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...