Sorry, but we like to rip you off!

psn plus961

If you are a gamer like me, you might have noticed a not so subtle increase in the price of PSN (PlayStation Network) cards. These were previously priced at 22$ for the 20$ card and 55$ for the 50$ card. Currently the latter is selling for a whooping 65$. So you can forget about the digital purchase of games since the amount you’ll be saving on the game’s price you’ll be paying on the price of the PSN card.

If you know the reason for this increase kindly share in the comment section!

P.S: the prices mentioned above are from Virgin Megastore.

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Stunning Milky Way time-lapse video from Lebanon

This is one awesome compilation of Milky Way time-lapse videos taken at several location in Lebanon and Wadi Rum in Jordan. They were all shot and edited by fellow blogger Moophz.

Aside from stargazing, Moophz has a very interesting computer security blog, and you can also follow him on twitter.

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Shopping & Shipping from the US made easy

amazon

So you decided to spend your hard-earned money on a gadget you’ve been eyeballing for a while, but you noticed that it costs a fortune less in the United States. Well, shopping and shipping from the US has never been easier specially with some major US retailers (see Amazon) accepting non-US credit cards. I’ll be mainly focusing on Amazon since it is where you will find the cheapest prices online.

In order to make a purchase on amazon you will need the following:

  • An Amazon account.
  • A US suite address (an address in the US where your goods will be shipped; explained later on)
  • A credit/internet card.

How it works?

In order to ship from Amazon or other online US retailers to Lebanon, you will first need to have a US address that your goods will ship to. This address will be given to you by the shipping provider you will choose. That being said, There are many providers to choose from, the most widely known being Aramex’s shop and ship service, and DHL’s borderlinx service. I personally use borderlinx and I am satisfied with their service so far. I advise that you compare both offerings (and others) and decide which suits your needs best.

Next step is to add your credit card information as well as your billing and shipping addresses to your Amazon account. To avoid any confusion i’ll explain what these addresses exactly stand for:
Your billing address is the address associated with your credit/internet card. This is provided by your bank.
Your shipping address is the US address (suite address) that is provided by your shipping provider.

And that’s about it. You are now ready for your first purchase. You will be notified by email once your items have shipped from Amazon to your US address. You will also be provided with a tracking id so you can continuously check on the delivery process. Once the items have reached your US address, you will be notified of that as well by your shipping provider. Once shipped from the US, expect your items delivered to your doorstep in 1 business week max. You will receive 2 invoices: one from customs, the other from your shipping provider. Mabrouk!

Since the main objective of online shopping is to pay less, here are some tips to optimize your savings:

  1. Look for the cheapest seller.
  2. Make sure your item is eligible for free shipping (mentioned next to the item price).
  3. Choose “standard shipping” on checkout (all the items I have bought using “standard shipping” got delivered to my US address in 4 days tops which is totally acceptable in my opinion).
  4. No matter which provider you are shipping with, always consolidate your packages in order to PAY LESS shipping fees (benefits of consolidating packages explained here).
  5. Before proceeding with your purchase, check the Lebanese customs tariffs in order to know the customs fees applied on the type of product you are buying (note that you pay 0% custom fees on laptops and computer parts!)

Some useful links:

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Mkalles roundabout is still a roundabout

Mkallis

The works at Mkalles roundabout were recently concluded and the bridge as well as the tunnel have been open for a while now. However a few crucial points puzzle me:

  • The roundabout is still a roundabout.
  • Let’s say you are coming towards Mkalles from Jisr el Basha and you need to make a u-turn to go back, you  actually must drive through the whole roundabout and get stuck in the traffic that’s going towards Mansourieh, Dekwene, Hayek and Habtoor. This fact also applies whether you are coming from Dekwene, Mansourieh, Hayek, or Habtoor.
  • Most people that drive down daily towards Beirut, from Mansourieh, Daychounieh, Ain Saade and the surrounding Matn areas were waiting for the works at Mkalles to finish hoping the roundabout will no longer be the bottleneck it once was. Sadly though, this is not the case since these people are not even being able to easily reach the infamous roundabout in the first place. The thing is, the actual bottleneck is at the SKAFF gallery turn (a.k.a mafra2 l OTV) where the incoming traffic specially during rush hours is barely if any organized.

The situation is only going to become worse with the school season just starting and the rain we all love soon pouring on our well paved roads.

I understand that traffic jams are common, specially in our country, but a 3 long years multi-million dollar project should have provided the needed solution in an area where traffic is a major issue.

photo via http://throughatoonerdarkly.wordpress.com/

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Some fact checking never hurts

mcdonalds-big-mac-meal

Some news editor at elnashra.com must have stumbled upon this old satire article about human meat that has been found in one of McDonald’s meat factories in Oklahoma and decided to make a story out of it!

elnashra-mcdonalds

This isn’t the first time a Lebanese news outlet mistakes satirical news for real, but I can’t believe editors still do this with Google being one click away from them. A simple search reveals that this story actually first originated from the fake news website Huzlers.com and then started making rounds on social media websites.

Some fact and source checking never hurt!

On a side note, my favorite burger at McDonald’s has been the “Big Tasty” for a while now!

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Race accident almost turned tragic in Ehden

I’m not sure when exactly did this race take place but the driver was definitely lucky to come out on his feet!

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NSFW – Cursing man surprises MTV Lebanon anchor

mtvlebanon

I really don’t know much about the issue that got this man mad but he’s just hilarious!!

Thanks Hani

 

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A.R. Hallab challenges three restaurants in the #IceBucketChallenge

kasr el helou

Ice bucket challenge videos have been taking the internet by storm over the past weeks and it was only about time until Lebanese people start doing it. Not necessarily to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but mostly just for the fun of it!

Along with the individuals who participated in this viral campaign, celebrities and companies are now challenging each other! In the video below, Kasr El Helou (Abdul Rahman Hallab) are challenging Crepaway, Zaatar W Zeit, and Roadster Diner to do the same. And I guess it’ll be quite fun to see those restaurants replying with similar videos.

On the other hand, Najwa Karam challenged Ragheb Alama, Ahlam, and Elissa to throw ice buckets on themselves too!

However, as much as I find these videos fun and effective at raising awareness for ALS, I also wish the Lebanese people would also put the same energy to raise much needed funds for local organizations here like the Lebanese Red Cross and the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon.

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MIT 35 Innovators under 35: Fadel Adib and Ayah Bdeir from Lebanon on the list

35innovators

The MIT Technology Review recently released their list of 35 Innovators under 35, which is an annual lineup that highlights young professional who are reshaping the way their respective fields think with their research.

The awesome thing about it this year is that it featured two innovators from Lebanon! The first is Fadel Adib from Tripoli who invented a way to track people moving around in other rooms using WiFi.

fadel adib

“I was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, in 1989. At the time, there was much political violence. The Lebanese civil war ended a year later. Unfortunately, the postwar stability did not last long. When I went to the American University of Beirut, I remember we used to have assassinations or bombings almost every week. When I came to MIT as a PhD student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, the first thing that shocked me was that I could focus all the time on research.

“In one of our projects, we were just making our Wi-Fi faster by maximizing throughput between nodes. Every once in a while, the system would get messed up, and we would stop getting good results. We realized that there was some person walking in the hallway, and that person’s walking was basically changing the channel.

“If I shine a wireless signal at the wall, a huge amount of this signal is going to reflect off the wall. A tiny part of that signal will traverse the wall, reflect off anything that’s behind it, and then come back. We realized that we can sense motion using these wireless signals, and that’s how we started working on seeing through walls.

“You can track people as they move. You can monitor multiple people’s heart rates and breathing. Retail stores that want to understand how people are moving in their stores can track when a person reaches out for a product, looks at it, and puts it back. The police could track if there’s a person behind a wall. One of the applications we’re thinking of: can you monitor the heart rate of a fetus in the mother’s womb without touching the body in any way?

“When I went home to Lebanon and I was talking to my grandmother about it, she was like, ‘So, for example, can I put it over here in my living room, and if I fall in the bedroom or in the bathroom, it’s going to going to detect my fall and send an SMS to one of my children? Please, make this a product and put it here.”

And the second is Lebanese Canadian Ayah Bdeir who graduated from AUB and started littleBits, an open source library of modular electronics that snap together with magnets.

ayah bdeir

Growing up in Beirut, Ayah Bdeir was taught that art and engineering occupied separate realms. “In Lebanon, as in most of the world, there is little blurring of the boundaries between the professions: doctor, teacher, scientist, and designer exist in separate silos,” she says. The company she founded in 2011, called LittleBits Electronics, goes against that idea by making technology accessible across all disciplines and ages. It sells a library of modular electronic units that can be easily connected for projects as diverse as a sound machine, a night light, or a lifelike robotic hand.

LittleBits makes roughly 50 different modules, which cost up to $40 each or come in kits of $99 and up. Each module is a thin rectangle measuring between one and four inches in length and containing complex hidden circuitry. Blue modules provide power. Pink ones allow for inputs, like switches, microphones, and motion sensors. Green ones are for outputs like lights, motors, and speakers. Orange ones provide wires or logic functions. Bdeir designed all the modules so they fit together magnetically, ensuring that users join circuits correctly.

Her New York–based company has sold hundreds of thousands of units in about 80 countries, and Bdeir takes pride in the fact that the product appeals to girls and boys, children and adults, designers and engineers. “A screwdriver is a screwdriver for everybody,” she says. “It doesn’t matter who you are or how you use it. Every person will find what they want.”

You can check the complete list of innovators here. In the previous years, people who made it really big like the founders of Google and Facebook were featured on it.]

Update:

Thanks to Haya for bringing up to my attention that there’s a third Lebanese on the list. It’s Rand Hindi the founder of Snips, a firm that is specialized in predictive technologies. I apologize for missing him!

rand hindi

Rand Hindi once put on more than 70 pounds just to see if data could help him take the weight off. He tracked every aspect of his life—what he ate and drank, how long he slept—and fed the results into software that determined which behaviors were bad for him. Sure enough, after heeding the software’s advice, he lost the weight.

Now what Hindi wants to reduce is the “friction” of urban life. In 2012 he founded a Paris-based company called Snips, which analyzes data in hopes of making city living more efficient. For example, Snips partnered with France’s national railway to create an app that predicts up to three days in advance how crowded different trains will be. By mining such sources as weather information, historical passenger counts, and real-time check-ins from users of the app, it can advise people to stay away from particular stations or guide them to trains with more seats available. Now Snips is developing ways to use an urbanite’s context—location, weather, interests—and deliver useful information before he or she even asks for it.

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So why did mobile prices suddenly increase?!

iphone5s

If you have been following smartphone prices in Lebanon over the past couple of weeks then you might have noticed the weird increase on all handsets.

For some unknown reason, prices have increased by around 10% in the latest price list published by Amhaz (Stars Communications) and are now similar to the prices during the period when the government cracked down on smugglers by requiring IMEI registration. The table below shows the difference between the prices on August 6th and 18th for some selected devices.

prices

I’m not sure whether this has anything to do to with the U.S. sanctions Amhaz was hit by a while ago or it is actually due to some extra control exercised by the Lebanese government on smugglers to make them pay the due taxes, but it’s definitely weird since nothing about this matter was mentioned in the media.

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