Monday, 22 December 2014

Skype Translator Preview Is Now Live



It has been a while since Skype got upbeat and vocal about its real ­time translation software. Finally, the wait is now over as users get access to the translation tool. All those lucky folks who were approved for testing the preview upon sign up will now be able to get their hands on it.

Skype Translator software reduces boundaries between people living miles apart , speaking completely different languages. Chalk it up to the software’s ability to translate spoken as well as written languages. The program offers support for a wide range of languages from English to Spanish. There is support for more than 40 other languages, in case you were curious.

Skype Translator can translate spoken and written languages in real time, with support for over 40 languages

Do bear in mind that the early preview is limited to Windows 8.1 users (both, desktop and mobile). Schools in Mexico and United States have played a key part in beta testing the software. It incorporates advanced machine learning to conduct its duties as perfectly as possible. It’s probably best to understand this technology by comparing the tool to an African Grey parrot; it gets better and smarter at translating a word as time wears on.

Judging by the tests so far, it’s gotta be said that Skype Translator has shown a lot of promise. It only uses a very basic translation model in the classroom tests conducted so far. However, the real challenge is going to be its performance in real­ life situations which can often be very complex with different accents and other nuances of the language. Let us see if this turns out to be the best bit of technology or crumbles under the hype it gathered.

2014: Year of Fitness Devices and Apps



Fitness has always been tracked by the miles you can run or the number of reps you can put in at the gym. Stopwatches and pedometers have always been an essential part of an athlete or a fitness instructor’s armory. With the advent of the smartphone and fitness tracking wristbands, it was only a matter of time before we could use our watches, wristbands and smartphones for fitness monitoring and coaching.

In 2012, the market for fitness tracking and monitoring really took off. Some of the innovations that we see today are marvelous especially if you are a fitness enthusiast and would love to keep a record of your activity levels.

Nike has been a pioneer in the fitness tracking revolution

Nike has always been the trailblazer when it comes to fitness. They were one of the pioneers of integrating activity monitoring when they partnered with Apple, with the Nike+Ipod sensor, followed by the Nike FuelBand. Now discontinued, the Nike FuelBand (available in Pakistan) was all about motivation.

With Nike’s partnership with Apple going from strength to strength they have moved away from producing hardware to focus on improving user experience through better and smoother applications. Utilizing the greatly improved accelerometers and motion sensing capabilities of the new iPhone, Nike introduced its Nike+Running app, my current favorite. Nike+Running app has a great interface displaying your number of runs, distance and average pace accurately no matter whether you are running outdoors or on the treadmill.

There are many dedicated options for the fitness enthusiast like the Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, Fitbit and others

With Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest integrated you get to share your workout with your friends and other running enthusiasts around the globe. It’s been a great motivator for me and I would suggest that if you are planning to adopt a healthy lifestyle definitely give this app a try. Nike+Running is available for free for both android and iOS.

Nike’s wearables have other competitors such as UP by jawbone (available in Pakistan). Jawbone Up not only keeps a track of all your activities but also your sleep, it provides you data which enables you to adopt a healthier daily routine. Jawbone works with a multitude of apps such as Runkeeper, Myfitnesspal and Strava amongst others. Though Jawbone has been a huge hit among the fitness enthusiasts, there has been criticism about its sleep tracking feature and battery life. If I have choice between UP Jawbone and Nike Fuelband, I would opt for the latter.

Major companies like Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are poised to invest significantly into the wearables industry in 2015

Writing about fitness wearable and smartphones, how can we leave out Samsung Gear which according to industry experts is currently the market leader when it comes to wearables, as it successfully blends the features of a smart watch and a fitness tracker.

Samsung is followed by Fitbit – with its clip-on One or the Charge Fitbit is the wearable of choice for many. Even if you don’t own a Fitbit device do try the Fitbit app (free with in-app purchases. Available for iOS and Android). The wearables market is going to heat-up with the Apple Watch rumored to be coming out in early spring 2015 coupled with Ihealth feature and Nike+Running on iPhone. The wearables market is estimated to generate revenue of over $53 billion by 2019.

On the other end of the fitness tech segment are the fitness apps such as:

The simple yet effective Johnson & Johnson official 7 minute workout app (free for both IOS and Android)
Moves (free on IOS and Android) and Argus (free for IOS only with in-app purchases) are great all round fitness tracking apps
Pact (free on IOS) is fun, you actually wage money (optional) on you going to the gym and completing a workout. You can earn money if you complete or exceed your goal
Fitocracy (free on IOS and Android with in-app purchases) is a great motivational fitness app as it provides you video games like stats on your achievements at the gym, which you can then share with the fitocracy community
While these and a lot more fitness apps are being produced, smartphones are still not the first choice when it comes to tracking and monitoring fitness. More and more people are turning towards wearables to enhance their workout experiences.

After smartphones and tablets, wearables could be the next tech frontier

We believe wearables are currently in the same phase as cellphones were right before the smartphone. Wearables will be taking a huge leap in the next couple of years, with a lot more imagination and innovation. The next generation of wearables have to utilize the real world and the user’s environment as its operating system, something that Google is also majorly investing in.

Blackberry Classic Goes Back To Basics



BlackBerry smartphones with physical QWERTY keyboard used to be a standard in business. The release of the Blackberry Classic is a throwback to what made the company popular in the first place and is sure to please loyalists.

On first look, old BlackBerry users would immediately be able to tell that BlackBerry Classic closely resembles the BlackBerry Bold. The return of the physical QWERTY keyboard and square trackpad, surrounded by four navigation keys, would surely appeal to those fans and might as well attract new audience to the BlackBerry 10 OS.

As you’d expect from BlackBerry, the physical keyboard looks and feels brilliant. The keys lighting up in dark environments is a nice touch. The inroduction of new keyboard shortcuts is equally pleasing. The buttons protrude ever so slightly, allowing users to tell them apart while typing. However, unlike the curved keyboard with curved frets on the BlackBerry Bold 9900, this one accommodates slim and straight bars between every row.

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Make no mistake, BlackBerry not only comes across as a sturdy device but is also a looker. Slightly raised brushed steel bezel on the smartphone gives the phone a nice, premium look and also tones down any damage from accidental drops.

It has a 3.5­inch LCD display (720p resolution at 290 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. At 180 grams, BlackBerry Classic definitely feels a lot heavier than usual. It’s gotta be said, though, that even weight distribution thoughout the phone ensures that the Classic doesn’t feel too heavy on one end.

16GB of internal storage may leave more to be desired but BlackBerry has you covered with the option to expand memory up to 128GB. A couple of brushed steel slots on the side are homes to the micro SD card and a nano SIM card.

Blackberry Classic comes with a 3.5 inch display with 720p resolution, 16GB of memory, Blackberry 10 OS and 2GB of RAM

BlackBerry users would be aware that these could be found inside the battery doors on previous BlackBerry devices. However, unremovable battery on BlackBerry Classic leaves no room for that this time around. Speaking of battery, the 2,515mAh package truly impresses with nearly 22 hours of moderate use.

1.5GHz Dual­core processor coupled with 2GB of RAM help run the most demanding apps available on the BlackBerry 10 OS. The 8MP camera with LED flash along with 2MP front­-facing camera works significantly better in broad daylight than in darker environments. If you aren’t too crazy about taking high quality photos with a smartphone camera, this would be far from being a deal breaker.

It’s easy to infer that BlackBerry Classic is more or less a fan service. This is not even remotely an attempt to outdo the existing rivals in the smartphone industry. Instead, the idea is to retain loyal customers in the mix. Judging by how much it has to offer, BlackBerry Classic could very well deliver on that front. The smartphone is expected to retail for $449.

Mobile SIMS Used in Peshawar Attack Were Issued Through Biometric Verification




Five mobile phone SIMs used in Peshawar Incident were issued through biometric verification system, where customer had verified her identity through thumb impression.

Sources who are directly aware of the situation confirmed ProPakistani that all five SIMs (used in Peshawar Attack) were issued only after biometric verification and that all required standard operating procedures were followed for issuance of mobile SIMs.

Sources said that individuals involved in the purchase of SIMs are on record and their data (including thumb impressions) has been handed over to the concerned authorities for further investigation.

SIM purchaser and franchisee that issued SIMs are currently in LEA confinement for investigation, we have checked with sources.

Earlier Mr. Nisar, Minister Interior, while addressing a press conference yesterday revealed that there were five mobile SIMs used in the Peshawar attack that were registered in the name of a lady from Hasilpur in Southern Punjab.

Mr. Nisar stressed telecom operators to launch a crackdown on unregistered SIMs.

It must be noted that there is no way possible now to get a new mobile phone SIM, or a replacement SIM (in case of lost of stolen SIM) without biometric verification.

Thanks to Biometric Verification, it is impossible to get a SIM on fake registration, however, old SIMs that are unregistered is an area where industry is yet to find a solution

Not to mention, a maximum of five SIMs can be issued on one CNIC and customer has to block his/her old SIMs to get new SIMs if his 5-SIM-Quota is reached.

Thanks to these regulations, it is almost impossible to get an unregistered SIM or to obtain a SIM on fake registration. However, already operating SIMs — that are old but unregistered — is an area where industry is yet to find a resolution.

While mobile phone companies have invested billions of rupees on implementation of biometric verification system (and countless other initiatives during the past few years), it is yet to be ascertained that what exactly will get us the complete elimination of unregistered SIMs.

Despite all the measures, it is only the policy makers that are probably responsible for this horrific situation. It is only due them that we weren’t able to resolve the issue unregistered SIMs at that time, or even now when we have biometric verification tools in hands.

Many believe that the time has come to convict and penalize such policy makers who were given the responsibility and they didn’t deliver.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Microsoft Launches MIC Pre-Accelerator Program In Karachi


Microsoft has officially announced applications for entry to its Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) pre-accelerator program. This program is part of Microsoft’s global vision to support technology-based startups, disrupt traditional business models and help entrepreneurs in meeting consumer needs by providing them an engaging, informative and immersive ecosphere where they can receive mentorship and training from trained professionals working in the company.

Benefits include non-equity taken in your company,  curriculum of practical workshops & training sessions and exposure to qualified investors

The scope and potential of Pakistan’s tech industry is evident from Microsoft’s decision to include Karachi as one of only 4 global MIC centers from where to solicit applications. Given the fact that there are a total of 144 MIC centers worldwide, this is a significant step and one that should not be underestimated. The program aims to specifically help early-stage startups to take their idea to the mass market by honing the idea validation process, prototyping and developing the product, initiation of marketing techniques and training in soft skills such as communication, public speaking and presentations.

The MIC pre-accelerator program is spread over a length of 12 weeks and startups selected to be part of the incubation process will benefit from training imparted to them by professionals spread across the globe, thereby giving vision, depth and clarity to the idea. At the end of the program in April, all selected startups will be invited to present their idea at the MIC Demo Week, where they will receive feedback from experts in each of the partner countries consisting of Pakistan, Nepal, Chile and Armenia.

Karachi is one of four MIC centers where Microsoft is accepting applications, out of a total of 144 MIC centers worldwide

To apply for the MIC program, the startup must not already be marketing their product to consumers, be available for three months between February and April inclusive and willing to commit to 20+ hours per week. The MIC Karachi is located at the Bahria University campus and is a state-of-the-art facility for developers, IT professionals, students and academics designed to foster and inculcate innovation, collaboration and development.

The timeline for the program is as follows:

Application/Signup Close: Monday, 29th December, 2014
Notifying selected teams: Friday, 16th January, 2015
Program Begins: Monday, 2nd February, 2015
MIC Demo Week: 27th April, 2015
To find out more, visit here. To submit your application for the program, visit here.

Pakistanis Among Top 5 Highest Earners On Elance-oDesk


Back in December 2013, two of the most well-known online employment industry giants, Elance and oDesk announced that they were going to merge. This partnership was regarded as a major step in establishing a lead in the freelance industry, which is expected to touch $46 billion worth by 2020.

A huge part of this market, Pakistani freelancers have been showcasing their talent on Elance and Odesk for years now. Recently, Elance-oDesk released its Annual Impact Report for 2014. The report depicts some great facts about Pakistani freelancers’ contribution in the giant online workspace, which shows the potential of the country in an online, collaborative and competitive environment.

According to the report, out of 180 countries, Pakistan is 5th in terms of freelancers with highest earnings index. Overall, there are around 9.3 million freelancers registered on Elance-oDesk. Gross freelancer earnings are approximately $900 million, which shows the impact and value of the platform. Elance-oDesk is one of the favorite working platforms of millennials. The report says that half of the freelancers are from age 26 to 35.

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Web programming, graphic designing and writing are the most valuable and in-demand jobs on the platform. Impact report also illustrates that Elance-Odesk workers earn more as compared to their peers in the local market. This is because of the global marketplace and opportunities freelancers can access whereas the conventional employees remain stuck in traditional job roles.

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Platforms like Elance-oDesk have enormous opportunities for the emerging markets like Pakistan. The country is teeming with talent and more and more of them are turning online for work. With internet penetration getting higher and the market maturing rapidly with the introduction of 3G and 4G, we are sure more of this talent will be realized.

Detailed Report on Facebook Security Published by FIA



Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has published a detailed report on how users can remain secure on Facebook. The report is published under the Office of The Project Director National Response Center For Cyber Crimes (NR3C) and is a security guide for Facebook users. It includes everything from basic things for beginners to areas which are normally known and used by intermediate or expert users of Facebook.

The report first introduces its readers about secure passwords and possible attacking techniques used by hackers and intruders to get access to Facebook accounts. Concepts like Brute Force attacks, Phishing, keyloggers and sniffing are all explained. FIA has advised users about creating secure, long and combinational passwords to avoid accounts being compromised.

The guide could be invaluable for new users and serve as a checklist to review settings for experienced users

Everything about apps, timelines, blocking, statuses, audience and Facebook pages is also outlined. The report advises Facebook users to enable HTTPS protocol while using Facebook. It also explains that Secure socket layer protocol (SSL) provides strong encryption for public networks and using it is very important for users, specially on insecure networks.

A major portion of Facebook Guide by FIA explains the usage of basic Facebook settings, how users can protect their data and information on the social platform from others and shows how a user can handle Facebook settings to be in complete control of his or her account. The report explains all these steps with images and it’s very well made.

Although everything in the report might already be known to some of you, it can still be used as a guideline or a checklist to review your Facebook account security. You can get the detailed report here

Critical Pakistani Networks Compromised By Iranian Hackers



In another series of disturbing revelations, Iranian hackers have penetrated and stolen information from governments and private companies around the world. Pakistan is among the countries affected by the hacks. According to researchers, this operation has been going on since 2012.

Cylance, the security company that has authored the report, says that highly sensitive information has been stolen from government agencies as well as infrastructure companies in the following countries: United States, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the UAE.

The operation has been active since 2012 and governments and major infrastructure companies across the world were the targets of attack

The hacks, which have been dubbed ‘Operation Cleaver’, show that the Iranian hackers managed to infiltrate and conduct surveillance on a global scale. Affected companies are from a wide range of operational fields that include military, oil and gas, energy and utilities, transportation, airlines, airports, hospitals, telecommunications, technology, education, aerospace and other sectors.

Cylance suspect that the main operation is being conducted from Tehran with smaller cells operating in Canada, Britain and the Netherlands. Detailing information about Operation Cleaver, the researchers said, “During intense intelligence gathering over the last 24 months, we observed the technical capabilities of the Operation Cleaver team rapidly evolve faster than any previously observed Iranian effort. As Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities continue to morph, the probability of an attack that could impact the physical world at a national or global level is rapidly increasing. Their capabilities have advanced beyond simple website defacements.”

If the operation is left to continue unabated, it is only a matter of time before the world’s physical safety is impacted by it – Researchers

Operation Cleaver is another huge security threat that appears to be state sponsored, with multiple Persian hackers and Iran registered domains highlighted in the report. Previously, we covered Regin and the scope of this new threat appears to be the same. Warning about potential ramifications if not immediately addressed, Cylance researchers said ” We have uncovered only a fraction of Operation Cleaver’s full scope. If the operation is left to continue unabated, it is only a matter of time before the world’s physical safety is impacted by it.”

The discovery of the Stuxnet worm, which affected Iranian nuclear reactors appears to have triggered this retaliation which has ramped up to full scale cyber warfare.  Cylance said, “Stuxnet was an eye-opening event for Iranian authorities, exposing them to the world of physical destruction via electronic means. Retaliation for Stuxnet began almost immediately in 2011.”

Transportation systems in Pakistan were affected and even our airport gates and security control systems were under the control of the hackers

Perhaps what is most concerning about Operation Cleaver is the fact that transportation systems in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were successfully compromised. This means that our remote infrastructure and supply chain were under the control of a malicious entity. Everything from airport gates to security control systems to payment systems were compromised and we were none the wiser.

The increasing number of major security breaches go to show that we need to invest more in defense against such threats. The internet is the battle-ground where modern warfare is conducted and the sooner the authorities wake up and realize it, the better.

Tune.Tv Aiming to Lead the Online TV Market



Online digital advertising is growing rapidly in Pakistan and now demands serious attention. TV viewership is shifting from Cable and Satellite to watching TV content over Internet and according to estimates, the global TV content ad spend on the web will take over the conventional TV ad business soon.

Tune.TV is Pakistan’s first and only Video on Demand streaming service that is legal, premium and free to the viewers. The service hosts high quality entertainment content from Pakistan’s TV channels under a license. Tune.tv viewers enjoy their favorite content in HD and their technology automatically adjusts the streaming quality based on the user’s connection. No buffering, no suffering.

Tune.Tv is the fastest growing video website of Pakistan. It pushed its way to top 1000 on Alexa within weeks of of its soft launch and continues to grow rapidly. It is already serving the most long format video play backs and 75% of the traffic it gets is from Pakistan.

The service delivers an authentic TV experience and their technology allows to serve pre-, mid- and post rolls seamlessly and efficiently. When it comes to ads, Tune.TV have opted for quality over quantity. There are a very limited number of display ad boxes and minimal in stream video advertising.  No annoying Pop-Ups, no tricky malwares or virus threats, just high quality entertainment. The team at Tune.Tv can also produce custom built creatives and sponsorships that drive higher engagement and results.

Tune.Tv is the first Pakistani website to offer state of the art HTML5 video player based on the latest technology. Allowing viewers to share the link directly from the player increases the possibility of content going viral. It aims to be Pakistan’s most effective video advertising service. They hope to achieve this goal by providing premium video content to viewers when, where and how they want it. And by creating a service that viewers, content owners and advertisers will love equally.

IT is Not on Govt’s Priority List: CM Intel Pakistan


Naveed Siraj, Country Manager Intel, has said that IT has never been the government’s priority. He added that from the actions of the ministry and its initiatives, it is evident that policies have not been made for ICT progress and development in the country.

Speaking to the media in an annual briefing held on Thursday, he said the government always focuses on the telecommunication part of the industry and lesser attention is given to IT sector, which is the reason that the ICT infrastructure has not been built up in the country sufficiently.

From the actions of the ministry and its initiatives, it is evident that policies have not been made for ICT progress and development in the country.

I found a broadband policy of the country that was formulated in 2004. The IT policy was drafted and revised many times in the past years but its final version has yet to be approved by the government, Siraj said. “The government should now focus on IT and approve its much-awaited policy which has been waiting for its approval from the policy-makers.”

Siraj pointed out that the country failed to continue with the ICT infrastructure development projects under the schemes of Universal Service Fund (USF), which aimed to develop IT infrastructure in the rural areas to promote literacy.

He said the government policy should be in line with the strengthening private sector in the IT industry, which could have attracted a lot of investment in the country. Companies like Intel see Pakistan as a high potential market where 120 million young people will be consumers in future. There are also other big corporations ready to invest in Pakistan but the government must focus on these factors seriously to allure them, he said.

The government should now focus on IT and approve its much-awaited policy which has been waiting for its approval from the policy-makers: Naveed Siraj

There are big opportunities in the Pakistan because the local market is largely untapped but there is a proper process through which the government has to present the potential in a country to foreign investors, who need information and assurances to establish their business in offshore markets.

One of the things that has seen an increase in demand is data. This is highlighted by the fact that one of the biggest telecom operators in the country is running a big data center. Data will drive the market as far as profitability of the companies is concerned because margins on voice business have been squeezed and data has great scope to make money in the country.

He said that Intel is working to provide a knowledge based portal to students and faculty members of engineering discipline in 20 universities for research which will continue in the next year and more universities and higher educational institutions will be taken on-board.

National Mobile App Competition Announced!


Planning Commission of Pakistan, in collaboration with private sector, has announced Pakistan’s first National Mobile Competition.

Primary aim of the competition is to engage talented IT professionals and youngsters in making Apps that will improve the Government services, transparency, and quality of work.

According to details, startups, students, professionals can submit their ideas and best 10 ideas will be selected for rewards and prizes.

How to Apply

Participants will have to get themselves registered on the Planning Commission website along with the information about their App Idea.

They will have to outline the idea, its impact and the cost. More details can be obtained from planning commission website.

The participant can be a Student, Startup, Entrepreneur, Freelancer, Company / Organization. Bahria University will organize awareness sessions (Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi) for participants to give them insight into the initiative & help them visualize ideas.

Microsoft will provide support to the participants through their innovation centres and student partners.

Deadline for Idea Submission

February 1st, 2015
Categories

Planning Commission
Energy
Health
Agriculture
Education
Good Governance
Media and News
E-Commerce
Judiciary
Policing / Security
Traffic Management
Any Other (High Impact)
Prizes and Rewards

Below are the categories in which you can submit your ideas:

1st Position
Rs. 300,000
Mobile Phone
Give aways
Certificates
2nd Position
Rs. 200,000
Mobile Phone
Give aways
Certificates
3rd Position
Rs. 100,000
Mobile Phone
Give aways
Certificates
4th to 10th Positions
Rs. 50,000 each
Mobile Phone
Give aways
Certificates
Winning idea will have an opportunity to have a paid contract with Government.

Terms & Conditions

The Working Prototype will remain the property of the participant(s) until the participant(s) voluntarily shares the Intellectual Property with Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform.

Participant(s) can submit multiple ideas.
There is no limit on number of team member(s) working on an idea; however there will only be one person representing the idea on the registration page, who will be called as Participant.

Only registered ideas will be evaluated.

Participant(s) of shortlisted Working Prototype will have an opportunity to get incubation support through Industry Liaison.

Participant(s) of winning Working Prototype will get an opportunity to get contract for implementing their solution through our partners. The winners of the competition having high impact apps may be recommended for funding from organizations such as National ICT R & D.

Government will ensure that Working Prototype will not be made public until the closing ceremony.

Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform will give preference to high impact and potentially low cost solutions.

New Bittorent Client Is Anonymous and Resistant to Shutdown


There is no denying the fact that BitTorrent ecosystem is marked by doubt and uncertainty. In fact, the recent discontinuation of The Pirate Bay has provided further evidence of its vulnerability to disorder.

It took just one raid to take down one of the most widely used torrent sites which adversely affected various other BitTorrent services. There is now hope for the pirates out there following the release of an anonymous BitTorrent network by Delft University of Technology researchers.

Researchers have been able to develop a decentralized BitTorrent client with the help of Tribler. The assistance of Tribler in decentralizing it helps the continuous operation of BitTorrent even in instances when trackers and indexes go offline. Users do not need to rely on a central server to successfully download a torrent anymore.

The new client provides anonymity and functions even when trackers and indexes are offline

The Tor network inherent in the latest version of Tribler provides the added advantage of anonymity to users. It basically allows seeding and sharing files without revealing one’s IP address. As a result, the identity of the user remains hidden to others on the internet.

It’s not all fun and games with such perks of privacy. The immediate downside is the increased bandwidth that is used in the process. This is attributed to the fact that users begin to act as proxies as they pass on whatever files others transfer to them. Moreover, there is every possibility of slow transfer rates in case people do not follow the sharing and caring principle. If they are consistent about it, it surely paves way for smooth downloading experience for all and sundry.

The privacy and redundancy come at the cost of increased bandwidth usage and slow download speeds

The lead researcher of the project claims that the idea is to counter violations of privacy which is common on the Internet. With aid from Tribler, the researchers are focused on making Internet a secure place for torrent users. It is important to note that this is a great opportunity for Tribler to rise among the ranks given that it experienced a 30 percent boost in users following the raid on The Pirate Bay.

It would not be surprising if their user base grows further in light of the philanthropic approach they are taking. Tribler team welcomes researchers aboard the fully Open Source project. If you feel up to it, you may download Tribler for Mac, Linux or Windows.

‘3-Bahadur’, Pakistan’s First Ever Animated Movie, To Be Sponsored by EBM



English Biscuit Manufacturers (Pvt.) Limited (EBM) is the lead sponsor of Pakistan’s first-ever feature length animated film, ‘3-Bahadur’, produced by Waadi Animations. 3-Bahadur, energized by Peek Freans Gluco, is set for release in the summer of 2015.

The concept of this pioneering movie has a very close connection with the company’s values. EBM believes in the importance of energizing children to be more productive contributors to society and be able to achieve their dreams. It promotes the concept of ‘edutainment’, whereby the healthy physical and mental growth of children is seen as a combination of education and entertainment. This is also exactly what the film ‘3-Bahadur’ depicts through the story of three young superheroes. EBM will be introducing exciting activities around the movie; for instance, movie branded packaging for Gluco and a themed web based interactive activity by RIO.

Zulfiqar Ali Ansari, Head of Marketing at EBM, said:

“We are proud to be associated with this project. The movie brings out a powerful message for children, that, each one of them has unique abilities and strengths through which they can make positive contribution to the society and that EBM’s brands communicate as well.”
3-Bahadur is a 3D animated film, which follows the adventures of three friends who set out on an epic journey to save their town from the evils that plague it. Equipped with courage and super powers, Amna, Saadi and Kamil (the main characters of the film) battle against the odds to restore peace and harmony in their once thriving neighbourhood.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, CEO of Waadi Animations, said:

“Almost 3 years ago, I had an intense desire to create an animated feature in Pakistan which would appeal to both children and adults alike. I have to admit, venturing into the realm of animation was unchartered territory for my team and I, but everyone quickly warmed up to the idea and we began learning the ropes and assembling a team of some of the best animators in the country to work with us. We are proud to announce and share the fruit of our hard work and efforts; Pakistan’s first animated feature film!”
English Biscuit Manufacturers (Pvt.) Limited was established in 1967 as the first manufacturer of wholesome, hygienic packaged biscuits in Pakistan. For over 45 years, EBM has been a symbol of trust and confidence for consumers, making it the leading biscuit manufacturer of Pakistan. EBM has an extremely diverse corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolio, driven by a commitment to improving lives. With one of the largest CSR budgets amongst national and multi-national companies, EBM has made significant contributions in areas as diverse as health, education, community welfare, and sports related causes.

Apple Halts Online Sales in Russia Due to Weakened Currency


In another damning indictment of Russia’s economic troubles, Apple Inc announced that it is halting online sales in the former Soviet country. The reason given for the decision is the extreme fluctuation in the valuation of the Ruble, which is Russia’s local currency.

The rapid fall of the ruble, coupled with massive spikes in interest rate by the central bank, has forced Apple into a rethink. As all online sales are ultimately reverted to the dollar and euro, Apple realized that it could potentially find itself in a situation where the prices of products would be changing on an hourly basis, and therefore could stand to make massive losses.

In addition to a sales halt, Apple has also been forced to raise app prices by 100%

Analysts have admitted that the Cupertino based company was left with little choice and that it was the right economic decision to halt sales until the currency stabilized. The decision was formally conveyed by Apple in an email sent to its customers in Russia.

Russian economic uncertainty comes at the back of massive falls in the price of crude oil – which contribute to 50% of the country’s revenue. With oil prices at historic lows, there is a real fear that the government will not meet its budgetary targets and be forced to take on expensive foreign loans in order to bridge the gap – loans that it can not afford.

Furthermore, with Russia dragged into a quagmire via its annexation of Crimea and intervention in the Ukraine crisis, analysts fear that the long-term economic outlook is bleak, at best.

Russian economy is suffering due to price drops of crude oil which make up half the country’s revenue

Western sanctions against Russia have also contributed in an overall negative outlook on the country. Many Russian companies, including major trade banks, have been blacklisted from engaging in activities with other companies and Russian assets in the West have been seized. A state of panic is currently engulfing Russian citizens and this latest decision by Apple is likely to deepen the chasm.

ZONG IT Systems Appraised at Level 2 of the CMMI




Zong Software Development & Automation Department has recently been appraised at Level 2 of the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration).

CMMI is a process improvement approach that provides organizations with the essential elements of effective processes that ultimately improve their performance. At CMMI level 2, projects ensure that processes are planned and executed in accordance with policy; the projects employ skilled people who have adequate resources to produce controlled outputs; involve relevant stakeholders; are monitored, controlled, and reviewed; and are evaluated for adherence to their process descriptions.

Niaz A. Malik CIO & CCSO Zong said,

“2014 has been a year of great successes and achievements for Zong and the recent CMMI appraisal gives us a lot of confidence and edge over our competitors. Zong is one of very few organizations in Pakistan who are CMMI Appraised”
In this photo: (Left) Faisal Sajjad Senior Manager Software Development & Automation receiving the CMMI Level II award from (Right) Farhan Mirza Representative Catalyic Consulting. Also seen (second from right) Xiaz A Malik CIO & CCSO Zong & (second from left) Muhammad Abdul Wajid Director IT Zong.

Faisal Sajjad, Senior Manager Software Development & Automation said,

“CMMI level 2 has been a remarkable journey for our department, since we had to start from establishing the baseline first; this included forming a structure of the organization and then hiring the right people to fit CMMI framework.  We are very pleased to announce that we have achieved this goal in just over 4 months.The Software Development & Automation department is responsible for the development and maintenance of all software applications and processes to make Zong a paperless environment and to increase processes efficiency”.
The appraisal was performed by Catalyic Consulting (Pvt.) Ltd. Farhan Mirza representative of Catalyic Consulting was of the opinion that “Till date this is the fastest CMMI appraisal carried out in Pakistan and I would like to pay acknowledgement to the efforts put in by the software development team at Zong”.  He added “that by following the CMMI Model, Zong Software Development Unit is now more organized and controlled, and able to provide high quality products”.

Google Releases Top Searches for 2014 For Pakistan




It’s that time of the year when Google announces its top searches of the year. The list, dubbed the “Year in Search” consists mainly of familiar names and subjects from worldwide.

As was expected, the most-searched query of the year was the death of Robin Williams, alongside the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Ebola virus. The list also includes several new categories such as Consumer Electronics (topped by the iPhone 6), top Google Doodles of 2014 and most-popular YouTube videos. (In case you don’t know, Google owns YouTube.)

The search details are also more minute. They go deeper and display how a particular news story also led to the increase in search of another story. Material Design is also at play in the design of this website.

The searches also, obviously, break down by country. In Pakistan, too, topping the most trending list among people was Robin Williams. Top searches include ARY News Live, Express Live and PTV Sports, showing that people are getting more and more into live streaming.

Here are top searched terms from Pakistan in 2014

ARY News Live
Express News Live
PTV Sports
Hiload
Samaa TV
Bigg Boss 8
Baby Doll Song
World Cup 2014
Dhoom 3
Yeh Hai Mohabbatein

Warid Starts Offering 4G LTE Trials for Prepaid Users


Your wait is finally over. After offering corporate and postpaid customers, the news is that Warid has finally started offering 4G LTE trials for prepaid customers, we have confirmed with sources.

So any Warid customer, who has 4G LTE compatible handset, and who lives/works with-in Warid’s 4G coverage area can go to Warid Business Centre to get Warid 4G LTE enabled SIM to start experiencing free 4G Trials.

Not to mention, Warid’s free 4G LTE trials span in following cities:

Karachi
Lahore
Islamabad
Gujranwala
Faisalabad
Peshawar
Just in case if you are wondering, you need to have 4G LTE SIM from Warid to experience 4G LTE trials. Your old Warid SIM isn’t compatible with 4G services and you must have to go to Warid Business Centre to get your SIM upgraded.

It must be noted that 4G SIM charges are Rs. 100. Warid is issuing Trio SIM, meaning that it can fit all SIM slot (Normal, Micro and Nano) sizes.

Once you will have your new 4G Enabled SIM from Warid, and assuming that you have 4G compatible handset, then you are good to start experiencing 4G speeds on your smartphones.

Check if you are 4G LTE Coverage or not?

Send an SMS: 4G to 5555 to get coverage details of your location,
Alternatively, use following method:

 Go to Setting-> Network Selection -> Manual Search
Warid_4G

Here if you get “Warid LTE” network sign, then you are in Warid’s 4G coverage area.

Must Note Things:

Data Services during 4G Trials are free
Data services under 2G network mode (GPRS/EDGE) aren’t free, so make sure you are on 4G or buy a 2G bundle along with to avoid any surprises
Prepaid customers who have 4G handsets and if they are in coverage areas can get 4G SIMs from Warid Business Centres.
iPhone users have to update IOS 8 for smooth 4G functionality
When you insert a 4G SIM, you will get this text as a confirmation for 4G Trial subscription: Enjoy the ultimate internet experience with Warid during FREE 4G trial phase. You will be informed once trial period ends. Standard 2G data charges apply

Can 3G and 4G do Wonders with Data?

Backgrounder

Data has never been marketed and sold like data, instead customers’ number has always remained the core focus for telecom operators.
Unfortunately — in the past — the monopoly behaviour by PTCL has always pushed other operators to indulge into this number game and in doing so they could never actually promote the data and make it a part of our daily lives.
This game is still on and it is still the number of customers that matter. What “Data” is being used for is not the concern of data sellers.
Once again PTCL is in competition with 3G operators and resultantly we are seeing similar ads from 3G operators in which they are using terms such as “Unlimited” and “MBs”.
Betting on 3G

We know that Pakistan had only 3.35 million broadband subscriptions before the auction of 3G and 4G licenses, while if we look at 3G uptake during first six month of service then there were some four million 3G users in first six months, which is 2.9% of 139 million total mobile phone users in this short span of time.

There’s catch in 3G number however, which is that the definition used for an active 3G user is: Any revenue generating activity on data services during last 90 days.

But if we just forget the definition used for active 3G users, and also consider the fact that 3G services are not available all over the Pakistan as of yet — one can easily judge the tune of the market and the adoption rates for 3G technologies.

Historically, if we look at the track record of this nation, then Pakistanis are usually very hungry for new technologies and their adoption rate is decidedly high for new tech or for anything that’s better than what they were using earlier. This has happened before (during 2G era), and from its looks one can be certain that total subscription count for 3G users can cross 20 million in first 30 months

Lets talk about the neighbouring countries, India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

3G and 4G was launched in India in 2008 and 2012 respectively, while the total 3G customers are approx. 107 million (which is 12 % of the total 884 million mobile phone users in India) while only 225,000 are 4G users which is not a very healthy number.

Smart phone penetration in India is around 10 percent and youtube is not banned there. Operators in India are not using conventional techniques by just promoting MBs and speed instead they are very creatively communicating the utility of data to there consumers and how it syncs with there lifestyle.

To generate revenues they are selling USB Dongles, developed apps such as One Touch Internet by Airtel, music services and TV services have also been developed to increase Data consumption.

On the other hand Afghanistan has 700,000 3G subscribers (in 30 months) which is 3.2% of the total 21.5m users with smart phone penetration of approx. 8%. And Bangladesh is standing at 4.8 million 3G users in two years, which is 4% of the total 118 million users.

Both Afghanistan and Bangladesh are promoting Mi-Fi routers to generate revenues as an ad-on.

While we lack at various fronts, such as dongle aren’t marketed as of yet, apps is an area where we are behind, but the overall 3G uptake is doing fine. Importantly, we could do a lot better.

Ingredients for Boosting 3G

As one would agree: 3G adoptions is dependent on variety of things, including

Consumer awareness
Devices,
Ecosystem
And of course the network coverage.
If we assume that coverage can be taken care of by telcos, the other two essential elements lie in the hands of handset industry (for devices) and the government and private sector (for building of the ecosystem).

On top of this, user awareness is another essential part where consumers are rightly educated about the benefits of next-gen technologies.

Telco’s started there awareness campaigns by promoting speed and MB’s, which was a norm in broadband industry as well where no one could explain how data is useful in our daily lives other then Facebook and twitter while youtube is still on a hold. What about the applications that can be useful for the consumer in daily routine to increase data usage?

Telecom operators either follow Steve Job’s strategy by giving consumer what he/she should need or by learning from the consumers’ insight and create what they want but nothing has been done so far except for trying to add the numbers instead of focusing on revenue generating ideas and customers.

Its time to Gamify and engage the customer by giving them product experience. Its time to create a world class customer education communiqué which is obviously not about models dancing on the TV screen with cell phones in there hands and talking about re-activation, speed and MB’s but what we need is informative tactical telling them how it (data) syncs in ones lifestyle.

An ongoing campaign that is not just about conventional mediums but bridging the On-ground connect by reaching out to customers where they are, be it malls, hotspots, education institutes or offices, engage them with product trial creatively and its benefits, make viral videos for new media.

While currently everyone is swimming in red ocean. Creating blue ocean and over ruling the competition takes guts and a thorough research.

Now if we just have a look at current market scenario, low-end 3G devices are readily available in the market. There are in fact half a dozen 3G smartphones that cost less than USD 100. This segment is only going to get rich with time, as more and more vendors are making their way to Pakistani market (reference: OPPO, Lenovo, Haier that entered Pakistani market in last six months). Increase in smartphone penetration and operators bundling with smartphones can be a positive sign for 3G growth.

Similarly, the digital ecosystem has picked up the pace. Number of startups surfacing every other day and the magnitude of FDI we are getting for digital companies is a clear hint of the uptake in the digital assets of the country.

Lack of Government Support

Unfortunately, Government, other than engulfing millions of dollars (in license fee), has done nothing so far. They are in fact negatively impacting the sector that brings them the top dollar to run the national economy.

Taxes, tightening regulations, absence of cyber law, expired policies, right of ways for infrastructure rollout, and what not.

The time has come for the authorities concerned to get serious with the work they are doing.

Conclusion

If done rightly, next-gen technologies can turn out to be a life-savor for telecom operators. But for that, government will also have to play its role to provide a level-playing field to cellular operators to ensure that industry is on flourishing path in the long run.

Inter-Ministerial Committee That Blocks Websites, is Restrained by IHC from Functioning


Inter-Ministerial Committee that decides if a website should be accessed or blocked in Pakistan has been put on hold by Islamabad High Court in response to a petition filed by Bolo Bhi.

For those who don’t know, its not Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) or Ministry of IT and Telecom (MoIT) that decides to block a website, instead there is this Inter-Ministerial Committee that does the job. This committee forwards its decision to MoIT for execution and PTA just makes sure that orders are executed in timely and orderly manner.

So if you are asking us technically, YouTube isn’t banned by PTA, instead this inter-ministerial committee is responsible and PTA is just the executioner.

Now if you are planning to ask me that why did I address PTA the other day when I was maintained that YouTube ban had become meaningless and asked PTA to either unban the website or ensure cent percent blockade, then it was for very reason that Islamabad High Court today decided to issue a restraining order against this committee, and here are reasons:

No one knows where this inter-ministerial committee sits,
Who are the members,
On what merit these members are chosen,
How do they work,
What’s is its postal/email address,
How do they evaluate the blockade of websites?
Where is the list of blocked website and why were they blocked?
How to get a website unblocked?
This is exactly why we addressed PTA and not a ghost Committee. Now have a look at the petition seeking hold on this committee, and it said:

Petition contended that the IMCEW was unconstitutional. The petitioner through its counsel adopted before the court that IMCEW was constituted through an executive order in 2006 and since then it had been issuing orders to take down contents. Committee is prone to political hijacking and pressure and had been used to personal and political ends to stem ‘undesirable’ and dissenting opinion. This committee has become a prime example of arbitrary and ad hoc executive action and abuse of power. The petition requested the court to declare the IMCEW as illegal and contrary to the Telecom Act and Rules of Business 1973.
Committee, as per directions from the court, is now on hold to block any further website till the hearing of the petition.

Court has asked Secretary ministry of information technology, IMCEW and the Chairman PTA for their comments.

You may also want to read following, where we had discussed exactly the same questions:

PTA: Where is the List of Blocked Websites?
The firewall Controversy: Internet Censorship in Real or its Just Blockade of Obscene Material?

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