Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lunch, Dubai Style

On Thursday at around noon, Farook called and asked me to join him 'as soon as possible.' I said I could join him at 1:00 p.m. He asked me if I couldn't make it any sooner, and I said I'd try.

I arrived at his office promptly at 1:00 p.m. His secretary, Aline, said she was expecting me, but Farook would be a little late. 'Would you like some tea?' I said, 'Yes.' She brought me a cup of tea, which I drank. I had prepared myself by bringing the newspaper, and proceeded to read it. Cover to cover. Even the parts I don't usually read.

At 2:00 p.m., Aline asked if I were hungry, and offered me some crisps. She said Farook wanted me to look at his computer.

Four or five years ago, Farook bought a used monitor with the screen burned in (about €10) and a computer case with a very old mother board which can only display an error message that it has no disk drives and no memory (probably another €10). Farook used this 'computer' to impress clients with his up-to-date methods. Recently, he hired Aline, who said he should put all his records on computer, and she knew how to do it if he would just get her a computer.

Farook is a concerned father, so he bought his son a good computer back in 1998. He has since bought his son newer computers (handing the older ones down to his daughters), so they brought the oldest computer into the office for Aline to use. Only Aline kept saying, 'It's too slow and I can't save my work.'

For a start, the computer was put together with an off-brand motherboard in 1998. Companies in Dubai buy cheap computer parts and use cheap labour to assemble them, and they can then sell the computers for a good profit. Before Microsoft started using Digital Rights Management (DRM), they would buy one copy of Windows and put it on all the computers they sold. So Farook didn't have his own Windows CD, just the (illegal) version put on by the assembler back in 1998. Then his son had gotten illegal copies of Office, Visual Studio .Net, several advanced engineering packages, games, and a program that teaches typing. Most of these come from China, where someone disassembles the program and deletes all the DRM. Along with the surrounding code, which may or may not be essential.

His son had also added a copy of Norton Antivirus, but, while he had the engine, he didn't have the database of viruses, so the program tries to scan everything, but can't find its database, so it spends a long time trying to scan, then gives an error message.

I found a couple of spyware and adware programs, and tried to delete them, but I couldn't open Control Panel. The secretary put the crisps on the desk with the computer, and I ate them.

I tried to run the program to repair the hard drive, but it wouldn't run, either.

After an hour, Control Panel finally came up and I started deleting some of the garbage, but the adware doesn't allow itself to be removed so easily.

Finally, around 5:00 p.m., Farook showed up and called his daughter, who said she had some very sensitive stuff on the computer, and I was not to look at or delete anything.

Many Muslims believe that a woman must never be seen except by her father, brothers, husband, and sons. Still, many women have pictures taken of themselves in very suggestive poses (i.e., with their faces uncovered, but everything else under a black abaya, something they feel is as embarrasing as a Western woman would consider a nude photo shot of herself put on the Internet by her ex-boyfriend). These pictures they keep on their home computers (and get very upset when they download a virus that e-mails these pictures to strange men). Farook kept saying I was making a perfectly good computer kharban (whatever that means).

The machine was so slow, it took me an hour to run shut down. I said I hoped it would run a little bit faster on Saturday when Aline came back to the office after her Friday weekend.

Finally, at 6:00 p.m., Farook took me to 'lunch' at City Centre in the ground floor food court, a crowded, noisy place that charges almost as much as one of the restaurant sections, but Farook likes it. (City Centre has three places to eat: the food court, the cheaper restaurant section, and the upscale restaurant section called Bin Hendi, whoever he was. Bin Hendi means 'son of Hendi,' but I've never heard of either Hendi or his son.)

After dinner, Farook insisted on ice cream, but really he'd seen a 'For Sale' sign next to the ice cream parlor, and wanted to get a contract to sell the place. The owner offered him a commission if he actually sold it.

And finally, around 10:00 p.m., Farook dropped me off at home.

For this part of the world, that's a very quick lunch.


Blogger samuraisam said...

Punctuality and Dubai are two words that were never meant to cross paths.

12:17 am  
Blogger CG said...

Bin Hendi is amongst this uae community....I have been told.

10:11 am  

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