My Rants

My rants about technology.

A Look Back on 2020

I think that everyone agrees that 2020 has been a truly different year in most aspects. It has impacted the lives of billions of people around the globe. Stress levels are at all-time high and the statistics on depression and anxiety are just shocking. I have not lived a year that had such a deep impact in people’s lives like 2020 did. Social media, and media in general, has severed the malicious purpose of scaring people and reinforcing the “if it bleeds, it leads” concept and kept us very well informed of everything that is going wrong in the world. However, this post is not about discussing what went wrong in 2020. It is just a holiday rant to remind us of all the good things in life that we need to shift the focus to.

Looking back at all the good things that happened in 2020 will help us overcome the great difficulties that we’ve faced, and still facing. I know it’s not easy. Coming from Middle-Eastern origin with a long heritage of negativity, I can assure you it’s not easy. Many great things have happened around the world that are worth mentioning. I’m not going to list all of them, obviously, but I need to mention a few. Nature, supported by the brave fire fighters, ended the Australian fires back in January. Humanity has come together to build multiple vaccines to end a global pandemic in a record time compared to the history of vaccines. Technology companies supported the world during the pandemic lock down and made it possible for millions of businesses to shift their work to online platforms, many of which were provided free of charge. People around the world showed unprecedented support to weaker communities and local small business during lock-down in many countries around the world. On a personal level, I look back and see more time to spend with the family during 2020. I see three cybersecurity certifications that I have achieved in only six weeks in 2020. I see 1 journal papers, 1 conference paper, and 1 book chapter published in 2020. I see a bunch of new people that I feel lucky to meet (although online) in this year. I choose to overlook the difficult other parts of 2020 to keep my sanity and mental well-being.

I’m not trying to say that this year was a great year. Because it simply wasn’t. It is just one of those years that we’ll tell our grandchildren about proudly. What I’m trying to say here is that how you feel about the tough times will not change what’s happening. It’ll change how you perceive these tough times. You can go through tough times stressed and overloaded with anxiety, or you can accept those tough times and make the best out of them. It is definitely difficult when almost all media around you is building a horrifying picture and magnifying the “the end is near” rhetoric. However, you can choose to filter-out bad news gradually and be able to live life one day at a time.

Finally, I’d like to wish everyone happy holidays and a great 2021 ahead!


Edited books, or contributed volumes, are quite popular in the academic realm. Usually, the lead editor is an experienced scholar and one or more co-editors to handle the required work. Graduate students are usually hungry for this type of publication. Mostly because the required effort and time to produce a book chapter is less than that required to publish a paper in a good journal, and because the review process for book chapters is less rigorous in comparison to journal review.

A few days ago, I was looking for a “Call for Chapters” for one of my postgrad students who was complaining that he wasn’t able to find one within his specific area of research although he searched a lot. I spent a good couple of hours searching with no avail. Then, it hit me. We find a lot (and I mean aloooooot) of “Call for Papers” websites. But “Call for Chapters” websites are quite rare. So I thought, why not make one?

I know that most editors use wither their personal websites, or give in and use “Call for Papers” websites. But, as an editor as well, I understand how inconvenient that can be. Plus, it does not provide the required exposure to the appropriate audience of contributors.

So, I present to you A free platform presented to support the academic community. Editors can publish their calls for chapters here for free, and contributors can search and browse through the available calls. No signup, no account, no cost. Just fill up the submission form and it will get published within 48-72 hours. I’ll try my best to maintain this website and keep it running for a long long time. Please spread the word and share the page through social media to widest possible audience. Of course your feedback is very welcomed to make the site better and help it serve the purpose.

Are You Certified?

If you have a certification in any Information Technology field, you are invited to write a review of your certification. Express your thoughts about the certification. Tell other people what you think of the certifications, how you got it and how it affected your career. Share your opinion with certification seekers.

Certifications.Reviews invites you to write your review and have it linked to your twitter/Linkedin/website/blog/..etc . If you’re interested, you can find more information and fill the review form on this page:

If you don’t have a certification, you can help others by sharing this post with your friends and colleagues.

Thank you.

Launching a new adventure called Certifications.Reviews

Its been a long time since I worked on a new personal project. I created back in 2005 and it had hit success a few months later. I worked on updating it for a few years, then I got busy with my PhD. and ended up turning the website into a small book that was published by Springer in 2012. Since then, I have been busy moving around from one country to another (one of the byproducts of being Iraqi).

A few weeks ago, the idea hit me. What is my favorite thing? Teaching, and passing knowledge to other people. Most of my academic interests are too complicated and might not be interesting to a large audience. I decided to go to a non-academic knowledge passing; certifications. Industrial certifications in the field of Information Technology are growing into a necessity for professionals and job seekers. So, my question was “How can I help?”.

I decided to create a website that talks to certification seekers in a simple way, explaining to them what the exam is all about. Not only by my own words, but using their own words. Eliminating all the big terms and complexity of exam description by experts. The idea is simple. Hear what other people think about the certification exam. What is this exam about? How did others achieve their goals? How did the exam change their lives? What is next?

When you, as a certification seeker, hear these words coming from the mouth of a fellow regular person in a simple language, it takes away your fear and clarifies ambiguities of this exam. I thought that this is a good idea and for me as person who had many certification exams, I believed that this can help me a lot.

So, I started a website called Certifications.Reviews. The website is designed to serve as a platform for certifications takers and seekers to exchange important information and tips.

After settling on the main idea, I was thinking that I should spice up the idea a little. I kept thinking, as a certification seeker, what do I need? The answer was a time table!

So, I sat down and developed a simple algorithm to create time tables on-demand. I put together a small application and a server to host it. The application lets you select the certification vendor, certification, the book that you are using, and the number of hours you plan to study per day. Voala..a time table is generated. I kept adding books to the time table database which now carries 30+ books in different specializations.

So many more ideas are going to be added to the site gradually. Joggling an academic job with a new project is not that easy, apparently. Stay tuned! there is much more to come!

Develop research culture in the Arab Middle East

I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Communications of the ACM that was published in Issue 3/Vol 57 (March, 2014).

It was only 2002 when I first knew ACM even existed. I was preparing my master’s thesis in computer engineering in Iraq. I was so amazed I thought of ACM members as movie stars. Due to many circumstances, I did not have the honor of joining as a member until 2010. Having received my bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in the Middle East, I have always seen a gap, a large one, between the way research is conducted there on one side and in Europe and the U.S. on the other. This feeling has been enforced whenever I get a rejection letter for a paper sent to a big computer science conference or journal. Sometimes, unfortunately, reviewers have mocked and even ridiculed instead of provided a constructive review. This happened in the early stages of my own research, and, as I learned later, to many of my colleagues as well. In most cases, when I look at Arab scientists who have published in reputable conferences and journals, I see author names of those who have either studied abroad or are working abroad, many very successful with outstanding research records. What does this say?

The Arab Middle East needs a cultural revolution in terms of research, especially in computer science. The research mentality here is quite different from other areas of the world. This is not to say it is not scientifically valid, just that research here is conducted in a different way that needs to be formalized to conform to international standards. Many researchers in the Arab world have amazing potential. Unfortunately, that potential is not being unleashed until they go abroad.

I sincerely hope ACM takes the initiative in helping spread a valid and concrete academic research culture in the Arab world. We all aim for the same thing—improving the quality of life for ourselves and for the coming generations. The lack of tools and research culture should not prevent Arab computer scientists from contributing to the development of all humanity.

The letter can be found in here.

All feedback is welcomed.

The Agony of Dealing with YallaApps

Before the Dev center registeration was open in Oman, I registered through Microsoft Publishing partner called YallaApps (Paying the same 99$/year). That was about a year ago. I published many apps with them and the process in overall was nothing less than agony. Very slow responses, and most of the time wrong responses an I have to repeat what I need many many times.

Anyway, I felt so happy back in August when I knew that the Dev center is opening in the country I live in. YallaApps informed all their subscribers that they need to register for new accounts in the dev center and pay full and then in November Microsoft would refund your subscriptions. They said if you like to keep the rating and reviews (which are many for my apps) you need to file a request on a specific online form. Which I did very early once they announced it. They also said if you don’t need to keep your ratings and reviews, you can send us a request for deleting the apps from our side and you submit them again with your account.

So, after registering and finishing all their requirments, I waited. And waited some more. I wrote to their blog as a comment and the comment is still waiting moderation for about a month now.

I wrote on their facebook page asking about the migration and no reply for about a week.

I wrote to their support email and I received an auto-reply saying that we received your email, and we’ll respond to you within 48 hours. And for over a week now, nothing.

I received an email three days ago from Microsoft Global Publishing Partner Program saying that a refund will be issued for you dev center subscription and they mentioned nothing about the apps migration. I replied to their email asking about an ETA for the mogration of apps and they replied to me saying that the app migration has already been done. We did not receive a request from Yalla to transfer any apps to you account. No further migration is possible now..!!!

I do not know specifically whose mistake is this, but I am very sure it is not mine and I do not want to pay for the mistakes of Microsoft and/or their partners.

So I looked-up YallaApps and their mother company “Prototype Interactive” in Dubai Media City and I called their phone number many times and all I get is voice mail.

Me and all other people stuck with YallaApps would like Microsoft to take action and protect our rights from a bad Microsoft partner. How can you ask for more devs to come in when the ones you already have are jumping out?

* Update 11-Dec-2012: Someone actually answered my 5th or 6th phone call and I re-explained the issue and they said they will look into it and get bak to me TODAY.

* Update 11-Dec-2012: I received an email from YallaApps asking for details and acknowledging that the migration was finished and my apps we not migrated.

* Update 21-Dec-2012: I received and email from Microsoft (replying to my email on Dec. 10th) saying that there will be a second batch of migrations and they do not guarantee that it will be successful nor they can give a time line.