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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dubai does it again with WiFi Palms


Ooops, Dubai does it again! This time, by putting palms to good use offering free WiFi around the city.

I have been seeing a white palm on the beach next to Burj Al Arab while at the traffic light on Thanya Street going towards Beach Road, but I haven't been able to stop. So I had a poke online.

That’s how I found out it is a Smart Palm station, among others Dubai is planning to roll out around the city, to provide free WiFi in parks, beaches and other locations.

As I only have WiFi, I can’t wait until one of the Smart Palms is installed on the free beach I go to in Umm Suqeim.


The first Smart Palm was installed at Gate 6 in Zabeel Park a couple of months ago. There are plans to provide over 50 more of them this year.

Dubai Municipality recently installed the Smart Palm I see on the beach next to Burj Al Arab Hotel and plans to cover all open public beaches in Al Mamzar, Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim.

The UAE-made stations stand six meters tall in the shape of a palm tree. They have fast mobile phone charging stations and screens displaying information on Dubai’s attractions.



The WiFi palms are a venture between Dubai Municipality, Smart Palm creators D Idea Media, Du, Sun Tab Solar Energy and Promo Tech Gulf Industry. The project is in line with the UAE Cabinet’s decision to make 2015 the Year of Innovation.

The development took just 10 months from conception to delivering the finished product. After receiving its patent, Smart Palm began working with its partners who each contributed towards the overall functionality of the product.


The Smart Palms' 18-square-meter leaves run entirely on solar power and offer high-speed WiFi up to a range of 53 meters, supporting up to 50 users at a time. They have several phone and tablet charging points offering two-and-a-half times faster charging speeds than a regular plug. Two screens on each palm offer weather information, local news, a navigation application, general Dubai information -- and even a selfie camera.

Soaking up the sun during the day, these state-of-the-art palms store energy to be discharged after sunset. There are eight charging points and WiFi ranges on each palm.

Dubai Municipality Director-General Hussain Lootah said ”the structures are entirely self-sufficient thanks to their mono crystal solar panels, which provide up to 21 percent efficiency.”

From the pictures, they look even more impressive lit up at night.


Alya Harmoudi, director of Environment Department at Dubai Municipality, said the stations can display updates on events and activities on the beach and serve as a public announcement system. They also show beach rules, guidelines, tips and sea conditions.

“For us, it was important to translate the important cultural identity of the date palm from being a plant that provides shelter, building materials, shade and sustenance, to our Smart Palm, designed to provide data, connectivity, energy and all in a sustainable manner,” says Viktor Nelepa, Smart Palm's founder, in a press release.

A trip down to the beach at night to see the high-tech palm is now a must.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Anti-Discriminatory Law issued in UAE


His Highness Sheikh Mo (as the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is affectionately known) posted on Twitter earlier today that the United Arab Emirates has issued a new law against any form of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin following a Decree by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM)  the new law, No.02 of 2015, criminalizes any acts that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media. The law also includes provisions for punishing anyone for terming other religious groups or individuals as infidels, or unbelievers.

The law is intended to provide a sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broad-mindedness and acceptance in the UAE and aims to safeguard people regardless of their origin, beliefs or race, against acts that promote religious hate and intolerance.

Penalties for violation of the various provisions of the law include jail-terms of six months to over 10 years and fines from Dhs 50,000 to Dhs 2 million.

The Anti-Discriminatory Law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards. It also has provisions to fight discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of religion, caste, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin.

The law condemns actions that would comprise hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against others using any form of media, including online, print, radio or visual media.

Strict action will be taken against any form of expressions of hatred or incitement to hate crimes spread in the form of speech and published media.

The law also criminalizes any act that amounts to abuse of religion or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols, and takes a serious view of violence on the basis of religious doctrines.

The law prohibits any entity or group established specifically to provoke religious hatred and recommends stringent punishment for groups or supporters of any organizations or individuals that are associated with hate crimes. It also bars any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE organized with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups on the basis of faith, origin or race. Receiving financial support for such activities is also punishable under the new law.

The law encourages anyone involved in any activity that violates the law to voluntarily submit themselves before the authorities and has provisions allowing the courts to waive penalties in such cases.

The new law does not contradict with any other existing laws meant to protect specially privileged groups in the society such as women, children and individuals with disabilities or others.

The Anti-Discriminatory Law in full, as published in Gulf News:
  1. Criminalizes any acts that stoke religious hatred
  2. Criminalizes any act that insults religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or online
  3. Punishes anyone for terming other religious groups or individuals as infidels, or unbelievers
  4. Provides a sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broad-mindedness and acceptance in the UAE
  5. Aims to safeguard people regardless of their origin, beliefs or race, against acts that promote religious hate and intolerance
  6. Includes jail terms of six months to more than 10 years for those who break the law
  7. Includes fines of between Dh50,000 and Dh2 million for those who break the law
  8. Prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards
  9. Makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of religion, caste, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin
  10. Prohibits any entity or group established specifically to provoke religious hatred
  11. Recommends stringent punishments for groups or supporters of any organizations or individuals that are associated with hate crimes
  12. Prohibits any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE organized with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups on the basis of faith, origin or race
  13. Makes it illegal to receive financial support to fund activities that propagate hate
  14. Encourages anyone involved in any activity that violates the law to voluntarily submit themselves before the authorities
  15. Allows courts to waive penalties where people voluntarily submit themselves to authorities
  16. Dovetails with other existing laws to protect specially privileged groups such as women, children and individuals with disabilities or others

Friday, July 17, 2015

Is the Web dying?

Illustration by Tim McDonagh
Every now and then you read an absolute gem online that says exactly what you have been thinking but don’t have the words to express.

An article by Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, published in Matter, is a case in point.

Is the web showing “a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet?” he wonders, adding:  “We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies.

“The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

His article, written after an absence of seven years in jail, gives a perspective on the web that we might have lost sight of in our daily interactions.

Yes, there was excitement about writing a blog all those technology years ago. Now it is a rush to post a photo of the food you are going to eat, the selfie, the cat… and the visual has taken over.

But Derakhshan says it much better:

“Maybe it’s that text itself is disappearing. After all, the first visitors to the web spent their time online reading web magazines. Then came blogs, then Facebook, then Twitter. Now it’s Facebook videos and Instagram and SnapChat that most people spend their time on. There’s less and less text to read on social networks, and more and more video to watch, more and more images to look at. Are we witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favor of watching and listening?” he writes.

“But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet…”

“This is not the future of the web. This future is television,” Derakhshan notes.

“I miss when people took time to be exposed to different opinions, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares.

“That’s the web I remember before jail. That’s the web we have to save.”

Derakhshan’s article is a real gem and can be read in full here: The Web We Have to Save.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why 9.41 on Apple advert screens?

Apple's iPhone 6
I found this news item on Yahoo! brilliant and it brought back fond memories of the late Steve Jobs' era.
The author, Rob Waugh notes that in every Apple advert, one seemingly tiny detail is always the same -- the time on iPhone’s screen. He writes:
In the adverts for iPad and recent iPhones such as iPhone 6, it says 9.41.
In the very first adverts for iPhone, it read 9.42.
Question-and-answer site Quora.com threw light on exactly why this week -- and it’s all down to the late Steve Jobs’ determination to get the launch of the first iPhone exactly right.
The late Steve Jobs with the iPhone
When Jobs first announced iPhone, he wanted the phone to be “frozen” at the time he announced it on stage at MacWorld.
Quora writer Brian Roemmele says, “On January 9, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. Steve Jobs took the stage at the 2007 Macworld Conference & Expo and just about 35 minutes into his presentation he said, ‘This is a day I have been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years…’
“And at just about 9:42 a.m. Steve announced the iPhone. Thus frozen in time is the near exact time the iPhone was officially announced.”
Since then, Apple presentations have got a bit shorter, and newer iPhones such as iPhone 6 were announced at 9.41 -- hence the time on screen!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The General Election, NHS and my Mum

To David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg: Please keep the NHS, the biggest jewel in the UK’s crown, shining


Ahead of the general election in the UK on Thursday (May 7), maybe one of the most closely fought elections in recent times, my only concern is for the National Health Service (NHS) to which I owe my deepest gratitude.

The NHS is an issue of great public concern and has rarely been out of the headlines in recent months. Polls show the NHS will be one of the issues people will base their voting decisions on, and I certainly would.

The Conservative and Labor parties appear to be neck and neck according to polls carried out for the Sunday newspapers. This, says the BBC, suggests a hung Parliament is likely, and the Lib Dems have been setting out their “red lines” -- with public sector pay joining education spending, a £12,500 personal allowance, £8bn for the NHS and an emergency "stability budget."

If the recent series of TV debates produced just one moment of consensus, it was on the importance of the NHS. Despite cuts elsewhere all the major parties, from left and right alike, appear to be in agreement that the NHS should receive more funding -- the argument being how much is needed and where this should come from.

An Economist/Ipsos MORI poll  shows that two in five of the British public (38%) think that health care is one of the most important issues facing Britain today, currently ranked second only to immigration (45%), and above the economy (28%) and unemployment (21%).

I write about the general election because it will be held one day after the 23rd anniversary of my mum Vicky’s death on May 6, 1992.  And no one would have been a bigger defender of the NHS than her.

The NHS is what makes me proud to be British. Paying my taxes and National Insurance contributions was never a problem because they were my insurance for old age, as it was for Vicky.

Although I neglected to register in time to vote from abroad, I will follow closely and hope the party that will preserve and give adequate funding to the NHS wins the day.

The NHS is a life-safer and it is unthinkable how many people rely on it to survive.We certainly did.

My mum, Vicky
Vicky’s troubles began in 1984 when we were living in Beirut and she collapsed one July morning from an aneurysm. She came out of a coma five weeks later, albeit with no recent memory. That was difficult and traumatic enough, but after breaking a hip some years later, she was diagnosed with terminal viral liver cirrhosis.

We were in an out of the American University Hospital (AUH) in Beirut where she was then living. But with each visit, the costs were mounting to the point where I had to be accompanied by a cousin carrying a carrier bag full of banknotes to pay the bills. By 1990, this became practically impossible, added to the electricity and water cuts as well as the fighting and bombings. It was time for her to come and live with me in London.

A couple of months later, Vicky had a relapse and was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, a teaching hospital. It was my first experience with the NHS, not having needed it before.

Vicky was there there for over a month. A month in hospital is a long time. You get to know everyone, all the shifts, the routines and how everything works.The doctors were reluctant to let us leave because they said her days were numbered. However, she lived for another year after that, thanks to the excellent medical care she received.

We were initially in a ward but as my sister and I were with my mum all the time, we were moved to a room on our own. With sisters and nurses much too busy and overworked, we did the basics, but the nurses and doctors were on hand for the essential care, reassurance and the numerous cups of tea and Horlicks needed to keep us going.

The room was cleaned daily, without having to tip anyone to do it. The sheets were always clean, the support and kindness in abundance.

What was even more remarkable was the after-hospital care we received.

We were given a wheelchair and visited at home to see what needed to be adjusted to help Vicky and ourselves cope.

We were provided with all the medicine, the pads and all kinds of equipment for the bathroom to make washing easier. A dentist and nurse even came home and set up to treat a problem Vicky had with a tooth. A carer was also arranged for when I had to leave her to go out and do chores.

There is not one thing Vicky needed to make her comfortable at home that was not provided by the NHS.

The NHS, its staff and services were our lifeline for the year and a bit until Vicky’s death that terrible May 6 morning.


So dear Messrs. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and co, hands off the NHS or rather, hands on it -- it is our treasure!

What is the NHS?

The NHS was launched in 1948. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth -- a principle that remains at its core. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS in England remains free at the point of use for anyone who is a UK resident. That is currently more than 64.1 million people in the UK and 53.9 million people in England alone.

The NHS in England deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It covers everything from antenatal screening and routine screenings such as the NHS Health Check and treatments for long-term conditions, to transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care.

In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund declared that in comparison with the healthcare systems of 10 other countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US) the NHS was the most impressive overall. The NHS was rated as the best system in terms of efficiency, effective care, safe care, coordinated care, patient-centered care and cost-related problems. It was also ranked second for equity.

The NHS employs more than 1.6 million people, putting it in the top five of the world’s largest workforces together with the U.S. Department of Defense, McDonalds, Walmart and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Funding for the NHS comes directly from taxation. Since the NHS transformation in 2013 the NHS payment system has become underpinned by legislation. When the NHS was launched in 1948, it had a budget of £437 million (roughly £9 billion at today’s value). For 2015/16, it was around £115.4 billion.

The UK Parliament sets the overall budget available to the NHS in England. It also allocates a block grant to each devolved national government to spend on local needs. Each government may choose how much of its block grant to spend on its health care system.