the system.

After that, i turned on the system and I was able to watch youtube videos in fullscreen again. My warranty would expire this year. I guess I'll renew it to get my notebook parts replaced often :)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Kashmir Day

Today is Kashmir day. The day we show solidarity with the Kashmiri people suffering decades of violence and occupation. It all started in 1947, when the British left the Indian subcontinent and gave the option to all states whether to join India or Pakistan or stay independent. The population of Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim majority and naturally wanted the join Pakistan. However, the ruler of Kashmir was a Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. He wanted to remain independent. People revolted in western Kashmir to overthrow the Raja, and their neighbor tribesmen crossed the border to help them. They were advancing fast towards the center. The Hindu ruler asked India for military help to save his throne, but India refused to help unless he joined India. So he joined India and India invaded Kashmir.

Later, India took the issue to UN in 1948, which passed a resolution asking for a Plebiscite so that the people could themselves decide upon the fate of their state. Both India and Pakistan agreed to this. However, the plebiscite never took place. Pakistan has repeatedly called for the plebiscite according to UN resolution, but India refuses and claims that Kashmir is a part of India. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on April 21, 1948, which stated "that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations". The cease fire took place on December 31, 1948.

The UN Security Council later passed four new resolutions, revising the terms of Resolution 47 to include a synchronous withdrawal of both Indian and Pakistani troops from the region, per the recommendations of General Andrew McNaughton. Uptil now UN arbitrators put forward 11 different proposals for the demilitarization of the region - every one of which was accepted by Pakistan, but rejected by the Indian government. Let us hope and work to get this plebiscite done in Jammu and Kashmir and let the people decide. Pakistan says that it would accept any decision from the people of Jammu and Kashmir. However, this is not acceptable to India.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Problem solved: Windows 7 slow on dell notebook

Ever since I installed Windows 7, my laptop was very slow. Whenever I ran vlc, I had to close all other applications to save it from dying down. I solved the problem with my Windows 7 being too slow. Well, it is a long story: I had a dell notebook which when charged its battery full, would disconnect the battery and run the laptop on direct power. Due to many problems, I got it replaced, but the new laptop (1521) lacked this feature of disconnecting the battery. As a result, my battery wore out after 2 years, while the earlier laptop's battery was good even after 2.5 years of use. Since we always use the laptop at home, I let the battery inside and use it as desktop replacement. A few days back, when I turned my laptop on, it said that my battery was almost dead and thus my computer could run slow. Walla ... that was the reason. I removed the battery, and the laptop now runs fast, much better than Vista. (however, not when I run Vuze) :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cleaning snow in Germany

I live in a so-called Terassen-haus (house on steps?) which has its floors placed diagonally on the side of a hill. So the building is not straight, rather diagonal. So the elevators opens its one door for the first 3 floors, and the opposite door for the higher 4 floors. I live on the 5th floor. Such an arrangement of floors gives each front appartment a big balcony, and each balcony is surrounded with bushes, so the whole building looks a part of the hill. The building is located a little above the base of the hill, so there are 3 sets of stairs before the building, with a 2 meter flat surface between each set of stairs. Why am I telling in so much detail? Because yesterday I was asked to remove snow from these stairs.

Each appartment in the building gets its duty almost once every month in winter to keep the stairs clear of snow. Last 2 months, there was no snow on my duty. But this month there is snow every day. They place the tools outside the building. They consist of a shovel, a long brush and a bucket of snow-salt. I had never done this before, so I took the shovel and tried the carry the snow on each stair-step to the side. Most of the snow was easy, but it was very hard where people had stepped. The surface was not smooth, so the shovel didn't move easily. Then I figured that fine cleaning would perhaps be better done with the brush. It worked, but not at some spots. I tried for half hour at my best and then sprinkled salt on it and left for office. It snowed heavily in the afternoon, reminding me that I have to clean again in the evening. When I reached home, the path that I made on the stairs was even cleaner than I left it in the morning. This snow-salt is a magic salt. Though, I was a little annoyed why I had I worked so hard in the morning, I would have just cleaned a bit and sprinkled the salt. But, anyhow, it showed me that Farmville is a lot more easier when played on PC :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chilling Winter in Germany & Europe

This winter is different than some previous years. Well, it started like normal: it snowed in December, but the snow vanished before Christmas, leaving wishing for another white Christmas. Then, it snowed again; this time an awful lot. For many days it snowed daily, mostly powdered snow. City services was quick to clean the pathways, but it snowed again the next day, until the newspapers announced a shortage of snow clearing salt. I even saw snow cleaners at night. A few days after, the authorities issued a warning asking people to store 4 days food and candles in case of electricity outages. This made us nervous, but then we realized it was probably meant for Northern coastal regions and Islands. They were hit the hardest by this extreme snow. People even said that this is a record since at least 20 years.

A funny (read: scary) thing happened too. My university has multiple campuses. My campus is on top of a hill. A bus goes up and down the hill. One day, when it snowed at extreme, I was waiting for the bus at bus-stop. The bus was late about 5 min, and it crawled slowly towards the bus stop. It was a double bus (two bus sections joined, but can bend). Well, I got on the bus, and the bus started down the road to get on the main road on a T-intersection. There was a signal there which was turned off due to the weather. The bus waited, but cars were coming from both directions. As soon as a small gap occurred between the traffic, the bus driver gave gas to make use of it, but he had to turn sharply to avoid tumbling down the hill in front of the T-intersection. The bus driver applied brakes, and the feared happened: the bus slipped: it was too fast. It took our breath away. So the driver released the brakes and gave some gas while turning the steering-wheel. Thankfully, the bus turned and got on the main road.