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Sleepless in Gaza… and Jerusalem

On March 1st — this coming Monday– the premier episode of a 90 part series, “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem” will be launched on YouTube. It will be a video diary about four young Palestinian women, Muslim and Christian, two living in Gaza and two in Arab Jerusalem/West Bank.

PINA TV Production camera crews will be covering Ashira Ramadan, a broadcast journalist based in Jerusalem; Ashira’s friend in Gaza, the documentary film maker Nagham Mohanna; Donna Maria Mattas, a 17 year-old student at the Holy Family school in Gaza who dreams of growing up to be a journalist, and Ala’ Khayo Mkari who works with Caritas in Jerusalem.

The intention of this series is neither rant nor rhetoric. It is rather an opportunity for all of us, who do not live in Gaza, occupied Arab Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, to grasp how these four young Palestinian women live out their daily lives, precisely because their lives are stories we journalists were taught almost dismissively to think of as “human interest” and almost necessarily conflict driven.

How, as human beings, these four Palestinians can also experience moments of personal and community achievement, and the warmth of friends and family life that in real life is possible even in the most difficult circumstances of siege and occupation.
Each episode runs 26 minutes and will be shot in Jerusalem/West Bank and Gaza, edited and uploaded the same day. So you will find a new sequence six days a week at www.youtube.com/SleeplessinGaza. On Friday, we all rest.

Apart from this effort and its product being very exciting for its own sake to show us life in that part of the world, from a professional point of view, I think this is the first full series totally produced for YouTube.

I think this is the last nail in the Arab TV channels coffin – yes, you too Bahrain TV, but then you’ve already been dead more than 20 years!

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Blog upgraded, finally

Due to a 6-year-old database (dinosaur by blogging’s standard) which was subjected to hundreds of plugins and optional component installs and uninstalls, plug various other caching and theme components whose developers thought it best to write their preferences in the database and neglected to remove those entries on uninstallation, the site’s database got to be a huge 310MB in size! Being fat, I can tell you, is not a good idea at the best of times.

So, days after the installation, I finally got the time to deal with this properly. For those interested who might be in the same situation, my remedial steps to properly upgrade to WordPress version 2.9 from 2.8 are as follows:


1. I manually went in and removed the no longer needed tables (after backing up the database of course)
2. I manually edited the db version number in the options table (as given above, thanks!) to 12329 to force going beyond the forced upgrade page
3. I went to the admin panel, downloaded, installed and activated the "Clean Options" plugin.
4. I got the plugin to remove all the hash rss entries (over 8 thousand of them!)
5. I got the plugin to evaluate all the remaining entries in the table to determine the most likely unneeded entries and double checked them all. Selected the ones I know to be unneeded and deleted them.
6. The above operation reduced the database size from 310MB down to 58MB!! Serious weight loss ;)
7. I re-edited the options value to put in the old database version of 11548
8. Went to the Admin panel again /wp-admin
9. Clicked the "upgrade database" button, and then within seconds the upgrade was reported successful and I have my blog back!

I’m so glad that the site is up and running again. I am also even happier that the database has finally slimmed down which seems to have affected the response of the site too to the better.

Silver lining? I guess so.

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An experiment in live broadcast

What do you need to broadcast live video and audio? A truckload of equipment? A staff of highly technical personnel complimented with nice eye-candy to man the front end all with salaries in the thousands?

Nope. Not any more.

All you need is an iPhone, an iPhone app, a 3G connection and an account at UStream.tv! Seriously! See my first ever attempt at live broadcasting above, and subscribe to my live channel where you’ll find the other parts of this “broadcast”.

The limitations is that if you’re doing it on Zain’s 3G network, don’t get too excited. It’s as slow as treacle and you will get plenty of drop-outs at the higher frame resolution, I suggest you reduce the resolution to 176×144 rather than 320×240. I would love to hear from anyone with the other operators to compare.

This, my friends, is a game changer.

But the real question is, how long will this take our informed and illuminated Misery of Information to block this service “because it’s not commensurate with our moral values as Bahrainis”?

Not too long I don’t think. At least let’s enjoy this technological innovation while it lasts.

Given half a chance, I’m sure that every single village in Bahrain will have several streams going in no time at all to broadcast everything from religious precessions, weddings, community issues and even their own local news channel covering topics which interest them.

Given half a chance, we will have hundreds of broadcast stations with thousands of highly trained and talented people running them, opening a complete new stream of highly lucrative job creation opportunities in TV, broadcast and new media.

Given half a chance, we can innovate and show the world our capabilities.

Given half a chance. We could lead, for a change.

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Twittering Bahrainis

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twitter-backgrounds-images-themesI’ve never believed in Twitter myself for quite some time. I think I was a very early adopter, but like a lot of people, just couldn’t get the hang of it as I didn’t understand it – put more simply – I couldn’t get myself to beat it into how I think it should be used!

But again as in several times before, I remember my youngest brother‘s advice:

“don’t fight the machine, it’ll always win! find a way to work with it rather than against it.”

Once that has sunk in and I invested the time to actually use it as others have by following, reading, listening and exploring – basically lurking – I’ve come to love the bloody thing. I even got an iPhone data account from Zain just so that I can just quickly have a peek while I’m out of the office.

There are many people whom I follow and feel that I have been enriched by their selfless contributions, pointers, links, and wisdom. I also have garnered many “tweeps” / or Twitter people / aka friends who make the experience really fun.

It’s also a great source of inspiration for articles to post here; for instance, the last two prior to this post have come directly from people I follow on Twitter.

There are many tweeps in Bahrain, the new “lists” feature makes it easy to track and follow them. Many of these lists have been created of course. Husaainoo has the largest list at the moment with 267 Bahraini tweeps. Judging by his activity on Twitter, I would hazard a guess that there’s a fair chance that he will keep this list updated. Another Bahraini tweep lists is maintained by the indefatigable Bahraini Social Media Guru (shame he works for $atelco!) is Ahmed Zainal’s which I personally follow.

khalidThere are a number of Bahraini government officials actively using Twitter as well. It’s intriguing following them, because through their tweets you get to know what they’re up to (as much as they would like to divulge of course) and you even get to a level of familiarity with them. This makes them a bit more touchable and of course reachable too – without a legion of secretaries and functionaries! By inference, this familiarity rightly or wrongly lulls you into a sense that the government could possibly be doing some good! By officials sharing their daily routines, wisdom, axioms and just helpful and personal banter, you actually begin to even – dare I say it – like the government and discard some of the various conspiracy theories which we Bahrainis just love to create and maintain.

I think this is a fantastic trend and it should positively be encouraged. I do know and continue to hope that even when their presence becomes more widely known and they face some anger or apathetic comments and transgressions as they most surely will in this open and (so far) uncensored space, they will not be dissuaded from continuing to share their experiences and connect with people through these social media tools.

nezarTherefore, I salute first the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Khalid Al-Khalifa and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Nezar Al-Baharna for being the highest ranking Bahraini officials to embrace Twitter and hope that others will soon follow in their steps.

To celebrate this, I have created the Influential Bahrainis Twitter List which you are welcome to follow. But please be aware that this is my personal list, primarily, you can certainly let me know if you wish to be included and you are most certainly encouraged to nominate people, but do not expect them to be automatically included. I freely confess that inclusion/exclusion/amendments will be completely arbitrary based on my own arbitrary criteria. With that said, please do give me some recommendations.

Oh, and please feel free to follow me on Twitter too!

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iPhone 3Gs – got it

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It’s cool being in Italy not just because it is truly the most beautiful country on Earth, but it’s laws also prohibit the likes of Apple to dictate their terms on and in their country. It is therefore one of the few countries on Earth that you can legally pick up an unlocked iPhone without a contract any time you like…

3gs

And that is exactly what I did on the 2nd day of being here. I purchased two, one for my son and the other for me; 2x 32 sweeties! And after almost a week of using it, I can tell you the experience is worth it; twice the speed or even faster compared to the old one, and a host of features which I’m not going to go through at the moment as Apple’s own site as well as many others could furnish that information much better than I could. Suffice it to say that the Compass feature is bloody good especially when trying to navigate the narrow and utterly confusing Roman streets. The camera IS much better and helloooo video, at last! I finally can do video after more than a year with the predecessor. Oh how I missed thou!

To those wavering on the decision to get one, waver no more. Just plunge in and thank me later.

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Google Translate – Another innovation for Arabic

One of my top sites which I visit constantly is Google Translate. This is a service I use extensively to translate between Arabic and English and vice versa. But although the context of the translation remains somewhat weak, the basis it provides saves me hours in getting my job done. I suspect that many of you share my experience with it.

This morning, a very quite quantum leap happened. On visiting the site, I was faced with the following new screen configuration. Expand it if you can see the details please:

google-translate

Did you notice the following help line at the top of the translation box?

Type phonetically. Example: Type “marhaban” and hit space for “مرحباً”.

This simple thing made my jaw drop! Do you realise the implications for this? Those of us who type faster in English now can officially consider the best ever Christmas arriving much sooner than hoped! Man, you can actually type Arabic with an English keyboard! No more switching, no more looking for keys in various keyboard layouts! No more heartache!

Yes, I know that we should run away with this and not get overly excited, the service needs improvement to be sure, but man, when 22 so called countries housing more than 300 million Arabs can’t even coordinate their efforts into getting the Arabic keyboards to type decimal points and numbers, let alone agreeing on a unified keyboard layout (we have the Mac, Windows with various versions, DOS, ASMO 708, and goodness knows what other obscure layouts still in existence), let alone political and economic coordination, we have a single company creating such a God-damned innovative product for a language NOT considered to be its mother tongue!

BUT what does our very own respectable Ministry of Information contribute to this fantastic effort?

It, my friends, BLOCKS Google Translate!!!

Please. Do yourself a favour and take a minute to sign the petition against Internet Censorship in Bahrain. The link is on the right.

Google, I take my ghutra off for you. You – once again – as an Arab nation, made OUR day!

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