Google killing Android in Dubai

Personally, I have been writing about how good the Android phones are and what benefits they bring to us consumers, maybe even save the world once. But after so much praise, its the market and Google in general who is quite literally squeezing the Android out of the middle east. Google are you listening ?? I know that the Middle east is a small market for you, and UAE is even small in the picture. But what companies like Google do not recognize is the fact that with an 85% expatriate population, the UAE has a much wider influence than they think it does.

Why am I complaining so much ? I love the Android Operating system, I love the User Interface of the Android, I love it that someone is sticking it to the iPhone and doing it well. What I don’t like is the non availability of the Android Market application which in my opinion is one of the best Application in the Phone. What do you mean non availability you ask ? The U.A.E apparently is considerably insignificant for Google, so they do not include the Android Market, all Android Phones bought in Dubai do not have this application and need to resort to other third part app stores which are well, not really all that good like Slide Me. Now why would Google do something like that ?? No idea.

I understand that the payment gateways for the Android Market is not available in all markets, but like they provide in the stock Android OS, they can provide access to the non paid free applications to the customers. Initially I thought that this was an issue with the Phones, but to be honest this is something that is consistent with any Android phone you buy in Dubai, including the Galaxy S from Samsung. Luckily I got the Nexus One, which provides access into the non paid applications of the Android market, else I cant imagine how frustrated I would have been with an expensive phone without its biggest feature.

Google Android Logo

The worst is not the fact that its not available here, the worst part is that people do not know about this at all !! The customers tho are wowed by the appeal of getting an Android are being sold phones without telling that they do not have access to the Application Market from Google. Personally I think that the lack of information to customers will cost the Android system a lot outside the US.

Adding to this frustration by the clients is the fact that the local Mobile Phone Operators Du and Etisalat do not have a deal running on any of the android phones with regards to Data Packages. The iPhone has one and so does the vastly popular Blackberry. So why is no one thinking about this, even Samsung ?? I am sure Samsung understands the prominence of this market, especially with their experience with LED and LCD TV’s in the middle east.

Google is not really killing the Android in Dubai literally, but like they say Actions speak louder than words ! Google if you are listening, its time to do something about this !!

Artificial Raindrops keep falling on my head !

It’s been a really cloudy day today around Dubai, with showers in parts of the city. Will stop sounding like a weatherman on the radio and get to the point. The point that I am trying to make is that the rain that is currently expected in Dubai may or may not be created naturally. Is that even possible you ask ?? Of course it is. The process is called Cloud Seeding and people have been trying it in India from years. What is really concerning is not the current sort of expected rain for this time of the year, the issue is a bit more larger.

Apparently the Abu Dhabi government has been asking their scientists to experiment with cloud seeding during the summer months. And believe you me, the experiments are working. Fifty rainstorms were created last year in the state’s eastern Al Ain region using technology designed to control the weather. Most of the storms were at the height of the summer in July and August when there is  no rain at all. The scientists have been working secretly for United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They have been using giant ionisers, shaped like stripped down lampshades on steel poles, to generate fields of negatively charged particles. These promote cloud formation and researchers hoped they could then produce rain. In a confidential company video, the founder of the Swiss company in charge of the project, Metro Systems International, boasted of success. Helmut Fluhrer said: ‘We have achieved a number of rainfalls.’ It is believed to be the first time the system has produced rain from clear skies, according to the Sunday Times.

In the past, countries like India and China have been utilizing chemicals for the sake of Cloud seeding, it’s the first time that there is a sort of a non chemical approach to cloud seeding. Last June Metro Systems built five ionising sites each with 20 emitters which can send trillions of cloud-forming ions into the atmosphere. Over four summer months the emitters were switched on when the required atmospheric level of humidity reached 30 per cent or more. While the country’s weather experts predicted no clouds or rain in the Al Ain region, rain fell on FIFTY-TWO occasions.

So how does it actually work ?

The Metro System scientists used ionisers to produce negatively charged particles called electrons. They have a natural tendency to attach to tiny specks of dust which are ever-present in the atmosphere in the desert-regions. These are then carried up from the emitters by convection – upward currents of air generated by the heat release from sunlight as it hits the ground. Once the dust particles reach the right height for cloud formation, the charges will attract water molecules floating in the air which then start to condense around them. If there is sufficient moisture in the air, it induces billions of droplets to form which finally means cloud and rain.

The cost savings using the Weathertec technology are huge with the system costing £6 million a year while desalination is £45 million. Building an ionising system is about £7 million while a desalination plant would be £850 million and costs a lot more to run.

But in the long run what effect this might have in the entire global picture of the planet, global warming, and such we don’t really know. Is it good ? well if technology is non chemical, non toxic, cost saving, and life giving then I will say yes. Only until we find the downside to it, for now it might seem too good to be true without side effects. What do you guys think?

Some references of further reading for people who are interested:

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/01/03/scientists-create-52-artificial-rain-storms-in-abu-dhabi-desert/

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/abu-dhabi-backed-scientists-create-fake-rainstorms-in-11m-project-371038.html

http://www.itp.net/518649-further-unseasonal-bad-weather-hits-uae

70% offences in UAE are cyber crimes

This was the headline I read in the Times of India today, while reading it online here. Of course living here for a while and also being part of the technology community I was curious at what exactly that meant. And so I clicked, like most of you guys who might have clicked as well. What surprised me is the fact that its the free media in India that looked at this and printed it. Well it does sound more like an advertisement if you really think about it, not to techies but to everyone else. Why do I think so, first of all, the fact that 70% of the crime in the UAE is cyber crime, would advertise that the place is really safe.

Image credit : Marcin Stawiarz

Dont get me wrong it is really safe, but I have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind while I am typing this that the safe environment here is a bit exaggerated. Why ? Maybe most of the crimes that happen here are not really picked up by the media to advertise, else the papers would be filled with the information about bounced cheques, fake chinese masage parlors (which are really a hooker joint) down right to the number of people fleeing the country. Rather the papers here talk about how the economy is bouncing back, how Emirates Airline and Dubai Duty Free are showing Billions in profit as well as how the population seems to be growing daily in the UAE. Its just seems a bit fake to me.

Secondly, the fact that the Cyber crimes listed are really completely legitimate activities to do in most of the world is another indication that the internet usage policy here in the UAE might not really be the best. VoIP, is the future, and a big hole in the profit of the government owned monopoly in the telecom business. Du and Etisalat don’t really like VoIP. But rather than mentioning how the UAE is not looking to progress with this technology, the papers write this:

“Among the most common cyber crimes is providing illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls, which is the preferred method of communication for drug smugglers and human traffickers since these calls are hard to trace.”

The others are your regular downloading and of course the real cyber crimes, like identity theft, cheating etc. Dont get me wrong I am not pointing fingers at these abnormalities in Dubai, just the strangeness of the Indian media and how low it seems to be snooping down to. They might as well put up an article that reads, “Go to UAE, its heaven there“.

No UAE is not hell, but it might be getting there soon, with all the ‘financial issues’.

Check out the article here.

Awesome Robot Dancers at Gitex and more

Last year at the Gitex show there ware Robot Dancers from Sony who were trying to bridge the gap between the Robots and the emotional Quotient that humans need towards them in order to be able to adopt these Mechanised creations. What could come this year in the robotics front is something worth keeping a look at. The biggest electronics and Computers trade show on this side of the globe is expected to attract over 1 Million visitors, with loads of services and apps companies making their appearance this year. In fact, the company that I work for SI Consult, also will have a stand through its sister concern SI-Secureview a Network IT Security based company dealing with the nitty gritties of running a major network.

Getting back to the Robots dancing, Being someone from the Automation Industry, Robots are mechatronics that are close to the geeky heart. And seeing these robots dancing nearly bought tears to the geeky hearts that were at the event last year, and I admit I was in the crowd hiding the joy and emotions running parallel. Anyway, just ahead of the Gitex this year here are some awesome robots that well COULD make an appearance this year, If they actually do, I might just be there for the entire 5 days (considering I already have an exhibitor pass). Lo and behold, the best of the robotics videos on YouTube.

1. Sony Qrio (Same guys fro mGitex)

We can start off with the video of the Robots dancing, these were the same guys that put up the performance last year, although this video is not from Gitex. Sony’s Qrio (notable for being the first bipedal robot capable of running) never reached production (it’s development was axed at the same time robo-dog AIBO got his marching papers), but as this video shows it could bash out some sweet moves when it was active.

2. Giant Robotic Dinosaurs from Japan

Straight out of the Nightmare from Jurassic Park, these Dinosaurs from Japan are Animatronic wonders that don’t require a  human puppet operator. They were supposed to be in Dubai at the Restless Planet part of Mall of Arabia, Does anyone remember that project ?? now shelved, but would have been a great attraction if it would have opened.

3. Honda Asimo Humanoid Robot Demo

The First company to put out an actual Humanoid was Honda, with Asimo the Humanoid Robot, its been close to 5 years since we first say this robot that looks like a small boy in a space suit. Why a car manufacturing company indulged into making a humanoid robot was something that still puzzles me to this day, but the fact remains that Asimo is the face of the Humanoids.

4. Aldebaran Robotics’ Nao

This amazingly advanced robot boasts cognitive skills, a high level of motion (with 25 degrees of freedom) and is programmable, so you can customize it to do pretty much anything. Currently available to academic institutions for a high price, a consumer model is planned for 2011, so watch the demo above to start getting excited.

5. Toyota’s Robot Quartet Band

Another car company trying to make a mark in the Robotics field is Toyota, it seems Toyota’s wings are spreading everywhere in the mechanical and automotive field, from eco friendly cars right down to these cute little Robots. In fact most of the robots from Toyota seem to be playing music, check out another one below here.

6. Alice the Robot

Hanson Robotics busies itself by “awakening intelligent robotic beings and granting them sparks of true consciousness and creativity.” Its Alice-bot is one example of the progress it has made with giving robotics realistic facial impressions with the aim of enabling “machine empathy” in the future. I should say the future might be creepy, think going to a bar, taking a date home to find she is a robot !! She will have expressions to make you feel guilty about it as well.

7. NASA Humanoid Robotic Arm

When it comes to high end robotics, who can keep NASA away. The importance of putting these machines in the place of Humans trained over thousands of hours seems to be what is required for the space missions. Considering which it is important for NASA to be working in this field and of course they are. Here is one of the best robotic arms in the world. Why is it so difficult for anyone to replicate the arm, well we can sense pressure, heat, sensitivity etc. It is difficult for the robots to work on similar basis and thus this is really an engineering marvel of its kind.

Weather all these robots are going to be at Gitex or not, this year could be a very interesting year at Gitex. Consider that the exhibition is right in the storm of the recession in this country. The spending of the companies along with the various activities, what are the industries in focus etc will give an indication of the health of the electronics and automation industry in Dubai and the middle east. For the sake of all, I hope that the Gitex will be a success.

Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi opening on 28th Oct

A lot of the readers here will know how inquisitively I wrote about the Ferrari Roller Coaster in the World’s One and Only new Theme Park in Abu Dhabi. First of all I was sad considering that I am working in the construction industry in Dubai and that I did not get a chance to be a part of this amazing theme park in Abu Dhabi. In fact having worked on Dubai International Airport expansion of Terminal 3 and the Burj Dubai I would have loved to be part of this one as well.

Knowing that I will be able to visit it, and its still within traveling reach by car is still good enough for me I guess. Personally I have not been to the amazing Roller Coasters that they keep showing on Discovery Channel, but always wanted to. Having said that I have always wanted to go there.

Have a look at what might be in store at the Ferrari Theme Park, opening just before the F1 race in ABu Dhabi, I guess people have more than just 1 incentive to go and visit the Ferrari Theme park. Anyway let us know whats the most interesting one of these that you want to absolutely go to.

Continue reading Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi opening on 28th Oct

The Fate of Blackberry’s in the UAE

Since we are in the second day of October, a lot of you might be wondering what’s happening with the Blackberry issue in the UAE, considering that there is just another week to go before a final decision on the matter is to be made. What is really happening with the Blackberry’s is something that my wife asked me yesterday as well, since she is an avid use of the BBM service and such. Before we look at it we need to look at what is the reason the blackberry’s were threatened to be banned earlier.

The UAE government along with other governments have actually made a decision that Blackberry is a potential threat device considering that they cannot monitor the calls or messages on the cell phone and the messenger services. The Indian Government was one of the first, and Blackberry reacted to it. RIM The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone had granted India’s government manual access to its Messenger service and has promised automated access by Jan. 1. But, Reuters yesterday reported that the India’s telecommunications ministry has rejected a solution offered by Research In Motion’s (RIM) to access its email and messaging services after security agences were unable to access messages sent using BlackBerry devices within the country.

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It appears the solution offered data to authorities but secure email communications were not presented in a readable format whilst agencies could not intercept chats sent via the Messenger service whatsoever.  Over the past few weeks, government sources told Reuters that there were technical glitches in talks between India and RIM to corporate email although messenger services were “satisfactory”. Amendments will be made to RIM’s offerings, the company faces a ban on its BlackBerry services if it cannot provide messages in a readable format.

What does this mean to the UAE ? Considering that the TRA in UAE took over 4 years to listen to pleads from thousands of users to Unblock Flickr in the UAE, it does not seem likely that they will be in favour of removing the Ban. What I do not understand is how a progressive country and economy can block access to such a feature rich device, knowing well that the structure of the device and the ecosystem around it is such that even RIM cannot provide access to it.

Unfortunately for RIM, the encryption of the messages and services on a Blackberry phone happen on the phone itself and not on the server of RIM as governments have previously thought so. This actually was one of the finest features that drove business to adopt the Blackberry readily. I can already see high profile investors shying away from the UAE as Blackberry users seem to be really “in Love” with their devices and are dependant on the connectivity on a large extent. This could make a difference in Dubai and the UAE in general trying to make a economic come back. This might be far fetched, but true. Let just hope that for all of us, for consumer protection and for freedom of service usage, this Ban in the UAe does not kick in, in a week.

In the mean time you can start looking for alternatives or have a read on more Blackberry ban issue here on my blog with these links below :

Remove card to take your Gold, an ATM for Gold

This seems like something you would do in a land of opulence, Oil Rich money and egos, wait where else can it be, in the UAE. In the glory days of Dubai, I would have said in the city of Gold, but unfortunately the City of Gold does not have the finances for something like this, its with the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi that has given shelter to this wonder ATM.  Amid fears over the strength of nearly every major currency, Abu Dhabi’s top hotel has come up with a new type of ATM for their most risk-averse guests. The Emirates Palace is giving those staying there the chance to withdraw gold from the world first ever gold dispenser.

The ATM monitors the daily price of gold and offers small gold bars that weigh up to 10 grams with customized designs. This could be just what those who stay in one of the world’s most expensive hotels will need as they watch the euro, yen and dollar jump around in volatile trade. Born out of an Idea of a German Entrepreneur, this seems appropriate at this time, considering Gold Prices are at their highest in years. Placed in the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi this Gold To Go ATM dispenses actual gold in the form of coins or bars up to 10 grams. Updated every ten minutes with the current gold conversion rates, this ultimate luxury ATM is everything you could ever ask for.

The ATM itself is made out of gold, which will more than likely make this ATM the most expensive in the world.

New Seats in Airlines to increase seating capacity by 25%

How many of us complain about the seating in the Aircraft’s, Most of us ? Some of Us ? None of Us ? My guess would have to be most of us, and being tall like I am does not help the cause as well. I keep wondering, Aircraft manufacturers seem to be building bigger and better aircraft’s trying to provide that additional comfort for passengers, but airlines seem to be making the spacing between seats smaller to make more passengers fit in the same aircraft thus increasing profit and lowering costs.

This is definitely the case with most Budget airlines and with Emirates.  I cannot imagine travelling half way around the world on an Emirates airline flight, sitting 16 hours in a cramped space defiantly is going to cause a lot of discomfort especially for me. Business class, well I am not yet there, to be able to fly business class all the time. Anyway, the trend in the Airline industry in general seems to be trying to cramp as many guys in the same flight as possible. Even to the extent that some airlines have started offering standing room only tickets. I am sure those can be applicable only for short flights. But if one Italian Design firm has its way we could be having one extra person for every 4 passengers on our existing flights.

Continue reading New Seats in Airlines to increase seating capacity by 25%

After Sharjah Blackouts, are Dubai and Abu Dhabi far behind ?

It is one of the biggest issues worldwide, electricity shortage. There are parts of India that have had these issues for a very long time. I remember Mangalore used to be without electricity for close to 8 – 10 hours a day. However, I have never really faced it here in Dubai, there was never a day without electricity. Oh wait there was this blackout in Jul 2005, I remember but for a few hours, caused a whole load of chaos. But otherwise there has not really been an issue with electricity.

Off late, Sharjah, the neighboring emirate to Dubai has had major issues with the blackouts, there have been major complaints from the residents that this blackout during the summer time is really bad. With the financial situation in the region and the country in general being difficult how is this going to effect Dubai and Abu Dhabi; the two biggest emirates with Sharjah. Dubai in general seems to be the place with the biggest issues out of the two.

Continue reading After Sharjah Blackouts, are Dubai and Abu Dhabi far behind ?

Blackberry Gives in, What will TRA do now ?

Continuing on the hottest topic this week, Blackberry services are destined to be blocked in the UAE by the 11th of October 2010, and Etisalat and Du are coming up with attractive options for the users who are using the service at the moment, I tried to do my bit, when I wrote about the alternatives you can use in case the service does get blocked. But in a bizarre twist of events, Blackberry along with the lunch of their new device the Blackberry Pearl 9105 and the new OS, OS6 have also made another announcement. They have decided to allow government agencies to snoop into the email and messenger services.

Continue reading Blackberry Gives in, What will TRA do now ?

Governments do not like BlackBerry

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of UAE today announced that they are looking to ban all blackberry services from the 11th of October. The services include BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Mail and BlackBerry Web browsing services. It is strange to think that a country that is positioning itself to be the financial and cultural hub of the middle east should take up a stand of this nature. It has been issued as a warning earlier from the TRA that the suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the UAE in line with UAE telecommunications regulations. The TRA said that it was working with Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry smartphones, to resolve “serious social, judicial and national security” issues with the popular devices.

Thinking about Serious Social, Judicial and National Security issues, well I think its a bit far fetched that the service provided by RIM would be a threat. To be honest, well there might be a misuse of the service by some people, but having said that there are a million, gazillion other forms of communication available online and most of those as well, the data is placed outside the U.A.E. Apparently its not just the U.A.E.

Continue reading Governments do not like BlackBerry

A new system to get onto Aircrafts

If the skylift as it is called, become famous, it might mean the end of the airport bridge, and dramatic movie endings where heroes run on the bridge, to meet the lady of their love. I did’t really like those melodramatic scenes anyway. The problem with Airports and Airlines in trying to provide a similar service across different destinations is that they usually have better service at their Hub Airport and might not have the same facilities across various different airports. An example of that being Emirates, with them providing air bridge facilities across Dubai, where as in lesser packed Indian Airports they need to bus people in and get them to climb the aircraft.

In order to provide unified service and even in terms of ergonomics of airplanes and the trips that people take just to get on an aircraft, even if it seems that right now its not required, there is a huge change that is required. That change could be provided by SkyLift.

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