Jul 24, 2008

House renovation or the reason why i've been silent

Oh the dust and the mud and the dust... Pipes done, electricity too. We're moving on, but not fast enough :(

Posted by ShoZu

Jun 23, 2008

LTEN - Derbakkeh playing

2 of my friends playing on a lebanese instrument called derbakkeh. They never played it before but made a good rhythm and a nice video.

Posted by ShoZu

Jun 22, 2008

LTEN - Annoubin Valley

Picture taken from the moving bus while going down the tight road through Annoubin Valley. Only one car can pass at a time.

Posted by ShoZu

Jun 19, 2008

LTEN - The Tarnib Society

Parents & friends playing Tarnib (cards) on the balcony. Great social times.

Posted by ShoZu

Jun 16, 2008

LTEN - Red Flower

Awesome flower. Pic taken from outside my Kleiat house.

Posted by ShoZu

Jun 15, 2008

LTEN - My Aunt Wears A Nokia Slipper

First, I thought I was seeing "Nokia" everywhere and needed help, turns out i saw right. Is this genuine? No idea, but it sure made me laugh!

Posted by ShoZu

Introducing 3 New Post Series

After reassuring you that Dotsisx ain't dead, I want to introduce to you 3 new series that you will often see here on Dotsisx.

First one is "Lebanon through the eyes of an Nseries" or shortly LTEN. It will be a rather daily image upload via ShoZu with a maximum of one line of comment. It's part due to the fact that I won the N82, and part due to the truth that I will be leaving this awesome country in a couple of months, and I want to keep a memory of every day I spend here from now on, and also part due to the fact that very little is known about my country. The picture may be about people, landscapes, food, habits, places... I will just take it one day at a time, and knock myself out.

Second series is no less interesting and is called "Nseries, the x in your pocket", where x represents all the gadgets that an S60-based Nseries can or has replaced (check my post about the N95 8gb for a little idea of what gadgets it can replace). Basically I will cover the hows and whats of every usage, concentrating on how to enhance it and make the most of it.

Third, I decided to have each week two posts entitled "This Week's Recaps", one of them regarding the most interesting news Symbian-wise, and the other tech-wise.

All of these are part of bringing Dotsisx back to life and to the front. I know I don't have a huge readership here, but you have been loyal for an incredibly long time and I thank you for that.

Jun 10, 2008

I'm Back, But I Was Never Away

Hello to all my dedicated readers, and a big big sorry for the lack of updates here on Dotsisx but to those of you who were following my statuses on Jaiku (hint that big pink widget on the left column) or who were keeping up with Symbian-Guru, you would've noticed that I've been swamped and that I stopped blogging for a long while.

Long story short, my thesis about "Biotechnologies and their use in therapeutics" was finished, I even did the oral presentation last friday and grabbed a very honorable mention, not bad eh? My HUGE list of finals is done, so is my training at the hospital. Basically I am officially done with Pharmacy, and I should receive my diploma around the 4th of July (wink to you americans).

"Proud to be a pill counting, prescription dispensing, pregnancy testing, Pharmacist"

Now it's onto the next step, I am finalizing the procedures in the French embassy, and waiting for an official acceptance from the university and dorm (the lab is done) so I can move around september and hit my Master2 year in genetics and biotechnology.

Other than that, we FINALLY have a President, yup yup yup, and after agreeing to disagree for 3 years, the politicians decided to hug each other one day out of the blue, and I hope it's finally over. No more bombings, killings, wars, conflicts, heck we want peace!

Gadget-wise, I have been trialling the E61i and the Nokia BH-604 for a couple of days now, you can read my impressions on S-G. I also won an N82, yes WON, in the Show Your S60 Smarts Contest. I am so proud because I honestly submitted the video at the last day, at midnight, and because the message I tried to pass is the one dearest to my heart, that S60 is open and that you can make whatever you want of it, and adapt it to your everyday needs and life, be it in work or entertainment.

In short, life is SWEET at the moment. Now if only I can find someone coming from the USA to Lebanon to grab me a Macbook and an iPod Touch, I'd be in heaven (they cost 1.4 the original price here!)

Apr 28, 2008

Pics From Jordan

After weeks of struggling with Share on Ovi and many other responsabilities, I managed to get 196 pictures of my trip to Jordan up on Flickr and Share on Ovi. Flickr doesn't give me an immediate option to embed a slideshow of my channels to a blog, something totally stupid, whereas Share on Ovi has the option placed somewhere where you can't miss it. Plus they give 3 layout options: ticker, slideshow and Grid. It's small but meaningful things like this that make me love Share on Ovi so much, and prefer it to Flickr. So here they are, my pictures from Jordan.

Day 1 - Leaving Lebanon, through Syria and to Jordan. Madaba church, Mount Nebo and Amman.

Day 2 - Leaving Amman to Petra, then Ram Valley and night in Aqaba.

Day 3 - Boat trip in Aqaba, then off to the Dead Sea, Jordan river to see the Baptism site, and night in Amman's Kanabaya lounge.

Day 4 - Off to Jarach, then back to Lebanon.


Apr 25, 2008

Mobiles & Medicine - The Sum Of All Elements

Today, I continue my series of comparisons between the medical and the mobile fields. I had previously talked about the fact that not everything is under control in both worlds, and that no matter how perfect an object is built, something at some point can and will go wrong.

I just returned from a Medical Ethics exam today, and one of the questions asked was related to a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI about the biomedical sciences. The exam was in French, but basically what the Pope meant to say was that biomedical sciences should be used for the good of humanity, because if they didn't have the benefit of the human kind as a goal, they would be cold and heartless science. We were asked to reflect on this opinion as pharmacists, as well as give examples of how biomedical sciences can at some point hurt humanity or a human.

In my paper, starting my thinking process from the "cold and heartless science" affirmation, i set out to compare medicine with arithmetics. I didn't go into details there, but I will here. Our constant tendency, in the medical field is to take book sentences and research results wholeheartedly. When we are presented with "disease x" we always tend to give "cure a" because it's written somewhere, and we sure don't know better than those illustrate scientists. When we are presented with "disease y" we will give "cure b", for the same reason. The tricky part comes when we have "disease x + disease y" in the same person. What do we do? First, we try to find research about those 2 diseases occuring together, the reasons behind it, as well as that "written somewhere" treatment scheme. If this search result comes out blank, we're left to pray that we're going to make the right decision. Sometimes, we will give "cure a + cure b" after making sure that both medicines aren't incompatible ; other times we will give "cure a or cure b" if we know for a certain reason that curing one disease will help the other ; and some other times, we will go totally blunt and give "cure c" which is something that might work on both, not quite ideally, but it does.

See, medicine is a lot more complicated than simple math, two illnesses together can be equal to the sum of each one individually, but it can be more or less than that sum, it can also be an indication of a totally different illness. If I have chronic dyspnea, it might be asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). If I have oedema, it might be renal failure. If I have both, we could treat them separately but we should investigate an underlying heart failure that didn't manifest itself. This is explained by the complexity of the human body, that I wrote about in my first post of the series, but it can also be explained by another arithmetics comparison.

How do you define a Human Being? Is it a mix of flesh, bones, muscles, nerves, blood, liquids? No. We are more than the sum of all of our elements. Now we may not know exactly what is the other abstract entity that adds up to the body in the equation. Some will call it the soul, others the spirit, others what we refer to as the heart, others will also add society or religion and what it teaches us, others will say that unconscious acts has got a piece of the cake, too, and many many more. For what it's worth, I believe it's all of that and a little bit more too. The physical dimension of the human, which is the body, is just the smallest entity in the equation. We might be perfectly healthy, yet feel pain or sick ; we might also be deep down into some disease and yet feel perfectly fit. Why? Simply, because we're more than just organs!

Now let's go back to the mobile field. One thing we notice, that is too darn obvious, is that a mobile is not "alive". Does that mean that it misses that sum of abstract elements that we added to the body? Well, I've never seen a mobile move by itself, so there goes your answer. When something goes wrong in one piece of the equipment, it will show up, because there's nothing there governing the process and trying to conceal it. A whole mobile device is equal to the sum of its elements, and that's why it doesn't play on you those tricky games that the body does.

This is what seriously differentiates health sciences from engineering sciences: the predictability factor. When there's a problem in the fuse in some piece of electronics, you know that changing it will solve the problem, it's predictable. When there's a health problem in a patient, you might give the perfect cure, the one you have used for years to treat this same disease, yet a couple of patients will not respond or will respond in a different manner, it's unpredictable. This has been the aim of the whole genetics field so far, to find patterns that will help making health evolutions more predictable in humans. The "oh, you have gene X, then you are likely to have disease Y around age Z" as well as the "oh, you have gene A, then you will respond in manner B to treatment C" seem to be what we are looking for, making things as predictable with the human body as they are with any other piece of equipment we have. We will succeed in removing a lot of variables in the equation, but will we even be close to remove them all? No. Because we're more than the sum of our elements.

Apr 2, 2008

Mobiles & Medicine - Everything Is Under Control

One of the first things you learn when you go deeper into medicine studies is how incredibly tight and organized everything is inside the human body. It's not just the hormone that stimulates a function, but it's also the mediator that induces the hormone's secretion, and the peptide that causes the mediator to act, and the enzyme that activates the peptide, and the gene promoter that causes the enzyme to be produced. It's also the other hormone that stimulates an opposite function to the first one, and ... well we can go as far as life itself to explain some of these things.

The other thing you learn is how much control is behind every one of the smallest reactions inside your body. The simplest of examples is that if you eat anything that contains sugars after fasting, your pancreas will produce insulin so that your liver starts stocking the sugar instead of releasing it into the bloodstream, but also so that your muscles, brain and other organs start using this sugar. Each of these is an incredibly long list of reactions, with many others running in the background, and all being regulated by the smallest details.

In short, after contemplating the human body's function, you always come out with one conclusion: it's incredible how the smallest of things get added up, in an everlasting series of cycles and processes, to make a perfectly functioning entity. Everything is regulated, be it upwards or downwards, and even the tiniest piece has its place in the puzzle. In the end, it all comes down to one final goal: Life.

I have always wondered about the analogies between medicine and mobiles, two domains which take the vast majority of my time. Why have I come to love both of them, even though, on the surface there is no resemblance whatsoever between them? Then I came to the observation of the details. I guess I am fascinated by the amount of organization and regulation that governs in both instances.

Take for example the sheer act of taking a picture with your handset. Visibly, you're only opening the camera lens cover and pressing a button. You then view the picture, press back, and close the camera shutter. This is all the interaction it takes from your side. Now think about all every process that happens in the background during these 5 to 10 seconds: the lens cover clicking into place when opened so that it launches the camera application, the amount of genius going behind the fact that what's in front of your lens is projected on the screen, the capturing moment with each pixel being memorized and put in its right place on the screen, and then being saved with a thousand others on that incredibly small MicroSD card you could swallow without noticing, followed by the camera application shutting down the moment the lens cover is closed back. Think of all the 0 and 1 in the background, the electricity circulating on the boards, in the most complicated circuits, the coding scripts being executed. Think of the relations between everything that happens and that you can't see with your eyes compared to the small amount that finally pops on the screen.


I know that the comparison between medicine and mobiles doesn't stand a chance now. But as years go by, these small devices, barely the size of our hand palms are getting more complex, more detailed, with more and more processes of the smallest importance running in every millisecond.

Over the years, engineers and scientists have thrived to reach the level of perfection and togetherness that is seen in the human body. Why do you think the most enticing of all gadgets are robots? Why do you think that each time a new development in the robot-world is made, we stand in front of it in astonishment? Why do you think movies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) were made? Two reasons. First, is that deep inside, the final aim of an engineer (and Human for that matter) is perfection, and the most detailed model of perfection is us. Second is because we have long wanted to explain how we truly function, because our biggest mystery lies within us.

Is there any doubt that in 10 years, mobiles will become even more developed than they are now? No. Is there any doubt that in 20 years a mobile prototype will have learned to regulate itself, to control itself, to clean itself figuratively (software-wise) and literally (hardware-wise)? No. Is there any doubt that in 30 years mobiles will be made from live particles, that can interact with the environment? No (look at the Nokia Morph Concept).

One question remains, is there any doubt that no matter how far into the future we delve, anything built by us will have flaws, bugs, problems, issues? No. It's not a matter of belief or not, it's a matter of facts.

Let's go back to medicine for a while and take the human body, our model of perfect function, as an example. It doesn't matter how well everything is built and regulated, something at some point can and will go wrong.

Most of the time, the body knows and corrects the error, because it's "intelligent" and it has learned to distinguish the error and to correct it. As an example, I will take the process of cell duplication. Our cells multiply all the time, to regenerate newer and younger ones, leaving the others to die. During this transformation process, a letter in our genetic language (which is made of 4 letters, ATCG, that's all) may be misread and mis-copied: It's not a simple xerox process! The body has its way of knowing the original copy from the new one it just made, and hence can and will correct the mistake.

But one in every million times, the body won't notice the mistake, and we will end up with something called a "mutation". If this happens in the germinal cells (read: ovule or sperm cells), the error will be transmitted to the next generation. Sometimes, this will just lead to a different eye color, or skin structure, but sometimes it affects a very delicate function and causes an illness. And that's how genetic diseases are born (in a very simplistic explanation).

So, is everything under control? No. Even in the most complex structures known to us, everything isn't under control. Archaic changes and modifications of a template always occur. A gadget, handset, piece of electronics,..., might be amazingly functioning now, but no one could assure you that it wouldn't stop in the next second. Bugs, as we call them now, are and will always be an issue we face, be it with our mobiles or within our body. So we'd better accept the facts as they are, than keep moaning about it for the next millenium.

Some people might explain this by the tendency of the universe to chaos. See, the Earth and our existence are a huge exception to the theory that everything tends naturally to go to chaos, and that organization is by itself a state of chaos. I don't know how I would explain it, because no, I am not looking for the answer to everything. Life would be dull if I knew it all, wouldn't it?

Mar 26, 2008

An Open Letter To Nokia : Buy An Atlas!

It has been building up inside for months now, but today, I simply can't hold it any longer. Nokia, you need to open up your Atlas or your World Map and start looking more closely at it. Head to the east shore of the Mediterranean sea, right below Turkey and right on top of Israel, there, you will find a small area, called Lebanon.

This is where 4 million people live, and this is a country you have been neglecting or forgetting or not noticing for years now. No we are not Europe, we are not the States, we don't fatten your pockets every year with billions of dollars. But if there was a study of your marketshare here, if you could find one, then you would be astonished by the numbers. We have been loyal, very loyal to you, Finnish company, we swear by your built quality, we ravish over your designs, we have thousands of phone shops that have one of your devices in their logo or on their displays, we carry your devices religiously, we always ask about Nokias, and it's not unless there's a bigger motive that we buy another brand. Yet, you don't seem to notice that we exist.

Let's start from the beginning, Nokia. If I buy a new device, when I first fire it up, it asks me to input my country. My country, as far as I can tell, is Lebanon. I type L, and there I have it: Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania and Sri Lanka. No Lebanon. No Lebanon! Are you kidding me? In order to have my time set right, I have to choose Egypt as a country. I have nothing against Egypt, but I am Lebanese!

Second problem. I recently got to try your Download! application. I admit, it's not the brightest thing I have seen, but it has some good potential. I guess I was too optimistic thinking I might just find half of the content that other countries have, with the same device. Oh how wrong I was. Just a couple of links, nothing special. I look at screenshots for other countries, and then look at my N95 and think "if only they filled one screen"(ie 12 icons). No they don't.

Edit: Another problem I have been facing is with Nokia Maps. When I first got the N95 8GB to trial, I searched the Maps website and saw that Lebanon wasn't amongst the countries supported for voice navigation. No problem I said, I don't need it, I just want to see the roads. Well, what do you think I found? Ah, one road. ONE freaking road in ALL of Lebanon! Would I ever be able to tell my friends that my device has GPS? NO! Because they would want to see it in action, and to tell you the truth, I don't think we can take a lot of action out of ONE road!

Third problem is the one that pushed me off the edge today. You know Share on Ovi, the new sharing service that Nokia just launched as a part of their Ovi bundle. The day it was launched, I clicked through the website, I got a "This service is not yet available in this region" message. I thought it still wasn't launched worldwide and held my breath. As the days passed, I kept checking to find the same message every single time. I filed an email to the Ovi product manager, and received a reply that there were social limitations that were preventing the launch of Ovi in the region. I thought "crap, here we go again, the Arab sticker is once more on our forehead!". A couple of days later, I clicked by mistake on some link that led me to Share on Ovi, and this time, the page loaded. I was ecstatic and created my own account, without uploading any picture. Two days later, I opened my account to get some picture uploading and there it was, the white screen of death, staring me in the eyes, again: "This service is not yet available in this region".
From then on, it was a one-day on, several-days off catch up game with the service. I only got to upload 4 or 5 pictures, just to see how it works. That's until a couple of weeks ago, when the service just went unavailable for the longest time. I gave up, I honestly did.
Then came my trip to Jordan. After coming back, I thought that Flickr would be a nice idea for uploading, but I needed a backup plan. So I tried Share on Ovi and yesterday, I was in heaven. I uploaded about a 100 pictures (from Day1 and Day2) using Shozu to both my Flickr and my Share on Ovi accounts. I was using both of them for the first time, and to tell you the truth, I found Share on Ovi to be a MUCH better solution. It gave me the choice to upload via email to a specific channel, it kept the picture in its original size, it gave me an organizing possibility right from my images pages, it allowed me to upload endless file types, it had a very very visible embedding link (with options to embed one image or a whole channel)... well it was Apple'esque. Yeah, you read that right, it had the simplicity of an Apple product. And for once, I was totally totally in love with a product from Nokia. I couldn't find anything wrong with it, from tutorials, to usability, to learning curve, everything was well thought. I had a glimpse at the future of Ovi, and I knew great times were ahead.

Being this pleased with the service, and being that I have enrolled in the S60 Ambassador program (with Share on Ovi being the first mission), I thought I would share the pictures I took with my friends from the trip. I sent them all links to my channels on Share on Ovi (and not Flickr). It was almost midnight, and I think none of them managed to catch it by then, since we were all still worn out from the trip.
I woke up today, and launched Share on Ovi again, to create my "Jordan Trip - Day 3" channel and start uploading, to get spanked in the face by the "This service is not yet available in this region" message, again! And a couple of hours later, the SMS's started arriving "we can't see the pictures on the link you sent us, what's the problem?".

What do you expect me to answer, Nokia? Huh, what do you want me to say? That you simply don't give a damn about us? That you are teasing us Lebanese with a one day service every now and then? How do you expect me to explain to people the philosophy behind Share on Ovi for the Ambassador program? How do you expect me to endorse that T-Shirt you are sending to everyone, if I know that if someone memorizes the site and visits it from my country, there's a 95% chance he/she will find himself/herself with a "not available" screen? And you know I love you, you know I will always support you, you know I have already been your Ambassador in Lebanon, I don't need a T-Shirt or a keyring to prove that. You know I will keep on typing www.twango.com every single day, and I will sigh every day I get the terrible message, and make good use of the day when I find my home page open. I will, I swear I will. But I don't guarantee other people will. They are loyal, but they are not stupid. They know when they are being laughed at!

Nokia, look at us, and don't forget us like the rest of the world has. Don't forget there's a small country called Lebanon, with 4 million people who have been faithful to you, for years. Don't forget that we are here: we don't have a president, our country is on the verge of disappearance, so it would make us a little bit glad if for once, someone, just someone noticed that we, as a country, exist.

Mar 19, 2008

Picture Of The Day

I have previously asked you whether I should get an N81 8GB or a P1i. Well I ended up buying the N95-1. I also got the N93i to trial from WOMWorld and I am excited about using them both.

I am headed to Jordan tomorrow at midnight. It's a 4 day trip, with a bunch of friends, by bus (Jordan is very close to Lebanon) and we're going to exciting places like Petra, the Jordan river, and Amman. I will be using the N95 and the N93i mainly, will be looking for WiFi spots everywhere to upload pictures and keep in touch.

Anyway, here is a picture I took today. I took it with the N95, aimed at the N93i reflective cover, and tried to align the O in Nokia as much as I can. The picture is cropped and the resolution is changed, but you get the idea ;)

Mar 1, 2008

P1i Or N81? You Choose!

In one of the weirdest steps ever, I am putting my destiny (not that much) in your hands. I was looking for a second-hand Nokia N81 8GB when I stumbled upon a second-hand Sony-Ericsson P1i. I tried to weigh the pros and cons of each device, and ended up even more confused.

Nokia N81 8gb
- It's S60 3rd and I am used to it
- I know all applications that I can install and where to get them
- Has 8gb of internal memory, can serve as a great music player replacement
- Has 3.5mm plug so can be used on any headset or earphone
- Has dedicated music keys
- Supports Ngage, and allows me to get on the action
- Has dedicated gaming keys
- Should cost about 250$
- Has only 2MP camera
- Build quality isn't impressive
- I can't find one right now :s

Sony-Ericsson P1i
- Is a new platform, Symbian UIQ3 so promises to be interesting
- Is available now
- Has touchscreen, should be great for accessing links in eBooks and web browser
- Has 3.2MP camera
- Build-quality is AWESOME, feels rock solid
- Has the Track ID system (record a part of a song, and it tells you the name)
- I can get it for 1 month and re-sell it without losing much money because SE phones don't drop prices quickly.
- Only 512MB memory card, and it's Sony's proprietary MemoryStick Micro so I won't buy a memory for it (it's not worth it)
- Has proprietary music plug, no 3.5mm plug
- Costs 360$

So, what do you think I should get? There's a poll on the left column, please vote :D I am placing my future month or so in your hands :D The poll will go for about 10-15 days I think

Feb 24, 2008

Lost Without The N810

Yes that header pretty much describes my situation. The N810 has been a life saver for me. As a student, an intern, a blogger, a writer, a gadget-lover, I pretty much have zero free seconds during the course of a day: there's always something to do. Since the N810 arrived, I've had a series of derangements in my daily schedule: between the laptop charger that went dead for a week, the frequent electricity blackouts and the courses re-scheduling that left me at uni for hours with nothing to do, you can pretty much see how my usually organized life became a mess in no time.

You can not think of how many times I thanked God that the N810 was here to save me from these situations. But most importantly, the N810 has been invaluable for me in one particular aspect: my thesis.

I am preparing a thesis for my pharmacy diploma this year. It's about the applications of biotechnologies in the medical sciences field. This involves a LOT of information checking, web surfing, writing, analyzing and the likes. But the most important aspect of it is article reading. We usually have one source for our articles: Pubmed, and 99% if not 100% of all articles are found in pdf format.

Now normally, I would be stuck in front of my computer endlessly; normally, I would be totting my laptop around everywhere I go to keep working on the thesis. Not when the N810 is around. I am capable of putting a huge amount of books in pdf format, as well as all my articles (and saved web pages) on one device, and carrying it with me. I can read while lying in bed, while waiting for my bread to toast or while boiling my milk in the morning.

One particular thing I have been highly enjoying though, is going walking. Sports were an essential part of my life, until I got tendinitis and my schedules became hectic. Enter the N810. Ever since I got it and found out that there was a built-in PDF reader in it, I knew that I would use it to bring back exercise into my life. I now go in the morning and do slow'ish (my foot still hurts) but steady walks of around 3 hours, while reading my medical articles. PDF Reader in full screen mode on the 4.13" beauty is nothing short of the desktop Adobe experience. The transflective screen makes it also a lot easier to use the device outside when it's sunny. Plus it's small and light and easy to carry on, especially by using the built-in stand to hold the device, something I found myself doing unconsciously just to find that ThoughtFix thought of it too.

I also use the Notes program to write down excerpts and thoughts following each article, which I then send to my PC, open and copy paste into my thesis.doc file. If I need some explanation of a medical term, I open Garnet VM and use my medical dictionaries in Mobipocket to check it out.

If that's not productive mobility, I don't know what is!