Thursday, September 29, 2005

Free online document management

I have been thinking that we should maintain the documents we are preparing for our software engineering project in a version control/document management system. The only problem is, it needs to be available to all of us at the same time, which means, it must be online. I searched on google, but I was surprised, that I didnt find any free online document management system. Some of them are giving free trials for a few days, but nothing beyond that. Strange!!! If you know any information that suggests otherwise, do comment.

Project proposal

Oh, well, I thought, why not post .doc format. So, here is the proposal template that we were given, here are the rought requirements that we were given, and here is the proposal that we came up with.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Software Engineering Project Proposal submitted

We submitted the proposal for the project assigned to our 3 member group. The project is really lame. Online airline reservation system. What can I do, it was assigned to us, we didnt choose it. I have the proposal on me, but I dont want to upload it in .doc format. I'll upload it after converting to PDF, which I can not do right now, because Acrobat is not installed on my laptop. Some of the CDs that I burnt in Karachi on my desktop are not readable on the laptop's combo, so I couldnt install Acrobat 6 Professional.
Now the approaching deadline is the SRS (Software Requirements Specification). I'm finding it rather enjoyable and interesting to do all this study and documentation. Apart from that, the assignment to implement STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) for bridges in C is also due on Monday next, so I am working on it as well. There is some sort of a simulator compiled as an object file, which is available for various OS platforms on the course website. The object file expects to see implementations of certain functions that are prototyped in bridge.h, and we implement them in bridge.c. We are given when the functions are called by the simulator, but we are expected to know what those functions would do and how to do it. Once I'm done with it, I'll post it somewhere, too.

An admirable friend

The conviction that Adnan has, is absolutely admirable. He will soon be in Seattle to attend the MVP global summit 2005. A gathering of some of the finest people of the world as far as proficiency in Microsoft's tools and technologies are concerned. After getting back from India in July, we started worrying about our trip to Seattle. We were concerned that we wouldnt get the visa in time to make it. We means me, Adnan, and Vaqar Kahmisani. Adnan was convinced that we would. He had a feeling that we would get the visa. Later on, we also discovered that Microsoft will bear every single penny of the trip. Only Adnan applied for the visa. I didnt because I was about to join LUMS and going to Seattle in the middle of the semester would be suicidal. A few days earlier, Adnan got his visa and has left for USA about 24 hours ago.
I admire his conviction, his instincts, and determination. Have fun out there, my friend. My priority is PhD, so I cant say, I feel sorry to miss it. As for me, if I do well, conference paper presentations would given plenty of opportunities for sponsored foreign trips.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Suha Arafat is interested in me

I just got an email from Suha Arafat the widow of Yasir Arafat. A flithy rich widow. Here's what she had to say with detailed headers for information. Oh my God, she asked me to keep it secret. Now they'll surely kill her, and then come after me.

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From: Mrs.Suha D Arafat
Paris France

Dear Sir,

I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation,frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister headed by MAHMOUD ABBAS. I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture.

As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment. You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband secret bank account andcompanies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government.And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman,more importantly when the woman is from a christian background,hence my desire for a foreign assistance.I and my late husband deposited the sum of 6.5 million dollars with a Financial firm in Europe whose name is withheld for now until we open communication.I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity.This arrangement will be known to you and I alone and all our correspondence should be strictly on email alone because our government has tapped all my lines and are monitoring all my moves.

In view of the above if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits i promise to give you 30% of the $6.5m that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter ZAHWA,will come off age and take full responsibility of her Family inheritance.
Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so,if you are honest. I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children. In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith

Yours sincerely

Mrs.Suha D.Arafat
Reply Email:

Who's illiterate?

When returning from the mosque today after the Friday prayers, I saw an old man walking a few feet ahead of me. He didnt look well off. He was wearing a wrinkled white kameez and a dhoti. He had a white cloth tied around his head in a worker-type turban. I didnt quite catch what (if anything) was in his feet.
Anyway, with that description, you can see that he looks like the stereotypical paindoo, un parh jahil. As I walked, he bent down, picked up a banana peel that was lying on the road, and threw it off away from the road. He missed a piece of it, so he bent again and subjected the remaining bit to the same fate.
I kept walking, but in my mind I paused, and thought, would I have done the same with that peel or would I just have avoided it. Except for a few people you can count on your fingers, most people would've just walked by. If I had a choice, I'd pick that jahil over all the educated people. Shame on us!

September rain

It rained yesterday. It was all sunny and hot, and then suddenly cloud cover, and within minutes, the street was flooded with water. So much rain. And then the temperature came swiftly down to 26 C with a nice breeze.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More on Dr. Zartash

I forgot to mention that he still remembered that I had sent him an email in 2003. That was the only time I emailed him, and he still remembered it. He mentioned that several of his students while working with him on research projects were offered full funded admission to leading US universities. They're doing some good work down here, for sure. International recognition, which enforces my belief that it is your work that speaks for itself, the institution is of secondary significance.

Met Dr. Zartash

I went to see a faculty member here at Computer Science and Engineering, Dr. Zartash. He has an MS and PhD from Stanford University. He is doing some great stuff here in computer networks with the students working under him. We discussed PhD in general, and the work he is doing and about to do, in particular. I found the present and future work very interesting. He is very friendly and very helpful. I'll be meeting with another faculty member and then I'll decide whom to work with. I'm about ready to get started. Dr. Zartash said that given initial guidance is the advisor's responsibilty, so once I decide what I want to do, he will tell me what to read and how to proceed with my literature survey. Later, I will find my own problem. He said that he can give me some problems right now, but he wouldnt do that, because I wouldnt be able to appreciate the problems much. Later on, when I have progressed sufficiently is when that will happen. I am about ready to get started, so let the games begin, the sooner the better.


In the course Stochastic Systems - I, we have, till now, been dealing with probability. Well, in fact, a very small portion of our course actually deals with stochastic systems as such. And it is justified, because these are the foundations of stochastic systems. I've been a bit rusty with probability, so in the first two homeworks, I had difficulty putting a finger on how to solve the problems and when I did solve them, on some of them, I wasnt very confident whether I got it right or not. I saw the TA for the course a couple of days ago and discussed homework # 2 problems with him, citing my solutions, and that seems to have helped a lot. Plus, prior to that, I had visited one of the faculty members here, Dr. Sohaib Khan, who is like a friend to me. He had suggested that I just need a lot of practice. I need to get a few books others than the textbook and practice. Schaum's series, while it sucks, does have a lot of questions and solved examples, so it is good for gaining the expertise of attacking problems. Prior to going to Dr. Sohaib, I was shaky, but today, when I sat down to solve the problems, I found myself solving the problems, seeing my mistakes and correcting them. I am sure the TA's discussion helped me. I really look up to Dr. Sohaib, he is an incredibly intelligent person, so his advice also boosted my confidence, and I have asked my neighborhood bookstore to get me three books on probability.

  • A frist course in probability by Sheldon Ross

  • Probability and random processes for electrical engineering by Albert Leon-Garcia

  • Schaum's outline of probability, random variables and random processes by Hwei Hsu

In higher studies, probability is a tool that you can not live without, whether it is at masters level or PhD level. So, if you're thinking of doing masters or PhD, and nearly everyone is doing it these days, then my sincere advice to you is, get your probability in order. Most of the contents of this course had been taught to us in a course Telecommunications and another course Computer System Modelling at undergraduate level, which is a testimonial to the technical level of our undergraduate program, compared to most other universities.
I went to my neighborhood bookstore and he told me that he found the books, but since they were quite expensive, Rs. 500 and Rs. 700 for two of them, for instance, he didnt buy them wondering whether or not I would want to buy them. I mean, hey Einstein, I need those books. And books, dont have a price, they pay themselves off. So, I asked him to kindly get them for me irrespective of the price. He will get them tomorrow. I hope he doesnt make any mistakes, because I am about ready to get my hands dirty asap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I went to National Bank of Pakistan at DHA Lahore Branch to get my account opened. It reminded me of the time when I was in Wichita, Kansas USA, at Bank of America branch there on a street called Fairmount. I think my memory isnt as poor as I think it is. So, when I was there, an alien, on student visa, it took only a few minutes to open my bank account. I didnt have to fill out any forms, didnt have to bring any photo copies, no attestations, and I was given a few cheques until my cheque book would be ready, and a temporary ATM card. All within a few minutes.
Compare that to National Bank of Pakistan. I've been trying to open that account since Thursday last week, and one requirement or the other was always missing. Which brings me to the point that most of us are also kum zarf, so when we get a position, we see the authority in it, and not the responsibility or that we can facilitate people. So, the person checking your account opening application is going to look for ways to refuse it, or delay it somehow or the other. Is that culture? Anyway, I was talking about the automation. And to think that a majority of us morons think "computer khatam ho gaya g, jobs naheen hain, betay ko telecomm main admission dilwain, ya MBA kara dain." Geez, you morons, get a life. We in pakistan are living in the stone age compared to even the least developed countries. We have a long way to go, and computer is the key to doing it. There is no avoiding it. Either that, or we'll be annihilated by the nations of the world, in which case we wouldnt have any worries at all, as UN C-130s would air drop food to us, and we will have tribes with nothing to eat, but definitely guns to kill others and taking the dropped food into our tribe leader's custody. A reflection of some African nations, except our complexions would be different, and we wouldnt do those funny dances they do, even when they are mourning.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Recruitment criterion

Last week, we were discussin in class about recruitment criteria. What candidate would you hire. What is it that you look for in that candidate, given that we had listed a lot of qualities that differentiate between individuals who may be candidates for being part of a certain team, which inlcude:
Domain experience
Platform experience
Programming lnaguage experience
Education background
Communication abilities
Some jobs dont require high caliber graduates. But more importantly, you are recruited on the basis of your abilities. While the criteria may vary from person to person, the accepted formula is: attitude * ( experience + background )
So, I would think that attitude is a big key.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Towards NED, I've always felt I have a debt. Having been through my four years of study, with no real processes, no real direction, I feel that there are voids that I realized and those that I didnt and havent. The voids that I realized, some of them I could fill, some I cant because they are beyond my control. So, I've worked to fill whatever I can, doing my part, regardless of the results, particularly not interested in recognition, especially not from the administration.
That does not mean to say that I didnt get any, I got more than I deserved. Being away from NED, for the second time, one might get the idea that what NED could get from me has come to a stop or an end. Not so, I am probably more effective when I am away from NED, and able to do more in other ways. So, let's see what I can do this time around. It's all in the mindset. Never feel handicapped by distance or whatever. Just do whatever you can, and leave the rest to the Almighty.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Screw up

A "wise man" said, "behind every screw up is a misunderstanding."

About needs

Yesterday, I read Adnan's blog here. It's amazing and fascinating when you learn something that unwraps a secret of life to you. Education is about discovering the meaning of life and its mysteries. It's quite amazing that I learnt something in my class on Software Engineering tonight. We talked about motivation, in which we talked about personal needs. This is what we studied:
According to Maslow's heirarchy of needs, a person's needs are organized in a pyramid:

| Self-realization needs |
| Esteem needs |
| Social needs |
| Safety needs |
| Physiological needs |

What this means is that a person is fundamentally concerned with the satisfaction of his physiological needs, such as food and clothing. Once that is satisfied, he would be concerned with safety needs. If the physiological needs are not satisfied, he would not give a shit about his social needs.
So, those kids risking their lives just to salvage some piece of steel or iron from a life threatening environment, the reason is that there safety needs are no where in their minds. It is only their physiological need that is the onlly and supreme concern to them. So unfortunate that 99% of our country's population struggle day in and day out just to secure their livelihood, whereas only 1% of the population controls most of the wealth. What good is their wealth if it does not go towards any real development. What good is it if they keep it away from risky investment. Niche areas are risky, so our wealthy will continue to deal in used tin cans, paper and printing using antique machines.

Beautiful day

Well, technically speaking, it is day before yesterday, even though, since I havent slept yet, it seems like yesterday, when after some rain, I was walking to the mosque at LUMS after a class, when I was struck by the captivating beauty of the sight. Clear blue sky, a few white clouds here and there, sun shining down brightly, a gentle breeze blowing, lush green grass and trees, thanks to the hard work of all the gardeners, and red brick buildings. No camera in the world can capture that beatuty of the moment, cause they dont have almost 180 degree vision, and can not capture the mood of the beholder, or the colors in their true bloom.
A sight I wish would last every day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Let's celebrate!

Recently, at the end of the academic year at NED University, where I was teaching until recently before coming down for my graduate studies, there was a lot of "celebrations" by the students, not only of final year, but also in certain cases, of some other years.
They celebrated because they thought they are about to graduate. Well, many of them, and the most celebrating ones will have to stay back because they will fail some courses. People who cant get a decent grade are the foremost in celebration, which is sick. Having been in the US, myself, I saw the gora saheb working hard and with dedication and honesty toward their job, and on the weekend, or the holidays, he wouldnt work even if you shoot him. A well deserved celebration indeed.
I saw some of the third year students shouting slogans along with the final year students, and I saw one of them in particular and the whole episode went through my mind, when after the last class in their section, I had given them a lecture on responsibility, about self regulation, about all things good, about changing ourselves to change the society, about how important they were to our nation, and after that lecture, he had come to me to apologise for coming late to the class, and endlessly chatting with his friends in the back row because he couldnt (or didnt) understand jack about what was going on on the blackboard. Maybe he would rather spend time at the gathering of the activists of the student group of his favorite political party who damage public property. I saw this young man, doing exactly what he had apologised to me for. That was my last day at NED University before coming to Lahore. An eye opener indeed. All my time there, seemed completely wasted. All this time, banging on ears that refuse to listen, and if they listen, the refuse to understand.
Look at us, our employees start showing up at 9 am when the working hours start at 8:30 am. Then, they need 15 minutes for the tea. Then, the lunch hour starts at 1 pm, and the employees disappear at 12:30 pm. In the US, if you were at an office before 1 pm, the employees would deal with you before they go on the break. As students, we sit in the class, dishonest to our studies, looking for excuses for the class to end quickly.
Such lethargy! If you ask me, we dont deserve to celebrate. We are already at least 50 years behind the rest of the world. (If you ask me honestly, though, we are at least 100 years behind and counting.) I dont agree when we call ourselves "developing" nation. We are a "degrading" nation. Look around you and you'll see why I say that, and if you dont, dont even bother reading the rest of this entry, and might as well, not read this blog again. Let's face the facts.
If we are so far behind, and the gora saheb work 8 hours a day, and we work 8 hours a day, quick, how many years until we will be able to catch up with them? Never. We should be working 16 hours a day to catch up with them in 50 years. I'm not asking you to work 16 hours a day. All I ask is be true to yourself.
One of my students had said to me that the American is being bred and raised by the goverment, so they are true to the state. They arent true to their parents, because they are not the ones raising them. He said, that we are not true to the state. I dont care if we arent true to the state. I dont ask you to be true to the state. All I ask is be true to yourself. Have some justification for your actions. Have some sense of responsibility towards yourself.
We are at a very dangerous juncture of our nation's history. I'm not talking any 9/11 bullshit. It is now or never. If we dont improve now, we're history. We have great examples. We are a nation of individual achievements, and we dont play well as a team. Look at the individual achievers, so many of them. Few nations in the world have so many individual achievers. Hakeen Saeed, Edhi, Imran Khan, the list goes on. People who alone built empires, because they were true to themselves. We need to have them as role models, and not some dumb ass singer, actor or sportsman.
So, wake up, take a deep breath, look around, realize and see the death of the nation staring it in the eyes. Would you rather do something about it, or would you rather be consumed with the rest of the nation. Oh, no, wait, maybe you would just use the proverbial parachute. Canadian Immigration, Australian Immigration. Easy solutions to all problems, you might think. But you'll realize soon, like so many others have realized, only too late. So, keep kicking while you can.


If you're thinking I've taken the advice to start writing and am going to post one of my poems here, think again. Well, however, I've featured in one. Find it here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A few quotes

I found this blog entry from a student of mine which includes a few qutoes, and on the comments you can notice a discussion on them as well. On the point of not being too honest, I think I should clarify things a little bit.
By being not too honest, I dont mean being dishonest, or lying at times. I dont endorse lying at all. However, being too honest means being too open, too frank, to clear. At times, you should keep your feelings, emotions, opinions to yourself in order to avoid being in a tight situation later on, which often can not be predicted. People you trust, sometimes end up having a grudge that you dont know of and harm you in a bad way.
About diplomatic behavior, I recall a saying, "A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell and leave you feeling happy to take the trip."

Friday, September 09, 2005


Got a homework with about 15 questions yesterday, which is due on Sep 15. I started working on it yesterday. Most of the questions are about set theory, which are already done. Will have to do the counting theory and probability principles.
So, now I have a Software Engineering class this evening. The weather has improved. It rained a bit and the temperature is down, which is nice. More updates later.

Weather improvement

My car's radiator fan motor went dead last night, so I got it fixed first thing this morning. It had been quite hot up here in Lahore. Today, in the afternoon, clouds came around and it got cooler, there was a nice breeze. After my class at LUMS, I came back home and opened up the doors and windows to cool off the house, so my room right now is nice.
Got one homework today to do with set theory, probability, conditional probability etc. I'm considering somehow or the other uploading my solutions to it on the web, probably on the blog so that some poor soul later on could use my work to get hints etc, or downright freeload on it. Some questions are rather abstract and its difficult to get a start on them. Then even if you solve them, you're still wondering whether or not you're doing them right. That's where a teacher's edition of the book, aka, manual comes very handy. At least you can compare your work for correctness.
My brother was telling me yesterday to get a good idea of the way to LUMS. It should become instinctive to me before winter, so that I should be able to drive blindfolded, since that would be practically what I would be doing given the amount of fog that is expected. I claim that I could still today, if transported to Dallas, or Wichita, drive blindfolded there. Let's see if I can do the same here. The road to LUMS isnt too treacherous. Just a 15 minute drive.
By the way, I think the traffic lights here stay closed for longer than they do in Karachi. At least that's my feeling. I wonder when we will be down to intelligent traffic lights that operate on the basis of traffic load. Often you see a traffic light that is green and there is no traffic, and where there is traffic, the light is red. With the use of road load sensors, it can be easily made intelligent. The intelligence inside the cars, however, is another story. I havent resumed my driving lessons on the blog, so stay tuned, I'll get to that soon insha Allah.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bad politicians

Adnan told me that someone said, "Bad politicians are elected by good people who do not vote." I agree!

Everyone has there interests - well, almost everyone!

Amongst so many other remarks that Adnan has made for me over the past year or so, this one stood out. Way out. He said, "Everyone has their personal interests, except one guy." He was referring to yours truly in the latter part of the sentence. Come to think of it, he was actually right. Why, though, I dont know.

Write a book

After reading my blog entries, at least two people have suggested that I write a book. Well, I dont find myself fit to do that right now. I think I'll probably write a technical book once I graduate. But fiction, maybe. You never know. Life takes unexpected turns and takes on unexpected shapes. Let's see!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When you want something

"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
Finished that book very quickly. Thanks Faisal.

Forget top five!

Being amongst the top five in the MS/PhD selection process at LUMS for this quarter, I was offered a stipend and full fee waiver. When I went to see my faculty advisor today, he told me that I was number one. Wow, forget top five!