Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Future Of Software Development

Quite often, one gets the feeling that software development is changing from what you know it to be, to something completely different. This is especially when one considers opinions that are daily expressed on the web via blogs, forums, reviews e.t.c

The opinions that I consider strong in many quarters is that of everything moving to the web. Software will in the future live in the browser and the desktop concept will become obsolete. The proponents of that opinion have some good reasons to think in that direction. For example many technologies have turned the browser into a powerful platform and bandwidth is becoming more available and cheaper by the day.

Another school of thought is that of people who think hand-held devices will eventually replace the traditional computer be it a PC or a mac. This group also have some valid points considering the fact that the phone I use today has processor that is faster than that of my desktop 8 years ago.

I do not completely agree with both views, what I think is going to happen is sort of convergence. The line between the different platforms keeps blurring each day. We are now reaching a point that one doesn't care much about which platform one uses but the tasks one is able to accomplish.

Software development will continue to involve the code-compile-run cycles. This is not going away anytime soon. Great software are still being developed with C, C++ e.t.c. And some tasks can not be performed efficiently without going back to those languages.

My problem with the "moving to the web" idea is that I am yet to see any great innovation in the web space. All I can find are multitudes of social networks (facebook, twitter e.t.c) and resource sharing portals like picassa, flickr, youtube e.t.c. Agreed that HTML5 has brought in some new things to the HTML standard but those are not new things to web. It covers some things like video playback that were previously achieved by plug-ins.

Google which is arguably the most successful company on the web is developing more and more desktop applications like Google desktop search and Google earth. This is a clear indication that google has realized that we are not going to have a web only or a desktop only future but a mixture of both and more.

The mobile platform is really a force to reckon with but it can never replace the traditional computer because one needs a normal computer to fully use whatever powerful mobile device one is using. For example you need a PC or mac to synchronize your apple iphone. Moreover, you do not expect programmers to use those devices to develop software even if they are targeting the same devices. Businesses are also not going to replace that computer on the secretary's desk with an iPhone or a Nokia N900 simply because they think those devices are powerful.

So if you are a software developer that develops only desktop software, I say go and learn PHP or ASP.NET now and if you are a web only developer I say go and learn C# or Java now. In the near future only those that know the desktop, the mobile and the web terrain are going to make any considerable impact.

If E-mail is yet to replace snail mail and E-books are yet to replace paper books I do not think the web or mobile platform will replace the desktop in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Microsoft Is Changing

It may be surprising to some that Microsoft, the company hated by almost every geek is gradually turning a new leaf. At least to open source software users Microsoft should be regarded as less of an enemy even if it is yet to become a friend. The latest move by Microsoft is the open-sourcing of the .NET micro framework. The micro framework is different from the compact framework which is a little bulkier. The micro framework targets bare metal devices that doesn't necessarily have an operating system and has a memory footprint of just 300kb.
Many techies still think it's cool to keep attacking Micorosoft, yes I think the attacks have helped in changing Microsoft's direction but I believe it's time now to cooperate with MS in making it a better member of the open source community.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Surviving A Car Accident

I got shot five times but I'm still breathing Living proof there's a God if you need a reason. -Tupac Shakur

The above were the words of rapper Tupac Shakur, I never really appreciated the deep meaning of those words until now. On tuesday 20th October 2009, Me and friend D.M Wulgo both survived a major car accident. We were going to Kaduna from Maiduguri the wether was cool and wet. Somewhere in Jigawa state a cow suddenly appeared infront of us from the side bushes. Dodging the animal we landed on the slippery mud beside the road, skidded some distance on the mud and hit the edge of a new lane being constructed. The car somersaulted three times before coming to rest on it's tyres. I sustained minor cuts on my hand and the side of my forehead. D.M who was in the passenger's seat had a cut in the head and both us had many bruises on our bodies. We were taken to hospital in Dutse, Jigawa state by volunteers and were treated there and discharged the next morning. By thursday 22nd October 2009 we were home and today friday 23rd October I'm posting on my blog. I think that's a proof there's a God if you need a reason.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Nigeria's Space Ambition

For some time now, I thought our space program have came to a halt especially with the loss of NigcomSat-1. But recently I came across a report on a milestone achieved in building of NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X (NX). The important thing about NigeriaSat-X this is that it is being built by Nigerian engineers. Read more here

Friday, 25 September 2009

Richard Mathew Stallman

If you love free software you will definitely know Richard Mathew Stallman a.k.a RMS. He founded the Free Software Foundation and also started the GNU project into which the Linux kernel was inserted to form the GNU/Linux OS. Everybody in Free software world agrees that RMS is a legend but many (including me) do not share all his ideologies . First of all it was the insistence by RMS that Linux must be called GNU/Linux, then the idea that software must be free and being open source is not enough. I think RMS also said something bad at the Gran Canaria desktop summit. I can't really remember but he somehow derived fun in disrespecting women. The latest from RMS is his outlash at Miguel De Icaza the mono project's leader and the founder of the Gnome project. RMS described De Icaza as a traitor to the free software community.

I believe RMS is now not as useful to the free software community as Miguel De Icaza. Agreed RMS and co. were the pioneers and the pace setters but he also really need to understand when to step aside and give room for fresh minds with fresh ideas. We are no longer in the 70s, we do not use mainframes anymore. The computer today is a productivity tool not a research-only machine. We need to see beyond the petty politics and rivalry and concentrate on what is of value to developers and end-users. I think that is what De Icaza understood but RMS did not.
Microsoft remains relevant in the software world not because they create the best software but because they create the easiest-to-use software. RMS! the days of coding everything in C using emacs are over. Yeah you did a great job, Miguel and co. are only building on the foundations you laid, but you should seriously start thinking about retiring. Because these days you are writing less and less code (if at all you are writing any) and talking more and more trash. The days of getting accolades just for hating Microsoft are over.

This is what Miguel had to say in response to RMS

"I want to say that God loves all creatures. From the formidable elephant to the tiniest ant. And that includes Richard Stallman.As for me, I think that there is a world of possibility, and if Richard wants to discuss how we can improve the pool of open source/free software in the world he has my email address.

Love, Miguel."

Don't worry if I am too harsh Richard. We still love our grand daddies even if they grow senile.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Investing In The Dark Continent

I came across this presentation in one of the many blogs I randomly read. It was a presentation made by Euvin Naidoo at the TED global 2007 in Arusha Tanzania. Euvin argues that Africa offers a great opportunity for investment based on some key factors he outlined. But for me, the most catching part of his 18 minute talk was when he quoted George Kimbell's statement about Africa being the Dark continent as follows;

"The Only Thing Dark About Africa Is Our Ignorance Of It."

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Creating the name "Boko Haram" and other half-truths in the news

After the skirmishes in Bauchi town by the followers of Muhammad Yusuf's sect, their was suddenly a new term created by the International media; "Boko Haram". It's a Hausa statement which literally means "western education is a sin". Not quite sure but I think the name was created by the Hausa service of the BBC. As far as I know Muhammad Yusuf's sect never gave itself a name. They claim that they are the true sunni muslims and any non-member of their sect an infidel. This I know because we once asked a member "Don't you consider us to be muslims ?" his reply was "I don't". This is also shown in their action like not praying in any mosque that is not their sect's.
So because they do not have a name, the people of Maiduguri who are also sunni muslims call them the Yusufiyyah sect, after their leader's name Muhammad Yusuf. I was surprised when every International news agency that reported the incidence kept calling them "the Boko Haram sect" instead of the "Yusufiyyah sect". Later after Muhammad Yusuf was killed and calm restored in Maiduguri, I saw something that really surprised me on france24 tv. On the news bar at the bottom of the screen I saw a news item that reads "NIGERIA: Gun battle follows death of sect's leader". That is what you call a blatant lie. I have moved around Maiduguri on that very day (Thursday 30th July) and their was no gun battle anywhere in the town. A friend later told me that there were similar stories by other international news outlets. Before that, Radio France claimed that there was a lot of mayhem in the Bulumkuttu and Ngomari airport areas of Maiduguri while in reality nothing was going on at that time in those areas. Now I have learnt one important thing, never trust the International media.

"Boko Haram" A view from within Maiduguri

I think it is very important we set the record straight before it gets written in the history books in it's current twisted form. During the "boko haram" sectarian violence that took place in Maiduguri from Sunday 26th July 2009 to Wednesday 29th July 2009, the people of Maiduguri have been shocked not only by the violence but by the type of views expressed by people far away from the violence. One of such views was expressed on Bala Muhammad's column in the back cover of weekly trust of 1st August 2009. I was particularly attracted to the claim of a member of a certain discussion group that Muhammad Yusuf and his followers never terrorized the people of Maiduguri and that they simply go about their business without interfering with other people's businesses. That person also claimed to be a resident of Maiduguri since 2004.
The first claim is not true. Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have indeed been progressively terrorizing people in Maiduguri. Some of their acts of terrorism are given in the list below.
The claim that he has been in Maiduguri since 2004, I cannot disprove but I have been a resident of Maiduguri since I was born. And that's a little bit under three decades ago. I believe I know Maiduguri much more than he does.

1- Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have for a very long time declared all muslims that do not belong to their sect as infidels, particularly if you are working for the government.

2- They have broken many homes by making their followers chose either their families or the sect.

3- Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have drawn up a list of Islamic clerics to assassinate. This drama has been going on in Maiduguri for months before they finally started the war. In my neighbourhood, student's of a certain cleric who happen to be on the "Kill List" have to organize vigils to protect their mentor from Muhammad Yusuf's followers. Tell me that is not terrorism.

4- After starting the war and taking control of their section of the town the sect members started forcing commercial motorcyclist to submit their helmets and uniforms to be immediately destroyed. And if you are riding a "SAS" branded motorcycle that was distributed by the state governor Ali Sherrif, they take it away and burn it immediately. Tell me that is not terrorism.

5- Everybody knows about the kidnapping of young female students of Islamiyyah schools from across Northern Nigeria to be taken to Maiduguri for their so called Jihad. Tell me that is not terrorism.

While discussing the events on 2nd August 2009 with some mechanics at their workshop, one of them angrily said "How come nobody cares about what we think". It's really annoying when somebody living comfortably in Abuja, Kano or Kaduna starts comparing Muhammad Yusuf's sect with the Niger-delta militants (MEND). MEND never ask youth to chose between MEND and their families or draw up an assassination list of respected clerics or kidnap young girls from their parents in the name of freedom fight. In fact MEND is an armed agitation group not a religious sect. You can give MEND amnesty and hope to meet their demands but you cannot give a religious sect amnesty and hope they discard their beliefs.

One more thing, the people in Maiduguri do not really care that Muhammad Yusuf was killed extra-judicially by the security forces. Guess what ?, in this particular situation we trusted the "Jungle Justice" much more than we trusted the Judiciary. Don't blame us, we've seen what war is like and can't afford to take any chances.

Friday, 17 July 2009

James Watson

Remember Dr James Watson who claims that Africans are inherently backward and that they can't be as good as the rest of humanity ? I wasn't really surprised when I heard that because many non-Africans believe the same. The surprising thing however is how some Nigerians actually believe and try to defend that statement. This tells how much damage the Americans/Europeans have done and are still doing to our minds. Reasonable people never took Watson seriously because there are facts in our daily lives that tells you that the average African person is gifted.
For example, almost everybody in my locality speak more than one language. While I speak three languages, some of my siblings speak six and a lot of people I know speak four languages. You can find a few that speak seven to ten languages.
How many languages can Watson speak ? Maybe he only sees the world as it is expressed in English.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mono:The Monkey Doesn't Bite Anymore

I was told that Mono literally means monkey in Spanish. It is also the name of an the open source implementation of the CLI and associated technologies popularly known as Microsoft .NET. The Mono project was started by Miguel De Icaza who still leads the effort. Mono allows you to run programs written for the Microsoft .NET platform on Linux and Mac OSX. But the project has a good number of enemies in the open source world, I prefer to call them the anti-Mono people. Most of them think that it is dangerous to include an implementation of a technology originating from Microsoft into Linux distributions. They think Mono is a trap set by Microsoft to later on capture Mono infected Linux distributions through patent litigations. I must confess that I am partial on this issue and have taken a side a long time ago. I am for Mono and I believe I have outgrown my "Geek adolescence" in which bashing Microsoft is a virtue. Mono is no more a threat than other technologies that are part of many linux distributions e.g ntfs-3g, samba e.t.c. I now believe in creating good technology whenever possible. Some of us Mono supporters argue that the anti-Mono crowd should develop a better alternative to Mono instead of making a lot of noise. Well, there is no need for that now, big bad Microsoft will be applying the Community Promise patent licensing to both C# and the CLI. This was announced by Peter Galli and I quote him

"The Promise applies to developers, distributors, and users of Covered Implementations without regard to the development model that created the implementations, the type of copyright licenses under which it is distributed, or the associated business model. Under the Community Promise, Microsoft provides assurance that it will not assert its Necessary Claims against anyone who makes, uses, sells, offers for sale, imports, or distributes any Covered Implementation under any type of development or distribution model, including open-source licensing models such as the LGPL or GPL"

So if you still think Mono is dangerous on Linux, you really need some new arguments.

Yahoo Boys And Western Hypocrisy

Everybody agrees that Internet fraudsters or yahoo boys as they are called in Nigeria are doing the most damage to Nigeria's image abroad. I'm also among those who agree but regrettably without any statistics to back our argument. Fortunately real statistics is proving us all wrong. According to Farooq Kperogi's column "Notes From Atlanta" in Weekly Trust of 4/7/2009, if statistics are anything to go by, then Internet scam should be termed "American Scam" and not "Nigerian Scam". Figures from the Internet Crimes Complaint Center shows that 76% to 87% of all Internet crimes reported from 2001 to 2008 were committed by Americans.
In 2008 only 7.8% of such fraud was committed by Nigerians while America and UK has 66.1% and 10.1% respectively.

As a whole scam e-mails which Nigerians are known for, constitutes less than 3% of overall on-line crimes. This has decreased from 15.5% in 2001 to less than 3% in 2008. So why is the western media making so much noise about "Nigerian Scam" and keeping shut about the "Massive American On-line Crime" ?
I agree with Farooq that Nigerians especially those in the west have not help matters also. They always try to emphasize the bad image of Nigeria maybe to justify their self exile in the west. I think our journalists are also doing a lot of damage. It seems they concentrate on reporting mainly the corruption cases in Nigeria. I'm not saying there is no corruption, but can't they find somethings positive to report in a country of 140 million people, At least to maintain a balance ?.

Imagine the insult most of us were subjected to by having our on-line transactions stopped (especially by American companies) simply because we reside in Nigeria. Maybe the Nigerian Minister Of Information is not crazy after all, we need to re-brand Nigeria.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

African News More Independent Than America's ?

Ethan Zuckerman when asked about his thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa gave the following reply

"I don’t think blogging in Africa has had the same huge effect as it has in say North America yet. The reason for this is that in North America, blogging has largly been a response to the lack of good independent news sources. In Africa I believe this is less of an issue as there is less corporate ownership of news media."

The full interview is here

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Last Frontier

I find the act of referring to Africa as the "last frontier" by the western media really hypocritical. Forgive my ignorance if I don't understand what that means. But anybody with a decent knowledge of history knows that the west owes its development to the exploitation of African material and human resources (slavery). The phrase "last frontier" makes it sound as if the west came in contact with Africa only a few years ago. It will be more appropriate if some details are added to that statement making it more specific. An example I saw somewhere was "Africa, the last infotech frontier". Now that's not bad. But one that I find quite repulsive is the title of a certain book that goes "The Last Frontier: The White Man's War for Civilisation in Africa". Now I've not read that book but the title is certainly an insult to African civilizations.

A Different Africa Please

We all get tired of hearing the same old stories about Africa. You know, what you get from CNN, BBC, VOA e.t.c It's always war, hunger, corruption, diseases, not good, bad, worse, worst ....
This post is not about any of that or the fact that one can often trace the root of the problems to the so-called developed world. This post is about how the Internet allow us to see the other side of Africa and get stories from Africans. Not Africans being paid by the western media to carry out western propaganda in local African languages but everyday Africans that want to tell their stories and express their thoughts using the Internet. Instead of reading about hunger, corruption and diseases it's a great relief coming across words like hope, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. This is the required spirit to define the new Africa. The following are some the African blog sites I find particularly interesting.

Africa unchained
Timbuktu chronicles

Sunday, 7 June 2009

African Business Directory

www.africanbusinesscontacts.com is an on-line directory for African businesses. So if you own or run a business in Africa, please register it there. I discovered some Nigerian firms there that I didn't know existed before. Go register now, maybe your next big customer will find you through this site.

smetoolkit Nigeria

nigeria.smetoolkit.org is a website dedicated to small and medium sized enterprises in Nigeria, I checked it out to see if there is anything useful for a person like me. Me and my colleagues run a software company that I believe falls into the S.M.E category. Unfortunately the site has no software in it's category of businesses. What a shame.

Am I African?

While growing up in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Most of my view of the outside world was shaped by what I see on TV. It should be noted that back in the 80s the internet doesn't exist and we do not have quick access to books and magazines from other parts of the world like we do now. So one's world view is largely determined by what he sees on TV. Back then we used to watch a lot of hollywood movies on the state television. The most interesting thing is the type of Africa I see in the movies. The Africa they show us is a land of savages and heathens that can kill one another over a piece of candy. Judging by the type of environment I grew up in I was quite sure that I wasn't African and my country was not in Africa. At least that was what I thought as a kid, because I've never came across the type of Africans I see on TV either in my town or any other town I've visited. When my older siblings told me that we are Africans I didn't believe it and thought it was a joke. I only realized and accepted that after being taught so in school. The question that then came to my mind is that if we are the Africans then who are those savages I saw in the movies ? It was later in life that I realize that those were the imaginary Africans that the movie makers wish were a reality.
The fact remains that as a result of such movies a lot of Africans were made to believe that though we are now civilized, our fore-fathers were once savages and were only civilized after coming in contact with Europeans. In reality the reverse can be argued to be the truth. I come from a part of Nigeria that was once a great Empire with a known history of more than two thousand years and a written history of more than one thousand five hundred years; the Kanem-Borno empire. We had great architects, scholars and poets when Europe was in the dark ages. We fought our wars not with sticks and bones but with Muskets, Catapults, Swords, Spheres and Horses. We produced great mathematicians, physicists and doctors we had well laid out systems of diplomacy that successfully averted wars. Savages don't do that. We built great cities and had built up cavalries of hundreds of thousands of horses. To the west was the great Malian empire and later the Sokoto caliphate. To the south were also great kingdoms like the Benin kingdom. And contrary to what some historians will want us to believe we were dark skinned people with strong curly hair then as we are still now.
So when does the problem with Africa started?, the problem started with the stealing of Africans from Africa up till today with the stealing of African resources from Africa. The wars, hunger and diseases will continue in some of Africa as long as the west still manufactures guns and needs our gold, diamond, oil e.t.c.

Leaving the politics aside, one notices that African historians have celebrated our great emperors and warriors but have given little attention to our scholars; so I'm mentioning here one of the many African scholars that I believe need to be celebrated. Back in the 1700s he provided several formulas for constructing odd-order Magic squares which is invaluable in the world of statistics today. He hails from Katsina of present day Nigeria. His name is Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fullani al-Kishnawi. More about him here

Monday, 11 May 2009

Getting Out Of The Browser

If you hang around the programming threads of Nairaland.com you will notice that majority of the programmers are web developers. The reason for the preference for web/PHP development by Nigerian developers varies a lot. But one argument that keep recurring (especially on Nairaland) is that PHP is pretty easy to learn and get up and running with.

I've done a little bit of web development with PHP, but most of my programming experience is in developing standalone programs (compiling source code to binary the old fashioned way).
Based on my experience with both web and standalone app development I am of the view that, contrary to popular assumptions, developing standalone programs is much easier.

I find it really difficult (though not impossible) to maintain an elegant code when mixing PHP and HTML. Though there are ways around this like templates but that doesn't compare with coding in C++ or C# in terms of maintaining an elegant and clean source code.

Another major frustration one gets is in maintaining state. Because the web is a stateless environment, one needs to use tricks like hidden fields or cookies to pass data across different pages. The same can be achieved in conventional programming using public variable or passing values through method parameters.

Debugging PHP applications is like running backward up a hill. Apart from the absence of a debugger (as far as I know) one cannot use the old trick of printing to console. Because there simply is no console but a web page. I know that the Zend Studio comes with a debugger but one has to cough out more than $1000 to buy it.

I remember talking to a web developer friend telling him about the Firebird open source database management. I told him that the Firebird engine can raise events which you can handle in your client application through a call back function. Suddenly my friend became lost and asked me to explain again. After explaining for the second time without him understanding me, I remebered that my friend is strictly a web developer and doesn't know what events or callback functions are.

He doesn't really know how much he has been missing by living all his developer life in a web browser. When I compare him with most of my team mates who can develop both for the web and non-web platforms I see them like super heroes that can get in and out of the browser at will.

What most web-only developers do not know is that it doesn't take much to get out of the browser. With their existing PHP skills picking up a language like Python, C# or Java will be much easier than they imagined. It should not be forgotten that the web was primarily design to be a presentation medium and that any other functionality is an after tought. This therefore makes it very difficult to squeeze some solutions through a web browser.

I think the right thing to do is develop web apps for problems that are based solved by web apps and standalone apps for problems that are best solved by standalone apps. But how do you know when to use what ? You need to experience both worlds. So if you are a web-only developer try getting out of the browser for once. I bet you'll never regret it.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

FOSS Nigeria 2009

To must of us free software users in Nigeria, there is a general assumption that Nigeria is a Microsoft territory. Many average computer users here have never heard of alternative operating systems and office suites apart from windows and MS Office. A few times I came across people that ask me "what type of windows is this ?" when they see my beautiful Gnome desktop running on Linux.

So you see what I mean by Nigeria being a Microsoft territory. Thanks largely to the wide availability of pirated Microsoft software. My assumption was that there a few of us free software users spread across the rest of Nigeria and a larger number clustered in Lagos. But that was to change soon.
In mid January my team received an invitation to attend a conference tagged FOSS Nigeria 2009. So what is FOSS Nigeria 2009?, one might ask.
According to the organizers it's the first Nigerian Free and Open Source Software conference. It took place from 6th to 9th February 2009 at the Center for Democratic Research (Mambayya House) in Kano. It was organized by Hutsoft Nigeria limited collaborating with the Center For Information Technology (CIT) of the Bayero University Kano (B.U.K).
Hutsoft Nigeria Limited is a start-up software company founded by some friends. One of the co-founders, Mustapha Abubakar is a K.D.E enthusiast and has been contributing translations to the K.D.E project. Quite naturally K.D.E guys kind of dominated the conference. When I say K.D.E guys I mean including some of the guys you see on the K.D.E blog. Two of them made it to the conference. Adrian De Groot who was introduced as the vice president of K.D.E e.v (whatever that means) and Jonathan Riddel who was from Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu Linux). Gnome's Stormy Peters was invited but didn't make it, although she sent her speech to the organizers which was printed and distributed to the participants.
The opening session was attended some important figures within Kano state. These include Dr Bashir Galadanci (commissioner for Science and Technology of Kano state) and Prof Attahir Jega (the vice-chancellor of Bayero University Kano)
Unlike most Nigerian IT conferences which were normally dominated by suit wearing executives this one largely has jeans (and sometimes kaftan) wearing geeks and a few important personalities in the Nigerian IT ecosystem.

Hutsoft's Ibrahim Dasuma

Jonathan Riddel

Adrian De Groot of K.D.E e.v

Talks were given by the following people
Dr Bashir Galadanci : Kano state commissioner for Science and Technology
Ibrahim Abubakar Dasuma: CEO of Hutsoft Nigeria Limited
Adrian De Groot : Vice-President K.D.E e.v
Mustapha Abubakar : Hutsoft Nigeria Limited
Jonathan Riddel : Canonical
Auwal Alhassan Tata : Center for Information Technology (CIT) Bayero University Kano (B.U.K)
There were also representation from Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN) and the African University For Science and Technology.
The conference was attended by many B.U.K students a lot of whom were astonished by the possibilities free and open source software has to offer. A lot of them told me that they wouldn't have stuck with propriety software if they previously knew well about open source software. Before the end of the conference many participants installed various distributions of Linux on their laptops. Some of them were even brave enough to wipe out there Windows installation and replace it with Linux.

The last day of the conference was capped with a social event at Gidan Makama a museum located close to the Kano Emir's palace.

Koroso Dancers

There was some traditional Koroso dancing and lot of barbecue meat. One thing is clear about all these; FOSS Nigeria 2010 should not be missed.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

NEIS 2008

This may be a little overdue to blog about, but it's always better late than never. The Northern Nigeria Economic And Investment Summit took place in Abuja from 6th to 9th October 2008. It was organized by the Conference Of Northern Nigeria Chambers Of Commerce Industries Mines And Agriculture (CONCCIMA). It's a response to the economic backwardness of the Northern Nigerian region as a whole.

My team participated in the event as part of the ICT group. The ICT group is formed by all the ICT companies that participated in the event. We were all lumped together by the organizers of the event. Companies in the ICT group are Viatech, 3D formula, Cerebro Systems, SDDS, Walfam and Frontier Systems.

The conference turned out to be more interesting than I initially expected. I attended most of the plenary sessions. There were really interesting talks by a lot of people (some of which I previously only used to see on TV). People like Aliko Dangote, Dr Mansur Ahmad of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), professor J.D. Amin of Nigerian Universities Commission took part in the plenary sessions.

Sadiq Modibbo of Frontier systems gave a talk on behalf of the ICT group.

Dr Barth Nnaji of Geometric Energy also sent a representative. Geometric Energy is the company that built the Aba independent power plant in Abia state. According to Mr Nnaji they are currently trying to replicate that project in three Northern cities of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina under a project name K3.

The event ended up looking more like an All Nigerian Economic And Investment Summit and less about Northern Nigeria alone. As somebody stated at the event, you can't discuss a section of Nigeria in isolation from the remaining sections.

Based on the large number of southern Nigerian business men and women at the summit it became obvious that unlike our politicians, our entrepreneurs are relatively free of regional and ethnic bigotry.

After all it's the same money that is spent all across the country.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

MTN 3G and Linux

If you have subscribed to MTN Nigeria's 3G internet service and want to use it with your linux box then this might help you to get things working. Note that the following procedure is not restricted to MTN 3G alone. It can be used to connect to other networks' 3G or gprs service.

I am using ubuntu linux 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) with the Huawei E170 usb modem supplied by MTN Nigeria.

If you are also using ubuntu 8.10 then things are a bit more easier. The following steps are what you need to do.

1- Right click on the network icon on the top panel and select "Edit Connections" this will bring up the network connections window

2- Select "Mobile Broadband" tab

3- Click on "Add". A wizard (druid in linux) will come up

4- Select Nigeria from the country list and you will get a list of mobile operators in Nigeria.

5- Select MTN , click "Next" and "Apply"

The next time you left-click on the network icon on the panel you will get a list of connections. Select the one you just created "MTN" and you will be connected.

Now you are ready to start surfing.

If you are not using Ubuntu 8.10 or you still can't browse after connecting then the following steps might help.

I am assuming you have a program called wvdial shipped with your distro. If it's not there then you will have to install it.
To check wether you have wvdial, open a terminal window and type wvdial . If you get any other message apart from "wvdial: command not found" then you have wvdial on your system.

Now you need to edit the wvdial configuration file located at /etc/wvdial.conf.
type sudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf
this will open the configuration file in gnome's text editor with write previlege. If you are not using ubuntu/gnome open it with the appropriate method on your distro. But you need to open it with root privilege so that you can have read/write access to the file.

this is the configuration on my system

[Dialer Defaults]
Phone = *99#
New PPPD = yes
Stupid Mode = on
Dial command = ATDT

[Dialer MTN]
Username = web
Password = web
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud = 460800
Init2 = ATZ
Init3 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
ISDN = 0
Modem Type = Analog Mode

put the following configuration and save the file. If you want to know more about the configurations then check the wvdial manpages or google for more info on wvdial.

Now in the terminal window type "sudo wvdial MTN"

A series of messages will pass over the console screen.
If you got a message "CONNECT" followed by some IP addresses then you are on.

Open your browser (firefox in my case), uncheck the "Work Offline" option under the file menu and browse away.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Interswitch and web merchants

If you lived in Nigeria in the last 4 years you must be familiar with interswitch Nigeria or at least the ATM cards they issue through most Nigerian banks. Now interswitch and the banks have done a great work in providing those ATM services. And they made life a lot easier for us. interswitch also has an online payment gateway which they call interswitch webpay. This enable web merchants to accept payment from any interswitch card holder.

Think of the possibilities here. The last time I googled for the statistics there are approximately 17 million interswitch card holders and 10 million internet users in Nigeria. But there are only 200 web merchants that accept interswitch payment. Why are Nigerian web merchants not jumping on this opportunity? because interswitch won’t let them.

First of all the entry fee of integrating interswitch webpay interface to your website is just too outrageous. One has to pay N150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand naira) per site. I thought that was just an initial price and will eventually come down, but three years has passed and it’s still 150 grand.

The second and the most annoying reason is the technology interswitch is using. When last did you hear of Java applets ? As far as I know java applets is an obsolete technology now. Well that’s what interswitch is using. Your customer’s browser must have sun java plug-in for them to pay you through interswitch. That means downloading at least 26 megabytes (if they don’t already have java run time+plug-in) simply to make payment on your site. With the type of Internet speed most widely available in Nigeria, I think going to a banking hall and paying into an account will be much faster. Even if you have the plug-in, the webpay applet is extremely slow to load which makes the processes considerably painful.

Recently there have been advertisements in national dailies by interswitch about their new improved chip based cards called “verve”. I do not know what pain this new cards solve but I’ve never heard any cardholder complain that his/her card is magnetic striped and he/she really needs a chip based one. instead of bringing new cards that do essentially what the old ones do interswitch would have changed it’s webpay interface to something that is supported by browsers out of the box. html+https anybody ?