Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Zain on the EDGE of Ngong

[Ngong, Kenya]
WELL, I'M here in Ngong blogging from my room using Mrs. C's Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem. I told her to buy this instead of Safaricom's package because I truly believe Celtel (oops, I mean Zain) has the superior data network. Heck, I don't give a sh!t about voice! Just show me the data pipe baby. :-) By the way, I'm not the biggest fan of telecom companies. Just take a peek at these 2 posts I wrote in 2006 to know why:
Zain: the better option?
As a matter of fact, Zain is simply the better option when it comes to voice too. Safaricom subscribers are stooopid for paying KSh 10/minute when they can buy a Zain SIM and get unlimited daytime (6a - 6p) calls for KSh 99. That's obscenely cheap folks. But it gets better. After 6pm and weekends, you only pay KSh 3/minute. And don't forget that Zain has a tariff where you list the 3 Zain numbers that you call the most, and you only pay KSh 4/minute forever. Is this the same elitist Celtel (er Zain) that was charging ridiculous rates not too long ago? Oh my, how times have changed - for the better.

So, why are Safaricom prepaid subscribers not jumping ship in greater numbers? It absolutely boggles the mind that I have to keep my bloody Safaricom SIM in my celly after 6pm just so that my idiot friends can call me. In a sense, they're inconveniencing me by not using the "better option" after 6pm and on weekends. How selfish of them, eh? :-)

Zain not 3G yet...
Anyhow, Zain has not rolled out their 3G network offering yet to compete with Safaricom's [HotSpot] data offering. But then again, can Safaricom beat Zain's unlimited postpaid data package of KShs 2995 per month? Nope. Unlimited is not in their vocabulary - yet. Someone at Zain customer care did inform me that 3G is coming "soon." I've heard that one before, and I don't really care because it'll probably be a while before them (or Safaricom) bring HSDPA data services to Ngong. Again, I don't give a damn about voice. I can do all of that on the Information Super Highway - and a lot more. Yacking is for idiots who have money to waste.

One thing though...I read somewhere that Safaricom's HSDPA download rates were fast as hell in areas such as Westlands, Upper Hill and CDB. Some Kenyan blogger mentioned speeds hovering around 1 Megabit/sec when he's surfin' in Westlands. Well, I'll believe it when I see it. Heck, if that's true, I'll pack my things and relocate to Westlands. Nah, Ngong's quiet and I can actually think out here. :-)

Getting EDGEy...
Anyhow, over the past few days, I've been playing around with this Huawei modem on Mac OS X and I'm quite impressed with the ease that it installed. I'm still shocked because hardly anyone makes hardware that installs on a Mac since everyone's hooked on virus-prone Windows. Way to go Huawei! I'm now a bigger fan of your products.
So, how does Zain's network perform here in Ngong? Remember, this town is about a 40 minute drive by car from the Nairobi's downtown Central Business District. On certain occasions, I'm sure you can do it in about 25 to 30 minutes. Yeah, at 2am in the morning! :-)
Well, as you can see in the pic above, I was able to download at a top rate of 10.4 KB/s while topping out at a respectable 18 KB/s. Hey, remember I'm in Ngong - not Westlands or snobby Upper Hill.

My advice to Safaricom & Zain
I urge you 2 to focus on bringing affordable, reliable broadband data services to the rural communities because it'll spur on economic development faster than any other government initiative. I know it's hard to resist the lucrative markets like Upper Hill, Wetlands, CBD, Kilimani, Lavington, Runda, Karen, Muthaiga et al, but think about the impact you'll have on the country. You 2 have the power to quickly change a lot of things in this country - for the better.

Cheap access to the Internet means that more people can connect, share ideas and try out new things. And let's face it, you 2 have the infrastructure and know-how to do it.

Telkom Kenya, WTF?!?
By the way, I really don't know what the hell the brain trust at Telkom Wireless are smoking. How on earth can they charge KSh 3 per minute for their CDMA data services when Safaricom and Zain are charging by the megabyte? Telkom, you havent a clue what the hell you're doing, do you? What a disgrace you are to Kenya. How could you let so many people down? What were you thinking? Where's your EV-DO service to match the 3G/HSDPA offerings of your rivals? I have lost all faith in you, Telkom. Luckily, you have the government to back up your uncompetitive behind. Do us all a favour, and just go to hell.

Ngong, a hidden treasure?
Lastly, I just have to say that it's lovely up here, and the view of Ngong Hills from the back yard or from my good pal's (Robert Ouko - former 72' Olympic 800m Gold Medalist) flat is absolutely breath taking. And it's so quiet in these parts...no noisy traffic disrupting your thoughts and everyone in this particular area (Kerarapon) is so friendly. Heck, we have monthly residents meetings for this 4 sq-km area that's situated in Ngong, and the police attends them too. So everybody knows their neighbour and crime here is like a tiny blip compared to all the crap that's going on in Karen and Nairobi.

Also, Kerarapon boasts its own natural springs that's managed by the Kerarapon Water Commission where Mr. Ouko was the outgoing Secretary. He did a fabulous job by the way. Hence water rates are ridiculously cheap at KSh 2 per gallon. Yet Karen is like an 8 minute car (or matatu) ride if you need to go to Nakumatt or do banking at Karen Crossroads Mall.

Honestly, I see a bright future for Ngong - especially Kerarapon. Lots of peeps are moving from places like Runda, Lavington and Karen since the price is right. Heck the late, former Roads Minister (Kipkalya Kones) just recently purchased property on Kerarapon Drive where his wife now resides. I'm sure he would've seen that the main road was paved in a jiffy.

By the way, land only goes for about 800K to 1.2M per acre here. And the land that borders Karen goes for about 3M per acre. Now that's what I call a sweet deal. Contrast that to Karen where land on average goes for about Ksh 13 Million per acre. I've seen plots there going for KSh 16M. No thanks! Once more development takes place by the 17th drive of Kerarapon, then the council will probably allow that bypass road to connect from Karen making travel to other Nairobi suburbs quicker than ever.

My goals while living in this area are:
  1. Assist the community in getting the main road for Kerarapon Drive paved using applied techniques based on affordable, reliable termite technology for long-lasting roads. This alone will spur on more development. I'm to present this solution at the upcoming residents meeting in a few days.

  2. Implement a "community" wireless mesh broadband project in Kerarapon that will attract more development in terms of companies relocating here and better access for the public schools here.

  3. Develop a strategy with association members for a street light initiative (like Esther Passaris' Adopt a Light campaign) so that Kerarapon Drive has affordable lighting throughout the night. This will give the residents here that community piece of mind and spur on more development.

Related links:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Are you IT Management material?

[Nairobi, Kenya]
So, are YOU management material? What makes you think so? Do you want to be a manager out of passion or for some other purely ego-driven motive? I don't think I'd have any problems in a mangerial role because I understand how to communicate with people in an honest straightforward manner when push comes to shove. Most importantly, I'm confident in myself and my abilities. In other words, I'd be able to focus on the VISION and OBJECTIVES thingy as opposed to worrying about who's trying to move ahead of me up the corporate ladder and other silly games like that. One other important thing. If I'm the manager responsible for hiring, I think my good sense of character judgement would help me to eliminate a lot of potentially bad apples during the interview sessions. It's amazing how many flunkies get through the cracks to the detriment of the team and, ultimately, the company.

I've been an avid reader of
Ziff Davis publications like PC Magazine, PC World, BYTE, and PC Computing ever since I was in high school (grade 13). You see, I completed a 1 year Cooperative Education placement in Accounting & Computers at Computing Devices Company (CDC) located in Canada's Silicon Valley North. That's the name we use for the National Capital region that's made up primarily of Ottawa, Nepean, Gloucester, Orleans, and Kanata. It's here that great companies like Cognos, Nortel, Newbridge Networks, Corel, Mitel, Norpak, Simtran, QNX, Lumonics, JDS Uniphase and a ton of others came to life.

Anyhow, CDC is now part of the massive General Dynamics military industrial complex. Aah, now I'm starting to understand the significance of all those "special projects" that were going on in the
Anti Submarine Warfare department headed by Ken Charter back then. lol. Heck, I think those "Cold War" subs go for like $2 BILLION these days. Hmmn, can they at least drill for oil or do something else that's useful? Good lords, no wonder the US has a $9.5+ TRILLION national debt...and climbing!!! :-)

The good ole' days...
Back then, I'd work in the mornings between 8:30a and 11:45, and attend classes in the afternoon. Too bad Ontario high schools now go up to grade 12. I believe that extra year of classes adds maturity in a student that's lacking these days. How the hell does a 17 or 18 year old know what the heck they want to do on campus? Grade 13 back then, essentially, was equivalent to first year at most colleges and universities around the world...and it was FREE. Oh well, I feel sorry for peeps like my little brother who could probably use the extra year.

Thanks for managing me...
Anyhow, I started to get a warm and fuzzy after reading this ZDNet blog post: Signs you might not be IT management material. Why? Because I thought of old managers I worked for and realize that I was lucky as hell to have been "managed" by the right "managers" so to speak. Who knows, the wrong managers may have convinced me to pursue a different career altogether - like heading back to Barbados and working for my dad's construction and transportation businesses. And I know he'd make a crappy manager because he didn't have any people skills whatsoever.

Luckily, my 2 bosses (Claire Laliberte and Pierre Bertrand) at CDC were very flexible, caring and pointed me in the right direction most of the time. Thanks to them sending me in the computer lab to do all those Lotus 1-2-3 tutorials, I began to realize my true potential in the IT field. In no time, I was a spreadsheet guru, able to crank out sophisticated worksheets utilizing all of Lotus 1-2-3's power. I vividly remember salivating at the prospect of getting my hands on the King Jaguar or Baler spreadsheet compilers for creating stand alone spreadsheet applications without the need for the customer owning 1-2-3, Quattro Pro or any of the other competitors.

Another great experience took place when I became a freelance temp worker out of high school. I remember my old boss, Wayne Parker, at Bell Canada's Corporate Engineering (Planning & Standards Research division) department. He was a laid back techie who gave me tons of resources to crank out those massive macro-based Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets for the Transmission Quality Survey for the 416, 905, 613, 705, 416, 819 and 514 Ontario/Quebec area codes. My output (lots of graphs) was used by senior management to get a big picture on Bell's telephone line infrastructure and where to begin the roll out of fibre optic cabling.

I fondly remember the time when I commandeered a room of about 10 computers and printers to simultaneously print graphs from all my data analysis. We're talking spreadsheets with about 10,000 rows here folks! Heck, everyone in that department was so kool - except for that one crappy senior manager who has long since retired, or (gasp!) worse. Here's a big shout out to Mr. Parker and his family - wherever they are. Oh, and to Lubna Qureshi (aka LJQ) who was a brainy electrical engineer passionate in antennae design, but "that" crappy manager didn't even realize it. And how can I forget Estelle, the secretary. What a sweetheart. I do hope she's enjoying her retirement.

Once again, I was fortunate to have encountered great managers at Northern Telecom (now Nortel) for that awesome summer student job where I created a large Mac FileMaker database of all hardware assets (computers, network IDs, serial #s, printers, etc.). This was at their massive Corkstown Road facility in Nepean. One interesting note: I met this kool dude name Manabu Kato who was an exchange student from Japan. His interest back then was Artificial Intelligence. After his summer gig, he left for California and then back to the Far East. I wonder what he's up to these days! Hmmn, let's try http://www.google.com/search?q=Manabu+Kato. Well whatever he's up to, I'm sure he's a smashing success.

I also want to thank Clay Grandy (CEO/President of AGO Industries in London, Ontario) for being a no-nonsense straight up manager while I was a summer student at his company. He knew his company's products better than any body. Not once did he rest on his laurels. Heck, he'd even dip his feet in IT and once did his own tech support on all his PC equipment (even setting up and managing an office LAN) before he got too busy. You see folks, here's a manager that leads by doing. Point noted Clay! By the way, Clay had a super sexy metallic silver corvette back then. Lucky for me, he'd be headed in my direction on my way home. Fast times indeed! :-)

Lastly, I have to give major props to Lindsay Phillips (and Nancy Bartlett) at the Bank of Montreal's swanky Institute For Learning in the Applied Technology department. He's the one who drove 2 hours down the Highway 401 to UWO to recruit me for my 16 month Computer Science industrial internship. This forced me to relocate to the amazing city of Toronto.

In fact, this act got me to explore Toronto's amazing night life which is second to none. Here, I found my passion for Electronic Dance Music (House, Tribal, Acid Techno, Dark Progressive House, Tech Trance, Funky House) at spots like System Sound Bar, The Guvernment, Kool Haus, Life, Film Lounge, The Comfort Zone and lots of big party events by sponsors like Bensons & Hedges, Smirnoff, Heineken among others. Talented DJs like DJ Myka, Kenny Glasgow, Mark Oliver, Goldfinger, DJ Addy, Dekoze, Jelo, Joee Cons et al continue to inspire me with their delicious sounds that are out of this world.
Let's just say that my life has never been the same after discovering the EDM scene. Stay tuned for DJ Sinister to the max folks. That's my next major hobby in a year or 2.

Anyhow, Lindsay was one tough manager in the sense that he didn't put up with crap. Yet he gave me a lot of freedom as well as provided me with lots of good advice when I first started out. He was forward thinking by allowing me to go on that Windows 2000/SQL Server 7 training workshop with Executrain. He also trusted me enough by giving me full responsibility to mentor 2 high school internship students. Personally, he didn't like the "corporate bureaucracy bullshit" that much so I'd say he was a very hands-off manager. One other thing...he taught me never to accept crappy products and services from IT vendors. Is this why I'm super critical of companies when they provide crappy service these days? Perhaps. Who knows? Well, I'm sure Lindsay's retired on some island by now. I recall he loved to travel.

Inspire me...
I guess what I'm trying to say by highlighting my most memorable managers is this: A great manager inspires you to want to perform for them and yourself too. They give your work a purpose. Now, I'm pretty good at inspiring myself, but I'm a little different from a lot of people based on my upbringing in 3 different countries mostly as an only child being raised between my mother, aunts, step mother, grand parents, and dad. However, I truly believe that the mark of a good manager in this present era is one based on his/her ability to inspire the drones (er workers/employees/associates). Times have changed. Employees are no longer loyal to any company. Mobility can be a costly bitch for a company that's turned over its staff to the wrong manager.

Food for thought...
In the above blog post discussion, a web surfer named Jeff Foxworthy highlights a funny but slightly true observation about IT managers. Perhaps some of you future managers here in Africa can learn from this.
You might not be IT management material.....
If you're not monetizing your synergies.
If you're not delegating the architecting.
If you think DNS stands for Doesn't Know S---.
If your employees whisper about routing around the damage, but stop talking as you approach.
If you forgot to send out the memo about the TPS coversheets.