Useful Firefox Add-ons

26 03 2009

Most of us, Internet users here in Syria, are struggling each day to get the most out of our 4 Kb/s connections.

There’s no doubt that Firefox surely did help us in terms of page-rendering speeds, and its efficient caching system. But unfortunately, we can’t ask for more with 4 Kbs.

However, for those of you who love to go the whole way for a better browsing experience, here are some very useful Firefox add-ons that I use on a daily basis, all of them are freeware:

1 – Flashblock

This add-on will disable all Flash objects on every page you visit, and replace them with “Play” buttons that you can click to activate only the objects you want to see. Very useful and saves lots of bandwidth.

More info and download here: http://flashblock.mozdev.org/

2 – Gmail Notifier

This one will sit next to the search bar, and will check periodically for new emails on your Gmail account(s). This also saves the bandwidth to go check your Gmail account every once and a while to check for new emails.

More info and download here: http://www.nexgenmedia.net/extensions/

3 – FoxyProxy

This will help streamline your browsing experience. Recommended for those who use more that one proxy server, or those who use Ultrasurf (or any other proxy breakers). You can define patterns to visit certain websites using one proxy address, and others using another. The add-on will then automatically switch your proxy settings accordingly.

More info and download here: http://foxyproxy.mozdev.org/

4 – Page Saver Basic

This one will help you take images of whole websites and save them on your hard drive. Very useful for saving the page as it is displayed in your browser in JPEG or PNG format, for a later review.

More info and download here: http://pearlcrescent.com/products/pagesaver/

Hope you find them useful as much as I did. Please drop a comment if you know any other useful add-ons, and tell us your opinion.

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Internet Access In Syria, F.A.Q.

1 07 2008

This post was originally intended as a response to comments on a previous post Broadband, Syria: The Dream. But I found it to contain lots of useful information (especially to foreigners) that I found it better to publish it as a new post instead.

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Q. How much do you pay a month to get ADSL connection at home?
A. It depends on the line speed, starting at 2400 Syrian Pounds per month (conversion rate $1 ~= 48 S.P.) for 256 Kbps. 3700 S.P. for 512 Kbps. Check the following table for more details: ADSL connection – CEC ISP

Q. I’m intending to live in Damascus, are there places there where I wont be able to get a connection?
A. Yes, there are. DSL capable phone centers do not cover all areas in Damascus. I couldn’t find an official list of covered areas in English, so I translated it to you:
Covered areas in Damascus: Mouhajereen, Mezzah, Kafr Souseh, Barzeh, Baghdad street, Alnasr, Aljalaa’, Bab Sharki, Rouken Eldin, Althawrah, Alyarmook, Doummar.

Q. do you have limitations and proxies form your house or are those limitations removed?
A. Some private ISPs don’t use a proxy server, some do. However it doesn’t matter because ALL internet connections from Syria to the outside world go through an invisible government proxy server, and all ISPs here are forced to connect through that server. So, YES there are limitations.
The limitations are mostly used for political reasons (i.e. Israeli websites, and pro-Israeli agencies and corporations). There are also some limitations that WE Syrians cannot understand, the following non-political (in nature) websites are blocked too: Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, EBAY, and the whole .blogspot domain, and many others…
Anyway, you could easily bypass this block, like most Syrians do, you could install a VPN program, or use an online service to get where you want.

Links you may find useful (in English):
The Official Public Syrian ISP
Aloola ISP

I hope I was able to answer your questions. If you have any more questions do not hesitate to ask, you could also email one of the ISPs I listed here for more information.

There is one problem though. New ADSL connections are put on hold for the time being, because (as officially said by the government officials) we ran out of PDN access points, and the U.S. (and other countries) are banning the export of necessary equipments that we need to widen our infrastructure. So, you may face some difficulties trying to get a new ADSL line. Currently, Syrians are trading available lines between themselves for a much higher price because of that.
There are other forms of connections, like Satellite access. And currently, cell phone companies are test-driving their new 3G networks, so you may as well try to get a 3G connection (speeds up to 3.7 Mbps) to access the internet. Check this page for further details: Syriatel 3G Internet Access.

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For other questions about Syria and lots of tourism information, check out the Syrian Ministry of Tourism’s official website: Ministry of Tourism – Syria.





أين المحتوى العربي؟؟

11 06 2008
لا مهرب من الحقيقة المرة.. فقد تبيّن أن المحتوى العربي على الانترنت لا يشكل سوى 0.5% من المحتوى الكلي على الشبكة!لا أستغرب حقيقةً هذا الموضوع، خاصةً بعد أن واجهتنا (أنا والبعض من أصدقائي) مشاكل مأساوية عندما أردنا البحث عن موضوع علمي في ذلك المحتوى العربي. المؤسف في الموضوع أن معظم نتائج البحث جاءت على شكل مشاركات تافهة في منتديات لا علاقة لها لا بالعلم ولا بغيره.

ويمكن التحقق من وجود المشكلة عن طريق البحث في Google باعتباره بوابة الدخول إلى الانترنت ونقطة البدء الأكثر استخداماً للبحث عن المعلومات:

جرّب البحث عن “المعالج المصغر” وانظر إلى أول 10 نتائج.

ثم جرّب البحث عن “microprocessor” وانظر إلى أول 10 نتائج.

وهذه المنتديات سابقة الذكر هي التي تشكل 90% من نسبة المحتوى العربي! وتشكل المواقع الأجنبية المكتوبة باللغة العربية 10%. فأين إذاً المحتوى العربي؟!؟!؟

للأسف، فقد وجدت أن “المحتوى العربي” غير موجود بعد! بل هو مجرد أسطورة في الوقت الحالي. أسطورة جميلة تنتظر أن تكتب وتنشر.

فكرت كثيراً في أسباب الغياب غير المبرر، ووجدت أن العرب مشغولون بقضايا أهم وأسمى، تعلو حقيقةً عن مستوى تفكير جيل الشباب الغرّ الطائش الذي لا يرى في الغرب ولا يستقي منه سوى الأخطاء والمعيبات والرذائل.

وباعتباري فرداً من سوية التفكير تلك، لا أستطيع إلا أن أستغرب أشد الاستغراب كيف يظن شخصٌ ما أننا لا نحتاج إلى هذه “النهضة”، ويظنّ أننا سنكون أحسن حالاً لو بقينا في خيامنا وتركنا الغرب وشأنه. لا بد أن هذا الأسلوب كان نافعاً فيما مضى، ولكن إلى متى سنسطيع عزل أنفسنا عن الغرب والمد الحضاري الغربي؟!؟! ألم يلاحظ أحدٌ بعد أننا على حافة الاندماج مع ما يُسمى بالـ”الغرب”؟!؟!

تقول مديرة تسويق Google لمنطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا، وهي عربية الأصل، في مقابلة خاصة على التلفاز تناقش أزمة المحتوى العربي وحلولها الممكنة: (بما معناه)

“…يبدأ الحل في نشر المدوّنات على موقع Blogger… ويجب تشجيع الشركات وأصحاب رؤوس الأموال على إنشاء مواقعهم الخاصة للاستفادة من العوائد التي تقدمها خدمة Ad-Sense لهم…”

لا بد أن أذني لم تسمع ذلك جيداً، فهل هذا حلٌّ لمشكلة المحتوى العربي، أم إعلانٌ مجاني لشركة Google ومنتجاتها؟؟!؟!؟!؟ والأغرب أن مقدمي البرنامج الحواري أشادوا بهذا الحل الملائكي دون نقاشٍ يذكر!!

من المؤكد أن لا ضرر في كتابة ونشر المدونات باللغة العربية، ولكنها لا تحل المشكلة، فالمدونات لا تعدو كونها آراء شخصية منفردة، وأحياناً غير متناسقة عند الفرد الواحد. وبالتالي فهي لا تقدم مرجعاً موثوقاً يمكن العودة إليه للحصول على المعلومات.

لست خبيراً في إيجاد الحلول لمثل هذه المشاكل، ولكنني أعلم حقيقةً أن الحل يبدأ بالانفتاح والتقبّل، وليس في الانعزال والانغلاق. ومع أن الأرقام لا تبشّر خيراً الآن، إلا أنني أظن أننا على الطريق الصحيح، ولكننا لا نسير بسرعةٍ كافية.

أتمنى فعلاً أن أقرأ آراءكم وتعليقاتكم على هذا الموضوع. إذ أنني أتمنى أن يكون الواقع أجمل من ذلك.





The Unplanned Freefall

17 05 2008

The Internet is a big world. There’s no telling what you can find someday while surfing.

One of my findings, my ‘funny’ findings I should say, is an article teaching you how to survive an unplanned freefall. What if your plane crashed and you suddenly found yourself freefalling in mid-air. What would you do, or not do, to have a nice, relaxing landing?! This article explains how. But is it sarcastic, or is it for real?! Only YOU can tell.

Here’s an excerpt from the article’s introduction:

Admit it: You want to survive an airline disaster. You aren’t looking for a disaster to happen, but if it does, you see yourself coming through it. The good news is that you’re not out of touch with reality—you can do it. Sure, you’ll take a few hits, and you can count on some sweaty flashbacks later, but you’ll make it. You’ll sit up in your hospital bed and meet the press. If you are considerate, you will keep God out of your public comments, knowing that it’s unfair to sing His praises when many of your fellow passengers lack the means to offer an alternative view.

Happy freefalling…





Broadband, Syria: The Dream!

13 05 2008

I can’t help but wonder everyday about the future of the Internet here in Syria.

Currently, I’m using a monthly flat-rate modem connection to get access to the outside world. And today I stumbled upon this article, which discusses the broadband initiative in the USA. And they are quite angry because they are actually falling BEHIND in the worldwide broadband race!

The very same article is listing France as one of the world’s leaders in broadband spread. Some of the ISPs there are constructing THEIR OWN fiber networks, which led to a DSL price drop all the way down to $20/mo for a 20Mbps ADSL2+ connection!

So, according to my modest calculations (taking the average income rate in Europe into consideration), the DSL subscriber is paying ~2% of his monthly income for broadband access. Which translates to approx. 160 Syrian Pounds for the Syrian subscriber (assuming an income rate of 8000 S.P a month)! Let’s not forget that this is for a 20Mbps connection.

I’m not trying to compare my country to European countries, because I know we don’t have their financial/cultural capabilities. This post is just a reminder for the Syrian people to know how much we are falling behind in the global Internet domain.

This gap is causing lots of losses. As the Internet is growing larger and more important each day, it’s becoming the master mainstream method of communication, competing with telephone lines. And if we don’t speed up the work to close this gap, we’ll be cut out from the world in terms of communication, and we’ll lose a huge amount of productive time only because we can’t get the information we want as fast as other people in Europe or Asia.

I don’t know how to further explain the importance of the Internet in the upcoming years. But I CAN help to raise a voice of concern to those who make the decision, and I hope all of you do the same, and take your part to spread the word and educate other people about the Internet and its capabilities, in the hope of making the Syrian Broadband Dream become a reality..