Framing Armageddon: The Devil’s Advocate

Collapse of the basic structural needs in South Lebanon. Death of hundreds. Many have been left without homes or shelters. A mad adventure to prove one’s wrath and a vulgar display of power. Those were the acts of the Lebanese madman, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. This man bet money and power to prove his supremacy over the Arabs and Israel, chanting the usual anti-Western slogans of imperialism and occupation. Yet, he survives on money and arms fed in from Syria and Iran, the remaining Axis of Evil in the Middle East.

What did he gain in the end? nothing! He had to go on public TV to apologize for every Lebanese for his arrogant idiotic acts for destroying the country for the sake of a couple of Israel militant hostages. His ventures against Israel and breaking whatever remained of unity between the different sects of Lebanon never cleared his character of the allegations against Hezbollah for involvement in the assassination of Mr. Rafeek Al-Hariri a couple of years ago. Now, he’s leading the sectarian hatred and acts of anarchy in the Gulf region, especially in Bahrain. Everyone knows nowadays that his days are almost over, since Syria regime is collapsing from the public resistance movement to topple down this evil regime. Iran’s position in the region is not favored nor supported by any moderate influential nation. I guess it’s time to take down this militant demon and put an end to his terrorist existence. Then, by that time let us enjoy the divine victory over the lieutenant of Satan.

The clock is ticking till that day comes. Framing Armageddon is in the progress. The showdown is pretty near.

iPhone Travel Apps: Airlines

In follow-up of my previous post about iPhone Travel Apps, let me enlighten you with the next line of important iPhone Apps for traveling: Airlines apps. I’ve downloaded must of the available apps for airlines and frequent flyer programs available for iPhone in quest to test their worthiness. Let me present you with some of which I can recommend.

Cathay Pacific’s CX Mobile App:

Available in two formats for iPhone and iPad, this application is truly good. You can check-in for flights, check your frequent flyer status for Marco Polo Club, get flights timetables, information about countries which CX flies to and some insight on the human side of CX: its crew and the people working behind the scenes. Very recommended and you should give the iPad version a try.

Lufthansa app:

It looks like Lufthansa is also competing to reach the high level of service standards and they’re doing it good. Available in iPhone and iPad format, Lufthansa has plugged in all the needed information for any traveler. Mobile electronic QR boarding pass for scanning, check-in services, flights timetables, frequent flyer status and information and some awesome Lufthansa-related wallpapers for your gadget. I would truly recommend trying the iPad version. I have been using the iPhone version since two years ago and it evolved into something is that functioning smoothly and helped me during my trips with Lufthansa. Recommended.

British Airways App:

Being updated to the latest minute, British Airways have been working hard on getting this app to satisfy its users and it has gotten better over time. In the beginning, I didn’t like the idea that you have to login to use the app, but I think most of that gone right now and it’s gotten flexible over trial and error and users feedback. This is an interactive app display’s the urge of BA to compete to regain trust and confidence of its patrons over other competitive airlines. Generally, it has most of the functions that I have listed earlier in the previous apps but I do like the new artwork and its reflection into the app. Available only for iPhone.

All Nippon Airways ANA Global App:

Hidden and almost unnoticeable, the first app to emerge from the main two big Japanese airlines for iPhone and available in the US iTunes store. I was surprised that ANA decided to tackle the global scene with this app and it’s good. Equipped with a different interface where you can change the layout and background of the app while using it, it got me interested. The ability to display global time zones for up to 3 regions is remarkable and unique from all the other apps. Reservations, flights timetables as well login for frequent flyers are available initially but I do have some remarks about the functionality. Some of the functions would take you to the main actual website, where its re-sized abnormally and hard to use and view. I hope that ANA would address that and work on it. Another app for ANA is available for iPad and it’s called “ANA virtual airport” and it’s totally another concept of what is here, yet its still glitchy and at some operations it would cease to stop and quit. I have that could be addressed as well.

United Airlines App:

One of the competitive apps for the North American airliners, the app is almost shared between United and Continental Airlines after the merger between them last year. They share the same app icon, layout and such that you couldn’t differentiate between them. I’ve been using the United app for my flights between KWI and BAH and till now it doesn’t support the electronic mobile pass function for the region here, but it does where it’s applicable and accepted in North America and Europe. It does have all the basic functions needed for all travelers and they have worked better on improving the transition between each function smoothly. Available only for iPhone.

American Airlines App:

AA has already declared chapter 11 bankruptcy last month or so, yet they’re still functioning. Part of the OneWorld alliance, AA is the Northern American arm and they have been fiercely competing United and Delta for international travelers. By releasing two versions of their app, with a dedicated HD version for iPad, it seems that AA has taken their competition to the apps market. Nicely designed and produced to contain all the necessary functions for the frequent travelers, I think AA has been active and wish to see more improvements for the frequent flyer part in the future updates.

Turkish Airlines Fly Turkish App:

Although I have been hearing discouraging stories and experiences about frequent flyers going for Turkish airlines due to the low fares and the accountability of their tiers since Turkish Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, yet I’ve decided to try and give this app a shot since it’s free and it doesn’t involve any commitment to get on that airplane. Honestly, the interface is nicely done with some transitions between the functions that do need some attention to speed up the process, this app has almost everything anyone would need when traveling with this airline. Available only for iPhone.

Delta Airlines Fly Delta App:

Although I have never flown on Delta, I have been told by some of my buddies that it’s better than United and AA in their international and long-haul services and fares. Unfortunately, Delta Airlines only spot for arrival in the GCC region is Dubai DXB, so you would need a previous connecting flight if you’re not in UAE. Back to the app, I’ve been amazed by their thoughtfulness to include maps of local US airports which would help travelers with the gates and transfers. Aside from that, this app has all the necessary parts any traveler might require from Delta. I think some other North American airlines might need to see what Delta is doing and learn from it. Available only for iPhone.

Thai Airways Thai M Service App:

The 3rd app to review from Asia, this is nicely designed app for Thai Airways. It does contain some of the essential parts that would create a need for such an app, yet no promotion is going around to encourage people to use it. It did crash with me a couple of times and in some parts, it’s unstable. I hope that some serious effort would be put to fix it up. Further improvement is needed. Available only for iPhone.

Singapore Airlines Mobile App:

what’s one of the best airlines in the world? Singapore Airlines! what’s the worst airlines-related app in the world? this app!! I have to include in this app so more pressure would be placed on SQ to wake up and fix things up. So what’s wrong with it? Everything!! If you read the reviews in the iTunes App Store, you just wouldn’t believe how people are in disbelief that this awful app is related to SQ. Very slow and awful transitions between functions of the app, shifting to java web pages for usage, the hateful need to login each time you want to check something, this app is truly a disaster!! Till now, there has been no improvements that reflect the users feedback and that means that SQ is asleep!! I hope this post would wake up Singapore Airlines developers and start doing something for the sake of humanity!! I’ll be crossing my fingers while waiting to see something new and improved!

First/Business Class Lounge, RUH

Departing from Riyadh after my stay there, I had to use the RUH airport International terminal to go back to Kuwait. Now, I have never been to RUH before and I did have some high expectations about it.

RUH had three terminals. Each is designated for a type of traveling purpose. Saudi Arabian Airlines had their own terminal, the local low-cost carrier had their own terminal and I was to travel from the International terminal, where all other airlines are allocated to. Upon entry for luggage inspection and checking-in, the whole place seemed like a disaster. Chaos and disorder were the main characteristics of the place. I mean I couldn’t have made it through to the check-in counters with the help of some low-wage worker who feverishly fought to get my attention in handling my bag and making it through all the way to the Gulf Air counter.

Upon checking-in, I directed towards the First/Business Class Lounge near gate 18 if I remember correctly since I was traveling on J class and it was the only available lounge in the whole terminal! I have heard stories about this lounge but I have decided to ignore it and give the place a shot. Upon arrival, there was no one available to admit me for entry. I had to wait till this staff person who was mingling with some hot food buffet bar to come and help me. Very bad start. The place was so small, it was the smallest lounge I’ve ever been to till now.

I wouldn’t recommend using the toilet down there, because it was as bad as any over-used toilet in an international airport in the Middle East: Nasty! The hot food bar looked bad visually and wasn’t promising at all. I had to resort to stale sandwiches which were hidden in the lower part of the buffet for unknown reason!

The WiFi service was pretty weak and you had to find the receptionist to get the password, which wasn’t available onsite and I resorted to ask some fellow lounge users about the access password. I have witness some rude treatment from the receptionist towards a fellow lounge patron wen he was rudely asked how he got in there and to show his boarding pass immediately, while the patron was enjoying his drink and food. The patron was patient enough to tell him that the receptionist’ colleague is the one who let him in after inspecting his boarding pass. I didn’t even hear a word of apology from the receptionist.

In the end, if you ask me what I heard about this place beforehand was the following: “don’t think about going there, just chill at Starbucks next to it near the gate and avoid at all costs!”

Holiday Inn Riyadh – Izdihar, Saudi Arabia

Being dispatched to many places in the gulf region, I had to go on my own for the first time ever to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We’re talking about a huge city which I have never been to before and and I didn’t get to see it since my job mission was truly short. In order to have close access to the highway and of course a cheap rate, I’ve decided to stay in Holiday Inn Izdihar in Riyadh. Now, finding this place might be tricky. It’s on the highway, there are no major signs that point to it and you could miss it by an instant and have to turn around all the way for it again. My colleague took some good time to find this place and it didn’t show on any GPS navigation system.

Upon checking in, it’s to be noted that there are two buildings for this hotel which are separated through a public street!! If you are assigned a room in the other building, then you have to go and walk or drive to it which was pretty uncomfortable. I have expressed my concern at the reception desk and I was assured that my room was located where I was at and that was satisfying.  The lobby was fine although small and wouldn’t hold a lot of guests at the same time. I was assigned a ground floor room, but I don’t remember if there was a 2nd floor in the hotel!

Upon entry, I was greeted with this view of the room. The room was decent and the wireless internet service was free, which was truly appreciated. Due to the remote location of the hotel, I didn’t bother going out and checking the surroundings, although I have been told that there was a supermarket or a shopping center nearby. Otherwise, there’s nothing around to see or do. Of course since this is Saudi Arabia, you can forget the basic elements of nightlife. I would recommend giving the room service a shot, I’ve tried the club sandwich there and it was averagely good.

Of course, I have to mention that even though I’ve gotten a good room, the window view was truly awful. As soon as you open the drapes, you are hit with a garden wooden fence which goes over three meters high and you can’t see anything. That’s why I’ve decided to keep them closed! Another major issues is the power sockets and plugs. They only have the American type for wall sockets and it was very inconvenient for me. I had to go to the reception and ask for an adapter, which took them some time to allocate a one for me thankfully.

I would recommend the hotel only for business travelers and for any stays that don’t go more than a single night. The quality of the hotel fulfill the basic obligations and needs for the type of travelers I’ve mentioned earlier.

Navigator of the Past

Till this day, I can’t forget the times when I enjoyed surfing the net using Netscape Navigator on Macs power II and III. We’re talking way back in the day. This is an image of the best version I have ever used and it was the hit around campus when it came out. Everything seemed so fine and raw back then. You just couldn’t ask for more. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer came out and then Firefox resulting in the declining death of the navigator around 2010, having version 9 as its last release.

To the original developers of Netscape Navigator: Thank you! your work will always be remembered! Goodbye Netscape!

iPhone Travel Apps: Hotels

I’m an avid owner of iPhone. I can’t deny that. My iPhone has been a true part of me, especially when traveling. As a self proclaimed frequent flyer, I would like to share with you some of the best iPhone apps available for traveling usage in my humble opinion. In this post, we’re going to pay the hotels apps a visit.

Starwood Preferred Guest “SPG” App:

The famous franchise app for accessing your SPG profile, making reservations, checking rates, contacting franchise hotels and more. Very useful app but still needs some major improvement to its plain user interface. I have used it for making a reservation and its secure and functional. Recommended.
Hilton Hotels and Resorts “Hilton” App:

This app has gone through modest improvements. It has the basic functions of checking your Hilton HHonors account, making reservations and editing them and the ability to book a reward stay. The interface is OK yet no “wow” about it. I hope that Hilton would follow up and provide a major lift for the performance of the app.

Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts” Priority Club” App:

My favorite. This app has gone over admired phases of app development to today’s version, where it has proven its position among the others. For example, once I have made a reservation on the go, while driving to a Holiday Inn. The trip to the hotel took me less than 10 minutes. Upon arrival, I found my reservation ready and available at the hotel!! Secure, fast, good and truly recommended.
Marriott Hotels & Resorts “Marriott International” App:

The newest app for famous international hotel chains, Marriott app has gone through some good updates recently to address its speed and functionality issues. I didn’t use it for making a reservation, but I have used it for fetching my current reservation and its smooth and working fine. I have to say that the developers need to work on the transitional performance when switching through the functions of the app.
Booking.com “Booking.com” App:

The famous worldwide hotel reservation and search engine finally got its iPhone app and its truly up to standards. We’re talking about a light app that takes you through a fitted replica of the original website but maintained as a stand-alone app, not a JAVA portal to their site like what other lame app developers do out of laziness. This app is recommended for its security, user-friendly and an intriguing graphical experience like it’s original website.
Carlson “Club Carlson” App:

One of the new apps in the travel category for iPhone in the App store. Developed after the company decided to lift off its trademark and its frequent guest program. This app is good. I have tried using it to check my current reservation and some details. Like many other apps, it still lacks the possibility to check out and enroll in current promos. Hope that it would be considered in future updates.
Accor Hotels “Accor Hotels” App:

This app is something else. I truly admire the effort placed in the graphic design of the app. Each hotel is given a spot to sell itself to the travelers. The developers have been active since lots of updates are being released recently for this app. The only thing which I still don’t like about this app is the non-integration between reservations made on the website and ones made using the app. In the app, you can’t access any reservation you have made using their website and this is very ridiculous. I hope Accor Hotels would reconsider this.
Agoda.com “Agoda.com” App:

The Asian twin brother of Booking.com. They have finally decided to release their app for iPhone. Till now, it doesn’t strike a “wow”, but I could say that there’s plenty of room for improvement. I never used Agoda.com personally, although I know couple of friends did and they recommended their customer service and their quick desk support around the clock. Not yet tested for actual reservation.
Choice Hotels “Choice Hotels Locator” App:

Till now, this app has not been of true usage for me. Why? because sadly none of the chain’s hotels exist currently within the Middle East. This hotel chain is very famous in the states and some parts of Europe. The latest update to the app was considered a major step forward, including an overhaul of the visual interface and some function improvements. Not yet tested for actual reservation.
Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts “Concierge Insider Guides” App:

Please note that this app is only available for iPad. I thought about giving it a shot for review, since it’s one of a kind. This app displays all the necessary data about the Intercontinental hotels located worldwide. It would give major outlines and info about the location of the hotel, tips about the city itself and more. Very entertaining visual experience and one of the biggest travel apps in size (currently 137 MBs). Worth a try and a “wow”.