Monday, July 30, 2007

Python in Africa?

[Nairobi, Kenya]
LET'S face it! I just love computer languages. Why? Because if you know what the heck you're doing, you can rule the world. LOL. :-) Come to think of it, I miss the good ole days coding in Pascal, using VAX Macro Assembler in my CS208a Computer Science class with Mrs. Downing, and even taking Prolog for a spin.

Oh, I found Java too verbose and Sun's bloody licensing scheme was annoying. Now, Microsoft's .NET is taking over where it left off. C/C++ was kool, but very macho and, damn, did you have to do lots of debugging to get anything running properly. Screw that. Besides, I'd rather use Borland's Delphi, which is the souped up re-incarnation of Turbo Pascal. Heck, the executable code runs just as fast or faster than C/C++...and it's smaller too. No sh!t dudes. Betcha didn't know that.

Enter Python
Now, if you've been living in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, then you probably will not have a clue about the Python programming language, which is truly a secret weapon in many IT shops around the planet. Trust me on that one. I wrote about it here, so I won't bother reinventing the wheel.

Anyhow, I think it'd be a great language for peeps here in Africa to learn instead of that crappy outdated VB6 language they're still teaching in most of these IT (ahem!) schools. Buyer beware. Oh, Python's creator, Guido van Rossum, now works for Google, which is now the most admired company on the planet. What does that say about them and their committment to being #1? Everything. And the official Python mascot is such a cutie. Don't you agree? :-)

Python jobs on the rise...
According to this blurb on the Oreilly Radar , Python jobs are on the rise. Take a peek at this:
O'Reilly editor Sarah Milstein writes: "My brother, a Python geek who attended PyCon last week, reports that it was hiring fest: 'at PyCon: *everyone* was hiring. I was asked if I would be interested in moving to 2-3 cities for a job, just in casual conversation. Half the lightning talks ended (or started) with "We're hiring". Which was pretty deeply reassuring.'" This information is consistent with our analysis of the online book and job markets. Ruby has more momentum among startups, but Python is also a hot startup language, and is becoming one of the officially sanctioned licenses at many larger companies. For example, it is one of the three "official" languages at Google (C++, Java, and Python)
Wow! Isn't that totally AMAZING? The beauty about Python programming is that the language is simpy a joy to use. It's easy to read...not cryptic at all, and powerfull as hell. You can create desktop apps, web apps, networking apps, use it as your middleware stack, write commercial video games, use it on your mobile device. It simply is the chameleon of programming languages, and that's why I think more people here in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kigali, Lagos, Cape Town, Kampala et al should be USING it. Say goodbye to VB6 and Java for heavens sakes.

Thanks Eiwot...
I'm a member of the Ottawa Python Author's Group so I get a lot of emails on what's going down in the world of Python. Here's some info from Eiwot - a member:
Hi all,
I created new blog about Python programming and Python Articles at http://pyarticles.blogspot.com. Let's check it out :)

Cheers
Damn, everybody's using Blogger/BlogSpot eh? I guess Google can't keep a good thing under wraps (secret) for too long. :-) Anyhow, I urge you to peek his blog. I'm quite impressed with his posts so far.

Happy computing.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Naivasha rocks

[Nairobi, Kenya]
OOOPS...it looks like I took a hiatus from blogging here and on my MaxTheITpro blog. I got so swamped with stuff. Peeps wanting business plans written. Other peeps needed their PCs fixed, blah, blah, blah. My neighbour, literally, got screwed by her computer repairman who wanted to charge her KSh 12,000 to repair her son's game PC, and he did jack all. In fact, he stole the internal FAX/modem and most likely swapped video cards on them. Bad
customer service for sure. Anyhow, when he showed up at the house, my neighbour introduced me as an IT professional, and then he started to get really nervous. Suffice to say, we didn't pay the crook and now all is well. My advice? BUYER BEWARE!!!

Beautiful Naivasha
Well, I took 2 trips up to the Lake Naivasha region (part of the Great Rift Valley)
and stayed at my neighbour's cottage in swanky Green Park. Damn, I saw tons of buffalos, giraffes, a few hippos here and there, gazelles, and a pile of other AMAZING wildlife. The view of Mount Longonot in this area is absolutely spectacular. Now, check this out. We were driving back from our friend's place near HomeGrown Flowers at around 11 PM and lo and behold, we saw 2 giraffes walking together on the road back to Green Park. Cool!! Then we saw lots of zebras with their beautiful stripes. And this is like an hour outside of Nairobi. This is what's so amazing about Africa.

Harmut, the Flower King...
I wanna thank Hartmut from Bilashaka Farms for showing me, Alexi and Justin around their massive flower operation. You see, I'm looking to get into Jatropha farming to produce BioDiesel. Plus I'd really like to get hemp going in East Africa too. Big coin. But I was AMAZED at the sheer size of Bilashaka's operation. They were utilising every nook and cranny of technology to produce some unique flowers that are sold in Europe. Anyhow, I kept picking Hartmut's brains on everything and anything to do with farming such as cultivating, soil, irrigation, etc. Let's just say that this dude knows his stuff. Oh, I bet most of you peeps didn't know that Kenya is like numero uno (#1) in the world for producing those lovely flowers that you peeps in the West just can't get enough of. :-) Go Kenya go!

By the way, Hartmut's cook made the BEST mouth watering steak I've ever had. Everyone at the dinner table shared the same opinion. I can still taste remnants of that juicy, succulent flavour on my tongue. Of course, I'm usually fixing (or improving) someone's computer whenever I visit peep's homes, so I was more than happy to make some improvements on Harmutt's and Emma's (his girlfriend) PCs. Now, Harmutt is also a pilot and a flying instructor. In fact, he was supposed to come back to Green Park to take me for a flight over Mount Longonot, but he had brake problems and I'm like "Dude, don't worry about the plane ride...we can do it another time when things are SAFE." I ain't in no hurry to visit Hell. :-)

Kool gadget to die for...
Now, on my return visit to the Naivasha region, I met Andy who's a manager at Homegrown Flowers. Now, I hear these guys are huge...much bigger than Bilashaka. Anyhow, Andy had this wicked Nokia N95 (I think) that had EVERYTHING but the god damn kitchen sink built in. For KSh 58,000, it is the god of all mobile devices. What does it have? I thought you'd never ask. It had WiFi, EDGE/GPRS, HSDPA (a super high speed 3G mobile Internet access technology), MP3 player, can read/write MS-Office files, GPS receiver with maps, 5 mega pixel camera, blah, blah, blah. Damn Andy!! :-)

Oh, thanks to Andy's very kool wife, Fleur, for that warm Naivasha hospitality. We LOVED that amazing breakfast before heading back to Nairobi "that" Tuesday morning. :-)

Pictures?
I promise to put up some kool pics soon relating to my very memorable Naivasha visit.

L8tr!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

150 Mbps download speeds

[Nairobi, Kenya]
WOW, DID somebody say 150 Megabit per second? Am I on Planet Earth? You betcha...courtesy of some amazing advances in cable modem technology, which always seems to blow DSL (via telephone company) out of the water. Too bad cable TV is not in these parts. Everything down here on the idiot box (oops, I mean TV!) comes in via satellite. Anyhow, check this out and be prepared to drool:

Comcast Corp. Chief Executive Brian Roberts dazzled a cable industry audience Tuesday, showing off for the first time in public new technology that enabled a data download speed of 150 megabits per second, or roughly 25 times faster than today's standard cable modems.

The cost of modems that would support the technology, called "channel bonding," is "not that dissimilar to modems today," he told The Associated Press after a demonstration at The Cable Show. It could be available "within less than a couple years," he said.

The new cable technology is crucial because the industry is competing with a speedy new offering called FiOS, a TV and Internet service that Verizon Communications Inc. is selling over a new fiber-optic network. The top speed currently available through FiOS is 50 megabits per second, but the network is already capable of providing 100 Mbps and the fiber lines offer nearly unlimited potential.

The technology, called DOCSIS 3.0, was developed by the cable industry's research arm, Cable Television Laboratories. Instead of using one TV channel to transmit data, it uses four...

...In the presentation, ARRIS Group Inc. chief executive Robert Stanzione downloaded a 30-second, 300-megabyte television commercial in a few seconds and watched it long before a standard modem worked through an estimated download time of 16 minutes.

Stanzione also downloaded the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 and Merriam-Webster's visual dictionary in under four minutes, when it would have taken a standard modem three hours and 12 minutes.

"If you look at what just happened, 55 million words, 100,000 articles, more than 22,000 pictures, maps and more than 400 video clips," Roberts said. "The same download on dial-up would have taken two weeks..." {source}

Good lords, but those are some fast download speeds. Do you know how productive I could be if I had access to that kind of technology? And can you imagine the implications for Africa if her ISPs were able to offer said technology to her bandwidth-starved netizens?

Patience, Max, patience. :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Use Enhanced DVDs in the Classroom

[Nairobi, Kenya]
EUREKA! WHAT a great idea. This is going to be huge. What is it? Well, it appears that documentary and movie producers are about to come out with educational versions of specific movies with class lessons, and other great teaching material in order to finally get the kids interested in learning. After all, parents do pay taxes, and they expect their kids to actually learn something at school. Right? I don't know about you, but I sense that the art of learning & teaching has gone downhill over the years...out the window. Students just aren't interested in learning anything. Heck, how do you expect them to "concentrate" in school with all that senseless garbage (er programming) on the idiot box (oops, I mean TV!), which prefers viewers with non-critical minds? :-) And teachers? Well, they seem more pre-occupied with their salaries, benefits, vaction time and what not.Enhanced learning
So, what's an enhanced DVD? Well, I really can't explain the damn thing any better than this:

When indie producer Hart Sharp Video released Morgan Spurlock's Oscar-nominated fast-food documentary "Super Size Me" three years ago, two versions came to market: a regular edition for consumers, and an educationally enhanced edition for teachers, with 24 lessons and various game-like assessments and quizzes.

The enhanced edition, which allowed Hart Sharp to break into the lucrative institutional market and sell thousands of additional copies of the film to schools, was produced by Scope Seven, a Los Angeles production company...

...The documentary chronicles former "Inside Edition" correspondent Rick Kirkham's destructive drug addiction. The enhanced DVD, which is being marketed to schools, includes a wealth of educational features the company hopes teachers will use in the classroom, including lesson plans in health, life skills and language arts; on-screen prompts to guide student viewing, spark discussion and lead to classroom activities; and curriculum connections linking the film to the standards-aligned Anti-Drug Education Program from the New York Times. The DVD also comes with an instructor's manual and printable teacher guides and student handouts.

"Films have long been used in the classroom to educate students, but learning doesn't always happen in a linear fashion," said Bob Hively, chairman and CEO of Scope Seven. "Through educationally enhanced DVDs like 'TV Junkie,' youth are able to explore the issues presented in the film as they arise, rather than waiting to discuss them at the end of the movie." {source}

Now, isn't that amazing? I see big opportunities for savvy documentary producers all over the world who jump on to this potential gravy train of cash. And that includes Africa too. Heck, why didn't I think of this idea? Just think of how many schools there are around the world. And don't forget the additional income to be had from producing said topics in other languages. Anyhow, I've got a ton of enhanced DVD topics running through my mind right now. :-)

So, you think this concept is gonna catch on fast?

"This resulted in an educationally enhanced DVD that is fully aligned to teaching standards, which further legitimizes its use by educators in the classroom," he said. "From the very beginning of the film, it was clear that this story had the power to help others battling addiction."

In a related development, 20th Century Fox and MGM are adding optional tracks of bright, bold "Kids Captioning" to popular family films in an effort to build reading skills. The first wave of enhanced "Follow Along" DVDs arrives in stores July 10 and includes "Robots," "The Sandlot," "Ice Age," "Garfield: The Movie," "Anastasia," "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest," "Stellaluna," "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids," "Good Boy!" and "Thumbelina." {source}

Monday, May 7, 2007

Women in Politics

[Nairobi, Kenya]
WHAT THE HELL is it with women when it comes to ceasing power? Everywhere you look, they're getting marginalized, and ending up on the short end of the stick. In some societies, they get treated worse than cattle. Don't they realise that the only way to make long, lasting changes in their plight is by obtaining political power? It seems logical to me. No?

A stroll down memory lane
I remember when I lived with my remarkable
step-mother (Martha) in Barbados for a good 2 years or so - when I was 11. Well, she tried to educate herself, but my dad would burn her books & clothes, and also physically abuse her - badly. After 16 years of putting up with that bullsh!t, he hit her one times too many, and she proceeded to chase him out of his house with a cutlass (used to cut grass, sugar cane, etc...a panga in Africa?). Finally, she wasn't afraid. Well, he never came back to the house, and she was finally free from his reign of terror. The courts also awarded her the house, and she was free to raise my little (half) brother in peace.

Now, I'm sure that this crap would not have been tolerated had there been a culture of women running government in my country of birth. Right? And that's my point. In order to make serious changes, you must first cease power. Then, you appoint people (women in this case) into strategic positions (judges, police administration, MPs, etc.) in order to affect change immediately. Not next year. Today! See, it's so simple. [image: Women In Ancient Iran]
Ancient Iranian Women WarriorsWomen, wake up!
Today, I'm going to repost a comment I uploaded relating to
an article on Nicolas Sarkozy's win in France at Ségolène Royale's expense. I truly believe that it's relevant here because Africa (indeed the world!) needs more women in politics who are committed to real change. Again, when will women stop competing with each other see the big picture? After all, women usually represent a larger percentage of the electorate. Anyhow, here's what I wrote:
"Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women's vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company." {source}
=========
WHAT is it with WOMEN? They're hardly represented in French politics! They probably earn less money compared to their male counterparts. And they probably face sexism in many parts of their society. Yet when they have a chance to let a fellow female take the reigns of power, they vote for the sausage. No wonder they never make inroads on key legislation relating to equal pay, women's rights/issues, political representation et al. Mrs Royale was an outstanding candidate that should've made all French women PROUD.

Oh well, I guess French women deserve what they get for not at least giving one of their OWN a CHANCE.

Go Africa go!
http://GoAfricago.BlogSpot.com {source}

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Letters & Opinions: issue 1

[Nairobi, Kenya]
I MENTIONED the oil boom in East Africa here. Can this reader, Tom, see into the future? Maybe. But let's see what transpires in Uganda. Read my thoughts below.
Title: Watch out for the Curse of Oil
Source: The East African (April 2-8, pg. 13)
By:
Tom Ole Sikar (Arusha, Tanzania)
Karl Lyimo's recent article ('As if gold weren't bad enough, now they have found oil' The East African, March 26-April 1) served as a warning that before we rejoice about oil and gas discoveries in our countries, we should learn from countries that have discovered oil and gas. It brought to mind a passage from Thomas Friedman's bestseller, The World is Flat:
"Nothing has contributed more to retarding the emergence of a democratic context in places like Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iran than the curse of oil. As long as the monarchs and dictators who run these oil states can get rich by drilling their natural resources as opposed to drilling the natural talents and energy of their people they can stay in office forever. They can use oil money to monopolise all the instruments of power army, police, and the intelligence and never have to introduce real transparency and power sharing. All they have to do is capture and hold the oil tap. They never have to tax their people, so the relationships between ruler and ruled is highly distorted. Without taxation, there is no representation. The rulers don't really have to pay attention to the people or explain how they are spending their money through taxed. That is why countries focused on tapping their oil wells always have weak or nonexistent institutions, property rights, rule of law, independent courts, modern education, foreign trade, foreign investment, freedom of thought, and scientific enquiry to get the most out of their men and women."

With oil around, things could worsen unless we take note to do something.

My Thoughts
I agree 100% with Tom’s observation. However I don’t think the author (Mr. Friedman) he quoted above should’ve included Venezuela in that list. Perhaps he was referring to the “state of democracy” before Hugo Chavez was democratically elected (3 times) by his people - unanimously. You’ll note that Chavez has re-allocated most of his country’s oil revenues to benefit the poor - unlike his predecessors who only catered to Venezuela’s elite.

In addition, Chavez is a very popular figure in Latin American politics, so obviously he’s doing something right, or has struck a chord with the masses over the general dissatisfaction of politicians who cater to the few. With regards to how the comment relates to Uganda, I do hope that their politicians don’t allow this newly found oil wealth to hinder their democratic institutions. I read somewhere in the same paper that MPs were annoyed with the Energy minister because they were not told what percentage of the revenues from the people’s oil wells would go to the government. Bad mistake. That sort of nonsense would not work in places like Canada, Germany, or Sweden.

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Related links:

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Letters to the Editor

[Nairobi, Kenya]
NOTHING PROVIDES a better gauge of current events than by quickly perusing the letters or comments from ordinary citizens (or readers) to the editor of a newspaper, magazine or an online publication (especially web forums). There’s simply no better way to see which way the “wind is blowing” on important issues that are near and dear to the people’s hearts. That’s why you’ll find lots of letters here on Go Africa go! Each will highlight ideas or opinions that relate to the blog’s stated theme. Quite frankly, I value letters more than the opinions of paid, seasoned writers. Why? The answer is quite simple. It takes a passionate (angry or happy) reader to get on his computer and comment on a particular issue that he/she feels others should take seriously. You can click the letters or opinions tags below to see the entire archive starting from today.

Oh...by the way
If you've read an interesting comment or letter in any newspaper, magazine or online publication anywhere in Africa that you’d like us to include right here, please email it to me at MaxTheITpro[at]GMail.com. Just take a look at the format we’re using right here. It'd be great to get such editorial letters from publications in places like South Africa, Nigeria, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Congo, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Botswana and all the other countries that I forgot to mention. Please note that we’re not really discussing politics (ie. who should be in power, etc.) here, but mostly issues relating to economics, development, business opportunities, self sufficiency, empowerment, etc. Now, policies (not politics) are another issue altogether as I've pretty much have lost faith in democracy. Don't get me started! :-)

Anyhow, enjoy the people’s views, and try to put yourself in their shoes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Accounting for your business

[Nairobi, Kenya]
THERE'S NO escaping the fact that accountants are necessary in today's fast-paced business world. Heck, if you want your company to fly high and operate smoothly without crashing into the jagged rocks of oblivion below, then you have no choice. Right?Survival of the fittest
Now, I assume you know that all accountants are not created equal. Actually, if your accountant is behind the times in terms of understanding or applying ICT solutions in a business setting, then I suggest you throw him/her to the wolves lest you loose your shirt. Why? Because the accountants at your main competitors are probably up to date on the latest ICT applications, which translates into a smooth running operation for their bosses. As you can see, this is no laughing matter.
Julius speaks your language
Okay, so what's next? Well, if you want to stay ahead of the accounting curve, then I suggest you take a peek at Julius Gakure's blog, Julius Speaks. Here's the url if you have a good memory: http://JuliusCPA.BlogSpot.com. Oh, this dude is a professional accountant
in Nairobi for, arguably, Africa's biggest insurance broker. In addition, he's not afraid to open up a PC to fix any hardware problems. This is exactly the kind of versatility I like in a professional. Heck, he's a number cruncher who eats, sleeps, and drinks anything & everything to do with accounting. But what I like about him the most is that he's also aware of what's going on in the realm of ICT, which is really just a tool to be utilized in the right hands.

Anyhow, here are a few of his posts that might be of interest to you:
Corruption, be gone!
One other thing. This dude really hates corruption and provides some excellent insights on how proper accounting practices can reduce or eliminate this. Just take a peek at this:
Further, it can be argued that, accountants are already among the best-equipped group of professionals through their training and experience to participate in a major way in the fight against corruption. As Accountants, auditors or consultants they are trained to put in place good (internal control) systems to prevent corrupt practices and to detect weakness in existing systems. Further, their training can come in hardy in giving early warning of corrupt dealings in organisations and also in following audit trails to uncover corrupt deals and to catch the perpetrators.

What it all boils down to is that however much we might want to pretend otherwise, accountants are right in the middle of the corruption saga; either in what they have actually done or failed to do or in what the man in the streets perceives them to have done or failed to do. {source}
Comments?
If you have a comment or would like a question relating to your accounting scenario answered, then don't look at me. I don't count beans. :-) Instead, I'd fire an email off to Julius at JGakure[at]GMail.com.

Happy accounting!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Feeding patients Bacteria for Better Health

[Nairobi, Kenya]
MOST people who know me all too well can attest that I am a health freak. Well, what do you expect? I was raised by 4 strong-minded women (grandmother, aunt, mother, stepmother) when I grew up in Barbados, Canada and the USA. Heck, they were always cleaning, and I had regular chores (vacuuming, doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) to do around the house. It wasn't that bad though. Now, I kind of like doing dishes. To me, it's very therapeutic. Go figure!

Prevention: the secret to good health
Furthermore, I like to take care of myself by going to the gym, rollerblading, playing pick-up basketball, running or any other enjoyable form of exercising.
My motto when it comes to health is "pay me now or pay me later." In other words, I prefer to exercise, eat healthy, etc. in order to prevent or delay health problems. Why? Because I absolutely hate hospitals and the toxic drugs that doctors like to push on their unsuspecting patients - usually at the request of unscrupulous drug companies.

I figure that if I take preventive measures today (pay now), then I shouldn't expect any nasty
surprises in the future (pay later). Right? Anyhow, the following Wired article brought back some wonderful memories because I have fed my body probiotics (good bacteria) after undergoing a colon hydrotherapy courtesy of an amazing Naturopathic Doctor in Canada. In short, it's an excellent remedy for detoxing your body of years of unwanted, undigested stuff, which means that your body will be thanking you for years to come.


Here's some good food for thought courtesy of the above link:

Modern humans are bacteria-killing machines. We assassinate microbes with hand soap, mouthwash and bathroom cleaners. It feels clean and right.

But some scientists say we're overdoing it. All this killing may actually cause diseases like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and even diabetes. The answer, they say, is counterintuitive: Feed patients bacteria.

"Probiotics (pills containing bacteria) have resulted in complete elimination of eczema in 80 percent of the people we've treated," says Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., a practicing physician and former member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Pizzorno says he's used probiotics to treat irritable bowel disease, acne and even premenstrual syndrome. "It's unusual for me to see a patient with a chronic disease that doesn't respond to probiotics."

Clinical trial data on probiotics is incomplete, but there are many indications that hacking the body's bacteria is beneficial. {source}

Conclusion
As you can see, we're able to control our health to a certain degree if we take prevention seriously. Probiotics, if used wisely, can provide your body with a resilient health insurance package if you get with the program today. And try to remember this quote by Dr. Tim O'Shea who happens to be my favourite Naturopathic Doctor on the planet:
How do the friendly bacteria, called probiotics, keep the bad bacteria in check? Well, think of a crowded theatre. You walk in, and there's no place to sit; all the seats are taken. So you can't stay. Same thing with bacteria. There's only a certain number of "seats" in the colon. If they're all taken by friendly bacteria, then there's no chance for the bad bacteria to set up shop and start to duplicate themselves. According to most researchers, like Simon Martin, normal probiotics should be more numerous than the cells of the intestinal lining itself.

Here's why probiotics are so important. Normal people generally have some cancer cells, Candida yeast, E. coli, staphylococcus, strep, and any number of other potentially bad organisms you can think of in their tract most of the time. But they don't get any disease. Researchers know, for example, that 50% of men over age 75 actually have prostate cancer, found on autopsy, but only 2% die from it. Why? The body encapsulated the cancer: limited and controlled its growth, walled it off. The discoverer of the HIV virus himself, Dr. Luc Montagnier, said that HIV alone cannot cause AIDS. (The Coming Plague) Depressed immune environment is also necessary. Same with Candida or most other bacteria; normally they'll be held in check by sufficient friendly bacteria. E. coli is actually a probiotic when held in check by normal friendly flora. It's only when the friendly probiotic bacteria get killed off that the potentially bad organisms get a chance to get a foothold and take over. The bad bugs are then called opportunists.

So probiotics (friendly bacteria) are extremely important. The whole key is balance. Problem is, our friendly bacteria are constantly being killed off. How? Same culprits as cited in the ALLERGIES chapter: {source: Journey to the Center of Your Colon }
Here's to your good health.

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Related links:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Business Opportunities in Africa 2

[Nairobi, Kenya]
THE TIME is now to get the show on the road here at Go Africa go! By now, you know that Africa is the place to be since business is booming. Right? Well, what's holding you back? It's time for you, fellow citizen, to pull your socks up and get that business you've been talking about started. Now! What, you have no ideas on what to start?

Okay, then try this idea out - courtesy of Yahoo's amazing small business portal. Heck, there's more information here than you can shake a stick at. Go Yahoo go!
Do My Stuff and Get Paid
By Sarah Pierce - Entrepreneur.com

Who: Darren Berkovitz, 23; Omri Cohen, 24; Stacy Stubblefield, 25; David Gonen, 26
What: DoMyStuff.com, an online marketplace that outsources chores, errands, projects and other tasks to local help
Where: Beverly Hills, California

Like most people, Darren Berkovitz and his partners were experiencing a common dilemma: too much to do and not enough time to do it. They did, however, find the time to create a solution. The result is DoMyStuff.com, an online community where busy people can quickly find assistants to handle their errands and tasks. "Outsourcing is a huge buzzword right now," says Berkovitz, who owns an internet incubating company with Omri Cohen, Stacy Stubblefield and David Gonen that outsources projects to other businesses. "We thought, we outsource so many things, why not outsource our daily tasks?" {source}

Well, have you decided what business you're gonna start in order to take advantage of the booming economy right in your back yard? No more procrastinating. Okay? :-)

Your thoughts?
Please don't hesitate to leave a comment here. I'm curious to know what you're thinking with regards to starting a business here in Africa. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to provide you with some quick tips or advise.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Web Forum Watch: issue 1

[Nairobi, Kenya]
I FIND the Internet fascinating as hell. Why? Because you're able to quickly get an idea of what its tech-savvy population is thinking, simply by peeking web discussion forums regarding a multitude of topics. You just can't get that on the idiot box (oops, I mean TV).

Go Mambogani go!
Today, I want to share with you a few web forums that I was peeking. The site I chose was Mambogani.
Here's a description of the site if you happen to browse one of their pages: "Mambogani Kenyan Portal - Forums, News, Chat, Kenyan Music Videos, Blogs, Photos, Kenya Business Directory, Free Kenya Classifieds." If you're looking to peek their excellent forums, just go here: http://www.mambogani.com/forums/

The good stuff
Anyhow, the following forum topics really piqued my interest, and I'm grateful to those peeps over there who created said discussion threads. After all, knowledge is power. Right?
Oh...
If you run across any interesting discussion forums, please send me the links. I just might include them in an upcoming Web Forum Watch issue.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cotton: World's Most Toxic Crop

[Nairobi, Kenya]
THEY SAY humans are the most intelligent creatures on the planet. Perhaps so. What's shocking, though, is how the majority of the world's population allow certain toxic industries to flourish. I'm talking about industries that pollute our fragile environment every day -- especially when greener alternatives exist. You need an example? Cotton farming. Hemp could replace this crop while making our world a cleaner, more livable place over night.

I will leave you with this article (see Google cache) below, courtesy of the Washington Free Press, which is a "bi-monthly newspaper from Seattle highlighting labor and environmental issues. Emphasis on local issues, with some national and world-wide news." It's based in the beautiful state of Washington (USA.), which is located in the Pacific NorthWest -- a region with tons of avid green citizens who love the outdoors. Cities such as Portland, Beaverton, Vancouver, Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma are located here. By the way, don't forget to take a peek at an earlier Go Africa go! blog post I wrote last month in Tanzania: Hemp Farming in Africa: A Billion Dollar Industry? After you read it, prepare to be very angry. You'll also realize that Africa could be raking in billions of dollars simply by growing hemp.

Dude, why're you wearing that shirt?

Cotton: World's Most Toxic Crop
by Organic Consumers' Association
Cotton is the most toxic crop on the planet. While only three percent of the world's farming acreage is cotton, these crops are sprayed with up to 25 percent of the world's pesticides and herbicides, including some of the most toxic ones, such as aldicarb. And of course cotton is present in many other consumer products besides garments--food products, tampons, bandages, baby diapers, mattresses, bed linen, etc.

According to
www.sustainablecotton.org, "the simple act of growing and harvesting the one pound of cotton fiber needed to make a T-shirt takes an enormous toll on the air, water, and soil, not to mention the health of people in cotton growing areas. The cotton grown for just one T-shirt requires a third of a pound of agricultural chemicals."

Moreover, some 60 percent of a cotton crop, by weight, enters the food chain in the form of cottonseed oil which is used widely in processed foods, and as cottonseed feed for cows, ending up in meat and dairy products. The pesticide residues from these cottonseeds concentrate in the fatty tissues of these animals, and in turn are passed on in meat and dairy products to consumers.

Genetically engineered (GE) cotton is another problem. Playing on concerns about pesticides, Monsanto has pushed GE cottonseeds onto the market in more than a half-dozen countries as the "green alternative" for cotton growers. In terms of human health hazards, herbicide-resistant GE cotton plants--and their oil and seed derivatives--contain foreign proteins, bacteria, viral promoters, and antibiotic resistant genes--food ingredients that humans have never eaten before. These GE plants and their derivatives are unlabeled and untested for hazards to human health and the environment. Over ten million acres of genetically engineered cotton are now being grown across the US. These cotton plants are gene-spliced so that the cotton plant emits its own pesticide, or else the plant is genetically engineered to be able to survive mega-doses of powerful pesticides.

Biotech cotton is a mortal threat to organic cotton farming, the real "no pesticide" alternative. This threat is two-fold. First of all, it is a source of genetic pollution (like GE corn or canola), spreading its altered DNA. Even worse, it is slowly but steadily building up resistance among cotton pests, creating the preconditions for cotton superpests to arise.

Oh...
Don't forget to post a comment. Tell us what you think.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Using mobile phone network for security

[Nairobi, Kenya]
WITHOUT a doubt, there are tons of security companies here in Africa protecting the fortunes of the wealthy. Now, I wonder if this blog post over at Engadget will make a light bulb go off inside the heads of some security executives in the vicinity. What if surveillance cameras were able to beam images of a customer's property that's supposed to be under surveillance to their cell phones for peace of mind? This would use mobile network technology such as HSPDA or EV-DO. Unfortunately, Safaricom and Celtel are still in the EDGE/GPRS era so it won't work over here. Boo to them. However, you just might be able to pull it off with Zantel (EV-DO) or Vodacom (HSPDA) in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) -- assuming they have the capacity in their network infrastructures.

Oh...
By the way, it's amazing how cheap cell phone rates are in TZ. Could this simply be due to real competition? I think so. Let's see. You have Zantel, Vodacom, TiGo, and Celtel over there. Did I forget someone? Now, here in Kenya, Safaricom and Telkom Wireless have Telkom Kenya as their parent. What's got me puzzled is that Celtel seems like they're asleep at the wheel. I don't know, but something just doesn't feel right. You see, I once saw a TiGo advertisement in Dar es Salaam bragging about TSh 1 per minute rates. Fat chance of getting that kind of rate over here. :-) Hopefully CCK will make it easier for new competitors to enter this expensive (and very lucrative) mobile phone operator market.

Free powerful Intranet software with XAMPP

[Nairobi, Kenya]
I'M BULLISH on Intranets as the foundation in which to deliver all sorts of powerful web-based applications (accounting, customer service, ERP, HRM, asset management, eLearning, etc.) for any organization (SMEs, NGOs, government, large companies, educational institutions, etc.) that's looking to save big dollars on their IT budgets. What's amazing is that this software can be obtained for free. All that you require is a decent PC (about 512 MB of RAM, P3 or higher processor, a network card, and a fast hard disk) running Windows (preferably 2000/2003 Server) or Linux (also free), and then the fun begins.

Next up, you need to install a web server (Apache is free) running PHP (also free), and an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) like the ever-popular MySQL or PostgreSQL, which is hailed as the world's most powerful open source database manager. Oh, both of these apps are free too. Isn't this amazing? Heck, a few years ago, this entire setup would've been very expensive if you had to pay for all the software.


XAMPP to the rescue

Now, setting up Apache, PHP and a database manager on your Linux
or Windows PC was not always a pleasurable task. But that was the past. Thanks to the IT gurus from Apache Friends and their free XAMPP (LinuX, Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL) executable download, any one can set up a powerful Intranet server. And you don't have to know "jack squat" about configuring or installing all of these separate applications. Trust me. This is a huge time saver. By the way, here's the latest set of goodies that you get when you download XAMPP. This is from the email I just received from Kai Seidler of Apache Friends:
New XAMPP version for Linux and Windows
=========================================

After two months of hard work we are proud to announce a new release of XAMPP
for Windows and Linux. New in both releases of XAMPP are MySQL (5.0.37), PHP
(4.4.6), phpMyAdmin (2.10.0.2), and OpenSSL (0.9.8e). The Windows version also
contains up-to-date versions of: FileZilla FTP Server (0.9.23), ADOdb (4.94),
and Zend Optimizer (3.2.4).

With XAMPP 1.6.1 we tried to make the Windows version ready for Vista. The
beta tests were very successful and most people reported a very smooth XAMPP
under Vista but there were also people having still problems. Please get in
touch with me if you also encounter problems on Vista. Currently please avoid
installing XAMPP into the Program files folder.
One other thing. When you install XAMPP on your Windows machine, it doesn't mess around with your registry or any of that silly nonsense. Kai and his friends truly pay attention to detail without annoying users.

Conclusion
The main benefit of running an Intranet throughout your organization is simplicity. There's no doubt in my mind that the web browser has become the universal GUI (graphical user interface). Furthermore, system administrators don't have to worry about configuring desktop applications for every user. Instead, you simply update the web-based software on the application server. This now becomes your company's most important IT asset. That's why I think it's wise to spend a bit more money on this machine so that everyone gets a nice quick response in their web browsers. One other thing. Your network infrastructure is very important because everything's running over the TCP/IP (http, https. ftp, smtp, etc.) stack, which is the universal transmission standard for all Internet/Intranet data traffic.

I strongly believe that XAMPP will make have a huge impact on the bottom line for any organization in Africa looking to streamline it's IT operations. That's why it makes a great Go Africa go! story. Why? Because key business applications are running safe and secure on a locked-down server. Hence, end users simply have to point their web browsers to the appropriate internal IP address in order to get down to business. How much simpler do you want it? The other side benefit of this solution is that scalability is easy as pie since you simply spend a little more money on hardware (faster processors/network/hard disks, more RAM, etc. ) in order to improve performance as more users (browsers) come aboard. In the past, programmers would have to re-write the application in order to improve scalability. This is way more expensive as opposed to throwing money at hardware. Got it? :-)

Happy computing!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Coming soon to Go Africa go

[Nairobi, Kenya]WELL, I've got tons of stuff to write about right here on the Go Africa go! weblog, so keep an eye out for some regular posts that highlights something positive about Africa. Or that fits in well with the site's theme. Here are some ideas running through my head.
  • Best cyber cafes in Africa (or maybe Cyber cafe of the Week)
  • Communications spotlight (a look at an ISP or mobile operator making a difference)
  • Women on move (a tribute to African women who are getting things done)
  • Small business success story of the week (maybe month)
  • Movers & Shakers (a look at someone in politics who's making a real difference for their community...maybe!)
  • Artist/Performer of the week (month)
  • Faces of Africa (showcasing beautiful African women with that natural everyday "girl next door" look)
  • Mobile phone review (if possible...since this is main mode of communications)
  • Education Watch (a profile of a school, training facility, etc. that's making a difference for its students)
  • Night life spot of the week (maybe month)
  • City (or country) on the Move (a look at a city or country that's making the right moves)
  • Great finds (unique businesses that offer excellent products or services that myself or a reader have stumbled upon)
  • Places to go (a look at destinations and sites to visit)
  • and much, much more...you have any ideas?
Well, what do you think? If you have a suggestion for a re-occurring blog topic, please post a comment here. I'm hopoing that said topics will keep readers coming back for more good stuff.

Microsoft offers $3 software for developing world

[Nairobi, Kenya]
GREAT NEWS for Africa. Microsoft is about to steal some thunder from Linux by offering some of its crown jewels (Windows, Office, etc.) for a paltry $3 to developing nations, and needy people right in their own back yard (USA). I really don't what to make of this. Well, I do.

The rise of Linux & software pirates
You see, Linux (see pics of Tux the Linux mascot on this page) is a free open source operating system that's been making a lot of noise in developing nations since it doesn't require a serial number or activation code to install. In essence, it's FREE - like air. You can copy it as much as you like without worrying about the "pirate police" from the Software Publishers Association (now renamed the SIIA) showing up at your company's front door looking to throw the book (and a huge fine) at you. In addition, commercial pirates in places like Asia (Thailand, China, Hong Kong, India) make illegal copies of Windows for resale, but you'd never know the damn CD with your new computer was a fake. This was (is) costing Microsoft hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.By the way, you can see what Linux and the open source movement is all about from some of my old posts on my Max The IT pro weblog.
My kingdom for $3
What can I say? My hats off to Microsoft for finally seeing the light. Let's face it. The writing was on the wall once Linux entered the lime light. And it didn't help that Windows had a reputation as being buggy and virus-prone. Only naive software executives believed that Linux was just a fad. Not so. Anyhow, here's the scoop on $3 deal:
In an effort to expand its global reach in computing, Microsoft plans to offer a stripped-down version of Windows, Office and other software for $3 to people in developing nations.

The program, which is being announced in Beijing Thursday by the Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, represents an ambitious expansion of efforts to introduce products to those who have lacked access to personal computers, especially in developing nations.

While these countries have a growing appetite for technology as a means to spur growth and raise living standards, they also have very limited budgets. Some governments have encouraged alternatives to Microsoft's Windows, notably Linux, a free operating system.

The Microsoft push comes as a nonprofit project, One Laptop per Child, plans this year to start producing machines priced at about $150 — with a goal of reaching $100 — that will run a version of Linux. Several countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Nigeria, have made tentative commitments to distribute the laptops to millions of schoolchildren.

Microsoft has offered discounted versions of Windows selectively in the past, to a few developing nations like Malaysia and Thailand, priced at $30 or less. But the new program, called Microsoft Unlimited Potential, goes further with more software and deeper price cuts and extends to all developing nations, said Microsoft's senior vice president for emerging markets, Orlando Ayala. {source}

Again, this is an excellent Go Africa go! story because access to quality, low cost ICT software is necessary in order for developing nations to move up to the next level. It would also help if countries like the US and those in the European Union stop protecting their farmers with huge subsidies that are unfair to food exporters here in Africa. But that's another story. Right? :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Watch out for the US dollar

[Nairobi, Kenya]
ONE THING that businesses in Africa have to be weary about is the state of the US dollar. Why? Because a lot of transactions (tourism, import/export, etc.) are conducted in said currency. There's an old wise saying in business: "Buyer beware." Well, I feel this saying is soon going to take on greater significance as the US dollar continues to lose ground to other major currencies: "Hey, can you pay me in Euros?" :-) What, you think I'm kidding around? Well, take a peek at this.
The dollar hit a 26-year low against the British pound and neared an all-time trough versus the euro on Wednesday as expectations of U.S. rate cuts contrasted with prospects for more monetary tightening in other countries.

The dollar was down across the board, hitting a 22-year low versus the New Zealand dollar on Wednesday and holding near Tuesday's 17-year low against the Australian dollar.

The fall in the dollar was exacerbated by below-forecast U.S. core consumer prices for March released on Tuesday. The U.S. data contrasted sharply with a jump in UK consumer prices that stoked expectations for a rate hike, driving sterling above $2 for the first time since 1992 when Britain was forced to exit the Exchange Rate Mechanism, and then higher still to levels last seen in 1981. {source: Dollar takes pounding, 26-year low}

Signs everywhere
Look at it this way. China and India are 2 economies that are booming due to their exports to the US. This means more US dollars are leaving the US, which also means that more of said currency is held in other countries where it was not originally printed. So now, who do you think has more influence over the US dollar...Americans or outsiders? Okay, here's some more food for thought on why the US dollar is going to the dust bin.
So people cast doubt on the "dollar-devaluation" theory. They found that the root cause behind the sharp rise of US trade deficits was not the greenback's high exchange rate, but the extremely low bank savings rate of Americans who excessively spend future money on current consumption. The comparatively weak demand for US goods in some sectors of the world market is also to blame. {source: RMB no scapegoat for US woes}
Oh, don't forget about that huge national US debt which is now hovering close to $9 Trillion. Yes, I said TRILLION. Furthermore, with more manufacturing jobs moving over to Asia, this means that a lot of good income paying jobs are being lost only to be replaced by low-paying, service-oriented jobs.In closing, my advise to African businesses is to start looking for an alternative currency to replace the US dollar when dealing with foreign transactions. Heck, don't be afraid to ask if you can be paid in Euros, Swiss Francs, or British Pounds. Why should your business suffer just because American politicians have mismanaged the US economy. :-)

Here's hoping to a very profitable future for all businesses throughout Africa.

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