Monday, October 16, 2006

Malaysian man pays US$54,300 for car license plate..

Jeez, can anybody get even more stupid? $54k for a licence plate? Why? Why? Why? Well actually a lot are even more stupid than this. In the UAE were I used to the live, the goverment used to hold auctions on licence plates, and people would buy. The only difference there is that the licence plates have only numbers on them, not letters, and they have different colors. For example, the red licence plate was the first color to come out, so a number like '123' would easily go over $54k, it might even reach $1,000,000. I have read in the papers there of prices going up to $1,000,000 for one stupid number. Some people in the world just have too much money and cant wait to find ways to spend it ridiculously. If it was cheaper for example, it wouldnt be as stupid, but spending thousands or even hundreds of thousands on dollars on a licence just extremely idiotic.

Its just like a cell phone number, some people (such as myself) got to choose the last 4 digits, for example my last 4 digits spell NAEL (6235). I did not have to pay anything for that. If I did have to pay something, I wouldnt go over $10. Who gives a shit what your numbe looks like anyway. Most people store them in their cell phones and never have to see the number ever for the car, having an easy to remember licence plate such as 'TAN' (like in the article) or '1234' like in the UAE just makes it easier for the cops to remember your licence plate. Oh right I forgot in the UAE the licence plate number is directly proportional to your 'royalness'. The nicer your number the better the connections you have in the goverment and royal family. So '1234' might be the cousin of president (who doesnt even have a number on his plates, just a golden eagle)


Tired beyond belief

I think today can go down in my book of tiring days as the most tiring day ever. It started out with the gym this afternoon, then some jogging, followed by a game of squash (you might be thinking 'wow Nael seems pretty active' but mind you the last time I did any activity of half this magnitude was 2 months ago) then taking out some empty boxes that were lying around in my appartment, and tidying up the place, moving some furniture around to put the dining table where it should be but it wasnt because the boxes were taking its place and then reading two chapters from a book my professor selected for me to present a lecture on next week.
(Man Ms Judith (my highschool english teacher) wont be impressed at all with that last 6 line sentence...)
It took me a good 3 hours to read one chapter and prepare some notes on it, I still have another one, plus making some slides. Its not that bad, but it takes so much time and I was already tired and the best part of it all is that I have to teach for an hr next week! Crazzy!

Plus I will probably have a pile of work to do for my job which I excused myself from all last week since I had a crazy ass midterm to study for which could not have went worse than it did on Friday. I can't be more sure that I did horrible on first grad school midterm down the drain (20% of my grade) Ill be lucky if I pass it was multiple choice too and who needs me to explain to them how my luck works with multiple choice exams..especially when math is cant get worse than that, a math multiple choice exams where the wrong answers you might come up with show up in the option list just so you can get slightly excited about the fact that after all the calculations you did your answer is on the list then to get rudely surprised with a big red 'X' right through your answer! (The part about the excitement wont happen in this midterm since I guessed a lot of the answers..I wish they were educated, a few of them were wild roullete guesses)

Anyway enough ranting, Im off to bed. Oh while messing around on Facebook I found away to import my blog into my notes there..Pretty cool since I was thinking today why doesnt Facebook have a blog..but I guess 'my notes' is 'my blog' in facebook terms.

Friday, September 22, 2006

First attempt at Autodeskin' it!

I am taking a graduate level Mechanical Engineering course for my Masters degree. Its a 3D Surface Modelling course. A program called AutoDesk Inventor is used to build 3d objects from 2d drawings. I started playing around with it today to figure out how things work in it. The final result is the following drawing:

Hmm..this would look neat on my desk at home..or even in my office (aka a cubicle)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Google your computer

Since I formatted my computer last week I had to reinstall a lot of the software I initially had. I was downloading Google Earth since I like just playing around with it once in a while, and I came across Google Desktop. It brings Google search to your desktop and allows you to search for files on your machine very quickly and efficiently. It has several nice features since you can add several gadgets suchs as weather, news, etc. I took them all off since itll probably just slow down my computer, plus I dont need all these things all the time.
By default the Google Desktops bar will appear on the right of the screen, but it took too much space so I just moved it down to the bottom in the taskbar and then made it more compact by removing all the other unecessary features like the weather.

I also installed a neat virtual desktop called MSVDM and thats what you see in that image next to Google Desktop. This gives you 4 virtual desktops to organize your work on. I am a fan of multiple desktops and alway use it on my Apple laptop and it just makes working on several things less chaotic. For example on one desktop you can have your favorite email program open, and on the next desktop your assignment work, while on the third you have some reference website for your assignment. Switch between desktops by clicking on the desktop number and everything assigned to that desktop will appear while the rest is minimized. That is why it is called virtual, as its really not 4 desktops, but it just behaves as if there were 4.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Where did my summer go?

So summer is officially over now, and its back to school for thousands of students including one new grad student by the name of Nael..yup thats me, I started my studies yesterday, but I had no classes yet. Neither did I have classes today, but everything should kick into 4th gear next week.

I managed to get myself my old undergrad job at UTS again, so Im an SSC again for the 3rd year in a row. Lots of things changed in the labs, mainly BSB and Mills this year. The new labs use ID cards to open after hours, and the best part these new labs open on their own in the morning and close alone at night. Apparently all the labs will be fitted for this which is great! Even better, instructor's id cards can be programmed to open the labs as well, so if an instructor needs the lab open early, they can go ahead and do it themselves!

I met with my supervisor, Dr. Christopher Anand two days ago and talked about my project somewhere. Although I spoke with one of the other grad students, he gave me a better picture of what I am required to do for this project. They are having some visual problems with the software, and the way somethings are drawn and thats where I am to start the project and get familiar with the code base.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

M. Eng in 7 days

My final week of my summer is about to start. Next week this time I would have finnished my first day of classes in the Masters of Computational Engineering program - if I have any classess that day. I have to take 7 courses during the program to graduate with this degree and I should be all done by Dec 2007. The plan is to take 3 courses now, another three next term and one more course in my final term. Ill be working on my project during this time as well.

I already talked to my professor and Ill be working on a way to optimize MRI magnetic coils and their placement around an object. I should be visiting St. Jose Hospital in Hamilton to see this MRI in action. I think I made a good decision to pursue this, its an excellent field and I should hopefully find a good job next year.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Windows XP on Apple Power PC? Why??

Although I prefer Mac OS, Windows still has some actually. There are a few applications I use that are only available for Windows. For example, I play this web based online game called Utopia. You can download a calculator to help you do some calculations that can help you make decisions in the game. Unfortunately this calculator is only available for Windows and the developer does not want to port it to Mac OS for whatever reasons he has so I need to use Windows for that. I have another laptop with Windows but this weekend my friend's cat decided to chew the power cable and now the laptop cannot charge its battery. So I spent the weekend looking for a Windows emulator for Mac OS that is FREE. I came across something called Q and it looks like it works, but its really slow. Heres a screenshot of Windows XP on Mac OS:

Strange? Yup it looks strange!

Monday, August 07, 2006

OpenGL Programming

In an effort to get more involved in 3d programming which may be my field of study when I finally sort out my Masters of Engineering here at McMaster I downloaded what is referred to "The RedBook" which is the official guied to learning OpenGL.
OpenGL is an environment for developing 2d and 3d graphics applications from simulations to games. Its widely used in industry since its first release in 1992. FlightGear and VDrift which I have been working with during my employment with the Flight Simulator use OpenGL to render the graphics and gameplay. I think its really good to have it on my resume and downloading this official guidebook is a good start. Ill be posting updates on this as I get more involved.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Moog screenshot

Here is the screenshot you were promised yesterday:

Some more changes were done today..its getting better everyday..hmm..The stop server button is not aligned properly...grr..

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Modularize Modularize Modularize

Four years of software engineering and years of getting that word hammered into my brain and I still failed to follow that concept at work which got me in trouble later as I have been modularizing my work for the past three days..If I did it from the start I would not have had this happen. The problem is that everything was together and I had no easy way of modifying the interface. Modifying anything on it required creating a new interface file, then copy the generated code and replace the old code in that one file I had. So I got sick of that, plus it would not be a good idea to hand that source to my prof as it was not organized at all. Now all the functionalities of the interface are in one file, and the look of it is in another that gets produced automatically by Fluid which comes with FLTK. (If you remember what I was talking about a month or so ago).

Heres a screenshot taken today: blog does not want to upload a photo..I shall put it up later.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Reminder to all: Italy world cup champs 2006

Ok, I know promised I will not talk about this anymore, but I just pulled out the pictures I took when I went downtown and celebrated with the Italians. Check them out here.

One Red Paperclip...

I have been keeping track of this little story of a Canadian guy who started trading a red paperclip July 12 2005 in hope of being able to trade his way into a house. Surprisingly he accomplished that on July 12 2006. This just proves that almost anything is possible!! Who thought someone would be able to trade his way from a paperclip all the way to a house.

So this whole red paper clip business just expanded big time on the web. Just googling it to find Kyle's website I came across another website where "you can trade 1 red paperclip yourself"! Crazy! A movie is apparently in the works too. Check out the site, some adventure that must have been. Congratulations to Kyle MacDonald.

The most interesting trade I found was the last trade, the city of Kipling, SK is trading a house for the role in a Hollywood movie which Kyle got by trading a snowball with a directory who happened to be one of the World's biggeest snowball collectors...what a coincidence. So whats a town going to do with a movie role? Well they are running an "American Idol" style auditions for the role in Corbin Bernsen’s movie “Donna on Demand”. So if you are around Kipling,SK on Labor Day weekend, head down there and try out!! This will probably the closest you will every get to playing a role in a Hollywood movie.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fresh Mac OS X Tiger for Vicky

So I purchased OS X Tiger earlier in the summer and didnt get the chance to install it properly on my G4 PowerBook. Today I erased everything and started from scratch. I made sure to burn the free software the guy I bought this from (off eBay).

So why is it called Vicky? The story behind that is one of my friends had a PowerBook as well and he showed me the voice recognition stuff on it and how it can tell "knock knock". The voice he used was called "Vicky". So when I showed this off to some ppl they started calling it Vicky.

Anyway its 2am and I am tired. I have a meeting with the School of Grad studies tomorrow noon, I wonder what that is all about.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Italy up to 2nd place from 13th in June 2006

I was curious to know how Italy's world ranking was affected by their recent World Cup win. Before the world cup they were ranked 13th, now they are all the way up to 2nd trailing behind Brazil. Brazil was already in 1st before the cup, and I can understand that they maintained first because they won it 5 times and Italy 4 times. What I do not understand is why is Argentina in 3rd? They went out in the quarter finals and they only won twice. I think Germany should be 3rd since they won it 3 times so far plus they played much better than Argentina in this cup. Anyway who cares, Italy is 2nd. So I hope everybody survived this month of me posting mostly world cup news, this is definitely the last now. (I still feel I am going to read something sooner or later about this and start ranting on it again)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Definitely not a psychic!

My predictions:
Inzaghi doesnt play against Australia and rests for the game after (Argentina). Italy beats Australia 3-0 and moves on to face Maradona's team in which Italy wins 3-2. The Argentinians are shorter than the Italian players, so they will have a tought time with the perfect corners and free kicks by Totti.

Recently I made the above predictions, obviously I was not even a little close. Italy barely won the Austrialians. Luckily that ref gave them the penalty although Grosso was totally faking it. Argentina was not good enough to beat the Germans and lost by penalties. And ofcourse the Italians were more than good enough to beat the Germans and got a well deserved 2 goals. (Yup I'm going to keep rubbing it in your face you Argentina and German fans)

Anyway, so I came in to work today for a little bit to complete something that was not done yesterday. We needed a 2.6 kernel less than 2.6.13 to get the serial connection to the Moog platform to work. We tried a 2.4 kernel and that worked fine, but for some reason the CD fails to install a package needed for kde. There was no Gnome on these Slackware CDs so I tried the other "light weight" window managers and didn't like them very much. What luck for the CD to fail on a package needed by kde. So I burnt new CDs and am re-installing the machine now. That machine wasnt given permission to access the network yet, so won't be able to download the stuff I need.

Yesterday after we tried the serial connection on the 2.4 kernel with the new Moxa PCI card everything worked fine. I can say these Moxa drivers worked ALMOST out of the box. They only work on kernels prior to 2.6.13. So we had the DTK sliders program open and got them connected to the Moog shared memory and using these 6 sliders on my screen I was able to move the 2000 pound platform in all 6 dimensions - x,y,z,roll,yaw,and pitch. Very cool. I also got to sit inside and experience the motion first hand and its pretty neat. The up-down motion doesnt give butterflies in your stomach like I thought it would since this thing moves around at around 0.6g. Then the professor decided to do "the twist" where the platform twists around itself...that shook me up pretty well. That was fun.

Anyway I am all done here. The Linux box is working flawlessly now :)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Linux virtual keyboard

Since it doesnt make any sense to have a physical keyboard inside the flight simulator it makes a lot of sense to get a virtual keyboard such as xvkbd. Like any other open source project, it comes with the source so that you can modify it to your own needs. After playing around with it yesterday to figure out what needs to be done to tailor this for FlightGear and Vdrift I got a draft of what this virtual keyboard might just look like at th end. Ofcourse theres a few more keys that need to be added. You can also have several of them running so for example I get the FlightGear keyboard running, and then another default keyboard to allow for regular input into the machine. Heres a screenshot after setting up the necessary options:

So at the top is the default keyboard if needed. Below it to the left is a numberpad to allow enterring coordinates and other autopilot options in FlightGear. Finally, the FlightGear keyboard is on the right. I split them this way because I thought it would be good for the user to just have whatever keyboards they need and minimize the rest. Ofcourse this script should be put on the desktop to easily start these up using the touchscreen.

Like I promised, World Cup updates will be over when its done and only if Italy wins, otherwise Ill be ranting about that for a while (jk, even I can get bored from Italy and its soccer) The final is on Sunday, and against the Frenchies. For those who recall the Euro Cup two years ago, theres some unfinnished business between the French and the Italians when the Italians unfortunately lost a game they were winning until the last two minutes (break a leg Wiltord!) On the other hand, the Italians have a better squad today which works like one machine so I doubt the French have a chance of even scoring. Note that the Italian goal did not "lose its virginity yet" except for that own goal. (Now that sentence sounds a little bit dirty...too dirty) Don't you come and tell me "but they beat Brazil", since when does Brazil have no shots on goal, I don't get it but I am glad that team is out.

Now on to a topic a lot of you love to joke about - " Nael's Deportation Adventures". Although I was accepted into grad school by Computing and Software, I still need a final approval from the School of Graduate studies and that is what I am currently working on. My cumulative gpa doesnt satisfy their requirements, but thats just because of first year, and that had nothing to do with what I am doing now so my professor sent a letter along with my application. Hopefully that works out and I get my letter so that I can renew my permit and NOT get deported. I am still playing on both fields though and applying for jobs just incase something goes wrong (aha..deportation contingency plans), so I have an interview tomorrow with a startup in Toronto. Let us see what that brings us. Until now, I am still more interested in what I will be doing in grad school althought it might not pay anything but at the end I believe I shall be better off.

..and ofcourse Forza Italia!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Italy strike late to break hosts' hearts

Beautifull game! So far the most entertaining of the whole cup, not just because the Italians won, but because it was just attack after attack, there was almost no midfield! Grosso's amazing goal broke the deadlock 2 min before the end of the second extra time after a perfect pass from Pirlo. Del Piero then scored again a few minutes later catching the Germans in the counter attack. The ref did some bad calls, and forgot others. Italy commited a foul and a handball in the box, but got lucky without a call. On the other hand, the Germans got lucky twice when the Italians hit the post twice in the extra time. All in all, it was a fair game and the best team won. There was a clear foul and an even more clearer corner kick for Italy that somehow got overlooked by the ref, but thats not so bad I guess.

The cup is 1 match away now, and beating the Germans in their home, infront of 60,000 Germans is something and I doubt the French or Portuguese can stand up against the Azzurri.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Germany, here come the Mighty Italians

Its the semi-finals now as you all should know and Italy is facing the Germans. The Germans have played really well this world cup, better than the last one as the team of "freshmen" got more experience, but are they match for the experienced Italians? Ofcourse the Germans are being coached by an all time favorite of mine - Jurgen Klinsmann - but can they do it? Their strategy all along was to fire a shot as soon as the goal is visible. Not a bad strategy and it makes them look really good when someone reviews the game stats. As for the Italians I must say the played awesome against Ukraine and Toni's curse was finally broken when he finally scored...twice. So July 4th the Italians will face the Germans, in their home country (obviously) and hopefully the Germans shall get crushed. Its been a long time since Italy reached a semi final game, and even longer since they reached the final, so its about time.

Goodluck to the Azzurri.

P.S. The world cup is almost over, so those of you who read this will get back to reading less soccer posts and more random shit like before.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vdrift - Racing Simulator

After getting the FlightGear working right using DTK, I was asked to get Vdrift doing the same. Vdrift doesnt come with many command line arguments and built in programs like FlightGear so a lot of the stuff had to be done from scratch.
First I had to modify the Vdrift source to record accelerations in all 6 dimensions. This was easy enough to do. This had to be done in the same format defined in the xml file written for FlightGear. After re-compiling the source, and running the game, the car was bouncing like a bunny all over my screen! After a quick check on the Vdrift forum I found out it that it requires an older compiler than what Fedora 4 or 5 come with. I got hold on some Slackware 10.2 CDs after MvM suggested that I use that instead since most of the packages we need have a slackware version which should avoid problems. Anyway after doing that, the vdrift source compiled fine and I got all the required drivers (joystick & Nvidia) and software/libraries (Fltk, DTK) installed properly.

All that was left is to get the UDP listener I wrote for FlightGear listening to the same port vdrift is writing to. I added two new command lines to vdrift to control the frequency of writing to the UDP and the host it should write to.

I produced this screenshot while running everything together on localhost.

The scope at the bottom comes built in with the DTK-Diverse program. The blue lin in the middle is supposed to be the force of gravity (in the Z-axis) but for some reason it comes out very close to 0 from vdrift, so it never moves. This can't be right as it should move at least when I am driving over mountains or down a hill. Anyway I will figure this out later, the physics engine for Vdrift is buggy anyway and nowhere as good as the one that comes with FlightGear.

Match 3: Italy vs. Czech Republic

ahh..the Italians finally got the Czechs out of the way! Everybody was fearsome of the fact that the Czechs being ranked 2nd world wide by FIFA. The Italians got their style back after that crazy tie against the Americans. They played even better than when they played Ghana in the first game. Really the score could have been 4-0 rather than 2-0 if it wasn't for Inzaghi missing two real easy goals. To be fair to the Czechs, Nedved had an awesome chance against Buffon, but Buffon stood his grounds and made an even more awesome save. Really, that own goal against the US was major bad luck. Other than that, the Italian goal remains "unpenentrated".

Next they face Australia which is going to be a pushover (sorry it is true). The real knockout game is against Argentina at the quarter finals. That will be a really good game to watch! I guarantee it. Now don't come and tell me "..but Argentina beat Serbia 6-0.." That team did not play well at all (obviously) plus they cannot be compared to Italy. If the Italian defense stands up strong with Cannavaro, then Argentina will have a tough time breaking through. The Italians need to hold their formation exactly like how they did with the Czechs, the defense line was always there at the right place and time.

I think Inzaghi proved something to Lippi with his awesome goal against the Czechs. The guy had guts to challenge Cech 1 on 1 and beat him even with Totti (I think) around him. Might have been selfish of Inzaghi to not pass it to Totti, but he beat the keeper.

My predictions:
Inzaghi doesnt play against Australia and rests for the game after (Argentina). Italy beats Australia 3-0 and moves on to face Maradona's team in which Italy wins 3-2. The Argentinians are shorter than the Italian players, so they will have a tought time with the perfect corners and free kicks by Totti.

...Forza Italia!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flight Simulator updates

Plenty of progress over the past few weeks in this project. The re-construction of the room in ITB is almost over and we have access to the flight simulator now. There still seems to be some communication error over the serial connection but theres progress in that everyday. Hopefully we will have the communication working right soon. Meanwhile I have been working on the user application. So far its working ok communicating with the game. It allows the user to turn the simulator on and off and provide access to the filters that are used for the motion cueing. Also some basic feedback messages are outputted to the screen.

Here are some screenshots of how it is laid out:

I will be taking pictures of the simulator soon, from the inside and out. The onboard LCD is really clear -but there are two tiny scratches on one side of the screen, wasnt me! I think it was the construction workers...or maybe the people who installed it. Who knows.

I did not take lunch today so I am going to head out shortly. I am starting a new working out schedule today so I am very pumped!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Match 2: Italy VS. U.S

This game was a major dissapointment. Italy did not play as well as they did against Ghana, and on the other hand the U.S. played much better than they did against the Czechs. Anybody who watched that game has to admit Italy was just unlucky. They were unlucky with that own goal, unlucky with the U.S. "almost own goal" when the defender almost headed the goal into his own goal but luckily for him it hit the cross-bar. The game was fairly rough, with around 40 fouls committed, more than half of them by the U.S.

I was watching the game on the abc channel, and I noticed how biased the commentator was. He was unhappy with all the cards the US received and kept saying "the ref should have taken him to the side and talk to him" Who the hell says that? Just stfu and do your job.

So Italy is at the top now, and need to win their next match to guarantee going into the next stage. In the case of the Italians losing against the Czechs, and the US losing againsg Ghana, then that would be the end of the road for the Italians this year - ofcourse that wont happen!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Match 1: Italy VS. Ghana

The first game for the Italians looks like a piece of cake - I hope I didn't just jinx them!
I just had a look at the lineup for the Italians and there are some new names. I would not be surprised if Inzaghi, Del Piero and Camoranesi stay on the bench this game and rest for one that could be tough - the Czechs. Goodlucks to the Azzurri. Im off to Quarter's to watch the game!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Convocation is finally over and now I finally have my B.Eng.Mgmt! I can call myself an engineering graduate now. Heres a couple of pictures from the event:

...don't I look like a nun in these pics?

It has been a busy week since I last posted on my blog. Parents were here and I was busy showing them around Hamilton. I took them to Windsor this weekend and to drop my brother off over there. I rented a car for this past week, and I am keeping it for another week - thanks to my Dad! - Its a Chev Malibu like this one but in maroon:

It drives real nice and its good on gas too. I was under the impression american cars are gas guzzlers, but this car is a myth buster! The strange thing is its a full size sedan but for some reason Hertz Canada classify it as a mid-size, so I got a pretty good deal on a very nice car!
Having a car makes thing so much easier - obviously. I am seriously planning on purchasing one now, probably a shitbox since I did not find a job and grad school won't be paying much if it pays at all - there is a probability I will do an M.Eng instead and pay for myself for one year.

Its back to work on the flight simulator tomorrow. I am working on a user interface that would be used to control the machine and for testing purposes. I used Fltk to do it, since it was used for that DTK library I once as mentioning. The most annoying part of Fltk, is that some things that should be very simple to do get a little tricky but once you know what you are doing its ok.

Congrats to everbody who graduated last week and I hope you all have a fun and safe summer!

Bump into me soon!!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Meet the parents

Convocation is less than a week away and my parents are here to visit! My dad did not get here yet, he arrives on Monday because his VISA was a bit late to come out. On the other hand, my mom is here, she arrived yesterday. It was a crazy drive back from the airport, with all the rain I barely could see the lanes, yet alone the signs..but we made it all safely.

We were tidying up the house the past couple of days, and guess what people (especially the guys), your house will never be clean enough for the parents.

I found out from the Registrar's office that somehow I am not on the list of people who asked for tickets, althought I requested them way before the deadline! At least I am on the list of people cleared to graduate.

Anyway, so my mom is staying for a month, and my dad for a week or so. This will be a month full of awesome home cooked food...yum!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

World Cup Friendlies

In preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Germany, the teams are warming themselves up as well as the fans with a set of friendlies. Italy came with a strong start with their 4-1 win against Germany in the friendly played in March. Hope they keep up the good work and bring that cup back!
The next match is with Switzerland - that tiny petite landlocked country with all the stinkin' cheese and good chocolate - Apparently the Swiss know how to play, so this match I got to see. It is clear that it will be like taking candy from a baby for the Italians.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Concorde at 1000mph, FlightGear, DTK - FUN, fun, fun

After a couple of days working at it, I finally got one of the software components of the project working. The people who made Flight Gear are really smart and gave users a way to read and write values into the game simulation. This is smart because it means reading the accelerations from the game can be done, which then can be mapped into translations for the Moog Motion Base (the actual Flight Simulator) and together this gives the user the 'flying experience'. With a little motion and watching the screen, the brain can be tricked and the person is immersed in a virtual flying experience - this is also known as motion queuing. The same can be applied to race car simulators, boat simulators, etc. etc.

Now some fun stuff! On the FlightGear website you can download more scenery and planes. I chose to download a Souther Ontario map, a U.A.E. map and a Concorde plane. Installing them was easy - just unpack into the correct directories and you are ready to fly. The Hamilton, Abu Dhabi and Dubai maps were really boring. Dubai was not as bad as Abu Dhabi which was all desert and a one runway airport - but still boring. So I ran the simulator with the Concorde model and took some screenshots. The one below was the best - flying at 100mph! (woops..I turned off the speedometer without realizing it so you cannot see that - tough luck)

For those who are interested in knowing the details...
So for those who are interested in knowing how this works - continue reading. Like I said FlightGear gives the user a lot of control in the simulation. You can read the simulation parameters from a browser, write to serial ports, send TCP or UDP packets and whole suite of other protocols. UDP packets are easy to deal with, just reading and writing to the UDP port - just like a file. Using an XML document you can tell FlightGear which values you are interested in. In my case these were the accelerations in all six dimensions - x,y,z, roll, pitch and yaw (look those up to know what axis they are). Now what is left is to write a little UDP listener that will listen to the port you specify and read the packets as they arrive. Because it will arrive as a string of numbers, the easiest way to read each parameter is through defining the format yourself in the XML file. I used a '*' to separate them and broke the string that way when it arrived.

DIVERSE - Device Independent Virtual Environments - Reconfigurable, Scalable, Extendable (DTK)
The next step involves this library which can be found here. DTK is the 'glue' that 'glues' everything together. A whole collection of C++ client, server and utility programs that manage the shared memory and allow other applications on other computers on the network to read and write from it. Since the graphics will be running on its own on one machine and another machine will run the physics engine for FlightGear this makes communication easy. After reading the UDP packet it can be written to the shared memory using DTK and then these values can be read by any remote computer that is connected to this shared memory. All you have to learn is how to read and write from it, and that is covered by the beginner's tutorial on the website. You might be asking yourself why can't we just run everything on one computer like any other game? The answer is simply quality. One machine might start lagging if it has to take care of user input from the joystick, filtering it and then passing it to the FlightGear engine and produce graphics on the screen. Having one high-end computer do the graphics can make the simulation much smoother and more realistic which is really the whole point of having a simulator.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Shakira by me

I wanted to continue working on that Mustang but I had trouble doing the wheels and lights so I decided to start working on something else - a black and white Shakira line sketch. It turned out to look pretty hot. Why did I pick Shakira? Well, comeon she is hot! plus shes half Arabic and she is an awesome belly dancer! Here is the sketch, let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pigeons in the house!!

Damn those pigeons!! I am never going to finnish from them. We just went out on the balcony to watch some mad fireworks outside and a pigeon got scared and flew into the house! Good thing it did not knock stuff over or shit all over the place. It was funny chasing after it trying to get it to go out. After a few minutes running after it I finally caught it and took a picture with it before letting it go in the building hallway...haha I am just kidding, I let it go outside.

R.I.P Pigeons

Remember the pigeons that lived on the balcony? I took a picture of the baby pigeons every couple of days documenting how fast they grow. It's 3am and I was asleep on the couch in the living room when Ali -my housemate and cousin- woke me up saying there was a big comotion on the balcony and when he walked to the door to check it out a big bird flew and hit the rail before flying off. So I got up, and what I saw was very strange. One of the baby pigeons was not there, and the other one was dead in the nest! None of the parent pigeons were around, but there were ALOT of white feathers on the balcony - one of the parent pigeons was white -
So what flies around at 3am in the morning? My guess is that it was an owl, maybe an eagle? but I do not think eagles fly at night. I am almost convinced it was an owl.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ford Mustang line art

On my previous blog I posted some line art I have created of a few of my friends. Today I decided to work on some more line art in Photoshop. I chose a picture of a Ford Mustang and started working. There are some very nice tutorials on the web on Photoshop line art, so just Google them if you are interested.

There are a few bits and pieces left to do but it should look awesome when I am done giving it some shades and tones.

How To: Reset 'root' password on Mac OS X

I purchased my Apple PowerBook G4 a year off eBay. I got a really good deal for it and saved around $500 on the retail price and it was only 4 months old. Anyway, the lady I purchased it off gave me an 'administrator' password which I thought would also be the 'root' account password. To my surprise it was not, and today when I was trying to install FlightGear on my PowerBook I could not since I did not have permission! So a little search on Google was useful because I learned that I can reset it without having to restore my machine and lose my stuff (no isn't porn!). It was real easy:
  1. Pop in the restore CD/DVD
  2. Restart the machine
  3. Follow the re-installation until you can access the menu
  4. Choose the 'reset password' option
  5. From there you can reset any password including the 'root' account
That's it, now I have access to my 'root' account. Thanks to my infinite wisdom I decided to restore while maintaining my files (another option available) and then found out that I lost all the Unix tools available including 'gcc' and 'make' and now I cannot compile and install FlightGear. All of this to install the damn flight simulator! I guess it was not meant to be.

Friday, May 19, 2006

FlightGear 747-300 over Golden Gate Bridge

Today was a very productive day. I was able to get the joystick to work over the network and watch its behavior on one computer from another. This is required because the computer that will produce the graphics in the flight simulator is separate from the one which will read the user input through the keyboard and joystick and thus both have to communicate for FlightGear to produce the right graphics and all. I took several screenshots of FlightGear in action while flying a huge Boeing 747-300. The shots are even better than the previous shots I posted.

747-300 flying over the Golden Gate Bridge
Zooming in on the 747-300
Woops..yeah the plane crashed after I did that

Have a good long weekend everyone! I still do not have any plans so give me a shout if you are doing anything fun, like flying a 747 for example..or something..

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Forza Italia

Being an Italian soccer fan since the World Cup in 1990 I am clearly cheering for Italy this summer. So in spirit of the World Cup I made this little banner in Photoshop today. Like I promised, I will get back into the Photoshop business soon.

...and no I will not do any other banners for you, so just enjoy this one.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Lippi's choice leaves no one suprised"

So the official Italian soccer team list is finally out - a month before the world cup is supposed to start in Germany. Most of the names on the list were expected and includes big names like Buffon, Cannavaro, Nesta, Zambrotta, TOTTI, INZAGHI and ofcourse DEL PIERO. The squad looks promising like every year and I hope they have better luck than every year.
Their group does not look that tough. I suspect the only competition to come from the Czechs and that Ghana and the U.S should be pretty easy games.

2006 is Italy's year! It has been a long wait, but its finally here...

FlightGear on Fedora Core 5

After two days of mucking around on this computer at work I finally got FlightGear to install. It was a long battle yesterday and I finally got it to work this morning. Yesterday I had problems getting the nvidia graphics card to work on FC5. Thanks to Stanton Finley for his thorough Fedora Core 5 installation notes.
So after installing that, I learned that I had to use the FlightGear package compiled with SDL otherwise it will not work on Fedora Core 5. God I wish I knew that yesterday! The other package will NOT work on FC5. Also for some reason it will crash if you do not run it as root...

So why am I playing with a flight simulator when I am supposed to be working? This is what I am supposed to be doing. After figuring out how to manipulate the FlightGear simulator I will have to make it work with the actual flight simulator (which I still did not take pictures of as I do not have access to the room yet). The graphics are real nice with this nvidia graphics card. I also got a joystick I can use, but still did not figure out how to fly. Heres a snapshot:

Anyway, thats my update, now I need to learn how to fly!! I was able to move the plane a little bit..but wont fly! Maybe I should go over the tutorial...

Monday, May 15, 2006

First Day

After a whole month of bumming around, I started doing something productive with my time. Yeah yeah some will say 1 month break after graduating is too short, but given my circumstances with Immigration Canada and the fact I would get deported by September if I do not find something to do, I do not have the privelege most graduates have of taking the summer or anytime off.
So today was my first day at work in ITB. I am working on the flight simulator project and have to get it setup and working. The job requires some knowledge about control systems which I have learned about in 4th and 5th year, but that is not required until a little bit later. Today I just had to setup a small 4 computer network and get Linux running on them. That was almsot done today except for one which for some reason never detected the keyboard. I had to wait until around 4pm when I got a USB keyboard which might work. I decided to leave the test until tomorrow as there was not enough time.
Now back to the computer problem I was having, after opening it up it was definitely a problem with the connector which I cannot fix, so I took it to a computer store and I was told labor is going to cost $120 to fix it + pieces..coming to a grand total of $180!!! I was worried about that because when I opened the laptop, the connector piece on the motherboard was covered with a plastic cover that cannot be removed. I have no idea how they will do it. I am going to call HP tomorrow to find out how much it will cost to fix it there...but $200 is rediculous..given that on eBay the selling price is around $550 for my laptop now..I might as well just sell it..hmm maybe I can find out if the store would buy it...
Anyway, I dont have access to the flight sim room yet, as it is still being rebuilt because they had to break the walls to get in...remember? I will post pics as soon as I take them!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Merapi - Mountain of Fire

I was reading the news on BBC and they had this article about a volcano in Indonesia - Merapi, meaning Mountain of Fire! Although I hear they are dangerous, and clearly it is, witnessing a volcano erupting is one of the things I would hope to once witness with my eyes - and not on TV. The list also includes:
  • seeing a tornado
  • earthquake
  • flood
An experience is an experience, and living through a natural disaster and seeing what others all over the world suffer -sometimes on a daily basis- is one real experience.

So that articles goes on and talks about how scientists cannot yet tell when a volcano is going to errupt. Shouldnt this be a top research concern in that area? Especially since the Asian Ring of Fire is located there and Indonesia has 129 active volcanoes. What is so hard about predicting? Scientists can predict the weather, are they trying to say that with all these super computers in the world, nobody can find a way to predict when a volcano will errupt? Even if the prediction was off by a week or even a month, that is still way better than living not knowing when the place will be flooded with red hot molten lava! Did you know that lava can flow 40km before it stops, and then a mud slide continues until 80km - that is almost the distance from Hamilton to Toronto! So why can't they predict? Maybe the hard part is measuring the force of the lava building up inside the volcano, but afer that what is the problem? A solution to this is one thing scientists should be working on and definitely not bunker buster bombs like some scientists are busy doing...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bad things happen to good people

Nothing sucks more than when your computer just breaks down out of the blue! For some reason the power cable or perhaps the power supply, or maybe some internal wiring inside the laptop has failed and now its like I am playing blackjack trying to get the laptop connected and charging. So now I am using my powerbook which is great, but the only problem is that for some reason it cannot pick up the wireless signal in my room so I have to sit in the living room. I took apart the laptop hopinh to magically be able to tell what is exactly wrong but couldnt. It took some time to take out all the screws that hold down the cover, just because I had to look through my toolbox for the right screwhead. So after taking it off I find everything inside is almost WELDED together! and I cannot get to the power supply. Anyway enough complaining. I am going to hunt for a power cable on eBay. I hope that is whats wrong.

The Davinci Code is one hell of a book...

So I just finnished reading this book and its by far the best 500 pages I have ever read. I have not read many novels before because most of the time I just lose interest, but this one just got better every chapter. The story had a very interesting twist of events that was completely unexpected and just left me super impressed with Dan Brown's novel.

I cannot wait until I go see the movie when it comes out May 19. I do not recall me saying this phrase about any movie about a novel ever in my life!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I just downloaded Picasa2 by Google and it is a photo organizer. Really neat application plus it gives you the ability to blog your photos on eBlogger right from the application. That is what I am doing right now and I decided to choose a photo of Athena taken on March 18 2006.

Athena is Team 4's autonomous search and rescue robot designed for our capstone course SE 4G06. Athena was one of the few robots to not use any rotation sensors and is almost completely dependent on the environment changes around it. There are a few instances when things were timed but those were timed against the battery level so changes in that would not drastically affect the robot's movements.

In the actual race Athena tied for first place, but really we were ahead by 1 sec although the judges gave the other team the benefit of the doubt and decided to make it a tie. Unfortunately coming in first does not mean you have the best robot. I can admit that Team 6's Tortoise was the best robot produced. That robot CANNOT get stuck and they had a very impressive presentation proving that. Based on four rules, Tortoise can always navigate itself out of troubles. Tortoise did not win the race, yet it did win the competition and they more than deserved it. So the morale is - Slow and easy wins your thesis competition
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Time to work!

Today I signed my first contract as an Engineer! I spoke too soon when I said I was done with school last month. Now I am on contract with Computing and Software at McMaste University as a Research Assistant. The project is that flight simulator I mentioned earlier. I showed my friend Kaelan the machine and she was confused because it was bigger than she even imagined. I will have pictures of this on Monday when I start work. So this is a 2 month contract until July 14 and should keep me busy. I am more convinced of pursuing grad school now, and I am hoping I will find out about the funding very soon.

I shall have pictures of the cockpit soon. This shall be one really well documented projected.

Phi...the divine proportion, golden ratio, golden section, goldean mean, Fibonacci series, whatever you want to call it.

So I am reading The Davinci Code and came across this interesting concept. The number 1.618. Apparently scholars throughout time have came to an agreement that the number 1.618 is a divine number for several reasons. While doing my bachelors I took this course "Nonlinear Optimization". It mentioned this number Phi and how it can be used.
Phi is calculated by solving

for "x" and after many iterations it converges to 1.618. So anyway back to the point, why it so interesting? Some of these reasons you may be able to test out for yourself.

First a little history. Why was the Greek letter Phi chosen? It was first closely studied by a Greek scultptor called Phidias and as a result was given the name Phi.

Throughout time this number was used for many purposed. It seems like it envokes a certain emotion within humans. A lot of artists use this number in their designs and paintaings. Whenever balance is an issue, somehow the number 1.618 was the balance in any art.

So why was it said to be divine?
1. After reading this, I tried it out and surprisingly it came within .018 of 1.618 - probably due to measurement error.
The Golden Section, also known as Phi, is manifested in the structure of the human body. If the length of the hand has the value of 1, for instance, then the combined length of hand + forearm has the approximate value of Phi. Similarly the proportion of upper arm to hand + forearm is in the same ratio of 1: Phi . Coincidence?

2- Also if you measure your height, and then measure the height between your belly button and your feet, the ratio is 1:Phi again.

3- Several other examples were mentioned, the ratio of the radius of spirals to each in a seashell is 1:Phi, the ratio of distances between leaves on a twig is 1:Phi.

4- In university, or highschool if you ever came across the Fibonacci numbers, you were probably introduced to them as the quantities of rabbits reproducing:
So starting with 2 rabbits, they reproduce, now you have 3, more reproduction, now you got 5, and so on...
Well apparently this is not just an academic exercise, a lot of plants, organisms, creatures reproduce or produce new quantities at this rate. Coincidence?

5-Even the UN Building they say exhibits this phenomenon.

Since it all started with "x^2-x-1=0" I think it is all just a mathematical trick within solving that equation. Something to do with the "1" since that means "x^2-x=1",1 as in a whole. If you figure out the trick then please comment and let me know!

Baffled Nael Signing Out

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brain teaser

Finally decided to get up today and its already 3:30pm. I was catching up on some jokes and I came across this brain teaser:

Which of the following statements is true?

1. One of these statements is true.
2. Two of these statements are true.
3. Three of these statements are true.
4. Four of these statements are true.
5. Five of these statements are true.
6. Six of these statements are true.

Thinking about this one, I found starting from #6 would be easier rather than number one. For #6 to be true, that means obviously all 6 have to be true including number 6 which contradicts all the other 5 statements so #6 cannot be the true one. Move on to #5, if #5 is true then 4 other statements must be true, since #6 is false then statements 1-4 must be true, but that contradicts with each statement itself so #5 cannot be true. Repeating this until we reach statement #1. By now it is clear that only one of these statements can be true while the rest must be false otherwise that true statement contradicts what is mentioned in the other statements. Thus, statement #1 is the true statement!

Now that was an easy brain teaser. Hmm..what now..?

Flight Simulator?

A few days ago I got this email from the professor I hoped to work with in grad school. He showed me around the robotics lab and it was really cool..lots of neat stuff. Anyway, this email was about if I was interested in helping him program the flight simulator. At first I had no clue what on earth hes talking about but today after I went to meet him...all I could say was "WOW!!"

The department purchased this $250,000 flight simulator with a cockpit that fits 6 and a flat screen tv inside..just like the ones you see at Canada's Wonderland or CN Tower. He wants to setup some joysticks inside and have people control the plane and experience the flight. This cockpit is huge!!, its too big to fit in the room they wanted to put it in, so they had to knock down the wall! Its as wide a a minivan and around 3m high! I am really excited about this, I think I start next week.

I also met with a professor from the Mech. Eng department and they have might sponsor me, which is good because the professor I wanted to work cannot fund me which means I would have to pay for myself. So if the Mech Eng prof accepts, I can work with him on his project, have that as my masters project, have my software prof co-supervise, and I get funding from mech eng. All in all, I hope this works out as well!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Davinci Code

Yesterday I went to Fortinos for some groceries and finally stocked up the fridge with plenty of good stuff. Me and Ali (my housemate and cousin) were thinking of getting a PS2 to kill all this free time we suddenly have, but then decided to wait it out and get a better deal from a friend of a friend who knows a cousin of someone that may offer us a better deal for this something, i.e. the PS2.
Anyway, I was scanning through the book titles at the store, and I caught a glimpse of The Davinci Code and remembered all the hype this book and soon to be movie has caused. People have said its really good and all, but I never knew how good it really was. At $10.99 you cannot go wrong there, so I bought it. Before going to sleep I started reading it a bit, and the story is really catchy, so catchy I read five chapters before going to bed. I am not even close to finnishing it, but I recommend it to everybody, if you did not already ready it. Lets see, how many have read this book so far? This way I can also see how many actually ready my blog too.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Testing the Mail-to-Blogger address

I finally got to fool around with all the features that come with this
blog and I find this Mail-to-Blogger e-mail interesting. I like the
fact I can send out an email to my blog. I still do not know why anybody would
do this and not through the website. Can someone really be in a hurry to
post a blog? Maybe its for those who use their phones to write blogs. That
would make sense as to why this feature is necessary..but still..I am not
convinced. Regardless, I found it interesting.

I also got my Google's Adsense working and I modified its positions. The
nice thing about this blog is that I get to play around with the template
however I like, unlike other blogs that just force you to use their
templates. I might revamp this whole blog one day if I have nothing better
to do..I am starting to think it is a little bit sketchy.

Nael El Shawwa

Friday, May 05, 2006

Graduation 2006

A couple of months ago I got this email regarding a graduation writing contest. Not that I participate in those all the time, but sometimes I feel like writing a funny poem. I had several attempts at writing funny poems in the past, this is not the funniest of them but one of the judges said and I am quotint "great sense of humor!"

So there you go, Nael is officially a great and funny guy! Heres the poem...laugh it up.

My name is Nael and I am graduating from McMaster.
I came here five years ago but the time couldn’t have passed any faster.
I wrote several humorous poems in the past,
And this will definitely not be my last.
My Software Engineering and Management degree is now almost done.
I can safely say it was difficult yet a lot of fun.
Over the years I learnt so much working with Linux,
But we also had lots of fun at the Phoenix.
I remember my first day here,
My professor described his love for beer.
It was Chemistry 1E03 where I found out about that.
In the back row of BSB 136 is where I sat.
There were so many activities, especially when I lived at Brandon Hall.
I remember when we got lost trying to reach Limeridge Mall.
The bed races, PJ Parade, and the snow ball fight,
And everything else was just a crazy sight.
There are lots of events throughout the year.
The Red Suits and their funky gear,
They helped us first years and showed us around;
They also came with a lot of sound.
My grades in first term weren’t that great,
I studied harder later and I saw my first eight.
Time management is of essence,
And not skipping too many lessons.
I remember those CAPA assignments due Saturday morning.
We all met at Thode Library Friday evening,
And stopped only to grab coffee and some fresh air.
Once we’re done we would catch a movie at Jackson Square.
In my third year I got a job at the computer rooms,
and helped students with their PC dooms.
After eight months I got promoted,
And became a senior consultant, and had to be more devoted.
I met great people at McMaster and working with U.T.S,
Some are my best friends that I am going to miss.
I wish every single one of them the best,
And hope they pursue their goals with zest.
To all my professors, fellow students and friends,
I hope this is not where the road ends.
As I graduate this coming fall,
I say goodbye and good luck to all.

Nael El Shawwa – March 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I was interviewed for a position at McMaster University today with telecommunications as a Systems Analyst / Project Manager. Although the job title makes it sound like a technical position it is more of an account management position. Unfortunately its only a 9 month contract. That still is a good start I think and will give me more time in Canada to find permanent employment, plus I can finally send off my application.

I am also talking with one of the professors regarding grad school which I was accepted into last month. I finally found a way around the funding issue which seems to be the problem with all profs since I am an international student and they cannot obtain much government funding for me. So I can do the masters of engineering which is not funded rather than the masters of science which is funded. Also, he will pay me to work over the summer and then I take 6 courses over the year and I finnish next year...pretty good I say.

It is still May, and I have till September to find a job, and I am pretty sure I will find one...but what am I to do until then?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


So I purchased a new Motorolla Razr since my old phone literally broke in half! Its a pretty cool phone WITH a camera! Yes yes I know they have been around for a while now, but this is the first time I get my hands on one since I do not really switch phone until my current one breaks. In 5 years at Mac I broke 2 phones...not too last one lasted 3 years so that pretty decent. So after moving my phonebook from the old phone to the new one, I found somehow the numbers got duplicated which really bothered me for a day before I convinced myself to sit down and delete the excess 100 or so numbers...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

No more Motorolla

So a couple of days ago my flip top Motorolla T720 phone "expired". Problems with this phone started way back in October 2005 when part of the hinge that makes it flip broke. After fiddling around with it for a few days I discovered how I can "flip the top" and make it work better. See, the problem was if I flip open too fast the screen comes out all shuffled and mangled, if it even shows up. So the trick was to slightly open it and sneak under the top to see when the screen shows up and then slowly open the rest of it. Yup, silly way to use a cell phone but it worked!
So last Tuesday i had an interview with Evertz and I asked them to call my cell phone since I was working that day and did not know where I would be. 5 min before my interview the other hinge on the phone snaps (yeah talk about crazy timing). When the HR person from Evertz called I was struggling trying to answer the call and they had to call again before I managed to pick up. I had to ask her to call me at JHE lab's extension and I ran up the stairs to be there before she called. Anyway, the interview went well and I should hear back from them in the next 2 weeks, hopefully with a job offer!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just started? or just finnished?

So this is the first blog here at, I used a couple of bloggers in the past but I am getting more and more fond of Google so I am switching to this. Besides once I set up adSense I can make a little $$$ from my blog.
I just finnished my undergraduate degree in Software Engineering and Management. It was a long 5 year program but it is all over now. This brings to an end the best 5 years of my life so far! Everything about undergrad at McMaster was awesome! If given the chance to do it again I would definitely NOT do it again. I am ready for the next stage now.
Its 6pm right now and I am at work trying to find something to do and that is how I decided to get back to writing a couple of posts a week and make this blog as interesting as the first one. By the way the first one can be found
here. You will also find some interesting Photoshop stuff which I should get back into since I think I did some real cool stuff back then.