5 things I can do with the value of the new MacBook Pro in Ghana

The new Apple MacBook Pro is going for a $2199 starting price. As someone who once read economics at both first and second years in the university, I decided to just list a few of the innumerable things I can do with that money in Ghana here, assuming an exchange rate of Gh¢1.9 to the Dollar. Here’s a shortlist of 5 of those:

1. Pay for 2 of the 4 years of university education at Ghana’s Institute of Professional Studies in Legon. The tuition there goes for approximately $789.47/year. I could have some change to pay for about 70% of the third year’s as well.

2. Buy a plot of land for development. A 70 X 100ft parcel of land goes for roughly Gh¢4100 or $2157.

3. Buy 4 of these locally made desktop computers and donate them to these kids. Who knows how far that can go into shaping their IT future. I would also be helping grow a local computer assembling company, helping increase employment. 

4. Buy this  laptop with roughly the same specs and be able to upgrade the hardware as and when I want, with change leftover for other things. 

5. At a current rate of 20% for the 91 day government of Ghana treasury bills, I could make a quick $440 in 3 months. 

This is in no a slight or anything whatsoever on those who have the money and are willing to spend the fortune on the shiny new MacBook Pro. No. It’s just me thinking out aloud, day dreaming about how my life could be transformed in not so an insignificant way if I get the value of the MBP in my hands. 

Update:

My compatriot on Google Plus, Kwabena Brenya passed a comment that I believe deserves a place in this post. So we now have 6 instead of 5. He wrote:

You left out the most important thing $2200 can do in Ghana:
Feed a kid in an orphanage with 3 square daily meals for a whole year! 

To Ghana’s Minister of Education- Can we please Open Source the CSSPS?

Hello Madam Betty, this mail is being written to you on an OS called Xubuntu, it’s open source and developed by people from all walks of life. The underlying skeleton, or code as it’s called, is open for anybody’s inspection. Anybody who thinks there’s something wrong with it can have a look at the code and if need be, suggest changes that will better the OS for all who use it.

You may be asking why this long preamble? Well because as a youth of this dear country of ours, I always get headaches, heartaches, fever, high blood pressure among others anytime the senior high school placement- you know, that piece of algorithm that supposedly auto selects which school to place every junior high school student- system kicks in every year. To the best of my understanding Madam, that system was put in place to curb the annual frustrations that hard working, tax paying parents of this country go through every year in getting their wards placed in high schools.

That old system we were told- and we agree- was fraught with irregularities, corruption among others thus the need for a computerized system that does all the placements automatically, without any human intervention. Wow, that was an awesome idea for a country that still is technophobe at the government level. Until the computerized system became worse than the old system. You’re a witness to it Madam, year in year out, parents keep going through untold agonies because the so called computerized system that we were told could not be comprised, is not doing what it was intended to. Far from it. 

We, and by we, I mean myself and like minded youth like me, don’t have any evidence to suggest the computerized selection and school placement system has been compromised. However, what we are humbly demanding as a matter of urgency and desperation is for the system, the entire piece of software that makes up the CSSPS be open sourced. We want the government of the Republic of Ghana to make the code of the CSSPS available as an open source project for anybody to be a watchdog over it. 

We want to be able to see what the code looks like, keep an eye on it so no single entity has complete control over it. We don’t know who the government did contract to write that software, but as tax payers, and as a democratic country that prides itself on the tenets of transparency, we the youth of this country want to be vanguards of the code that has been the cause of so much controversy in our educational system for sometime now. 

You may be wondering what’s there to gain by open sourcing the code right? Well for starters the government won’t need to spend hard cash in paying whoever it contracted to write that code. Me, him, they, us and everybody around the globe can be a maintainer of that code once it goes open source. We save money which can be used elsewhere. Secondly all doubts will be cleared and trust restored in the system. You know for sure parents have lost trust in the entire selection and placement process. They strongly believe the system is corrupted. And what’s there to stop them from believing that when only a select few know what the code is like and have access to it?

Third, we can be a model for other African countries when we open source the code. They can look at it,  adapt it to their needs and then on we move as Africa. To give you an example of what open source can do, take a look at that massive, 800lbs gorilla called Google. Yea. That company whose annual revenues is almost equal to our GDP runs on open source. It’s a central, necessary part of that company. It’s Android OS is a prime example of the power of making code available to all and sundry.

I could go on and on about the benefits of open sourcing the CSSPS. But I know you’re hard pressed for time so I’m just going to end here. Just a recap Madam, we’re asking that the gov takes the CSSPS project and make it available as open source so the entire nation can be vanguards of the process and we assure you that the entire hiccups that have become a necessary annual ritual and characteristic of this school selection and placement exercise will be a thing of the past in no time. 

This is my first mail to you Madam, but you can bet it won’t be last. We’re waiting to hear from you. 

5 Reasons to Learn a Programming Language

At this point in time, there are many programming languages that you can learn and, doubtless, there will be many more such languages devised in the future.  There was a time when C was the only well structured and popular programming language around and it is still being extensively used.  In fact, many people regard it as the skeleton on which many modern programming languages have been designed.

The first major advantage of knowing a programming language is that you will be able to understand the mentality of a development team.  Programming is never an easy job and if you know something about it, you will get to make the optimum use of your development team.  They will stop regarding you as a pain in the neck and regard you as a useful resource in implementing their project objectives.

The second major advantage of learning a programming language is that you will find that a good problem-solving approach can be a great help in good programming.  A really good programmer takes a problem and divides it into a number of small pieces for each one of which he will try and find an elegant solution.  You do not need to be a great programmer but you can certainly understand what makes a good programmer tick.  Once you have understood the programming mindset, you can evolve some really great strategies for any project that you undertake.

In any project that involves Search Engine Optimisation, you will need to collect and tackle lots of numbers.  If you bothered to learn a little about scripting languages, you can access Application Programming Interfaces (API) by yourself and collect all your data from one conveniently accessible space.  You can then evolve any kind of marketing strategy that you choose.  For instance, you can make use of Google Spreadsheets and use their App Script.

Again, in the SEO business, you would probably be working closely with development teams that include software developers and Web designers.  These people will routinely try and give you a run around including a number of reasons for shooting down what you want.  If you know a little bit about programming, you’ll be able to see through all this because you’ll have a clear idea of what is possible and what is not possible with your Web site project.  

If you know what you are doing, you would be treated with respect instead of triggering defensive responses from your development team.  You may even be able to suggest a possible solution to the problems (couched in the most diplomatic terms of cause) and accept their estimates and schedules without ridiculing them.

You should note that for many people, HTML does not really count as a programming language and you might want to learn other more useful languages such as Python or SQL (Structured Query Language).  Learning SQL, for instance, can be a great deal of help whether you’re handling simple search queries or complicated content management systems.  It doesn’t help to argue with your project development team but it certainly can help if you demonstrate an understanding of their problems and contribute to possible solutions.

Many of us take the time to learn new skills, but do we take the time to learn about the people who surround us? Use background check services and surround yourself with good people.

Going To School VS Teaching Yourself Programming

There is one huge problem with school these days (well actually there are a very-very high number of wrong things with school in today’s world that includes cost, ROI, and all sorts of other different things, but that’s a whole other story) and that is that it tries to teach people using solely one method: Reading books and then answering a few questions. And just because you read something, doesn’t mean you learn it and/or fully understand it.

Now, there are definitely some exceptions to the rule when it comes to this and how effective it can actually really be.

For example, in your chemistry classes you are constantly going to the chem lab and learning how do to do things through actually doing them. This is quite common in science classes and other upper tier classes (at least in math you have to figure things out with a pencil and paper) and is absolutely essential with computer programming.

Now this is also true in your computer programming classes – you will take some time out to get things done on your own and spend a good amount of time on the computer learning how to program simple things, but you will also waste a lot of time going to class and listening to extremely boring lectures that are completely obvious and pertain to most things in life – much like the first few steps of every single “self-help” program out there.

Here is another main difference between computer programming and virtually every single other profession out there.

In computer programming, you can virtually become a billionaire, by yourself, with only your computer, a place to rest your head, and a few programming tools on your computer. I mean, this can literally happen (think Mark Zucherberg and Facebook), and in today’s world, with the Internet, nobody needs to know how to go to school to learn how to do this. One can learn programming by his or herself by simply having enough dedication to teaching yourself how to do it a few hours a day.

Side Note: People that are in the Internet marketing niche and are perhaps looking into computer programming (every “SEO” should at least learn the basics of computer programming as it will help you to understand the mindset of the programmers that work for you) should look at learning programming over a longer period of time. This goes for anybody that has a side job, as programming isn’t something that you can learn overnight, even if your job requires working from home in the first place, like providing SEO or something like that.

There isn’t another profession in this world like it. There is absolutely no need to go to school for it as you can find all the resources you will ever need within a few clicks.

That being said, there are still some very good reasons to go to school. Here are a few of them:

        

  • First of all, it is always a great idea to get a degree. There is no “one size fits all” approach to school, and as long as it works out for you (in terms of affordability and ROI (return on investment)) then you should definitely think about going. A degree is your ticket to an Interview – the rest is on you
  •     

  • If you are the type of person that needs structure and are unable to have the discipline to learn something without having something there to force you to do it (first of all you might not want to be in programming) then you definitely will want to go to school as it will force you to learn the trade
  •     

  • One huge advantage of college is the ability to network with all sorts of people that are choosing the exact same career as you. These types of relationships can benefit you down the road in all sorts of different ways and are absolutely priceless (once again think of Facebook – as in wouldn’t that be nice to be Mark’s roommate and be a billionaire because of it?)

Conclusion:

School is very expensive, and if you can teach yourself how to program, you can begin making money before you ever go one dollar into debt due to student loans (which can be absolutely enormous these days). You can also get a job while you are learning how to program. One option is to go the SEO/computer programming route. It is good for all programmers to learn a little bit about SEO anyways, since there are so many job opportunities in that market, and since Internet marketing is the biggest thing to hit the market since sliced bread.

In the perfect world, both going to school and teaching yourself how to program would be ideal. Unfortunately for some of us, we don’t want to have to dedicate 14-20 hours a day learning how to program. Well, I guess it isn’t that unfortunate, otherwise we would literally be machines, but just so you know, that is the type of people you are up against in this world when you are learning how to program.

This article was written by Philip Russell. Philip helps to run an SEO comapny over at www.inetzeal.net. In his spare time he likes to write articles in the SEO field and well as about computer programming – pretty much about anything that has to  do with making money using your computer and a solid set of skills.

Code Academy- The Free JavaScript guide for absolute beginners

Code Academy is an interactive, highly addicting web service that teaches how to code in JavaScript through a simple, interactive dialog box. You don’t need to have any experience to get started with the lessons.

Once you get onto the site, you’re presented with a simple dialog box with a blinking cursor that has instructions on what to enter. It’s highly addictive and fun to use. Beginners to programming will find it very helpful, without the usual code-speak that accompanies most programming books.

If you are a developer, you can also sign up for the Code Academy Teacher beta program where you can have the opportunity of writing lessons for the site.

JavaScript is currently the only programming language to taught there but there are plans to add other languages in the future. Signing up to the site is also super easy, requiring just one step.

If you’re a beginner to the world of programming, you might want to start with the relatively easiest language out there, now with the easiest teaching service out there.

Google reaches search deal with British Library

The British Library has entered into an agreement with Google to allow users to  to “view, search and copy the out-of-copyright works at no charge. Google will also make the books available on its site.”

This move will make access to one of the world’s largest collections of books, journals, newspapers, manuscripts, videos, playwrights among others.

The national library of the United Kingdom, the British council is one of the largest libraries in the world with over 150m items from every country, written civilization and almost all known languages in many formats.

As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. It also has a programme for content acquisitions. The British Library adds some three million items every year occupying 11 kilome  tres of new shelf space.

Source BBC.

If programming languages were religions

Something from ITU to lighten up your morning…enjoy

C would be Judaism – it’s old and restrictive, but most of the world is familiar with its laws and respects them. The catch is, you can’t convert into it-you’re either into it from the start, or you will think that it’s insanity. Also, when things go wrong, many people are willing to blame the problems of the world on it.

Java would be Fundamentalist Christianity – it’s theoretically based on C, but it voids so many of the old laws that it doesn’t feel like the original at all. Instead, it adds its own set of rigid rules, which its followers believe to be far superior to the original. Not only are they certain that it’s the best language in the world, but they’re willing to burn those who disagree at the stake.

PHP would be Cafeteria Christianity – Fights with Java for the web market. It draws a few concepts from C and Java, but only those that it really likes. Maybe it’s not as coherent as other languages, but at least it leaves you with much more freedom and ostensibly keeps the core idea of the whole thing. Also, the whole concept of “goto hell” was abandoned.

C++ would be Islam – It takes C and not only keeps all its laws, but adds a very complex new set of laws on top of it. It’s so versatile that it can be used to be the foundation of anything. Its followers are convinced that it is the ultimate universal language, and may be angered by those who disagree. Also, if you insult it or its founder, you’ll probably be threatened with death by more radical followers.

C# would be Mormonism – At first glance, it’s the same as Java, but at a closer look you realize that it’s controlled by a single corporation (which many Java followers believe to be evil), and that many theological concepts are quite different. You suspect that it’d probably be nice, if only all the followers of Java wouldn’t discriminate so much against you for following it.

Lisp would be Zen Buddhism – There is no syntax, there is no centralization of dogma, there are no deities to worship. The entire universe is there at your reach – if only you are enlightened enough to grasp it. Some say that it’s not a language at all; others say that it’s the only language that makes sense.

Haskell would be Taoism – It is so different from other languages that many people don’t understand how can anyone use it to produce anything useful. Its followers believe that it’s the true path to wisdom, but that wisdom is beyond the grasp of most mortals.

Erlang would be Hinduism – It’s another strange language that doesn’t look like it could be used for anything, but unlike most other modern languages, it’s built around the concept of multiple simultaneous deities.

Perl would be Voodoo – An incomprehensible series of arcane incantations that involve the blood of goats and permanently corrupt your soul. Often used when your boss requires you to do an urgent task at 21:00 on friday night.

Lua would be Wicca – A pantheistic language that can easily be adapted for different cultures and locations. Its code is very liberal, and allows for the use of techniques that might be described as magical by those used to more traditional languages. It has a strong connection to the moon.

Ruby would be Neo-Paganism – A mixture of different languages and ideas that was beaten together into something that might be identified as a language. Its adherents are growing fast, and although most people look at them suspiciously, they are mostly well-meaning people with no intention of harming anyone.

Python would be Humanism: It’s simple, unrestrictive, and all you need to follow it is common sense. Many of the followers claim to feel relieved from all the burden imposed by other languages, and that they have rediscovered the joy of programming. There are some who say that it is a form of pseudo-code.

COBOL would be Ancient Paganism – There was once a time when it ruled over a vast region and was important, but nowadays it’s almost dead, for the good of us all. Although many were scarred by the rituals demanded by its deities, there are some who insist on keeping it alive even today.

APL would be Scientology – There are many people who claim to follow it, but you’ve always suspected that it’s a huge and elaborate prank that got out of control.

LOLCODE would be Pastafarianism – An esoteric, Internet-born belief that nobody really takes seriously, despite all the efforts to develop and spread it.

Visual Basic would be Satanism – Except that you don’t REALLY need to sell your soul to be a Satanist…

Help Keep the Pressure on Sony- FSF

We asked you to email Sony CEO Howard Stringer during our last call to action
and Sony responded by shutting off his email address. Many of you then sent
emails to the next email address we posted, Nicole Seligman, Sony Executive VP and General Counsel. Your action was effective — it was an important part of the overall public pressure put on Sony to back off.

And back off they did. Sony ended up settling its lawsuit against George Hotz (aka geohot). Hotz has agreed to not use Sony devices in an ambiguous “unauthorized” fashion — in fact, he’s boycotting Sony anyway — and the accusations brought up in the case by Sony remain unproven.
 
While Hotz shouldn’t have to endure even this, which amounts to a gag order, Sony was stopped well short of what it was hoping to get. Hotz is now free to move on, but Sony is stuck with a fresh batch of bad publicity and no money or legal precedent to show for it.

You did a great job of letting Sony know how unacceptable their behavior has been. Here are excerpts from just some of the 300+ emails you’ve sent so far:

“I would like to let you know that I think your company’s behaviour
towards free software developers is atrocious and disgusting. I will
buy no further Sony products until you cease this action.”

“With the removal of OtherOS and now your attacks on the hacker trying to restore the functionality I paid for. I will be selling all my Sony equipment on ebay and will no longer be recommending any of your products to my friends and family.”

“You should be encouraging imaginative uses of the PS3. Each time someone in the free software community expands the PS3’s
capabilities, the machine becomes desirable for more people.”

We’re not out of the woods yet. Geohot is boycotting Sony over their behavior and we should too. Sony had alleged violations of the DMCA, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and other copyright laws agains Geohot for jailbreaking the PS3. Sony was granted a number of subpoenas to access information on anyone with even a remote curiosity about the jailbreak, including server logs of geohot’s personal website to the records of anyone who watched the video “Jailbroken PS3 3.55 with Homebrew”.

Another PS3 hacker, Alexander Egorenkov, or graf_chokolo, had his home raided by the police and is now being sued for €1 million. Just recently, representatives of Sony went to his home again and confiscated his equipment.

It’s bad enough that Sony has put restrictive measures against developers in the first place by making jailbreaking necessary. Sony should be encouraging the software development community around the PS3, instead of throwing its legal weight around.

Keep in mind that one of the goals of PS3 hackers is restoring the ability to install other operating systems, a functionality that Sony removed after it was promised to buyers. Some of these PS3 owners have joined a class-action lawsuit against Sony. Interestingly, this lawsuit alleges Sony violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by removing the OtherOS function — the same law Sony uses against hackers who enable OtherOS. The cases against these hackers are still fresh, but Sony’s war on hackers has been going on for a long time.

So, let’s keep the pressure on! Do you oppose Sony’s actions? Are you boycotting Sony? Let them know. Email Nicole Seligman, Executive VP and General Counsel at Sony (nicole.seligman@am.sony.com) — as always, please BCC or CC us on emails at info@defectivebydesign.org! Check out our anti-Sony stickers in the store while you’re at it.

From the FSF

[VIDEO] Free and Open Source Software in Developing Countries

This Documentary shows the Benefits of Free and Open Source Software for development countries.
The crew of the independent producers who made the film went to nearly a dozen countries around the world to see how the adoption of FOSS presents opportunities for industry and capacity development, software piracy reduction, and localization and customization for diverse cultural and development needs.
Stories from The Codebreakers include computer and Internet access for school children in Africa, reaching the poor in Brazil, tortoise breeding programmes in the Galapagos, connecting villages in Spain, and disaster management in Sri Lanka. The documentary also includes interviews from key figures around the world.
A verbatim reproduction of the  video description on YouTube.

This Week in Africa- Interesting African Headlines You May Have Missed

Another week has ended and it’s time to bring you a roundup of some interesting headlines from Africa. Here goes

We Need to Stop Google’s Exploitation of Open Communities
Mikel Maron writes about Google’s seemingly disregard for community projects that it uses without proper credit to them. He writes

What bothers me so much is how they have blatantly copied OpenStreetMap. First their MapMaker product is directly modelled on OSM, but with a restrictive data license, where you can not use the data as you see fit. Second, they have stolen the idea of Mapping Parties, a unique concept and name we developed. Third, they’re even copying initiatives to map impoverished informal settlements, like Map Kibera.

Google Appoints Female Country Manager for Nigeria
MacJordan reports on Google’s appointment of a female as country director for Nigeria. He writes

Google Nigeria recently appointed Ms. Juliet Ehimuan, the former General Manager of  Strategic Business Units at Chams Plc as its Country Manager for Nigeria.

The 20 Most Powerful People In African Business
Over on the Forbes blogs, Mfonobong writes lists the twenty most influential African business personalities. He writes

However, a new league of African businessmen is emerging. They are bold and fearlessly ambitious, building pan-African companies with regional and even global presences. They are influencers and change-makers. Their voices are never ignored within Africa’s business and political circles, and through their resolutions and actions, they shape the economic future of the continent.

Nigeria’s Jonathan takes big poll lead
Aljazeera reports that Nigeria’s incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan has taken the lead in the presidential election that was held yesterday.

Early results on Sunday showed Jonathan had done well in much of the predominantly Christian south, including areas such as the most populous city of Lagos, where the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had struggled in a parliamentary election a week ago.

Re; Why Getting Ghana Wrong IS a Problem
Yours truly was involved in an argument with some of his compatriots started by a CNN article which talked about the increasing menace of internet fraud in Ghana.

Then again Graham and Graham, I Luqman Saeed, don’t just see myself as a Ghanaian youth competing against my compatriots. NO! I see myself as a global citizen who is in competition with my contemporaries from across the world. And so I would not expect my American contemporary to be able to dazzle me in anyway whatsoever because I already am in competition with him and always try to be at par in terms of knowledge, use of technology and all that. IMHO, that is how we can get to market Africa to the world.

Bill Gates Pays Millions to AllAfrica (“Largest Electronic Distributor of African News and Information Worldwide”) to Push His Agenda
This is quite old but I had to fetch it to tell my point across to a friend on Twitter about who Gates really is and what he’s doing on this continent.

On previous occasions about a year ago we also showed that Bill Gates had paid a lot of money for African journalists to cover his work the way he likes it. The veil of “training” was used and James Love mentioned this rather recently, in a very comprehensive summary of his.
We are saddened to find that Mr. Gates just cannot let journalists do their work independently. Using his tax-exempt bank account (Gates Foundation) he targets a very major channel of communication in Africa.

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.