Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category.

Digitizing Iraq’s books and documents is the only way to avoid the loss of history

By: Ashur Sada

Over the weekend, I came across an article about ISIS (aka ISL) taking over the Library of Mosul where

Digitizing books in Iraq would give them a safe future

Digitizing books in Iraq would give them a safe future

they confiscated close to 2000 books-leaving behind only Islamic books-and taking them away. What happened next is very disturbing but not shocking at all: ISIS set the books on fire, destroying them all in the process.

Sounds familiar? yes it does, it is similar to what the Mongols did in Baghdad in 1258 when they threw thousands of historical books, documents and records-many of which were Assyrian by authorship and origin-into the river, purportedly turning the river black from all the spilled ink.

But it is not just the Mongols and ISIS. Iraq has always been an interesting place: lots of history but at the same time rarely ever stable enough to sustain this rich history. From ancient times and until now, it has never been stable enough for more than a few years or decades at a time and that has meant that its historical treasures-especially books and artifacts-have always been the subject of looting, burning and total destruction. Iraq may have an vast collection of historical and ancient books and artifact today but it should have been double this had it not been for all the wars and destruction that this land has seen over the ages.

While artifacts and other physical objects can’t be easily digitized, other than simply taking pictures of them, books can have a better fate and be protected from destruction. Thanks to the internet and other new technologies that didn’t exist even a few decades ago, Iraq can and should start to digitize as many of its ancient books and archive records as possible. Google Books for example is already the largest digital depositary of books in the world. Using new scanning technology that Google pioneered, you can now find English-other languages are slowly being added too-books that go as far back as 500 years ago, which is shortly after the printing press was invented. This ensures that these priceless documents and books are preserved virtually forever, eliminating the possibility of a future destruction through fire or intentional sabotage which unfortunately is an inevitable possibility in a place like Iraq and the Middle East in general.

Imagine for a second if Google Books or other similar technologies existed some 1000 years ago. It would completely change our world today. It would mean that the books were preserved already, even if the Moguls tried to destroy them when they invaded Baghdad. From a historical point of view, this would be a complete paradigm shift from what we have today. It would mean having access to material that we can’t even dream of today. For example, from an Assyrian prospective, it would shed new light on what happened to Assyrians after the fall of their empire and how they evolved to become Christians and continue their legacy. While we do have some information on what happened to Assyrians after the fall of their empire, a lot has been lost in the centuries following the fall of their empire. The ruthless moguls ensured that most of what was left, would be lost forever in the Tigris river in Baghdad.  From a Christian prospective, we would likely have a lot more literature and volume on how Christianity came to Iraq and neighboring regions etc.

Google, in fact, has already taken steps to digitize physical objects from the past.  Using Google Maps technology, they have already digitized the ‘National Museum of Iraq‘ , allowing you to take a virtual tour inside. Not a substitute for the real thing of course, but at least we have a copy in case the real thing is lost as a result of fire, looting or direct sabotage by terrorists, looters etc.

Digitization, of course, has its limitation. For one, it may preserve the text of the book and even the way its cover and its pages look, but it is not a substitute for the real book and the way it feels when you touch it. But at the end of the day, it is better to at least preserve the content of these books than not to have anything left at all. In other words, when we can’t preserve both the substance and the form, let us at least save the former. After all, the ideas we inherit from these books are what matters the most. The preservation of the book itself, the cover, the pages, while of paramount importance, comes only second to preserving the actual idea, facts and information that these books and records try to convey to their readers.



Could iTunes Finally Save and Resurrect Assyrian Music?

The new Gaggi 2010 album “Sahdan” is out, and it is great. Oh, and I got it through iTunes!

Yes, Assyrian music is slowly but finally making the digital jump and embracing these technologies.  Although Walter Aziz, Linda George and few others already had some of their music on iTunes and Amazon MP3 service, people weren’t even aware of it.

The picture is now changing.  With more Assyrians having iPods, iPhones, iMacs and just the iTunes software in general, buying Assyrian music on iTunes will now become more relevant and popular.  Not to mention, it is now easier and cheaper than buying it on a CD.  I was able to download the full Gaggi album in less than 5 minutes, from the comfort of my chair at home! And of course, I can transfer the full album to my computer, and even make a CD copy of it for myself through iTunes.

As more Assyrians get their hands on these iTunes-enabled devices (iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads) they will get more comfortable with the new reality of buying songs in a digital format.

Assyrian music can only be saved and rejuvenated if we help our singers and musicians.  With CD sales on a constant decline in the last few years, iTunes (and even Amazon MP3) could very well be the technologies that will save and revive Assyrian music.

Granted, even if every Assyrian had access to iTunes, it still wouldn’t mean anything if there is no good Assyrian music on it to begin with.  So yes, good and original Assyrian music is still essential, but that creativity and motivation will not be there for our singers if we don’t support them. Remember, as we have mentioned in various other articles about this topic, it is a cycle where the singer and the listener enforce each other!


New, First Assyrian iPhone Application

iPhone now speaks Assyrian! Well, sort of.  A new Assyrian iPhone application has now been introduced, which is the first ever for the iPhone.

The application is called ‘Matleh’ (Assyrian Proverbs) and it displays different and random Assyrian proverbs every time it is launched.  Although the iPhone doesn’t yet have support for the Assyrian (Syriac) font, the application designer was able to create this application using pictures of the font, rather than pure Assyrian font.  And it is very easy to read, using modern Assyrian (Madnḥāyā -eastern)

The proverbs are from the bible, as well as old forms of old and modern Assyrian literature.

The application can be used for both inspirational as well as educational purposes: one can easily use it to learn or develop their Assyrian language skills.

While we do know the name of the developer of this application, we have no way of contacting him to thank him and offer other suggestions (if you are the creator, please drop us a line.)

One of the suggestions we would have for the developer is to add another feature to the application, which would display the ‘Assyrian word of the day or moment’

As more and more people start to use this application, it could easily develop and evolve to be a complete suite for ‘Assyrian language Reading and Learning’ on the iPhone.   iPhone applications can either be free or paid. The developer can develop both a lite free version and a more advanced paid version.

The number of Assyrians using iPhones is on a steady rise and this application can leverage that demographic, to both educate and profit too.

To download the application to your iPhone, simply go to the ‘App Store’ and search for ‘Assyrian’

Here are some screenshots from this application:


Assyrians are Googling themselves

Assyrians are Googling themselves and their history more than ever before, and that is a good thing. In talking to Assyrians online, reading through forum discussions and looking at stats for this very website, it is becoming apparent that Assyrians are utilizing the power of Google and search engines for a better use. They are searching and finding answers to questions about Assyrian history, and Assyrianism in general in the world today.

In reading through this article, three questions come to mind: what is so special about this whole thing, what are they searching for and what trends can we conclude from it all?

What is so special about Assyrians using Google and search engines? After all haven’t people, including Assyrians, been using Google for over a decade now? The difference is in what they are searching for. There is a serious and an Assyrian flavor to their search queries.

While they are still searching for ‘chat‘, ‘music‘, ‘pictures‘, and other liesure-based activities, a lot of their searches are increasingly serious in nature. This includes things like ‘Assyrian history, ‘church’ , ‘language’ , ‘culture’ etc. And while some of this search activity is conducted by non-Assyrians -an indication of an ever increasing awareness of our existence by others- the majority of it is being conducted by our very own. So they are not just searching but actually finding answers and in the process increasing their knowledge and information about their identity and history.

What conclusions and trends can we extract from all of this serious and increased Assyrian use of search engines? For one, it is an indication that Assyrians are no longer taking what they hear at face value. Instead, they are taking an extra step to research and verify what they hear. Another trend we can observe is an increased interest to learn more about themselve and history so they are better equipped and more ready to tell the world who they are and where they come from.

The hope is that Assyrians will be able to balance their leisure and serious-based searching. Search engines after all were made to help people find anything and almost everything out there and there is no need to restrict your search to one or the other. But with this wealth of knowledge, literally at our fingertips for free, why not use it to our advantage and to further our knowledge of our history, identity and the state of Assyrianism in general in our world today? “know thyself’ uttered one famous Greek philosopher, and what better way to do that than to start from a simple search box?

Happy Assyrian Googling!


Assyrian Voice Makes your Travel more Fun

Imagine if there was no Assyrian Voice. That would mean less or no friends to make online. But with Assyrian Voice, we are given an opportunity to make so many friends online, and these friendships later become real friendships in person. Whether in your local area or around the world, AVN has been helping people make friends since the first day it was created. Of course, it is what you make of it and how open you are to making these friends. We have more than a few members who have made so many real friends from the website, and no matter where they go, they will be able to meet them in person.

There are several people on the website, who are very friendly, open to new friends, and just very active. These special members can feel the great benefits when they travel abroad. No matter which popular Assyrian populated city they go to, they can find fiends from Assyrian Voice and meet in person. How cool is that? you can go to Sydney, Chicago, London, Toronto, Damascus, Auckland and be able to meet with friends that you met online. Whereas for someone who only uses AVN casually and has made no real friends, they miss the chance to meet with real friends when they go to other cities. It makes the difference between going to a city and feeling welcome or feeling like a total stranger.

The hundreds and even thousands of friendships and relationships that Assyrian Voice has helped create, will be immortalized for each one of us. These are friendships that would hardly exist if we didn’t put in the effort and take advantage of what Assyrian Voice has offered us. Of course, it is not just Assyrian Voice that lets you make friends online. But Assyrian Voice is socially unique in that it puts the extra effort to make sure these friendships are not trapped to the PC alone, but extend beyond it and to the real life. If these friendships were restricted to the internet, they would disappear, for example, the moment our PC or internet is down or shut down.

There are two ways to make friends from Assyrian Voice. On your own, and using our much popular Assyrian Voice gatherings, where our members meet in large groups in person, and become even more close to one another. If you live in a city where a lot of the members are frequent visitors to Assyrian Voice, it is time you planned a gathering so you can see these members face to face. In years from now, when these friends have become real special friends, you will look back and appreciate that you didn’t just keep them as online friends.

Assyrian Voice is more than a website. It is a social network where friendships and relationships are created and maintained for thousands of people, all around the world. You no longer have to worry about not having friends when traveling places. If you have put the effort, you will find friends from AVN everywhere.


How a Ship in Alexandria, Egypt Effected Assyrian Voice

How can a ship, ducked all the way off the port of Alexandria, Egypt, effect traffic to Assyrian Voice? and in a significant way! Well, if you haven’t heard, this past week, there were large disruptions in internet service in many parts of the Middle East, including Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and large parts of the Gulf including Iraq. Millions of people had lost service.

The cause? two large undersea cables, which transmit phone and internet data had been cut by a ship docked illegally off the port of Alexandria. You see, these giant cables do get damaged at times, but never has there been a time when two cables got damaged at the same time. Most websites and news sources reported as being “A breakdown in an international undersea cable network disrupted Internet links.” It sounds rather suspicious, doesn’t it? Well sure it does, because no official account has been given, where the illegally docked ship was faulted. Reuters’ version of the story for example, makes no mention of such ship!

Not surprisingly, but shockingly enough at the same time, there was a big percentage drop in traffic from the Middle East to Assyrian Voice; up to some 30% in some times of the day, and from these countries mentioned above. This is a significant loss of traffic and for this many days. As we speak, and four days after this incident occurred, our numbers seem to be back to normal. Assyrians connecting from countries like Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other gulf states usually make up the top 10 list of countries with most visitors to Assyrian Voice. Others include USA, Canada, Australia, and various European countries.

You can tell we are living in a truly globalized and connected world, when a ship in Egypt can effect how many people can come to this website. Truly amazing. I predict stocks for companies who are in the wireless internet industry to soar!


Use Windows XP and Vista to type in Assyrian Font

Windows XP and the new Windows Vista operating systems from Microsoft, allow you to type and even read Assyrian-type font (also known as Syriac font) Today, being able to type in Syriac is very important and can come in very handy. On our website for example, you can post in our Discussion Forums, using Syriac font (people with Internet Explorer 6.0 or later versions will be able to read it) The popular online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has an entire section in Syriac.  This short and simple tutorial will guide you through the steps of enabling Assyrian font on your PC. We will assume that you are using Windows XP or a later version of the operating system.

1Click on Start > Control Panel > ‘Regional and Language Options

2– Depending on your operating system:

XP:     On Windows XP, click on “General” and click the “Add” button on the right. From the list that appears, select “Syriac” to add it.
Vista:  On Windows Vista, click on “Keyboard and Languages” Tab, then click on “Change Keyboard” button and then click “Add” button to select “Syriac

You should now be able to see Syriac added in the list, under English and any other languages you may have.
Note: you can select any language and then ‘Properties” to edit or modify its settings.

3– Click on “Language Bar” tab to specify the location of your virtual keyboard, to hide it, or even make it invisible when not in use.  Click on the “Advanced Key Settings” to specify how you want to switch back and fourth between typing in Syriac and typing in English or other languages on the system.  You are done. You should now see the language bar floating on your desktop as illustrated below. You can click on it to select the language.

As an extra option, you can use your virtual keyboard to type, if you are unfamiliar with using your keyboard to type in Syriac font. To bring up your virtual keyboard, click on:  Start > All Programs > Accessories > Virtual Keyboard

Alternatively, and for easier access, you can drag your virtual keyboard from the Start menu into your desktop or Quick Launch area of your desktop.

If you have any question about this or need further help, please contact us.


A 18 Year Old Stays a Record-Breaking 26 hours on Assyrian Voice

What you are about to hear may sound familiar; something which you may have done before. But no matter how familiar, rest assured, that it is far from what you had done, or heard others doing.  It is the real story of an 18 year old Assyrian student from London, England, who was able to remain online on, for a record 26 straight hours. Or the equivalent of one day and two hours. The record-setter (or breaker) emailed me personally and told me all about his record. He asked me that his privacy be kept, and that his name not get mentioned at all (which we respect and oblige) He prefers to be referred to as “R.B-UK”, which I am guessing, stands for the “Record Breaker from the UK”?

Now to the real story. You are probably asking yourself : “why did he do it?”, “why the hell would someone waste 26 hours online, and only on one site.” I guess we are lucky enough, because R.B-UK did tell me his reasons for doing this, which were very modest, yet interesting: he did it for the sake of doing it and to be the first one to do it.  Said the 20 year old record-breaker:

“I have been coming on AssyrianVoice.NET, for 2 years now and I felt like a gimmick, and unable to stand out from the huge crowd at the site. I was never popular, nor was I anything special to the people of the website. You always have someone who is known all over the place, and people fall in love with them. I was never able to become popular. So by doing something as extraordinary as this, I am sure my name and identity would come out and be appreciated more by Assyrian Voice. In other words, I am sinking deep into the psychology of Assyrian Voice and how people think, and based on that, I am doing this special thing to get some good attention. And last, I believe the new e-magazine section at Assyrian Voice will be the place, from which this real story gets broadcast to all AVNers and other people coming to this website”

So there you have it folks, according to the person himself.  Now let us go into the details, as given to me by R.B-UK himself.  First of all, the problem of honesty and truthfulness was something which I had to acquire, before being able to accept the reality and truth of this story.  That is, to say that someone broke such a record, is not easy to believe without being provided with some logical and physical evidence or proof of course.  Thankfully, that too is out of the way, as R.B-UK himself was able to provide me with all details, including photographs at different intervals (with time on them) of his sitting in front of the computer.  Moreover, after providing me with his static IP, I was able to do a check-up in the server log to see if such activity from one person, did indeed exist; and the server didn’t lie either.  So basically, I think I did virtually complete investigative check-up to verify the truthfulness of his claims, and the results seemed to agree, close to 100%, with his claims.  The man did indeed stay online on for over 24 hours (officially 26 hours according to him)

And now to more important questions, which I and many of you are thinking of now.  Such as: “what did he do in these 26 hours? was he just staring at the screen?” No. According to R.B-UK himself, he spent the 26 hours doing a lot of interesting things. Call it “Educating himself in AVNism, if there is such a term or concept.” The 18 year old basically visited every section on the website, and browsed/read it in details. For example, he was able to view all 77 albums, which he was never able to see before, due to the lack of time.  He was also able to read every message on the message board (good news for those who like to waste our space and time; there is actually someone reading your messages)  R.B-UK also visited the forums, and was able to read close to 100 topics in their entirety. As well, he went to the Interviews sections and read every single interview, since 2000 to this day.  While moving from one place to another, he was taking occasional breaks at the text chat, and voice chat; the latter was almost always empty.  In fact, at one time, he spent 9 straight hours on chat, even though he was silent most of the time and not chatting.  He also read every single article in our E-Magazine section. He basically touched every brick that went into the building of the website.

The details of his story are rather interesting. He started his record-breaking visit to Assyrian Voice on July 6th, 2005 at 6 PM (London time) That night, he never slept. On the second day, July 7th, the London terrorists attacks happened, and he never knew about them until his mom told him. In fact, his mom told him to come and see what is going on, on TV, but he never left his chair. He wanted to break his record before moving out of that chair.

Another question which popped to my mind, just before publishing this story was: “Although we know some of his fundamental reasons for wanting to do this, what else did he seek to gain by doing this?” R.B-UK insisted that he did this just to go down in history for doing something, which no one else ever did; regardless of how worthless or silly it was.  One reason he declines to reveal his name or real identity is to avoid being called a loser by others, for wasting 26 hours of his time, sitting on one website.  Moreover, the guy is attending his first year of university in London, and he doesn’t want to give the wrong idea about him being a lazy person. And finally, and I knew this was coming, he asked to be interviewed, and as a reward for his record breaking event, he wants to be fast-forwarded on the list and not to wait for years, like it is the case with most interviewee.

R.B-UK’s next challenge is? no, it is not to get good grades and obtain his degree; that is his short term goal.  His long term goal is, after finishing university is, to break a world record by staying online for over 100 hours, 41of which he promised to spend on; 41 is short for April 1st, which is the Assyrian new year.  R.B-UK, wisely states that by breaking this record, I will not only put myself into Yahoo, and CNN and other news site, but I will be able to put on the map too, by claiming that I spent close to half my time on that website, while breaking the 100-hours challenge.

Finally, I hope to talk get in touch with R.B-UK within the next few days and try to obtain his permission to publish some of the physical facts that support his claims; just for the sake of making the story even more interesting. It is not about dishonesty, because I already believe almost everything in the story.  It is just more cool when the story has an an aide to completely authenticate it.  As well, we will be doing an interview with him in the next few months. Frankly, I had never met this guy before, although I had seen his nickname on the chat at times. I think this guy will go from a no-one to the special-one!