Why Facebook is more important than Google now

October 14th, 2012

If Google would disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow:

I will use Bing for search.

I will use my Yahoo Mail or Outlook.com for email.

My company email also depends on GMail but I guess we can just revert to hosting our mailboxes with our web host

YouTube will certainly be missed but there will still be Vimeo, DailyMotion and others to keep me entertained.

I will NOT MISS Google+ at all. What was it for exactly?

I will have to look for a Google Analytics replacement. That would be a headache but I guess I will find some basic stuff to use.

I will no longer get checks from Google Adsense on this blog. But the amounts have become so low since I stopped blogging intensively that it will not really affect my income.

My Nexus S will be kind of frozen in time (no more App updates, and certainly no GMail). But that would not be the end of the world.

I would have to find a replacement to sync calendars across Mac and phone and iPad. But iCloud is there. So iPad/Mac problem is already solved.

But if Facebook disappears:

First of all, I would panic as I don’t have a “rolodex” with the names and contacts of all my friends and close acquaintances. Irreplaceable. (or I will have to sift through my Mac’s address book and create a “friends” group and also get the contacts of quite a number of people whose email and phone numbers I don’t have but with who I interact on Facebook).

I would lose tons of personal thoughts and memories accumulated over years. Irreplaceable.

I would lose my main source of local news. I guess Twitter can replace that to a certain extent.

I would lose access to several important groups and pages where I am active, engaged and connected to virtual communities. Irreplaceable.

I would lose touch with the stream of personal news of my friends abroad. Irreplaceable.

I would lose the daily interesting conversations that happen between me and my friends and sometimes strangers around important or unimportant subjects. Irreplaceable.

I would lose a very important messaging platform that is starting to replace my email. Could be replaced.

By and large, Facebook is irreplaceable. The fact that it has enmeshed itself so effectively into my life and a billion other lives, and that is basically a platform powered by humans makes it irreplaceable.

I don’t invest in stocks. But if I were to make a bet on one of the two companies as an investment I would put my money on Facebook.

treadclimber tc20 OST and outlook tools www.aidmyself.com

Once upon a time HM King Abdullah II commented on a blog

September 10th, 2012

It was just four years ago that HM King Abdullah II commented on The Black Iris, the well known Jordanian blog. You can see His Majesty’s comment here.

In that comment the King said: “We are a country of freedom, tolerance, diversity and openness, and everyone has the right to express their thoughts – no matter what they are”

That was in 2008.

Tomorrow, our Parliament will vote on a law that, if passed, will basically make the Black Iris an illegal site.

As far as I know, the Black Iris’s blogger, Naseem Tarawnah, is not a member of the press syndicate. His site, which the government might deem as a “news site” is not registered and licensed by the government.

The new law basically gives the government the right to block Nassem’s site.

We all know that some Jordanian new sites are unprofessional and have cause many people harm. But the answer is not to put a law in place that attempts to kill our freedom of expression and kill our emerging internet content industry.

I can’t recognize this country anymore.

How did we get from the King’s comment in 2008 to here?

More from IFA and the future of TV: dual viewer screens, the war of 3D glasses and magic remotes

September 7th, 2012

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My previous post from my trip to the IFA consumer electronics show was all about OLED and 4K and what LG, who invited me to the show, were promising consumers for the years ahead in the field of TV.

But I also wanted to share some of the other stuff I saw and give you my take on some of the technologies on offer.

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One thing we’re going to be hearing more and more about is the ability of TV screen to show different images to two people watching it. Now, for some this might sound like super anti-social. Imagine a husband and a wife sitting side by side on a sofa but each of them watching a different movie and hearing the sound on separate headphones. How romantic!

But wait, there is more to that technology, especially when it comes to gaming.

Today, playing two player racing games (and other games, obviously) meaning SPLITTING the screen. But the same technology that is used to display 3D images can be repurposed for gaming. With special gaming glasses, player 1 can see a full screen view of the game that is different from player 2.

Judging by the enthusiasm of some of the geeks at the demo stations of this technology, I think this might actually be a winning proposition.

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This brings us to 3D glasses (and “dual viewing” glasses.)
There is a competition going on between active and passive glasses. Active glasses, like this you get with Samsung 3D TVs, actually are battery powered, because they have electronic shutters in the glass that open and close very quickly to show your right eye a different image from what your left eye sees and thus creating the illusion of seeing 3D image with depth.
Passive glasses, on the other hand, don’t need batteries. They use so-called polarized glass, much like the glasses you get in 3D movie theaters. Each of the two lenses of the glasses is polarized in a different direction. The TV screen itself has a patterned filter, essentially using half of the horizontal lines on the screen to show one image and the other half of the lines to show the other image.
LG has clearly decided to go with passive glasses, which are lighter and cheaper. LG is offering those in many design styles and as clip-ons for people who wear glasses.
For a deeper explanation of both active and passive 3D technologies, check out this great CNET article. Both methods have their pros and cons. Many consider the whole 3D thing more of a gimmick. But I think it’s a gimmick that will stay with us for a while.

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55″ OLED TVs and 84″ 4K screens: the next evolutions of TV are here

September 2nd, 2012

LG_IFA_2012

Trips to the local electronic superstores in Amman will be a frustrating experience for me in the coming few years. Why? Because I seen the future of TV screens at the Berlin’s IFA consumer electronic expo. That future is big, it’s high resolution, it’s 3D and it’s smart.

LG invited me to the IFA consumer electronic show in Belin where it was showing off its latest TV innovations and I gladly obliged. Berlin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and, as I have no inclination to ever fly to Las Vegas for the big Consumer Electronic Show, I decided that a trip to The IFA is worth it.

Needless to say, all the big electronic companies where there (except Apple, which just doesn’t attend these shows). But my IFA experience started at the LG stand.

The race in television technology this year has been around two technologies mainly. The first is OLED screen technology and the 2nd is about bringing an 84″ “4k resolution” to the consumer market.

Massive LG video wall at IFA 2012

Every TV manufacturer at the IFA was aiming to dazzle. LG’s wow effect at its both was created by a massive, really massive video wall made out of hundreds of flat screens with really thin bezels. Everyone entering the Massive LG exhibition stand was asked to wear on of the company’s light weight “passive” 3D glasses. Then, the crowd was hit by a massive 3D experience on that incredible video wall.

We were assaulted by 3D renditions of everything from flying books to an exploding city to planets and I have to say the effect was quite amazing. One of my issues with the show is that it seemed to be more concerned with just dazzling you with one 3D scene after the other, with no real narrative or story. Still, it was something!

But while such 3D video walls might be an interesting demo, especially for the use in museums or other venues, I was there to see what kind of TV I can expect to have at home in the coming few years.

OLED: very thin design and very black blacks!

One of the answers from LG to that question is OLED: in the shorter term, the company will start to market its OLED TVs around the world. This will actually start towards the end of the year, but there was no firm release date and pricing for the Middle East.

But before we get into that, what is the big deal with OLED? OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode technology. This is a fundamentally different technology than your typical LCD TV. Both LCD and OLED TVs use millions of little pixels to create your TV image. But this is where the similarities end. An LCD TV has a so-called back-light, an array of light elements that are on all the time. In front of this back light there is a layer made of liquid crystal pixels that can be turned on and off to let light go through or stop it. The problem is that you cannot keep the light out completely. In practical terms this means that even if you are looking at a very dark night scene in a movie, the black sky will not appear totally dark on your LCD TV. LCD TVs have gotten better through the years at displaying darker blacks, but OLED basically blows the socks off LCDs in that area.

That’s because OLED TVs don’t have a massive backlight in the back. Each OLED pixel is like a tiny light bulb that can be turned on and off. So when it’s off it’s basically a deep, dark black.

Here is a good video that explains what OLED is all about

LG was showing off it’s gorgeous OLED TVs, and, as expected it was using demo films with lots of black backgrounds, against which all kinds of vibrant objects where displayed.

The deep back of OLED TV’s is really amazing.

Furthermore, OLED TVs can be manufactured as really thin screens. LG’s 55 OLED TVs are just 4mm thin. That’s half the thickness of the iPhone. It is quite unbelievable.

Have a look at this to get a sense of what I am talking about

LG OLED TV is 4mm thin


That’s all the good news. The bad news is that these OLED TV’s will be expensive.

Judging from what I read around the web, I guess a 55″ OLED TV will be around JD 8000-9000 when released in Jordan.

But if you think that 30″ OLED screens cost twice that just a few years ago and if you remember how fast the price of big screen LCDs has come down in the last few 5 years, then you could predict that OLED TVs could become a mainstream item in the next 3 years or so.

Expect to see demo units of LG’s 55″ OLED TVs in Jordan and the Levant soon. And prepare to be dazzled (and frustrated if you can’t afford them!).


The race for 4K

LG'S 84" 4K TV

The other big news for LG at IFA was its 84″ 4K TV. The company has released this as an actual consumer product in its home market Korea a little while ago.

You will hear the term “4K” a lot in the coming years, because that seems where the industry sees the next mile stone. So what the heck is 4K?

Well, imagine 4 full HD 42″ TVs stuck together as one huge screen. That’s basically 4k.

Hollywood movies, when shot digitally, are shot at 4K resolution. 4K TVs will bring that kind of cinema-like experience to the home. From what I’ve seen at the IFA I have a feeling that in 4 to 5 years that kind of experience will become more common, if not mainstream.

When I asked Ken Hong, LG’s Global Communications Director about why LG was bringing a A 84″ 4K to the market when in fact there are no 4K Bluray discs (or much downloadable content) for consumers to buy, he immediately answered that a company like LG will not wait for content to emerge, but instead will push the market forward aggressively.

Of course, you can watch conventional HD content (like a Bluray or a movie downloaded from iTunes) on a 4K TV. LG and others will all tell you that they have built special “upscaling” software into their TVs and/or Bluray players that enhance the appearance of a TV image stretched from 2 million pixels in a full HD frame to the 8 million of a 4K frame, but that’s, of course, just a temporary fix until movie studios come out with 4K content.

The race for higher screen resolutions is on. It’s not just on you TV screen. If you think that the iPad, with its small screen of 10 inches, packs a million more pixels than your 42″ TV FullHD screen you start getting an idea where all of this race is headed.

For now, a 84″ 4K TV from LG will cost you around US$ 20,000 in Korea. At that price, I only expect to see it in houses of the super-rich and maybe in the board rooms of big corporations. But at least we can say the next milestone of home-cinema experience is on the visible horizon.

I will be writing more posts about what I saw at the IFA in the coming few days, but for now I will keep it at that.

The best of IFA 2012: Jordan’s tech reporters uncover the show’s best kept secret

August 31st, 2012

Forget about 84″ screens with 4K resolution.. Forget about OLED and true blacks. Forget about 3D with active glasses, passive glasses and no glasses. Forget about tablets, smartphones and super thin laptops. You can even forget about wall mounting brackets..

Don’t believe the hype from all those electronics companies. Because your brave tech reporters from Jordan have braved severe back aches, expensive trade show food, overcrowded subway trains and hordes of salespeople in suits to uncover the best of this year IFA consumer tech show in Berlin.

Behold.. The drawing robot!

360east has teamed up with TechTech’s Fouad Jeryes to bring you this world exlusive hands-on video of the technology that will change everything..

Why am I joining the Jordan Internet Blackout

August 28th, 2012

For the past decade and a half, a large part of my belief in Jordan as a homeland has been based on the fact that we had a free uncensored internet (yes I know about the Arabtimes.com exception, but let’s just agree that the net in Jordan was largely free and uncensored).

What does the internet have to do with my belief in Jordan and it’s future and my future in it?

The internet is our public arena.

It has helped Jordanians gain the world’s knowledge.

It is a platform for education. A totally new form of education.

It is where we are having our important political debates as we try to find a way forward for the country.

It is a medium where a new generation of Jordanian have learned the culture of self expression and the exchange of ideas.

It is a source of income and business opportunities for so many entrepreneurs and knowledge workers.

It was a symbol of hope that Jordan can someday be a truly free a democratic country.

But no.. The dark forces of moral lecturing and the dark forces of political authoritarianism just couldn’t handle that.

We have a Minister of Information Technology who wants to police us morally. And a Minister of Information who find no problem in proposing a law that allows the government to block news sites.

These are people stuck in the analogue world.

They are stuck in a mentality that dictates that citizens cannot be fully free.

These forces are taking away the last bright thing about Jordan.

We have a failing political reform process.

We have a government that thinks by putting a fence around the 4th circle is a solution for public protests.

And now they want to take the internet away from us.

Our silence would be criminial.

That’s why I am joining the Jordan Blackout tomorrow Wednesday!

Go to 7oryanet to joint too.

Internet freedom in Jordan: the beginning of the end?

July 31st, 2012

Whenever journalists, investors or ordinary people ask me: why has Jordan been able to shine in the region in the field of technology, web business and web content, one of my standard answers has always been: our relative freedom and our open internet policies.

Over the past decade, Jordan has been steadily building a reputation in the region as the Silicon Valley of Arabia. Scores of web and mobile startups are mushrooming in the country. Social media companies are on the rise. A vibrant social conversation is evolving in the country.

But our free internet way of life, which we have enjoyed since the introduction of the commercial internet in the country since 1995, is now under threat. Real threat.

What started as an effort last year by some citizens, who are driven with a moralistic agenda against pornography, has now been turned into a dangerous government directive, initiated by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology . In recent days, Jordanian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have, in fact, received letters from the Telecommunication Regulation Commission (TRC), which oversees the world of telecoms in the Kingdom, directing them to take measures to ban pornographic websites.

Furthermore, there have been unclear statements by the Ministry that there is work underway with an “Australian company” to work on some system which seems to be aimed at giving the government the ability to ban pornographic sites.

All these statement have not been properly explained and are shrouded in an ambiguous language.

This development is extremely alarming, especially that Jordan’s sensible, open Internet policy has really allowed the country not only to shine as a potential “Silicon Valley” in the Middle East, but also stand out in the field of individual freedoms in a region that is known to be full of “Internet Enemies”. To the north, Syria has alway policed the internet in an aggressive manner, and to the south, Saudi Arabia, is notorious for its banning of not only porn sites, but also other political sites and blogs.

At a time when people in the region are coming out on the streets, demanding more freedoms and refusing to be governed by authoritarian regimes, Jordan should have been a model for the possibility of free, peaceful and civilised dialogue. Even in the days before the democratic opening in 1989 and before the internet, Jordan has always had a relatively liberal attitude to information flow.

Opening the door to a policy of banning sites, based on this or that “moral” agenda is a dangerous precedent. There always have been some voices in Jordan to pressure the government to go toward a “Saudi style” internet. These calls have never been effective as the general government policy was to encourage the spread of internet culture and to adhere to international standard for the free flow of information.

But it is only now that the government has acted, maybe driven by fear of grassroots action or to appease certain political powers in the street. Other observers see this as nothing more that a convenient excuse for the government to crack down on internet media in general. Jordan has hundreds of small news websites, some of which are critical of the government. They could be a target of future bans as well.

The anti-porn campaign has been able to gather around 34,000 supporters since it started in 2011. A couple of dozen of their supporters staged a small demonstration in front of the Ministry of ICT some weeks ago. They have been lobbying the government too, meeting with officials and generally hearing favourable comments on their efforts. The campaign’s agenda (supposedly “protecting the youth from porn”, etc, etc) is an easy way to sign up supporters. Jordan is a relatively conservative country, and some people who have not had the chance to think this issue through, can be easily convinced to “Like” such a campaign’s Facebook page or even sign a petition.

However, it is clear that a large segment of Jordanian society is against introducing internet bans and censorship.

A campaign promoting internet freedoms, advocating the concept of “self protection” and representing a clear stance against government filtering of the net was launched in April this year. This counter campaign has already amassed over 10,000 supporters on Facebook. As the discussion has risen to the level of op-eds in the national press in Jordan, the counter campaign is being acknowledged by writers and opinion leaders.

The discussion on Facebook clearly shows that many Jordanians know that government censorship of the net is bad for the state of freedoms in the country. They also know that such bans are ineffective as a way to “protect” kids.

But the government seems intent on reversing the Kingdom’s liberal internet policies. The Ministry of ICT said that an upcoming telecoms law will contain clause for a “clean internet”. It is the slippery slope toward losing our internet freedom. WHo determines what “clean” means? Parents and individuals at home or Big Brother at a government ministry?