Monday, May 26, 2014

A Change in #TodaysReads


Hey guys; just a small announcement. Last Friday's #TodaysReads will be the last one of the series. While it was fun putting up such posts everyday and letting you know what I was reading, it was always an experiment just to see what it could become.

So now we're here, 2 weeks later, and after asking my editor to review the last two weeks and whether he felt it was worthwhile to continue, he got back to me with the single best reason we should discontinue the program: the site was beginning to look like more like the #TodaysReads of Sidney than my private thoughts.(This is why he's editor and I'm just a writer)

Being the brilliant man he is, he did come up with an alternative; instead of releasing them every day we switch to a weekly post so we don't overwhelm all the other content we're producing. 

So that's what we're going to do.

We're still working on how it'll work and stuff so look out for that. Peace!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

#TodaysReads: Breaking the Scratch Card Code, Modern Mythology & More (23.5.14)

Are you audacious? This post is a constant reminder to be so over the top and courageous with my plans.
The product only works on tablets.
The VC: "Aren't you concerned that tablets skew older, that most young people use phones, and isn't your business depending on attracting young users?"
The entrepreneur: "Well, eh, uh etc."
He talked for a long time, but he didn't have an answer.
It pissed me off because the answer was obvious.
His game is going to be so incredible that it will sell tablets. Kids, adults, everyone is going to have to get one just to run this software.
Now, to pull this off you have to have a PhD in Chutzpah.
Everything Is Broken A reminder that our computers are hopelessly unprotected. This is something that most computer scientists know: our computers, and other devices, are the result of 100s of little systems built on each other, all trying to communicate with each other and prevent from breaking something. But it's not all bad news.
Computers don’t serve the needs of both privacy and coordination not because it’s somehow mathematically impossible. There are plenty of schemes that could federate or safely encrypt our data, plenty of ways we could regain privacy and make our computers work better by default. It isn’t happening now because we haven’t demanded that it should, not because no one is clever enough to make that happen.
Breaking Safaricom Scratch Card Code This one comes from my supervisor @blackorwa who did some analysis on the digits of some 500 Safaricom smart cards. Most of his analysis went over my head but it's still a cool read.
From the results I knew I was onto something, there is a relation between the third and sixth digit with a confidence interval of 1 (meaning the rule always works). To better understand the relation I loaded the dataset to R statistical analysis software and used the plot() function to visually inspect the relation between the two variables. The diagram below made me go Bazinga! It is a linear equation.

Hip Hop as Modern Mythology I've always loved Greek mythology. The stories they told of gods who where more than human but behaved like us resonated deeply with me. Here we see the connection between the old mythology and hip hop.
The personification of volatility, DMX was channeling Eris the God of Chaos with the aggression of Ares the God of War. Once I established that connection, there was no stopping the volley of “aha!” moments — Diddy became Cronos, eating the careers of his children The Lox, Mase and Loon; Beyonce became Aphrodite, the embodiment of love, beauty, desire, and pleasure; The Game became the Trojan Horse, laying dangerously dormant before collapsing the G-Unit empire from the inside-out; J.Cole became Icarus, the boy who ignored the counsel of old man Daedalus (Jay Z) and burned much of his hype.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

#TodaysReads: AI, Twitter, Lost Legends & More (22.5.14)

“It works like the brain.” So? Because I'm so into artificial intelligence, I'll start with a post on it. Here we're reminded that just because something is described as being like the brain doesn't mean that it is important or even revolutionary.
But here’s the thing: this “like the brain” label usually isn’t a lie — it’s just not very informative. There are many ways a system can be like the brain, but only a fraction of these will prove important. We know so much that is true about the brain, but the defining issue in theoretical neuroscience today is, simply put, we don’t know what matters when it comes to understanding how the brain computes. The debate is wide open, with plausible guesses about the fundamental unit, ranging from quantum phenomena all the way to regions spanning millimeters of brain tissue.
Twitter’s selective censorship of tweets may be the best option, but it’s still censorship A good point while this is so far one of the best implementations of the various requests government sends you have to wonder just what the effects of this may be.
For me, the troubling thing about Twitter’s selective content-blocking tool is that, like Google’s selective adjusting of the borders between countries based on where the user is located, it almost makes censorship too easy — just another feature box that can be checked — and that encourages governments like those in Turkey and Pakistan to use it for anything that seems even remotely offensive or irritating, a list that seems to grow by the day.
One hit wonders An extremely short post by Seth Godin, and this is saying something given that his post are usually a couple of hundred words.
These are artists who gave up too soon, or lost their nerve when it came to making another leap.
A one-hit wonder is a legend who stopped early.
Russia signs 30-year gas deal with China Yeah, those sanctions while have a massive effect on Russia :D. The West needs to realise that this world is so interconnected that there'll always be another way, even if it may not be so ideal.

China president speaks out on security ties in Asia Another funny story on world politics. China has been bullying it's neighbours with border disputes as they continue to reclaimed some of the disputed land in the South China seas. The problem here is that China is so big it badly tips the scales in anything. You can't blame these countries for running to the USA for protection.
China's President Xi Jinping has called on Asian countries to avoid strengthening military alliances with "third party" powers.
Addressing neighbouring countries at a summit, Mr Xi also said that issues and problems in the region should be resolved by Asians themselves.
His comments come as the United States seeks to increase its presence in Asia.
China is locked in disputes with several neighbours over claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, which has accused China of building an airstrip on a disputed reef, recently hosted President Barack Obama, who pledged "ironclad" support for the US ally.
Mr Obama also made stops in Malaysia, South Korea and Japan on his tour last month.

#TodaysReads: China's Interest in Kenya, Microsoft Bans Google from Conference & more (21.5.14)

COMPLIANT MOA ROLLS OUT CASHLESS PAYMENT “1963 TRAVEL CARD” With the new rules requiring public service vehicles to have cashless systems, Compliant decided to have first mover advantage and launch their own card. Given that Equity has generally failed with it's Beba card, one has to wonder if they'll be able to hack it. Finally, no bus company covers the whole of Nairobi, so will that mean we'll have to carry dozens of cards?

French red faces over trains that are 'too wide' "Dude you had one job!!!!" Someone somewhere has lost their job over this. Discovered the problem a bit too late is the understatement of the year.
They measured platforms built less than 30 years ago, overlooking the fact that many of France's regional platforms were built more than 50 years ago when trains were a little slimmer.
The platform edges are too close to the tracks in some stations which means the trains cannot get in, officials say.
A spokesman for the RFF confirmed they had "discovered the problem a bit late".

Why China must be interested in Kenya Two very simple reasons. Economics and military. The US would do well to remember just how strategic having a military and navy in this country is.
One must understand the strategic position of our country. Through Kenya, you have access to the whole region from a generally stable standpoint. Both the US and the UK liked to domicile their regional military and naval bases here to monitor the whole region. We are also the doorway to the East African Community.
Microsoft To Google And Other Rivals: Keep Out (Of Our Conference) This made me chuckle. It's like Microsoft is saying to the whole world "We don't like these companies, they're our biggest competitors" I hope one day my own company has such problems and competition.
The following companies and their employees and representatives are excluded from pre-purchasing passes for attending and / or participating in WPC 2014 and affiliated events:AmazonGoogleSalesforce.comVMware 
New legal highs are flooding the market faster than governments can ban them Drugs that are legal only because their specific chemical make up hasn't been banned yet. This is what the war on drugs has created a new, perhaps even more dangerous, way for people to get high. The problem with these drugs is that their effects haven't been properly studied yet.
The agency defines new psychoactive substances as drugs that are not controlled under international conventions, but may pose public health risks. Synthetic cannabinoids — drugs designed to mimic the psychoactive effects of cannabis — comprised the majority (28 percent) of such substances reported to the UNODC between 2008 and 2013, followed by synthetic cathinones, including bath salts, at 25 percent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Safaricom and its Revenue Sharing Model.

Safaricom is Kenya's biggest company in almost every metric you could care to measure: revenue, profits, tax, users; all of these and more. And yet it's probably the most complained about company after KPLC. In my family, we're always complaining about how the network is down, data is down or 3G not working. Complaints about the cost of calls, data, and sending money over Mpesa are voiced every few days. Despite all this we stick with them, and I'm not entirely sure why.

A few weeks ago I was reading about Onfon, a company whose Bonga points buying and selling business was famously shut down after 4 hours active. There was also a company that had signed a deal with Safaricom that gave users the meaning of their  names through a shortcode, what struck me was that revenue was shared with Safaricom 50/50!!! Really. Are you kidding me?!!

Cursory research (Internet and a few conversations) reveals this is the standard with Safaricom.

So let me get this straight, you do the research, build the infrastructure and technology, advertise your stuff, all this coming from your own pocket and that of your shareholders, and Safaricom takes half. For what? Providing the network? Access to its customers? Does that sound fair to you?

Apple and Google take 30% of everything you make on their platforms. For that you get access to their users, to be officially sanctioned by them, possibility of being featured on the front pages of their app stores (huge boost), access to the anonmynised details of your users and inapp purchasing systems. Also if you don't like it you can do inapp advertising and by pass the 30% all together.

If you had a choice it would be clear which you would choose as a developer. Which brings me to a point that I want to make: choice, or competition if you like, leads to lower costs for everyone as the market chooses the best prices best on supply and demand.

Of course Safaricom is allowed to charge anything it likes to access its network and customer and really I can't blame them for extracting as much value from their expansive and expensive infrastructure investments. I would do the same, after all, they're here to serve their customers and deliver value to their shareholders.
 I'm excited for the mobile virtual network operators to come into play, perhaps one of them will be able to challenge the giant that is Safaricom and introduce some real competition because clearly the incumbents have failed to check them. Peace!!!

While doing research for this post I found that as an Mpesa dealer you make more on commissions (as a function of percentage) on smaller amounts. Of course what matters is volume.

#TodaysReads: Rubik's Anniversary, Tiny Chip Implant & more (20.5.14)

Rubik's cube invention: 40 years old and never meant to be a toy I have only ever solved one of these once in my life. My editor has a system that usually allows him to work one out in minutes. I hate him so much :D. Yesterday was the toy's 40th birthday. It joins only a handful of other toys that've made it that far such as Lego and Barbie.
What makes its success all the remarkable is that it did not start out as a toy. The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry.
Chip implant no bigger than a grain of rice is powered by wireless breakthrough If my mum read this she'd say mark of the beast. I read this and see the fact that I no longer have to carry my medical records from one doctor to the next, I can just have the chip scanned and all that information would be instantly available for anyone who needs it.
A new method for wirelessly powering medical electronics like pacemakers and nerve stimulators could mean new possibilities for treating illnesses and mitigating pain. As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Stanford electrical engineer Ada Poon constructed an electronic device smaller than a grain of rice that can be recharged wirelessly by a power source the size of a credit card.
Irony Alert: US Filing Criminal Charges Against China For Cyberspying This stinks like political maneuvering by the Obama administration in light of the continuing Snowden revalations, which include saboutaging their own companies equipment, to say "Hey look, the Chinese are stealing from us too!!" The thing is, though the Chinese are a lot more accepting of this  type of thing than Americans anything to help the Imperial Dragon grow.

Sex, power, and money: how a porn star took on web payments and won People should be able to give money to any entity that is considered legal. So while it may be a porn star today it may be your favourite leaks site tomorrow(P.S It already happened to wikileaks)
"Giving is a political act, especially in a society where sex work is still stigmatized," says Jeong. "Not being able to give to a cause or a person we believe in is a serious curtailment of political activities. And when only a handful of payment processors exist out there, their decisions to not process certain kinds of payments can have huge effects on the range of political expression." That same point was made even more forcefully in 2010, when PayPal decided to cut off donations to WikiLeaks, spurring massive blowback and a sustained Anonymous campaign.

Monday, May 19, 2014

#TodaysReads: From Light to Matter, Hypercamp & more (19.5.14)

The real reason net neutrality is right Yet another reason for net neutrality and I think one that supersedes them all. Not that the others are wrong but this one is particularly good. I've written about my own thoughts on neutrality here.
The ISPs and entertainment companies want to restrict the flow of the Internet for their own purposes. It would make some sense, if they had developed the Internet, but they didn't. It was paid for by US taxpayers. It was a good investment, as long as it doesn't get foreclosed on. Funny thing is I don't remember when we took out a mortgage on the Internet from these guys?
Scientists propose collider that could turn light into matter Because physics is cool and this looks like creating something out of nothing. The method was predicted 80years ago but couldn't be built until now.
The researchers' "photon–photon collider," which they're describing in a paper that's being published today in Nature Photonics, works by firing high-energy photons into a field of photons emitted as blackbody radiation. When the photons collide, the researchers believe that a significant number of them will turn from light to matter — more specifically, into an electron and a positron.

What are the specifics of Chinese aid to Kenya? Because no one knows what's in these contracts yet it should be public information we're left only to speculation and this article does a poor job of it. And there's the matter of increasing public debt.
As at 2012, the Kenyan government’s gross public debt stood at 46.6 per cent of the national gross domestic product. This is expected to go high thanks to the recent borrowing spree by the Kenyatta government.
Hypercamp, revisited This is a good idea if someone could implement it. A way to do news that is inclusive and would make it so that you're not seeing the same stories from every station. If you're looking to start a new organisation perhaps you could consider doing this.

Why govt won’t touch mobile telecom firm The title should have been why the government won't touch Safaricom but I'm sure some editor somewhere chickened out or made a mistake. Not a day goes by with out me mentioning this firm. I want to build a company that will one day be acquired by it and then run it. But as how the government gets out of this situation where one company has it by the balls perhaps it's time the regulator forces the breakup of the company into separate entities: Mpesa, mobile and business/cloud.

Friday, May 16, 2014

#TodaysReads: Kenya's Sex Tourism, Microsoft's Secret Book & more (18.5.14)

Microsoft made a secret book for Nokia employees before its takeover The coolest way to introduce one company to another is to chuck out a book that shows the history of both companies. The book isn't just a bunch of words but includes several cool illustrations.
In the months leading up to Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business, the two companies approached Shoreditch-based media company TCOLondon to secretly build a unique book for the nearly 20,000 Nokia employees set to join Microsoft. The 128-page book was edited and illustrated in London before being printed and shipped to employees in more than 90 cities in 53 countries.
It’s a celebration of the rich history that Nokia and Microsoft both share, including etchings of Nokia’s origins in a paper mill in Finland and Microsoft’s roots in New Mexico. Illustrations range from the first-ever GSM call to surgeons using the Kinect sensor for operations.
Data Mining Reveals How Wording Influences Tweet Propogation The things you can do with data is amazing. These guys analysed data and came up with an algorithm that can help, better than a human, predict how far your tweets will propagate.
So what is the secret of the perfect tweet? Tan and co say better tweets are ones that include more information clearly, use language that aligns with previous messages and with the community at which it is aimed and ones that mimic news headlines in their structure. Requesting followers to retweet also helps.
Kenya's hidden sex tourism in Malindi This is so disgusting. Anyone coming to my country just so they can have sex with children should be castrated when they're caught. I mean really why would anyone want to have sex with a child? And they sometimes involve animals?? Why is the human mind so wickedly depraved?

Algorithm appointed board director Gimick? Definately. Cool? Absolutely.

East Africa needs a selfie Sounds like a joke but it is used as a metaphor for us coming together and working together despite how difficult and uncomfortable it is.
East Africa needs a selfie. And it must be the presidents’ selfie. In it, presidents need to extend their arms, even to the point of pain, to get the right angle and background. All of them must be in the picture, and one of them must take it.
Extending the arms means going beyond one’s ordinary duty to get the right perspective. East Africa’s pressing challenges: Peace and stability in South Sudan, terrorism and growing religious extremism, devolution and its financial burdens and discontents in Kenya, Museveni’s progressive isolationism, Tanzania’s constitution making challenges and petty envies, Rwanda’s transitional justice model.

#TodaysReads: DIY Wolverine Claws, The Kenyan Driving Licence, Thigh Butt and more (16.5.14)

Thigh butt It being a Friday, I think we can start on a light note. The moment I read this definition, someone came to mind :D. Urban dictionary often has hilarious definitions like this and sometimes they bring a smile to your face. Other times it's disgusting. So it's a bit of a hit or miss.
The ratio of thigh to butt on a woman; easily viewable by a visible "crease" between the thigh and butt. The thigh to butt ratio is larger based on the length of the crease
Dude Builds Fully Automatic Wolverine Claws In His Garage So cool!!!! The guy who made these is so excited about them in the video. And who wouldn't be? And he made them SPARK???!!!!! This is the coolest thing I've seen on YouTube in a while.

Kenyan terror threat prompts evacuation of UK tourists Well this war on terror may be costing us more than we can afford.
The FCO said the main threat came from extremists linked to the militant Islamist al-Shabab group.
It advised against all non-essential travel to anywhere within 37 miles (60km) of the Kenyan-Somali border.
Thomson said those already in the country would be flown out either overnight on Thursday or later on Friday.
Tourists have also been warned to avoid the Mombasa Island area, but the FCO said its advice did not include the Diani beach resort or the nearby Moi International Airport.
The United States, France and Australia issued similar alerts, prompting the Kenyan government to criticise the advice as "obviously unfriendly".
Safaricom set to earn Sh8bn for managing security system Yesterday I asked exactly how Safaricom would benefit from building this system for free. The 8bn mentioned here is for the 12bn system but hidden in the middle of this article is something that should give us all pause. Antitrust lawyers should have a field day with this.
The company is to build a high-speed fourth generation network — also known as Long Term Evolution network — and supply the police with radio communication devices (GSM walkie-talkies fitted with SIM cards).
Telecoms industry analysts said the deal has effectively tilted the market in favour of Safaricom because it frees the operator’s hands to move to a higher quality platform.
Rivals Airtel, Orange and yuMobile must keep using the third generation platform until the State cuts through the maze of regulations it had set around the 4G network.
Safaricom’s savvy offer to the government is being seen as part of the company’s charm offensive meant to win it more frequencies and grant it an easy pass through an impending renewal of its operating licence next month.
IT’S THE 21ST CENTURY, BUT WOULD YOU TAKE A LOOK AT THE KENYAN DRIVING LICENSE? One of the pain point for drivers in this country other than the bad roads and corrupt cops, we have the poor look of our driving licenses. This particular rant comes from my very first blogging mentor called Savvy Kenya. Go ahead an check it out.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

#TodaysReads: Safaricom backs War on Terror, 10 Year Old Philanthropist and more (15.5.14)

French journalist Camille Lepage killed in CAR While the world focuses on Nigeria's missing girls, Sudan's descent into civil war, let's not forget the Central African Republic which has been suffering war for some time now from sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.
Security in CAR has deteriorated in recent months. Around a quarter of CAR's 4.6 million population have fled their homes since conflict erupted in March 2013 between mainly Muslim and Christian militias.
The 10-year-old who offered money to India's central bank This is a really cute story coming out of India. Made me go Awwww!!!
Laila, who lives in Gurgaon, an affluent Delhi suburb, is not someone who usually spends time worrying about the economy - like most 10-year-olds, she likes playing with friends and other activities such as reading, singing, playing the guitar, swimming and athletics.
But last summer, bad news about the economy made the headlines every day - the manufacturing sector had slowed down, the rupee was continuously sliding against the dollar and India's current account deficit was growing wider by the day.
Should broadband Internet service be treated as a basic utility? Related to my post on net neutrality yesterday. Just because it's not a utility, in the everyday needed sense of it, doesn't mean it won't be in a couple of decades and we need to be ahead of the curve here to ensure it remains affordable. If we do treat them like utilities they have to pass those benefits back to us as the public.
Some ISPs in Kenya have faced difficulties when laying fibre cables to building as landlords demand monthly fees for hosting the ISPs lines.ISPs however, argue that companies like the Kenya Power or the water distributors do not ask for such payment to connect tenants. The ISPs want the landlords to treat their Internet cables as utility cables and not charge for their routing.
Varsity students demand for fees reduction I've already written what I think about the proposed fee increase so I won't get into that. This though is greedy, short sighted and selfish of them. The only thing I can get behind on this is increasing the amount of money the Higher Education Loans Board gives them because that money they will have to pay back with interest which counts as an investment on the governments part.

Sh14bn Safaricom deal to boost war on terror I don't know what to think about this deal but it is interesting. They're doing this for free essentially and I don't know what sort of favours that will buy them down the road. Also there's the fact that we're going to be collecting massive amounts of data. How will this data protected and who will have access to it? Read this post I wrote about the government wanting to play big brother look like they're going ahead with it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Stand for Net Neutrality


There are few things I'm particularly passionate about when it comes to technology, law and regulation: net neutrality, copyright and intellectual property. Today I'll be taking about net neutrality.

So what is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is a principle that ensures Internet Service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online, or simply, all internet traffic is to be treated equally.

Why do I think this is important?

Well it prevents an ISP from arbitrarily blocking access to websites and applications, or creating a tiered internet where some websites and applications run faster than others. In this way they'll be messing with the open access ethos of the internet in which the users choose their services based on preferences and quality of services. In a world where a page loading a few seconds slower can cause someone to move on to another, this is a big deal.

Also, it prevents ISPs from double dipping, i.e. charging both users and websites; users already pay data charges to the ISPs to access the internet. If net neutrality is not enforced, then websites and developers would be forced, under threat of blockage or throttling, to pay ISPs for access to their customers.

Finally, net neutrality allows innovation to continue. Any website today can launch and compete with any other, but if ISPs charged for access that means that only incumbents, who have deep pockets, would be able to pay. This means that the cost of starting an internet company would go up, perhaps locking out more innovative start ups which can't afford to pay to play.

So far I've talked mostly on when ISPs create a two speed internet where some websites run faster than others, but there's another facet I want to talk about: zero rated data. This is where an ISP favours their own content or that of 3rd parties by making them not charge towards data. This is especially important on mobile networks where every single megabyte counts. Anyone would choose a service that doesn't eat their precious data bundles over one that does.

As an example, Safaricom currently has a bundle that has users pay 10bob daily and have unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp. I have all these applications installed on my phone so this is a great deal - that I don't use but let's just imagine I did - but I also have other applications that serve similar purposes: Google+, Hangouts, Skype and Viber. Guess which ones get neglected? What about if we had local competing alternatives? *Just to be clear I don't know if Twitter or Facebook is paying for this but it does drive my point home, no?*

Net neutrality is particularly important for Kenya because we're trying to move our economy from a mostly agricultural one to a knowledge and services one, skipping over the industrial stage I might add – I have some thoughts on this but in a nutshell not a good idea, and knowledge plays on the internet.

So what can the government do about this? 

Well they could enact legislation instilling net neutrality in law, prevent discrimination beyond network optimisation. I'm particularly for this option so that there's no wiggle room in interpretation and implementation. Another option would be having the regulator create rules for it. This could also work but unfortunately in this country I've seen the regulator back down due to pressure from lobbyists, the president overturn their decisions (should happen less often now with their newly constitutional sanctioned independence) and kicked about by the court (see the decision concerning TV broadcasters).

Finally, true competition among ISPs would prevent this. This would include making it really easy for customers to switch among ISPs so that they can always use the one with the best service.

If you want to learn more about some of the ideas discussed here you can start from TechDirt and Gigaom. If I ever get influential enough, and I will, this is one thing I'll be pushing for in the corridors of law. Peace!!!

#TodaysReads: Torture in Custody, Killer Robots and more (14.5.14)

Half of Kenyans fear torture in custody This is so sad. Like I wrote in my post about the legality of the Somali crack down, it's entirely too easy to take the government to court over human rights abuses. More than that we have a judiciary that seems happy to smack down both the executive and the legislature and put them in their place, in fact I'd say they're looking for every opportunity to do so.
The report that surveyed 21,221 people in 21 countries says that 58 per cent of Kenyans fear that they could be tortured by the government in custody compared to the global average of 44 per cent.
The study puts Kenya among top 5 countries whose citizens are most afraid of torture together Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and Turkey.
UN talks to target 'killer robots' When robots are allowed to make the kill decision the question over who is legally liable for fuck ups becomes very difficult. Is it the programmer, the manufacturer or the country deploying it?

Russia will cut off US access to the International Space Station over Ukraine sanctions The cold war is back. "This is big. There ain't no settling down. This is blood for blood and by the gallons. This is the old days, the bad days, the all or nothing days. They're back. They ain't no choices left and I'm ready for war." Marv in Sin City. If you haven't watched that movie what are you doing with your life?
The space station is maintained by both American and Russian crews. But because NASA's shuttle program was decommissioned in 2011, the only way to get there is on board Russian spacecraft. The US currently pays Russia $60 million per person to ferry its astronauts to the space station, and had planned to continue working on it until 2024.
Tech system to link up all 47 counties Practically a sales pitch inside one of the countries major newspapers. Still it highlights some of the benefits embracing IT could do for us as a country.

Microsoft Will Ship A Kinect-Free Xbox One For $399 On June 9th The Xbox One has been flagging behind the PS4 in terms of sales and this is a move to help move more units.(It was being outsold by 40%) Maybe one day I'll even be able to afford one.
This is a pretty huge course change for Microsoft. The original intention of including a Kinect with every console was to solve the chicken/egg problem they had with the Kinect on the 360; when most players didn’t own a Kinect, developers had little reason to build great games for it. When there weren’t many great games, most gamers didn’t have a reason to buy it. Removing the Kinect from the base model is a telling move, then; it means that six months post-launch, the Kinect just wasn’t a big enough driving force.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#TodaysReads: Unaffordable Middle Class, Ethics in Research & more (13.5.14)

How the Middle Class Lifestyle Became Unaffordable If you want to understand where the economy is headed and why it's there, you need to read this. Seriously though, I need to move out of the middle class as soon as possible.
Why have the costs of a middle class lifestyle soared while income has stagnated? Though it is tempting to finger one ideologically convenient cause or another, there are four structural causes to this long-term trend:
  1. Baumol's Cost Disease
  2. Systemic headwinds to the current version of capitalism
  3. Dominance of global corporate capital
  4. Financialization
The key take-away here is that the first two causes are structural and cannot be changed by passing a law or funding another state bureaucracy.
Mobius Motors Not really something to read but something to check out. I mentioned it in yesterday's reads, they had just raised some money to produce their first few cars. This is remarkable in so many ways; so so many ways. It's a hardware startup. It's trying to build cars. It has a mostly African team. I could go on and on. Just go check it out right now!!!

Nairobi bourse to sell up to 38 pc stake in IPO I've not been this excited for an IPO since Kengen. A solid company that has gone from making losses to profits and then doubling those year over year is impressive. It's one of the biggest stock exchanges in Africa and also around the world. If I have cash, I plan to make this my very first share buy, get in on the ground floor. Most people would buy for short term gain immediately after the IPO but for me I plan for long term holding, like 10 or 15 years.
NSE's pretax profit more than doubled to 379 million shillings last year from 2012, lifted by a surge in trading turnover after the country's presidential election passed off peacefully in March.
Safaricom net profit rises 31pc to Sh23 billion Over one and half billion dollars in revenue. Lemme just write that again; a billion and half dollars in revenue!!! Say what you like about Safaricom the company knows how to make money. I want to own this company one day or atleast a substantial portion of it. Vision 2030.
Safaricom has reported a 31 per cent rise in after tax profit for the year ended March 2014. This is buoyed by strong performance in voice and data segments.
Ethical Questions in Research My very first post on the iHub blog. I'm feeling very smug right now. I'm enjoying work and will be posting more about it soon. This post deals with some of the moral questions we deal with as researchers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

#TodaysReads: Boss Rabbits, Apple Beats and more (12.5.2014)

They’ve offered me a nice job, these rabbits This story features an old high school friend of mine whose made a business out of rearing rabbits. Just goes to show there are so many ways to make a living out here, not just getting a job.
His mother, a nurse, offered him Sh20,000. He raised Sh15,000 from friends.
Today, Rume’s venture has multiplied tenfold. He owns more than 100 bunnies and reckons he has made close to Sh200,000 since he started. “I sell the animals to farmers and there are people who come to buy them from here.”
Apple's big Beats buyout? Unless you've been living under a rock you have to have heard that Apple is in the final stages of acquiring Beats by Dre for over 3billion dollars... Nice.

Is this canonisation business scandalous? If you read nothing else today, read this. It will amuse you and leave you chuckling. I'm tempted to copy large parts of it here. Waga Odongo is an extremely hilarious writer with his cynical, sarcastic style. You would do well to be reading his columns they're always so funny.
We have a very visible sign of religions mutating before our eyes to suit the times. The church’s 1.2 billion adherents should ask why all of a sudden it is easier to become a saint than ever before. Are we so needy in the intercessory department that the laws should be relaxed so that the numbers should be suddenly inflated?I think I will leave now and look for a confessional booth.
US tycoon invests in assembly of Africa’s cheapest car in Thika First I'm hearing about this start up which means I need to get my ear closer to the ground. It could also mean that the press is doing a very poor job of promoting startups from here. Finally I find it a bit insulting and far more sad that a car has to built specifically for African situations when our roads are made by the same guys who build European and Chinese ones.
The car, dubbed Mobius, will cost $10,000 (Sh870, 000) and is designed for off-roading in Africa and stripped of extras such as air conditioning, power steering and many internal fixtures.
Kenya banks enforce US law targeting tax evaders If you're a US citizen your government is making it even more difficult for you to dodge taxes here in Kenya. I guess when you owe the Chinese several billion dollars your government needs every penny it can get. In case you can't tell from my tone I'm laughing at you. Also who new they were 20000 Americans around here?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

#TodaysReads: Multi-Billion Deals with China, Fighting a Python for a Dog & more (11.5.14)

Today my mom will die Today is mother's day and I thought I'd share this story that's just a reminder to love your mother while you can. Also, you could read this post I wrote for my mother on her birthday.
If your mother is alive, you don’t know just how lucky you are. Go see her on Mother’s Day and tell her you appreciate her. Yes, even if you’re gangsta. Especially if you are gangsta. You have the time now, but you don’t have it forever. So go ahead and tell her. It will burn her heart with love.
Kenya signs 17 multi-billion deals with China I love this. The deals mentioned here sound good of course this without seeing the fine print so...
The two government officials did not disclose the actual financial value of most of the agreements and protocols signed but their aides said the deals are running into billions of Kenya shillings with implementation expected inside five years.
Depression is never the patient’s fault I've suffered through depression before, and anger, when my parents separated. It was bad. I got over it thankfully but this article brought it back to me so vividly. I wrote about it here.
People with depression need supportive family and friends, but above all, they need professional help.
 Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide' Whenever someone argues for government surveillance then bring up this idiotic argument. I've written about the surveillance efforts of my own government. For me it's never about what the current government is doing it's about what future governments might do.
Another metaphor better captures the problems: Franz Kafka's The Trial. Kafka's novel centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what's in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he's unable to learn much more. The Trialdepicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people's information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.
The problems portrayed by the Kafkaesque metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition. Instead they are problems of information processing—the storage, use, or analysis of data—rather than of information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.
Woman fights python to save pet dog in Hong Kong This is the bizarre story for the day. Yeah I would have probably left the dog and run for my mother fucking life.

Friday, May 9, 2014

University Fee Review

I've recently completed my undergraduate studies in campus and apparently it seems I've done it just in time. The government is planning to review the university fees for all government sponsored students in public universities, which I was. The fee, which was about KES 26000, has not been changed in almost 20 years, since 1995. This review was planned to be implemented in the beginning of the next semester.

The review would see the fee doubling and would also differentiate fees based on the course someone was taking which would see people who were taking science paying more than liberal arts.

Do I support the government in this? Yes. Universities are currently struggling with stalled infrastructure projects (I'm not sure why this doesn't seem to be much of a problem for Kenyatta University though), increased enrollment numbers and stress on existing facilities. Universities need the extra cash to help meet a shortfall from government sources.

I've always wondered how the current fees were sustainable. The fees for self-sponsored students range from about KES 160,000 to 500,000 (for medicine) per year in public university. I assumed that the government made up the difference for each student in hopes that we go on to pay taxes, create jobs and generally just build up the economy.

If the government no longer feels that it's getting these benefits from the children it's sponsoring perhaps it's time we reviewed why not - I've been meaning to write a post on one particular reason this may be but I'm lazy. There must be something in the education system that is failing.

Students around the country, predictably, reacted by saying they will not be accepting any changes and that they would strike if they were introduced (are strikes the only way to address grievances in this country?). Of course the same students will be complaining about falling standards in school and poor facilities once they return to school. These things cost money and someone has to pay for them.

Also in related news, the government is working on frameworks that will allow government sponsored students to attend private universities. This is a good thing, more students in school and more competition for schools among students. Peace!!!

#TodaysReads: Sci-Fi Campaign, Feminist Pornographers, Superconductors & more (9.5.14)

Increasing CO2 may threaten human nutrition If you needed even more reason to do something about global warming. This is something I've always been passionate about especially since watchinh the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" - if you haven't watched do so this weekend and then come back and thank me.
According to the UN, wheat, rice, and maize—a mere three out of the Earth's 50,000+ edible plants—provide 60 percent of the world’s plant-derived food energy. In the developing world, they provide up to 70-80 percent of the energy in a person’s daily diet. These crops are key providers of micronutrients like zinc and iron, which they draw up from the soil.
As we continue to spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, however, we may be less able to rely on these crops. A meta-analysis indicates that grains and legumes grown at elevated CO2 levels have lower concentrations of zinc and iron, and some crops also have reduced protein levels.

Indian politician morphs into hologram to reach millions of voters Anything to get the voter you need huh?

So to reach as many voters as possible, India prime minister candidate Narendra Modi went the sci-fi route. He turned himself into a hologram.
The unique use of hologram technology has allowed Modi to make "appearances" at hundreds of campaign rallies (often simultaneously) in a way that feels more personal than your typical "via satellite" feed.
Where the world's feminist pornographers gather Anything that brings women to the same level as men is fine with me.
"Making any kind of pornography that genuinely arouses women and gets them off is important to women's liberation. That's part of why these films are feminist - it's a feminist enterprise to show women's pleasure." 
Are high taxes to blame for lethal brews? With the recent deaths of 70 people perhaps it's time we reconsider the taxes on the nation's alcohol to prevent needless deaths.
When you impose excessively high taxes on a consumable good, you must expect a thriving parallel market to come up.

Varsity students ‘lack interest’ in business I'm planning to start my own company one day, most likely before I hit 28. Most of my friends plan to do the same, we have big ideas and big dreams. I'm sure it'll be hard but it also seems like it'll be all kinds of fun. Watch this space.

Scientists May Have Decoded One of the Secrets to Superconductors Superconductors may be the next big thing in electricity, if we could figure out how to make them work at room temperature. This link talks about the physics behind it and how understanding it may get us to room temp superconductors faster. A lot of what they talk about in it went over my head but it's still cool.
This goal, if realized, could make an array of fantastical-sounding technologies commercially viable, from power grids that never lose energy and cheap water purification systems to magnetically levitating vehicles. Scientists believe room-temperature superconductivity would have an impact on a par with that of the laser, a 1960 invention that now plays an important role in an estimated $7.5 trillion in economic activity.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#TodaysReads: S.Sudan's Hate Radio, Untrustworthy Politicians and a Power Rangers Movie? (8.5.2014)

Sudan: Hate Radio in South Sudan, Long After Rwanda Said "Never Again" Today we start with South Sudan which has been rapidly descending into civil war. This piece which comes to us from allAfrica is written by a Rwandan, Sunny Ntayombya, comparing the hate speech that's happening in that country to what happened in his and hopes that the world doesn't just sit back and watch the blood bath. I've been watching this situation for weeks and have repeatedly said that it's time the Kenyan army went in and controlled the situation for the good of everyone, particularly us *cough* oil *cough*:-D.

Living Standards in Kenya improve: Study Ummm, okay, if you say so. I wonder if majority of Kenyans feel this, what with the high cost of basic necessities like food and housing. Hey but what do I know about living standards? I'm just a blogger who lives with his parents.

Politicians are the least trusted professionals in Kenya-study Another study. Can't say this is particularly shocking. This a country where when you first get into political office the first thing you do is demand a pay increase, and if you can, pass a law increasing your own salary. If you can't do that, you increase your allowances to ludicrous levels. Never mind that your salary is already several factors larger than the national average.
The politicians who currently enjoy some of the best salaries and allowances in the country and manage billions of shillings for recurrent and development expenditure are arguably being held primarily responsible for corruption, insecurity, low food production, economic downturn, the high level of the National Debt and the high level of unemployment.
Power Rangers movie plans announced by Lionsgate I saw this and squealed for joy!! I've been watching the Power Rangers for the last maybe 18 years, most recently with my 5 year old step brother, and I can still enjoy the series even at this age. I mean of course now it took me a while to get over the poor production and cheesy lines but once I did I felt like a kid again. Go! Go! Power Rangers!!!!

Surgeon fined Sh100,000 for causing patient’s death A pitiful amount considering how much surgery costs in this country and the fact that someone died. This surgeon will probably be back practicing within the week without a dent on his pocket or in his life but it's a start allowing us to hold our doctors accountable when they treat us badly.

US concern over South China Sea 'dangerous conduct' The Dragon from East, as China is sometimes called, has been trying it's best to stretch out and reclaim their proud place in the world's history as a superior empire. They've been doing this using economic, social and political means. More recently I've been reading about them stretching, or just reclaiming, depends on who you ask, a lot of the disputed territories through military action. This is one such incident. That's why the US felt the need to remind them, during Obama's recent trip to the Asia, that they wouldn't hesitate to defend their allies.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#TodaysReads : Corrupt Kenyans, Google's affair with the NSA, Laughter and more(7/5/2014)

So I want to try something new that may or may not work. Everyday when I wake up the first thing I do is check my news feed for cool things that I usually share with my followers on twitter and more recently, so that people who consistently read the links I post can find them, I've been tagging them with #todaysreads. Now I want to bring a few of those links here to the blog.
I'm doing this because on twitter, with a 140 character limit, doesn't provide enough space to leave a comment on why you think someone should read this or any thoughts on the link. I'll be able to do this on the blog quite easily, though it may not always happen. I think I'll limit the number of links to about 6.
Now lets begin:

‘Everyone Is Corrupt in Kenya, Even Grandmothers’ from Michela Wrong. Title is linkbait but it's a frank, damning piece of writing laying everything wrong with Kenya right now right, including the recent terrorist attacks(see this), on corruption's feet. Who knew Transparency International was launched because of us?
"A presidency under ethnic Luo contender Raila Odinga, the argument went back in 2013, carried the risk of unprecedented "eating" by a long-sidelined group, hungry for the perks of office. "There was definitely a narrative doing the rounds that the country couldn't 'afford' a Raila election win, whereas these guys [Kenyatta and his allies] had already made their fortunes and their appetites would be smaller," says one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity."
The global anti-corruption group Transparency International owes its very existence to the intractability of Kenya's "eating" culture. It was in Nairobi that Peter Eigen, then the retiring World Bank director for East Africa, frustrated at seeing a succession of development programs undermined by graft, decided in the 1980s to create an organization dedicated to tackling the blight.
Managing with Trust and Expectation by Eric Hersman. He talks about the best way to ensure compliance in an organisation reminding us that making the right hires are more important than the oversight structures in any organisation.
I suppose what I’m saying is that if you truly trust people to act like the adults they are and to do the right thing, they generally do. All the corporate oversight you can apply won’t stop an Enron from happening, so something else has to work. It has to be something that’s real though, people can sniff out very quickly if it’s a manufactured, or fake, trust. This means as much of the onus lies on the leaders to “let go” as it does for the team members to shoulder and own the expectations that come with their role.
CBK orders financial institutions to freeze Bangui assets in The Business Daily. We're complying with a UN Security Council resolution. We should've done this sooner, I mean can't we make decisions ourselves? They may not have many assessts here but this would send a strong message that we don't support the violence.

Emails reveal close Google Relationship with NSA from Aljazeera. Damn Google, what happened to "Don't be evil"?

Supply chained: Apple's sapphire production will be hard to copy from the Verge. Apple's supply chain management is considered legendary among people who deal with this type of thing. Now they're moving more of this chain in house.

And finally, Laughter Can Help Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss from Lifehacker.
The act of laughter — or simply enjoying some humor — increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward.
These positive and beneficial neurochemical changes, in turn, make the immune system function better.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Constitutionality of Operation Kasarani

I've been reading the constitution for a series of posts on things I am not an expert in; this is one such post. You guys already know what I think about the police action at Kasarani, however, looking at it from a constitutional angle perhaps it is wrong.

The fourth chapter of our constitution section 24, subsection 5 talks about the rights that the police may limit:
  1. Privacy
  2. Freedom of Association
  3. Assembly, Demonstration, Picketing and Petition
  4. Labour Relations
  5. Economic and Social Rights
  6. Rights of Arrested Persons
Note, these rights can only be limited if parliament passes a law limiting them.
Looking at Sections 28 and 29 that protect human dignity and the freedom and security of the person, we're all entitled to protections from arbitrary detention, torture of any kind and treatment that is cruel, inhuman and degrading.

Section 49 which talks about the rights of any arrested person talks about them being allowed to talk to advocates or any person who may be able to help them and also they're to be brought before a court within 24 hours of arrest.

Now I've not heard of any laws that have been passed allowing any limits to any freedoms so Section 24.5 is immaterial to this post and the overall debate, but sections 28,29 and 49 may have been violated. Kasarani does sound and look like arbitrary detention. You could argue being locked up is psychological torture. Meanwhile if some of the reports coming out of that place are to be believed then the treatment is definitely cruel, inhuman and degrading. And the fact that the people who have been not been allowed outside contact is definitely a violation. Though I'm not completely sure, they may be holding some of them longer than 24 hours.

Which brings me to a final point I want to make; if am right, and unfortunately I think I am, why aren't all the people complaining on twitter and other platforms doing something about this? I mean some of them are lawyers and others have the money to afford one. In fact, I don't think a lawyer is needed, and section 22 allows people to bring up a case on behalf of others and in the public interest. It, section 22, even allows the case to be brought based on informal documents, so the bar is really low.

I think people just like to complain, to be outraged, because it's the right thing to be seen to do but really as long as it doesn't directly affect them. Of course I could be talking about something that is already before the court but I would have heard.

I really do wish someone would take the government to court over this though. Because even if I agree with the action, I still do, I don't agree with violating the constituition. I wish that the police would do their job and avoid all these violations because if the constituiition is suspended just for the sake of catching terrorists what happens if the government begins to classify people they want to disappear this way? Activists, journalists and civil servants(see Egypt if you think that can't happen here).

So I happened to talk to an appellate judge – yes, I know people – about this post (it was already written) and the conclusions I had come to after reading the constitution and I asked him if I was right. He told me that I was. Apparently, earlier it was almost impossible to get before the court on human rights issues because well, bureaucracy, rules and procedures but when we were doing our new constitution we took a leaf out of India’s play book where inmates could move the court, interesting lawyer words right there, simply by writing a letter. Anyway the crux of the matter is that in this issue all it would take is dropping of a letter at the Supreme Court and they would have to go out of their way to accommodate you and hear the matter.

So all the people complaining you have a clear path to follow on this matter. In fact I’d wager that you’d have a very high chance of getting a favourable rule because I’ve noticed the Judiciary just loves to flex for the Executive. Peace!!!