Monday, June 29, 2009

Google launches Urdu transliteration service

I found out about the Google's Urdu Transliteration service today via a tweet from Badar Khushnood. I spent some time using it, and must say it does an excellent job of converting roman urdu into the native script. Some phrases that were converted flawlessly were:

Dekh magar pyar se - دیکھ مگر پیار سے

Naach na jaanay aangan tairha - ناچ نہ جانے آنگن ٹھیڑھا

Dil kay behlanay to Ghalib yeh khayaal acha hay - دل کے بہلانے کو غالب یہ خیال اچھا ہے

Daant tor diyay yaar - دانت توڑ دیے یار

No pattern to the aforementioned phrases btw, just some stuff I wrote off the top of my head :)

Interestingly, when you write "Daant tor" and specifically "tor" it converts it to a tor with a TOEY (ط) and not a TAY(ت). Pressing backspace, it offers more options ... one of which is tor with a TAY. Try it. Cool stuff. There were, however, some inconsistencies. For example, Umer works fine (عمر), Umar doesn't (امر); Abbas converts to ابباس; Nisar converts to نصر; but like I said, if you press backspace it offers more options including the correct one.

Some minor glitches, but nothing that cannot be improved upon later. For the most part, the transliteration engine rocks and converts most common phrases and words without a problem (case in point, bhains ki taang - بھینس کی ٹانگ) lol ! All in all, nicely done Google.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spectacular Saturn

I have always been amazed by the stars (who hasn't?) and the infinite magnanimity of our universe which makes our existence seem so minor and insignificant .. we're more like a speck in the wilderness and that's it. I remember going to the Karachi PIA planetarium on field trips in school, and being awestruck at the wonders of the universe they told us about. From the amazing phenomenon that is the solar eclipse to the composition of planets farther out in our Solar System. If we as a species did not have so much to deal with on our own Planet, we'd be making every effort in traveling the stars, that's for sure. Who knows what wonders await us outside of our little neighborhood in this vast uncharted space. That is also the reason I became a fan of science fiction ... at people's imagination of how the universe could be, and how we one day can travel great distances and seek out other life in the universe. Of how we could one day forget our differences and unite under our commonalities, our humanity.

Having said that, in reality, it is a pipedream right now and all you could really do in this day and age is to go out on a starry night and gaze at the beautiful stars. That's something I did last night! Me and my cousin went to the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society's star gazing sessions that are open to the public. We saw a greatly magnified version of the moon, with all its craters visible. And finally, the beautiful and spectacular Saturn with four of its moons clearly visible. It looked something like the picture here, except it doesn't show the moons. It was the very first time I had seen any of the planets, and the experience was simply wow-ing. Its rings were clearly visibly and very bright. In school, they taught us that Saturn had 18 moons. Well, thanks to the recent Cassini mission ... we now know that a total of 62 satellites actually orbit Saturn. They range from mile-wide rocks to full-fledged celestial bodies much like our own Moon. The rings, too, were thought to be condensed together but as one of the people told me there .. that Cassini discovered that there were actually thousands of small ringlets orbiting Saturn (and that they appear to be a much bigger and a condensed ring from this far out). Millions of years from now, these rings will apparently cease to exist and will eventually break away from Saturn's gravity. I guess we won't be around to see that happening.

It is an experience you have to go through before it sinks in. We only get to "learn" about these things in books, but when you actually get to see a moving planet thousands of miles away slowly but surely drifting in space, it sends a shiver down your spine! Absolutely amazing! You cannot help but say WOW to Allah mian's greatness and at the same time realize our own insignificance. I only wish we did more of such activities back home. Makes your jaws drop and kneel in prayer to God Almighty. SubhanAllah!

Image courtesy

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pakistan - T20 Champions!

Words cannot describe the happiness and joy all of us Pakistanis felt as Afridi scrambled to make the final run to beat Srilanka and, in turn, crown Pakistan T20 Champions! A thoroughly un-Afridi like and un-Pakistan like performance that saw us through in the end despite the SriLankans posting a half-a-decent total with some hitting at the death. It is a day that we will cherish long into the future, a day when everything went right for Pakistan. From an amazing start (SriLanka were 2-2 and 70-6 at one stage) to a thoroughly professional batting performance by Afridi n co. that culminated in this awe-inspiring victory. It was also a truly team effort, Mohammed Aamer, Umar Gul, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik and of course Shahid Afridi. Every one did their bit and contributed to this massive win.

It is more than a win, it is a morale booster, a sign of hope and that all is not lost. More importantly, it is a slap to the face of all those who seek to destroy us. Try as you may, but you can only keep us down for so long; for we shall rise a stronger and a unified nation. Youtube is filled with videos of people reveling in celebration on the streets of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. And rightly so, the country hasn't had anything to feel good about in eternity. It took 17 years coming, but Pakistani cricketers finally delivered some silverware to a nation starved of any sporting success for the longest time.

Younis Khan mentioned in the presentation ceremony that the win is a gift to the nation, and what a fitting gift it is indeed. How else would you collectively raise the spirits of a nation as down as Pakistan has been recently and how else would you bring a smile to the face of every Pakistani, whether they are in the refugee camps in Charsadda or as far away as Melbourne? That is power of Sport, and one which unites a country like nothing else. Not to mention Bob Woolmer, to whom this victory was aptly dedicated to also.

I mentioned in my previous post about an e-rally that sought to make Pakistan and Pakistan cricket as the most talked about topic on Twitter. Although, there were less than 1000 people tweeting about this topic, but it was great to see our hashtag (#PakCricket) made as high as number 5 on trending topics on Sunday! So, kudos to everyone who made this happen. No doubt hundreds of people only got to know about the game (or even twenty20!) by seeing our hashtag in trending topics.

Here's hoping this victory goes a long way towards turning Pakistan's fortunes. Finally, dedicated to Team Pakistan is the song Stand Up For the Champions:

Friday, June 19, 2009


Facebook may be the social networking service of choice for most people on the web (they recently surpassed the 200 million mark for members!), but it is Twitter that is making the waves these days, and for good reason! I've been a member of Twitter for quite some time now, but only in recent months have I become totally hooked to it. It has galvanized the social media industry with it's awesome concept of real-time updates and bringing people together in a completely different way.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a service that lets you post real-time updates from your phone or through the web on your own page using applications such as UberTwitter (blackberry), Tweetie (iPhone) and TweetDeck (computer). Other people can choose to follow you depending how interesting your updates are (basically, how interesting you are). Twitter hash tags (for e.g., #Karachi) help keep track of topics being discussed and helps in making new connections and/or finding people with similar interests. It is also meant to bring context to people's tweets. At the time of writing of this post, the most popular hashtags on twitter were #IranElection #Tehran and #FollowFriday. Clicking on these will display updates in real-time! Here's a nice little video I found on youtube that explains the service in plain english:

TIME recently published an article about Twitter entitled 'How Twitter will change the way we live'. One of the excerpts from the article couldn't be any truer ... "If you're looking for interesting articles or sites devoted to Kobe Bryant, you search Google. If you're looking for interesting comments from your extended social network about the three-pointer Kobe just made 30 seconds ago, you go to Twitter." How true!

In Pakistan, Twitter has taken off recently. Online activism using sites like Facebook and Twitter has been the highlight of the last 1-2 years. And with an increasing number of Pakistanis turning to the web to voice their opinions in the form of blogs and tweets, things can only get better. The trending topic among Pakistanis right now is obviously the ongoing Twenty20 world cup. Using hash tags such as #t20, #PakCricket and #Pakistan, several hundred people are tweeting their thoughts on the web in real-time. Teeth Maestro is even gathering support for an e-rally in support of our team for tomorrow's final.

So go ahead, join the tweeting bandwagon and while you're at it ... click on the cute birdie if you wanna follow me :)

Related Links:

Twitter on Wikipedia

HowStuffWorks - How Twitter works

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pakistan downs South Africa to reach Twenty20 final

Pakistan steamrolled their way into the finals of the ICC World Twenty20 by defeating favorites South Africa at Trentbridge today! I cannot help but think of a similar post I did about two years ago, in the last installment of this tournament, when we beat New Zealand to enter the final. Although that particular final proved to be something of a heartbreak for us, but the tournament cemented Pakistan's place as a major force in the twenty20 arena. I have to admit one thing though, I was initially very skeptical of this format of cricket, but two years later it seems I have been proved wrong. The format has literally taken off, thanks in part to the Indian domestic leagues of ICL and IPL. The IPL doosra especially generated a mammoth interest among cricket lovers all over the world.

Much was made of this mouth-watering tie beforehand. Cricinfo called it a clash of cultures - 'Science vs. Art', a clash of arguably the most consistently performing team against the most inconsistent lot of players ever assembled. Don't get me wrong, the men in green can be superb at times, but they've choked far too many times in the past (1999 world cup, 2007 T20 final etc.) to ever let their fans rest assured. If anything, it is Pakistan who deserve this label more than South Africa if you ask me. South Africa have just been plain unlucky as far as them not winning many tournaments is concerned. Their loss to Australia in the 1999 world cup was especially heartbreaking and I genuinely felt sad for them that day. But I digress; let me come back to the topic in question. The truth is South Africa knew that a side as mercurial as Pakistan had the potential to undo their dogged determination and organization and a spark of brilliance is all that would be required in this shortened version of the game to triumph over their all-round better side.

Pakistan came into the game full of confidence having finally found their feet in the tournament with the awesome defeat of New Zealand that left Vettori crying foul at Umar Gul's outstanding bowling, and the subsequent beating of Ireland. South Africans, meanwhile, maintained a one hundred percent winning rate in the tournament having won all their seven games leading up to the semi-final. Typical of them. The game started at a frantic pace with Kamran Akmal smashing South African bowlers all over the park in the first few overs. But Pakistan lost Shahzaib and Akmal early on and had to rely on Afridi (yes, Afridi) to build their innings. And what a fantastic job he did, playing the anchoring role for the side. For once, he played sensibly not going after every ball in an attempt to hit it out of the park. He kept his head, and a nation heaved a sigh of relief as his innings proved to be vital. It was only some excellent South African bowling at the death that restricted Pakistan to a total of 149, which was a good 15-20 runs of what it could've been at one stage.

South African innings started in familiar fashion with Abdul Razzaq getting the spanking treatment early on. Graeme Smith was the first to fall to Mohammed Aamer as he tried to pull a short delivery. On came Afridi and delivered the decisive blow for Pakistan by taking out Gibbs and de Villiers in 3 balls! No one could deny him his glory as this was his day, and his magnificent effort saw Pakistan through to the end. Jacques Kallis fought on for his side, but ultimately fell to Saeed Ajmal. Some more awesome bowling by Umar Gul ensured that the South Africans never got back in the game and even though the final margin of victory was just 7 runs, by the end of the day the Proteas had well and truly been outplayed by a side that is peaking at the righ time!

Shot of the day belonged to Kamran Akmal for that awesome drive off Abi Morkel straight down the ground. Man, that was beautifully picked up or what. Awesome shot. It was also funny watching the duel between Afridi and Kallis especially when the former blew a kiss to the latter :). There was definitely no love lost there!

On another note, it was Wasim Akram who had said at the start of the tournament that Pakistan were one of the favorites to win this crown. I must admit, I too, enjoyed a laugh or two at his expense when I heard that, but how wrong all of us have been proven to be! Wasim, you were right, no one is laughing at you now. Pakistan are odds-on to win the final now no matter who they face. And for a nation that has been down in the doldrums for the best part of half-a-decade, this couldn't be a better time. Nothing unites Pakistan like cricket, and winning this world cup would be absolutely fantastic for the country at this point. So Team Pakistan, do us proud ... let's win it for Bob Woolmer, let's win it for the 160 million cricket-loving people of Pakistan!

Highlights of the game are available here:
Pak Innings | SA Innings

Monday, June 15, 2009

Help Counts!

Lest we forget, our brothers and sisters in the once peaceful valley of Swat need our help in what is being termed as a migration of epic proportions. While many of the displaced people have started returning to their homes following recent victories by the Pakistan Army, but there are still a large number of people who are still out in the open and is depserate need of help.

If you are worried that your donations will not reach the affected people and want greater transparency in the relief effort, fret no more. is one such site which provides the transparency you've been looking along with live updates of the ongoing relief effort on their website. Ideally, all relief organizations and NGOs should be utilizing this method as it is an excellent way to keep track of its progress and at the same time earn people's trust. Hats off to the people over at HelpCounts for this great effort!

Please donate generously!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My 2 minutes of fame

The Toon may find themselves in dire straits at the moment, a predicament that can at best be defined as unprecedented. But there was a time not so long ago when the club was flying high in the Premier League, as I remarked in my earlier post after we were condemned to Championship on the final day of the season. In retrospect, this seems like a minor annoyance to a football club regarded by many as one of the top clubs in England. The 'Save Our Seats' campaign talked about in the article below was indeed an embarrassing development for the club, and while the 'Save Our Sites' campaign never really took off, it was something that saddened me as fan. What may I be talking about? Well, I used to run my own unofficial toon fan site back in the day and one day some legal representative contacted me to remove the club's logo on the website. I protested by writing back to the club, posting to fan forums and they suggested I write to some of the local newspaper editors. And so I did, and much to my delight they decided to run a story on me.

And so I ended up in the Sunday Sun of England's north-east one fine Sunday with my picture, imagine that. The article is quoted below:

Toon chiefs leave teen crestfallen

Newcastle United have been accused of bully-boy tactics after bosses showed the red card to a teen fan's website.

Magpie-mad Raza Abbas is furious after officials told him to remove all images with the club crest.

The 17-year-old, a fan since 1995, was told he was infringing trademarks ... and the clampdown could hit fans worldwide.

Raza, who lives in Karachi, Pakistan, said: "I am a diehard fan and I run an unofficial website."

"A couple of days ago the FA's legal representative contacted me and asked me to remove images that display the club crest."

"There are a lot more disturbing things on the web the authorities should be dealing with, rather than trying to stop sites with inoffensive material.

"They said that the use of the club crest imples that I am connected to Newcastle United.

"How they failed to notice the huge 'Unofficial Website' notice is beyond me!

"It is just utter nonsense that loyal fans are treated like this."

The matter could spark an embarrassing Save our Sites campaign against the club still trying to live down the Save Our Seats fiasco.

That campaign was launched in October 1999 after plans were revealed to move 4000 season ticket holders to make way for corporate clients.

The matter ended up in court where the club claimed a hollow victory.

A Newcastle United spokesman said: "The FA Premier League has a legal department which looks after the intellectual property of all the Premiership clubs.

"We have to establish parameters to protect our trademarks.

"There are so many of these sites and it is difficult to know who are the genuine fans and who are the commercial entities making money out of the club.

"Anyone using club trademarks gets a very polite 'cease and desist' letter.

"We have got 15 different trademarks and protecting them costs a fortune.

"There are other ways for people to show they are a Newcastle fan."
The "unofficial" website in question here is located at: I stopped updating it quite a while ago as I got busy with college n all. I still have that shirt though, an original Toon home replica of 2000-01 season.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Star Trek - The Movie

First of all, what an awesome movie - for trekkies and non-trekkies alike. I've never seen so many non-trekkies say so many good things about a trek movie, which is fantastic! Credit to J.J. Abrams for bringing back the franchise on his own. Doing a reboot of a franchise - let alone one as illustrious as Star Trek - gives you a lot of room to be flexible in terms of where you want to take it, and J.J.Abrams used that freedom to perfection in my opinion. By making the story revolve around the lives of Kirk and Spock (who couldn't be anymore different from each other) he has struck a masterstroke and tells us precisely why both of them make a perfect team - easily the best Captain / First Officer duo in the franchise. Hats off to him for a truly awesome job!

Also, a shout out to the Pakistani actor Farhan Tahir as well for portraying Captain Robau of USS Kelvin (destroyed early on in the film by Captain Nero with James Kirk's father George on it). To be honest, I had not heard of him before this film but the fact that he's landed such a good role deserves applause. According to, he has two films in the offing at the moment - Ashes (2009) and Two Mothers (2010). Will definitely keep an eye out for them.