Shaikh Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, passes away

Shaikh MaktoumI’m writing this post from the JetBlue departure lounge at JFK. I got the news that HH Shaikh Maktoum had passed away today right after landing in New York and I would like to express my sincere condolences to residents of Dubai and all UAE nationals. I remember seeing his father’s funeral when I was a kid and experiencing the sadness that filled Dubai at the time. Here is the official press release:

Shaikh Maktoum passes away

DUBAI – H.H. Shaikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai passed away early morning today in Australia.

The President of UAE, Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan mourned his death.

A statement issued by the ministry of presidential affairs said, “The UAE today lost a historical leader who has contributed throughout his life in establishing the UAE and enhancing its structure and the welfare of its people.

The statement added that the late Shaikh Maktoum was an example of the sincere national commitment. He placed his country’s interest over any other considerations. He was a model for good behaviour.

“His constructive role in establishing the UAE and enhancing its federal march and other field of national action will remain engraved in the memory of the nation and its people, the statement said.

Official mourning

The government has announced a 40-day official mourning during which flags will fly at half-mast.

Ministries, government institutions and departments will remain closed for seven days starting from today.

In Dubai, private sector will be off work for three days as of Thursday, January 5.

Maktoum to be laid to rest on Thursday

The late Shaikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who passed away in Australia today, will be laid to rest at Umm Hurair Cemetery at Bur Dubai after his body will arrive here tomorrow (Thursday).

Funeral prayers( Janazat) will be held at Zabeel Mosque in Dubai today ( Thursday) at 10am before burial.

Ruler of Dubai H.H. Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will receive mourners who will extend their condolences on the sad demise of Shaikh Maktoum at Shaikh Mohammed’s Palace in Zabeel and for three days running.

Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance and industry Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid and Al Maktoum family members will also receive mourners besides Shaikh Mohammed.


Hacked again

Who says you can’t hack a Mac? Maybe the OS itself is more secure, mostly because a lot of it wasn’t written by Apple and it doesn’t have as many features as Windows Server, but Mac OS X Server is as insecure as any other operating system due to the applications which can run on it. Point in case, this website. It’s hosted on a server running Mac OS X Server, but for the second time this year the server was hacked (shared server) and it’s becoming a real pain in the ass.

New S-Class

My father’s new 2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221) was delivered a week ago. As it seems very few have been delivered yet anywhere in the world, I thought I’d post a few pictures. Read the rest of the post to see pictures of the interior including the new COMAND system.

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221) on the Dubai Marina beach

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221) instrument cluster

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)  COMAND MP3 playback

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)  COMAND audio settings

2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 (W221)  COMAND navigation display

My new i-mate SP5

i-mate SP5

I’ve been using an i-mate SP3 as my mobile phone for just over a year now. With the launch of Windows Mobile 5.0, I started researching upcoming phones to find a replacement. I liked the SmartPhone form factor, but I get tempted by the first WM5 phone that went on sale in Dubai which is the i-mate JASJAR, an uber-PDA phone featuring a VGA screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, quad-band GSM, 3G (WCDMA), and an integrated keyboard.

Unfortunately, my biggest concern about this device was valid. It’s too big. It’s not easy to carry around in my pocket all day. And it has one major usability issue…it’s virtually impossible to use it one-handed to make or receive calls. It’s a great PDA and having 3G connectivity on a device with a pretty good keyboard means that I can have access to my e-mail, browsing, Remote Desktop, etc. where ever I go on a device which has better battery life than any laptop…but I can’t use it as a mobile phone.

After realizing this, it was time to go back to a SmartPhone. Luckily for me, i-mate launched the SP5 at GITEX and I bought one and have been happily using it since. It has decent battery life, Bluetooth, WiFi, quad-band GSM, EDGE, a high-res QVGA screen, and is very easy to use one-handed. The only thing that is missing is support for the new push technology which is featured in Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2. The challenge is that client devices, which have to be running WM5, must also include a set of components called the Windows Mobile 5.0 Messaging and Security Feature Pack which will be distributed by device manufacturers, OEMs, or carriers as part of a device-specific ROM update. There is no announced timetable for the release of this, but late this year or early next year is a reasonable guess.

Upgraded to MT 3.2

I’ve just upgraded my site to MovableType 3.2, hoping that this will solve the problems of bad iframes being automatically inserted in portions of my website which cause the installation of spyware on visitor’s computers. That’s the main reason I’ve not posted anything for months because I lost faith in this blogging software. I’ll give it one more chance before giving up on hosting my own blog and move to one of the commercial ones like TypePad or MSN Spaces.

Macs too expensive in Dubai

For as long as I’ve been buying Apple products, they have always been way overpriced in Dubai. My first Apple purchase in Dubai was an Apple IIgs, and since then I have bought all the rest of my Apple computers from the US. I could understand that being true fifteen years ago, but it’s still true today…except for the iPod. Here are some examples:
Mac mini (low end config):
United States: Dhs. 1,825 ($499.00)
United Kingdom: Dhs. 2,200 (£339)
United Arab Emirates: Dhs. 2,800
In the UAE price above, I have removed the 5% import duty to make the comparision fair.
So what is going on? How can there be a 50% premium for selling this product in Dubai when companies like HP and Sony are selling their computers for 0-5% premium compared to US retail prices? Compare this to pricing for iPods. An iPod shuffle can be had for Dhs. 410, which is about a $5 (1%) premium compared to the US…and that’s why you see iPods EVERYWHERE in Dubai…but Macs are rare. Not only are they more expensive than the other PCs on the market, but existing Mac users are confused by the unjustified price differential compared to the US or Europe.
In a trading hub like Dubai, silly premiums like this must stop. If Apple is serious about translating the success of the iPod into increased Mac sales, they need to poke their heads out of Cupertino and realize that they have ignored this market for too long. Apple has no direct presence in the region.
A new company called MacStore LLC is about to open a retail store called an Apple Center at the recently opened Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall in Dubai. There is a picture of the unfinished store below. I believe this store is a joint venture including Arab Business Machines (ABM), Apple’s Independent Marketing Company (IMC) for the region.

I know ABM very well and they have been involved with Apple for a long time and are really enthusiastic about their products. I owe them a lot for helping me when I was an annoying teenager trying to get my hands on System 7, PowerBook Duo 210, or PowerMac Quadra 900. They have a done a phenomenal job getting the iPod into the retail channel here, and I hope they have as much success with this new store; but without decent pricing Macs will never become popular here. ABM, Apple Europe, and sales team in Cupertino need to fix this situation. I’m fed up of it, and so are many other Mac users who I’ve spoken to. It’s very difficult for me to recommend Macs to my friends when I know the prices are not fair. The problem is probably due to too many middle men being invovled, but why it’s happening is not important to me or other Apple customers.
I hope some of my friends in Cupertino read this rant, and I’m sure to bring it up when I see them later this month. If Apple can get serious about this region, I think they can have a lot of success beyond what the iPod has brought them here. If not, then we Mac users will continue to suffer second class treatment and will eventually give up.

Daimler Chrysler Street

Most streets in Dubai don’t have street names. The major ones do…some of the names are official and some are just popular nicknames. Mail does not get delivered to your office/residence but only to post office boxes. Giving directions in Dubai is always in relation to some landmark. The few streets that have names have Arabic names…which is why I was surprised to see this today:

[click for larger image]
Well, I guess DaimlerChrysler deserves at least that after Dubai bought 2% of the company.