PTCL-Etisalat deal collapses

October 30th, 2005

UAE’s Etisalat has failed to make the final payment for the takeover bid of PTCL. The deadline had been extended 2 months from August to October. Etisalat’s bid was $1.96 per share while it’s nearest competitor China Mobile bid $1.066 per share–almost half. Surely Etisalat management must have felt like a bunch of idiots and their knee-jerk response was to demand various concessions (deferred payments, tax exemptions, permission to trade stock in the UAE market) to make up for their grave miscalculation. What action should be taken next?

Outage

October 30th, 2005

The web host for tech.one.com.pk had a hardrive failure and the last backup they had went back to August resulting in a loss of quite a few posts. Google did have the cache of the posts for some time, but they seem to have updated their index and cache and the posts are lost.

We apologize for the loss and are taking measures to do routine backups of the database to avoid such a failure in the future.

Paknet offers free DSL installation and subscription(?)

August 15th, 2005

Things are starting to heat up in the broadband space. This has to be a first: Business Recorder reports that PakNet, as of 14th Aug is offering free DSL installation on their ‘Rage’ plan — For a Rs 899/month scratch-card they are offering a 256kbps, 1-Gb/month volume capped pipe. All most all broadband companies such as Cybernet and Multinet charge as much as Rs5,000-Rs15,000 for installation and purchase of the dsl modem upfront. This offer looks quite attractive for someone who wants to get up and running without having to worry about too much inital investment.

Technology behind the new cruise missile?

August 14th, 2005

Recently Pakistan successfully tested the “Hatf-VII-Babur” cruise missile. The story has been covered by the international press everywhere because of it’s geo-political implications. There are very little details about the technology behind the missile. Here are the breadcrumbs I’ve found by groveling the net:

An unknown army official says:

“It is a terrain hugging missile, which has the most advanced and modern navigation and guidance and a high degree of maneuverability and its technology enables it to avoid radar detection and penetrate undetected through any hostile defence system”

PakistaniDefence.com has videos and a few more details about what the missile is capable of:

The military said the launch of the missile, which has a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), meant that Pakistan had “joined a select group of countries which have the capability to design and develop cruise missiles”.
….
Babur was launched vertically with the solid booster motor. Immediately after the launch its guidance and control system takes over and it gains speed and after a few seconds its rocket booster motor is separated. Then the missile automatically opens its wing as a jet plane, and moves towards its target. Special cameras installed in the missile, control and manage its height by minutely monitoring ups and downs of land.

The News is reporting that National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) claims that the missile will be in full production sometime next month (their ‘coming soon’ website here).

That’s about all I could find relating to the technology behind the missile. I have a few more questions I would like answered about the missile: Which institution is responsible for creating and putting together the missile prototype? Is it produced indigenously? Who wrote the software for the guidance system? And how does NESCOM fit into the picture?

Rs320 million system for measuring Indus Waterflow fails to function

August 2nd, 2005

Dawn reports that the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) is demanding “design re-engineering” for the system installed to monitor inflows and outflows at dams, costing Rs320 million and 2 years to develop under contract from Siemens of Germany which was rehired for a further 6 months for Rs8.4 million to fix the problem in vain.

Irsa wants nothing to do with the system and wants WAPDA to get the issue resolved under warranty (if the working system is not even delivered yet it should not even be an issue of warranty). The ministry says that WADPA, Nespak (National Engineering Services Pakistan), Siemens and Supernet should see the issue to completion while Irsa and provincial deparments monitor the progress. Appears that eveyrone wants to delegate or transfer responsibility.

Still no relief for ISPs and LDIs from PTC

August 2nd, 2005

Dawn reports two meetings between PTCL, Ministry of IT and industry ISPs have ended without resolution. ISPs and LDIs are demanding $43m compensation for the outages in the form of free internet bandwidth for 40 days. PTCL is only settling on 10 days.

The outage itself was much longer than 10 days. Second, a single days outage simply cannot be compensated by a single day’s worth of free bandwidth since losses from a one-day outage are more far reaching than just the lost bandwidth.

PTCL is still sticking to its guns, saying they are not under any obligation to compensate for the outage. The ISPs, however, may still be liable to their customers who deserve compensation for the outage. The ISPs claim they should recieve 4 days for every free day given to customers since the bandwidth ~25% of the operating costs (others being salaries, rental, collocation, marketing etc).

Is your ISP compensating you? Should ISPs be compensated or should this simply be considered the cost of doing business in Pakistan and taken away from their profit margins as an operating expense?

Plagiarism and Academia

August 2nd, 2005

While plagarism is a problem that plagues all arenas of academia (can be as subtle as overlooking a reference to a source), this particular story concerns the International Islamic University in Islamabad where two (probably graduate) students and a professor are accused of plagiarising a paper by industry security guru Bruce Schneier and colleagues.

While the professor claims only to have appended his name to the paper, I agree with Schneier’s commentary that he is still responsible for lack of due diligence.

In the vast web of information, it’s getting increasingly difficult to track down plagiarism and in a sense, the whole plagiarism business (essays.org etc) is compromising the academic culture and true worth of having a degree.

Further, stories like this bring considerable harm to the reputation of not only the institution in question but also Pakistan educational institutions in general. In my opinion, these students should be made an example of to not only strongly discourage this practise but also to make it clear that the International Islamic University in Islamabad’s integrity is intact.

Plagiarism and shame in the academic Industry

August 2nd, 2005

Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist and author. Described by The Economist as a “security guru,” Schneier is best known as a refreshingly candid and lucid security critic and commentator. When people want to know how security really works, they turn to Schneier.

It’s no surprise that Khawaja Amer Hayat, Umar Waqar Anis, and S. Tauseef-ur-Rehman, three professors from the International Islamic University in Islamabad did as well.

More than looking to refer to Bruce, they plagiarized his entire paper on Cryptanalysis of some encryption/cipher schemes using related key attack and published it on SIGCSE, a forum for computer science educators.

Seems like these professors have a stubbed a lot of other academic institutions and taken credit for it. Plagiarism in any form is not kosher and credit must be given for someone elses hard work.

Read Bruce’s rant here which includes seemingly insincere apologies from the three professors.

Microsoft is Recruiting in Pakistan

August 1st, 2005

Microsoft will be recruiting candidates from Pakistan (as of late, an increasing number of candidates are being considered from Pakistan and the number of hires has been growing). From the internal mail.

Soon Microsoft will be interviewing people from Pakistan, including interested and qualified candidates for software development positions here in the USA at our corporate headquarters working on our major products.

If you know of anyone that might be interested, or a bulletin board where it would be appropriate to post this, please forward this email. There are multiple positions open and candidates will be in competition with themselves, not each other.

What is a qualified candidate?
* Someone who has (or will be completing this year) a bachelor’s (four year or more) degree in Computer Science or a related field
* Someone that has very strong abilities to write code in C/C++
* Someone that is very driven and passionate about technology, desiring to make software products that will go all over the world
* Someone with fluent English speaking skills

WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT AT MICROSOFT
The reason so many people from various disciplines come to Microsoft is because we provide the most exciting challenges in the industry. Since our inception in 1975, Microsoft’s mission has been to create software for the personal computer that empowers and enriches people in the workplace, at school and at home. Microsoft’s early vision of a computer on every desk and in every home is coupled today with a strong commitment to Internet -related technologies that expand the power and reach of the PC and its users. You can help shape the industry in nearly countless ways, all while gaining invaluable experience. Our casual environment lends itself to freer thinking and therefore, creative problem-solving. However, the coolest part of all is the diversity of jobs. You’re guaranteed not to be bored.

We invite you to join us as we move toward the .NET age, the next generation of our products. You could create a world of change in one of these pivotal, Redmond, Washington USA area positions in the Microsoft product groups. Here is a list of the core positions we will be looking to fill.

Software Design Engineer in Development
Design and implement various new components of the next release of the Windows operating system, Office, Visual Studio, .NET, MSN, SQL Server or other key Microsoft Products. Specific areas of expertise include COM/DCOM, ActiveX, Java, Graphics, Networking, and Base/Kernel. The candidate should have BS or MS in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Informatics, Physics or Mathematics. Strong C/C++ skills, sound knowledge of operating system fundamentals and server development, and preferably more than 3 years of programming experience.

Software Design Engineer in Test
Design and develop test plans/test suites to test various components of one of our primary products- Windows , Office, Visual Studio, .NET, etc. Work closely with the developers and other test team members to isolate and resolve problems. The candidate should have BS or MS in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Informatics, Physics or Mathematics. Strong C/C++ skills, sound knowledge of operating system fundamentals and server development and preferably more than 3 years of programming experience.

There are multiple positions open, so please share the information with someone as good as you are.

All positions are at our corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, USA. We do require functional level English language skills, written and spoken.

Microsoft is an equal opportunity employer.

If you are interested, reply on this site.

Fixed line to mobile phone charges to be reduced

July 31st, 2005

The Daily Times reports that PTCL has announced a 25% reduction on fixed-to-mobile line tariffs from August 1st 2005. This reduces per call charges from Rs2.8 to Rs2.12 per call. PTA (the Daily Times site has this wrong) Chairman Shahzada Alam also revealed future PTCL directions: fixed to mobile charges might be further reduced by 25% next year and PTCL has been issued directives to change the existing system from per minute billing to per second billing.