Archive for October, 2006

Identity

Stand in a crowd and be one with the multitude but always maintain your sense of individual perception though not to oppose the crowd but to be everything that you are.

-Imma

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Vista & anti-piracy: Remove Windows Vista vs Buy

It has been in the news this week that Microsoft, with the upcoming release of Windows Vista (hopefully it will happen as planned), will be getting tougher on the pirates. I have read the news from various news sources and have read a couple of comments on the same and mind you there were loads of comments to go through. The new anti-piracy measures are not necessarily new to Vista only but the real difference is that they are build into the OS and hence will most likely have a much profound effect as time passes.

To state the obvious: Microsoft owns Windows and it is their business model to make money out of it but piracy gets in the way of that objective. This is not to say that I particularly like the way Microsoft does business and indeed the price they charge for Windows.

With Vista, Microsoft will require that OS be activated with a valid key and the anti-piracy technologies will continuously check to ensure that the key is valid. The part which gets me is the restrictions they have put in place if the license key is not valid: they will give a user a grace period of 30 days to get a valid key and then allow them an hour of browsing before shutting down the machine.

So, whose machine is it that the Microsoft is shutting down? I have not tested this new anti-piracy technology but I hope that they have an option for the user to remove Windows Vista from the machine all together. I mean, lets face it whether the copy of Windows is pirated or not, Microsoft does not own the hardware on which the OS runs and hence has no right deciding out right that you will not use that hardware while not providing you with the appropriate option to remove the OS from your hardware.

I am a student and as is the case with many students, I don’t have the money to hand over to Microsoft so that they give me their blessings to use their OS. The money a student can put together can afford him/her a great assembly of hardware and if the seller of the hardware says he can install a copy of Windows without increasing the price, then that what happens. That is the easiest scenario of how a person (a student) gets a pirated copy of Windows. With the new anti-piracy technology in Windows Vista, Microsoft will be demanding money from this struggling student before he can use Windows. It is only fair that Microsoft, while fighting piracy also provides the option to remove a copy of Windows Vista that does not have a valid license key.

There are free, easily accessible OS such as Ubuntu Linux and these can serve as good enough replacements for Windows Vista. At the end of the day, as a desktop OS Ubuntu has come a long way and will continue to improve as time passes. So to all the cash strapped students who can’t and/or won’t get around Microsoft anti-piracy technology, get yourself a copy of Ubuntu Linux and install it on your hardware. And if you are a computer science student, you can donate some of your expertise in developing an application that is missing in Ubuntu to make it better or better yet improve an existing application. You get the benefit of applying the theories you have read in books and heard in lectures.

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African Languages and Technology

I came across this article on the International Herald Tribune about building wikipedia in African languages. Like most people I am increasing getting used to the idea of turning to Wikipedia (the English version that is) to find out information am interested in or just to find out something that has never crossed my thoughts. Reading the aforementioned article from IHT prompted me to check out the Kiswahili version of Wikipedia. It is not comparable to the English version of Wikipedia but it is a good initiative overall . Going through the few pages that are there I discovered Microsoft’s effort to build a Kiswahili glossary as well as a Linux Kiswahili Localization project. The Microsoft led project has been more successful so far with about 3000 technology related words in Kiswahili.

These are without a doubt important projects in their own right as a step towards bringing technology closer to the native tongues of most Africans. It may not be realistic to have a deeper penetration of IT in the shape and form that has occurred in the west or that is currently taking place in South East Asian. Perhaps the developments of IT in South East Asian can serve as a model to further expand the use and benefits of ICT to the citizens of Africa.

News channels and documentaries tend to give an impression that Sub Sahara Africa is a small village where everybody knows the other. Sub Sahara Africa is a diverse region that comprises of numerous ethnic groups that are related at some level but have distinguishable cultural practices that include language. Most of these languages do not have any relation to the fields of science and technology which has resulted in the lack of appropriate words to describe new technologies such as the Internet, mobile phones and their associated infrastructure.

It is not accurate to make general assumptions about the literacy levels in Sub Saharan Africa since in the absence of war most urban dwellers in this region of Africa are literate. Examples of countries that have made strides in literacy levels include Kenya, Namibia (after gaining her independency only recently), Nigeria, Ghana and of course South Africa. It would be a mistake to over look other countries where the levels of literacy is indeed low; some of these countries include Angola, Sudan (South Sudan), Mozambique. These countries have been involved in long and protracted wars and some of them are just beginning to enjoy some measure of calm and hence get a chance to invest in their respective citizens.

The number of African languages is simply too many while some assumptions can be made based on the number of people who speak the language and appropriate efforts made to bring the gap between the language in question and science and technology. However, there could be a large collection of languages that have a small number of speakers and in totally these small collections could possibly make a sizable population who will not have access to technology in their native tongue.

I think the future of ICT in Africa does not lie in the use of computers but rather the use of mobile devices and more specifically mobile phones. Like in the PC industry innovations in technology is driving down the cost of making low end mobile phones and as such powerful feature are trickling down this group of phones. Assuming the availability of low cost, powerful cell phones it can be possible to enable mobile phone serve as the center of ICT adoption in Africa. I think the most important aspect of the cell phone is that its basic use requires the ability to converse in a language and it doesn’t matter which language it is. This is important because you don’t need to know how to read and write to use a phone; in the extreme case the basic use of a phone can be taught in an hour or so (depending On the learner of course).

The bulk of the global economy is heavily reliant on information and indeed in some countries their focus is on the information age and everything that goes along with that. Information is power and as such governments must ensure that their populations are informed and have access to information that they need but more importantly is that these citizens should be in a position to produce their own data for their own consumption. In creating knowledge, the government creates an asset with which it can bargain with other governments of the world that have information that is of interest to it. The new generation leaders take over power in various countries in Africa need to identify the importance of information and hence enable the dissemination of information in a more personal and useful manner. Radio and television are important mass media but there is a need to embrace the concept and practice of ICT in the context of the African environment.

I dare propose that governments in Africa consider lowering the cost of building and maintaining network infrastructure for data transmission; the logic is that people must be able to reach the network and communicate with persons who share common interests with them. This of course is not another communist type approach where the infrastructure becomes a community/state property for everybody to use. The simple end of it is that by lowering the barriers to accessing this platform, more citizens will participant in exchanging ideas and a few individuals from the citizenry can find ways of building and deploying services that earn money.

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