Monday, March 9, 2015

Alternatives to YouTube

KARACHI: The restriction on is into its third year but uncertainty on when and how it would be unblocked and divide on justifications behind the sanction continue to hover around the world’s largest video sharing website.

Islamabad banned the social video-sharing platform on September 17, 2012 after its parent company Google had turned down Pakistan’s request to remove the blasphemous movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which caused uproar among Muslims across the world and sparked violent protests in some countries including Pakistan.

Proponents of internet freedom criticised the blanket ban of YouTube, saying it was a violation of basic civil rights. Viewing certain content is a personal choice and the government should not intervene, some say. On the other hand, there are those who say blasphemous content not only hurts the religious sentiments of Muslims but can lead to violence and the solution remains in blocking the material. The government took the latter road.

The YouTube saga started afresh last week when some Internet Service Providers restored the website in parts of Karachi for unknown reasons, whereas there is no change in the official stance. The news of the website’s availability spread quickly across the country. Scores of people took to social media and expressed their joy while many others shared their frustration for not being able to access it.

The government’s stance on the subject may not change and people may continue to be divided on YouTube’s accessibility. However, it makes little difference because, while the website remains blocked on paper, its content is available through various platforms.

Despite the ban, YouTube was always available to Pakistanis. Some people used proxy servers but, things became easier after local entrepreneurs, sensing the need, launched their own portals that allowed direct access to YouTube’s content.

Pakistani websites, such as, and the recently-launched tubemuse.comprovide direct access to YouTube’s content. However, there is a twist — they heavily focus on filtering blasphemous and objectionable content that Google originally refused to do.

“The videos are served directly by YouTube. What we do is that we block the objectionable content on a daily basis” said Hasan Saleem, the entrepreneur behind, launched a month ago.

The website got 70,000 hits on the very first day and gets 40,000 daily views on average. The site reached a peak of 175,000 hits last week while 300 movie downloads took place the week before. The website’s country ranking improved from 2,316 a week ago to 1,631 on Saturday, according to

These statistics certainly indicate how quickly the users are adapting to alternatives of YouTube. These portals keep a low profile and do not market themselves but remain well received.

While TubeMuse is a recently launched video sharing portal, has been catering to millions of Pakistanis for over a year now. The Lahore-based portal was launched a year ago and now boasts 1 million daily page views with 200,000 videos watched on the platform every day.

Ranked in the 60s, – if current trends continue – will be among the top 10 websites of Pakistan, according to its founder Erfan Ilyas.

“Our portal scans the internet and pulls data [videos searched by users] from the fastest server that is available. It searches YouTube, Daily motion and other such platforms and serve it to users,” Ilyas said, explaining how the website works.

Responding to a question, Ilyas said his group founded the website for professional needs and not for profit.

The overwhelming public reception of the website, however, increased bandwidth costs and now they are looking to increase revenues to make up for server costs.

With these platforms aggressively focused on blocking blasphemous material and providing access to useful content, the official ban on YouTube may not restrict users from accessing the world’s largest video sharing website.

The writer is a staff correspondent

Game changer
The single biggest success of Pakistani video sharing platforms, such as and was providing direct access to YouTube’s content while simultaneously blocking the objectionable content.

Before launching the site, TubeMuse prepared a list of content that was declared objectionable by the government and local courts. They had it blocked and now keep themselves updated to block similar content on daily basis. They do it through an automated code that filters objectionable content., too, filters blasphemous content with a solution that uses intelligent key words, according to Ilyas.

“Our solution gives ratings to key words and when the ratings reach a particular point, the video is blocked and all of this is done automatically,” Ilyas said, adding that it is impossible to manually block objectionable videos that run into the millions.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2015.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Relief for Android users: You can disable those creepy ‘blue ticks’ on WhatsApp

Last week, WhatsApp launched the ‘double blue ticks’ feature that lets users know when their messages are read that didn’t go down well with many users. With this new feature, you could no longer ignore a message or simply excuse yourself by saying, “I read it late” or “just saw your message”. Moreover, it didn’t give you an option to disable the blue ticks feature either.

However WhatsApp has quickly done some damage-control and added the feature to hide ‘Read Receipts’. Once enabled, people will not see the blue tick marks even if you have read the messages. This would definitely turn out to be a sigh of relief for many. One needs to simply go to the ‘Privacy Settings’ and enable/disable the feature.


A messaging app that shows what your friends type, as they type it

TORONTO: Imagine if you could read as your girlfriend types, deletes or rewrites a reply to your message. With this new app, there is no hiding the emotions that you pour into your messages. 

Known as Beam Messenger, "this is the closest you will get to having a verbal conversation in a messaging app," says its download page on Google Play. 
Unlike traditional texting apps, the app developed by the Toronto-based Propulsion Lab shows both participants in a conversation what the other party is writing. 

"Beam Messenger is a first of its kind 'True Real Time' communications app. It allows for instant typing and transmission of text. Erase messages in real time or interrupt your friend to say 'you have heard the story before!'" the post of the company's website read. 

"Every character, every deleted character, every single pause, in real time. Right there in the palm of your hand," it added. 

Beam Messenger is free for Android users.


How to find out everything Google knows about you

When you use Google, you are making a deal. You get to use Gmail and search and YouTube and Maps for free and in exchange, you agree to share information about yourself. Google gets to sell that information to advertisers. 

The more Google knows about you, the more it can match you to an advertiser who thinks you are an ideal customer. Advertisers are willing to pay more for ads served to ideal potential customers. For instance, airlines want to target people who love to travel. Children's clothing makers want to target parents. 

Google uses a lot of methods to learn about you. There's the stuff you tell Google outright when you sign up for its services, like Gmail and Google Maps or via an Android phone, like your name, phone number, location, and so on. Google also deduces information about you from watching your internet searches (what do you search for, click on etc) and from the stuff you do with Google's products. 

By visiting a site called "Ads Settings" you can see what Google knows about you.

It's not that easy to find Ads Settings. First, click on the link below or type it into your browser:

Then click on "Account history."

Scroll down to Ads and click on "Edit settings."

This page shows you what Google thinks it knows about you including your age bracket, the languages you speak and ...
... your interests.

From that page, you can edit that information or "opt out" of allowing Google to share your information with advertisers.

-Business Insider

Monday, July 7, 2014

Before Orkut shuts, take a final walk through your memories

Google has announced a shutdown of its first ever social networking site, Orkut, on September 30. Launched almost a decade ago, Facebook has been ruling the social networking world, and by now people have almost forgotten about Orkut. In fact, the younger generation may not even know about the existence of such a thing called Orkut.

It was only a few days back that people were dragged down the memory lane when Google decided to bid farewell to Orkut. The news about Orkut’s shut down kind of worked as a re-wind moment for most of us who have used Orkut.

Remember how till some time back it was one of the coolest thing to be on Orkut, and it was much more cool if you had over one thousand scraps. It actually turned into a competition to have the highest number of scraps and people on your friend-list, and how can we forget the ‘testimonials’. People actually begged each other and lured their friends to write testimonials for them.

Now after years when we think of it, Orkut with itself brought in not just the idea of staying connected but also a wave of competitiveness and narcissism. If you don’t believe it, open your Orkut accounts again, and see what was your life like during the days of Orkut. Dig in to your teen days and take a final walk through your teenage and salvage those memories. (That is if you actually remember your passwords!)

When you revisit your Orkut page, download those old pictures, which you had totally forgotten, existed. You could even take screen shots and if you find something really special or close to your heart you could maybe take a print of it.

Although Google has said that it will archive the Orkut ‘communities’, but it would be a good idea to take screen grabs because once its archived, it is lose the ‘Orkut’ essence.

Since the Orkut is about to shut, there are also a lot of chances of accounts being hacked, misused. So if you have any important content (photos or any other information) that you think could be misused, make sure you erase it for good. At present, since Orkut is set to shut down by September 30, you have just three months to secure your information, so take out some time from your busy schedules and return to the good old days atleast once.

-Nandini Yadav (DeccanChronicle)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tools to secure your Android phone

Your Android smartphone, more often than not, carries a lot of personal data, including e-mails , passwords, photos and videos, messages, contacts - and even sensitive office documents. It is therefore important that you keep your handset from prying eyes. Equally crucial is a contingency plan, just in case it falls into the wrong hands...

Use Google
Did you know that Android - version 2.2 and later - comes with a feature that lets you track and manage your mobile device?
Look for Google Settings among all the apps on your handset. It is denoted by a grey icon with a lower case 'g' and a gear symbol. Tap on the app, and choose the last option which reads 'AndroidDevice Manager' .

From here, you can activate features that will locate your device in case it is lost or misplaced, and you can also remotely lock and factory reset your handset.

After you've checked these options on your phone, you can log on to the Android Device Manager website ( devicemanager) using your Google account to control your phone remotely.

Protect your handset
An unprotected smartphone could prove to be a soft target for hackers. To guard against malicious apps and OS breaches, we suggest AntiVirus Security Free by AVG Mobile, Mobile Security & Antivirus by Avast Software, or Norton Security antivirus. In most cases, the free versions get the job done.

These tools check the apps you install for suspicious behaviour and even shield your phone from rogue websites. Most free versions can also track your phone in case it is stolen or misplaced; sound an alarm to help you locate it, and even remotely wipe the data on a lost device.

Note: Always choose and run only one antivirus software on your handset.

Snap the intruder
If you want a tool that will help you identify the person who has stolen your smartphone, installLockwatch Anti-Theft by Bloketech. This app uses the front camera to click a photo of the thief who has attempted to unlock your phone with the wrong code. It then e-mails the picture to you along with GPS location, making it easy for law enforcers to track and identify the thief.

The best part is that Lockwatch works silently in the background, so a person trying to gain access to your device doesn't even know he's been photographed.

Track your device
With Prey Anti Theft installed on your phone, you can track its geographical location as well as control the phone remotely. If there is no internet connection, you can send an SMS command to the device to receive its geolocation details. You can remotely lock the handset, unlock it; display a message to the thief on its screen, sound an alarm, take a picture of the crook, and even wipe the data from the phone.

Dos & Don'ts 

* Do not download attachments on your phone from e-mails sent by unknown contacts.

* Before installing an app, take a look at the permissions it seeks. For example, an app that allows you to scribble notes should not ask permission to see your contacts.

* Install apps that have a good rating and a healthy number of downloads (at least over 10,000)

* Use a PIN/Password on your lockscreen.

* Don't connect an app to your Google, Facebook and Twitter accounts, unless you have very good reasons to do so. Just because an app asks you for your account details, doesn't mean you should comply.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Twitter is 'best technology firm to work for'

Twitter has been named as the best technology company to work for, ousting Facebook from the top spot it occupied for three consecutive years.

The list of the top 50 companies in the world is compiled from employee reviews on the jobs website Glassdoor.

One anonymous senior software engineer at Twitter’s London office said: “Great people, like a family, that are passionate about growing Twitter to help everyone. Very flat structure, all ideas seem valued and interaction with senior management is easy and often.”

Other staff, such as a former data scientist at the company in the US, highlighted the “great restaurant quality food with good variety” that was available in the staff canteen.

A current intern in San Francisco highlighted the free shuttle bus from the city to the office as a good perk and said that: “interns are treated very much like full time employees, and are generally given full-time calibre work”.

Not all of the reviews were positive, however. An anonymous former employee said that the food was “great, if you want to gain 20 lbs”. He also criticised the goals of the company: “They don't care about the employees and building a company. It's all about cashing out and hitting it big. HR is almost nonexistent.”

Twitter claims on its website to offer weekly yoga classes, free gym membership, medical and dental benefits, paid maternity and paternity leave and a laundry and dry cleaning service.

The list ranked Twitter top and LinkedIn second. Facebook, which was listed as the best technology employer in 2011, 2012 and 2013, only made it to the third spot.

Technology businesses also fared well in the overall list of the best companies to work for in any sector. Twitter was at second place, LinkedIn at third and Red Hat was at 23rd position. In total there were 22 technology companies in the top 50.