Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Way To Look At Slave Trade

I was recently watching a stand-up comedy (the name eludes me) whereby the comedian comments on the people who make up USA and how they are the very best because of all the hardships they had to go through to get there. The Europeans were religiously prosecuted and had to cross the ocean to escape death and shit. Those of Mexican descent had to cross the border and start from nil; they were the bravest of their country. He then went on to mention how African Americans where brought into that country. They brought the strongest and biggest they could find.

This actually triggered a thought I've had since I read about the slave trade. Now before we go on let's make it clear that slavery is wrong. That it still goes on today in various forms is one of the most shameful things that can be said of human beings. Now back in the day, a couple of centuries or less back, there were a few ways slaves were acquired. The main way was actually by buying them from Africans. This may seem weird until you think of it like this; the people being sold were mostly prisoners of war, criminals and other undesirables in society. An alternative was directly capturing people while they were about their business; this was dangerous because then the community may retaliate and also it makes it difficult to come back for more. It wasn't very sustainable. Lastly, they'd entice children with sweets; this one is the most despicable of ways in my opinion.

Learning all this, I thought that there were two ways to look at the Africans that were left on the continent. One is that we were the weakest; the ones who felt couldn't survive the journey which took several weeks, the most useless. The last way is that we were actually the strongest, the ones selling our enemies whom we had defeated in battle. We were cleverest; we defeated the other tribes and nations after all, right? Going with the latter train of thought, it makes me feel a little better that I come from such strong stock.

Of course, I'm from East Africa, and slaves were very rarely taken from this far. In fact when you actually look at slave trade it was mostly from Western and Northern Africa because they were unfortunate enough to be closest to America and Europe. I can't stress enough how unfortunate it was that slavery happened but since it did and there's little that can be done about it now might as well look at it from the bright side right? Peace!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Open Letter To Kenyan Universities Teaching Computer Science

I've been having exams recently and thus been extremely busy studying for things I should really have been practicing all semester for FML. Anyway, as always, around this time I got to complaining on exactly how we're tested on the mastery of various subjects.

I do Computer Science at Maseno University.  Every semester we do on average 8 units. My school has a system that is like this: 30% of your grade comes from the work and C.A.Ts you do during the semester and 70% of your grade comes from the final exam you do at the end of each semester. This is how every single degree in my school is graded: Arts, Sciences and Education.

Never mind the stupidity of having the same testing criteria for every degree; I can only talk for my course. So on to my complaint. Every semester we do a programming language. So far we've been through Pascal, C, Java and Visual Basic. My problem is that with every one of these units, the main part of my grade (70%) has come from a written exam that asked silly questions like write a program that will provide the following output
*
**
***
****
*****
And other such dull boring stuff. In almost every programming language, the code will look similar!! Last week, in a written test for Visual Basic, I was asked to design a form to take loan details and to name and explain 4 controls I had used to make my form. WTF???!!! It's a written exam! I had to draw!! How many different ways can I explain what the 'if-then-else loop  does'? It doesn't differ from one language to the next.

How exactly are you going to test someone's mastery of a programming language by giving them a written exam? I mean come on, any serious programming is done on a trial and error basis. Code, run, check for errors, fix errors run again. How is me writing snippets of code 15 lines long going to prove that I really can code? Or even explaining what key phrases mean?

I'm not an educator but I think the best way to teach coding is by actually having the student work on a project that'll be a big part of his grade, or even weekly assignments that test and build on concepts learnt in class. The way we're doing it now isn't working for me. Maybe I'm just bright, I am, but I don't feel like I'm learning enough and I'm doing Computer Science because all I want to do with my life is code

So let's call this an open letter to Kenyan Universities teaching Computer Science. There's got to be a better way, a more effective way. Anyway I'm going to go out and try to learn these things by myself. No, I'm not talking about reading from books (though that will help), I'm now looking for internship at a company or with someone who actually designs real programs, code that I can manipulate and play with. I'm making an open call to all my readers, if you know such a person or company, in Kenya preferably, email me (check the contact me page) or tweet me. I'll really appreciate it. Peace!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kenyan Government Wants to Play Big Brother

So last week I was reading my blog feed and came across this startling news in the Business Daily: Policy target internet cafes on war on cyber-crime. Reading the article revealed some rather disturbing details.  

Apparently the Kenya Police in an effort to combat cyber-crime, you know: hacking, copyright and IP theft; wants to make it that every time you use a computer to access the internet at an internet cafe your details are logged. While it wasn't exactly clear what details they'll be collecting, they did mention ID numbers and time. They want to do this so that they can tie people to specific computers if they use them to commit a crime.*snorts*

And where was this proposal made?  At the parliamentary committee on education's hearing on the more than 1,700 cases of cheating reported in our O level exams last year. 1,700 cases. Wow!! Out of the almost 400,000 people who did the exam that translates to 0.425% cheating rate. Not too bad considering that in some countries it's much higher (nonscientific Google research). The article mentions the conviction of one person based on the fact that he used SMS. Wait a minute? How this is relevant to cyber-crime and registering who uses a computer is beyond me. Never mind that not once anywhere is it mentioned that any of the 1,700 cases was because someone used a computer to distribute the papers.

Now seeing that there was only one conviction based on evidence from sim card registration shows that either one person out of those 1,700 cheated using SMS or that out of the 1,700 they could only convict one which is a success rate of 0.06% or maybe and this is more likely that the other 1699 cheated by other means. Let's think about the other possible means. One could have written the answers on a piece of paper, what we in Kenya call "mwakenya" , the next proposal will be that every time a student  or anyone is buying paper they'll be required to leave their ID details at the till? Or perhaps when buying a pen?

Now these are obvious hyperboles, but so is this proposal!! I don't trust the government with my data! I don't know what they'll be using it for. I may end up a suspect just because every time I'm on the net I research bomb making technics. Combine this with the fact that the Communications Commission of Kenya, a group I already feel have no spine,  wants to use 36 million of my money(taxpayer) to install a system on all our nation's ISPs to perform deep packet inspection (they want to be able to read your email, FB messages and generally see whatever the fuck you're doing on the net) in the name of cyber security, never mind almost all the websites hacked in the last year were hacked from outside our borders, I feel that our online privacy is now effectively under attack from a government that is over-reacting to a non-existent threats. Read about this CCK deep packet inspection system here.

I feel our nation's resources and time would be better spent building and finding ways to ensure there's better protection on our mission critical and sensitive systems and educating companies on how best to protect their online infrastructure and data rather than wasting time and money on spying and violating the privacy right of it citizens.

I'd like to remind everyone that these same people whose websites were hacked twice because they had the user name as "admin" -or was it "user"- and the password as "12345"(No really!! I'm not fucking with you). Clearly these people know jack shit about cyber-security!! Peace!