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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dear Apple Fanatics, the World is Bigger than America!

There seems to never be an endless Apple (or is it crApple?) fanboism from so called tech bloggers/reporters out there who go out of their way to discredit anything that looks a little bit like competition to anything Jobsian. Nokia has not yet released its N8 phone and already we have articles going up trying desperately to tell the world how crappy the phone is compared to the iPhone (or is it hypePhone?).

Take a look at this piece on the Motley (ahem!) Fool and this on PC World. Is this some form of Apple fanaticism or what? What really amuses me is the myopic view most of these writers take. To them, when we talk of a market, it is a group of buyers and sellers of a given commodity in North America. If it's outside America, it's no market. 

Last time I checked, Nokia, even with the current crappy SymbianOS, still has over 40% of the TOTAL smartphone market share around the WORLD. And then too Android has managed to displace the iPhone as the third place platform. So what are these writers telling us? That there is nothing better than the iPhone or what? Or is it some form of addiction to anything that falls off the table of Jobs?

To be honest, it is very funny and sometimes irritating at the same time when you get bombarded over and over with such crappy articles that always tend to think the world is America and America is the world. Please Apple fanatics, we all know Lord Jobs is good at producing very shiny and likable UI, but please spare us the mostly baseless and frantic effort you devote to tearing apart anything that looks the least bit like a decent phone compared to your hypeDevices.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

OpenOffice.org Community announces The Document Foundation

The community of volunteers developing and promoting OpenOffice.org sets up an independent Foundation to drive the further growth of the project

The Internet, September 28, 2010 - The community of volunteers who develop and promote OpenOffice.org, the leading free office software, announce a major change in the project’s structure. After ten years’ successful growth with Sun Microsystems as founding and principal sponsor, the project launches an independent foundation called "The Document Foundation", to fulfil the promise of independence written in the original charter.

The Foundation will be the cornerstone of a new ecosystem where individuals and organisations can contribute to and benefit from the availability of a truly free office suite. It will generate increased competition and choice for the benefit of  customers and drive innovation in the office suite market. From now on, the OpenOffice.org community will be known as "The Document Foundation".

Oracle, who acquired OpenOffice.org assets as a result of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, has been invited to become a member of the new Foundation, and donate the brand the community has grown during the past ten years. Pending this decision, the brand "LibreOffice" has been chosen for the software going forward.

The Document Foundation is the result of a collective effort by leading independent members of the former OpenOffice.org community, including several project leads and key members of the Community Council. It will be led initially by a Steering Committee of developers and national language projects managers. The Foundation aims to lower the barrier of adoption for both users and developers, to make LibreOffice the most accessible office suite ever.

The Foundation will coordinate and oversee the development of LibreOffice, which is available in beta version at the placeholder site: http://www.libreoffice.org. Developers are invited to join the project and contribute to the code in the new friendly and open environment, to shape the future of office productivity suites alongside contributors who translate, test, document, support, and promote the software.

Speaking for the group of volunteers, Sophie Gautier - a veteran of the community and the former maintainer of the French speaking language project - has declared: "We believe that the Foundation is a key step for the evolution of the free office suite, as it liberates the development of the code and the evolution of the project from the constraints represented by the commercial interests of a single company. Free software advocates around the world have the extraordinary opportunity of joining the group of founding members today, to write a completely new chapter in the history of FLOSS".

FSF President Richard Stallman welcomed LibreOffice release and its stated policy of only recommending free software. "I'm very pleased that the Document Foundation will not recommend nonfree add-ons, since they are the main freedom problem of the current OpenOffice.org. I hope that the LibreOffice developers and the Oracle-employed developers of OpenOffice will be able to cooperate on development of the body of the code".

"The Document Foundation supports the Open Document Format, and is keen to work at OASIS to the next evolution of the ISO standard", says Charles Schulz, member of the Community Council and lead of the Native Language Confederation. "The Document Foundation brings to the table the point of view of developers, supporters and users, and this might accelerate the adoption process of ODF at government and enterprise level".

Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager at Google, Inc., has commented: "The creation of The Document Foundation is a great step forward in encouraging further development of open source office suites. Having a level playing field for all contributors is fundamental in creating a broad and active community around an open source software project. Google is proud to be a supporter of The Document Foundation and participate in the project".

"Viva la LibreOffice", said Guy Lunardi, product management Director at Novell. "We look forward to working with the Document Foundation to help develop a solid open source document software offering. Ultimately, we envision LibreOffice do for the office productivity market what Mozilla Firefox has done for browsers".

Jan Wildeboer, EMEA Open Source Affairs at Red Hat, has commented: "All over the world, users, companies and governments are moving to innovative technology solutions based on Open Standards.  Red Hat is proud to join this effort".

Mark Shuttleworth, founder and major shareholder of Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu, has declared: "Office productivity software is a critical component of the free software desktop, and the Ubuntu Project will be pleased to ship LibreOffice from The Document Foundation in future releases of Ubuntu. The Document Foundation's stewardship of LibreOffice provides Ubuntu developers an effective forum for collaboration around the code that makes Ubuntu an effective solution for the desktop in office environments".

"The Open Source Initiative has observed a trend back towards open collaborative communities for open source software", said Simon Phipps, a Director of the Open Source Initiative. "We welcome The Document Foundation initiative and look forward to the innovation it is able to drive with a truly open community gathered around a free software commons, in the spirit of the best of open source software".

"We welcome the LibreOffice project to the free software community as we believe there is a great opportunity for them to enrich the free desktop experience." says Stormy Peters, Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation.  "Over the years the GNOME community has been supportive of OpenOffice together with applications in the GNOME Office suite, such as Gnumeric, GnuCash and Abiword. As LibreOffice joins the free software community, we believe that free desktop users will benefit from a rich set of choices."

Patrick Luby, Chief Engineer of NeoOffice says "I am happy to see a new, independent LibreOffice foundation to continue creating an office suite with enhanced features, pushing OpenOffice.org in new, exciting directions". Ed Peterlin, Chief Visionary at NeoOffice says "I am excited we will be able to continue bringing excellent features from LibreOffice to the Mac platform. In the future I also hope to extend our web based collaboration tools to support LibreOffice users on all platforms".

Chris Halls, UK Managing Director of Credativ, an independent consulting and services company specialising in the development, implementation and support of open source solutions: "Welcomes the foundation as an opportunity to provide a new focus for the community contributors and allow them to move the project forward together. In our business, we support thousands of office desktops in many different environments. It is  vital that the feedback and code that we can contribute as part of our day to day work can flow easily into the project".

"The creation of The Document Foundation is in line with the vision BrOffice.org - Projeto Brasil has for the Brazilian OpenOffice.org community. Our country already has a large investment in the Open Document Format and the software tools fully suporting it. BrOffice.org and The Document Foundation share the same values and objectives and we are more than happy to be part of it.”, says Claudio Filho, Chairman of the BrOffice.org NGO of Brazil.

The Norwegian foundation "Åpne kontorprogram på norsk" ("Open Office Suites In Norwegian") is responsible for the Norwegian translation of OpenOffice.org, and for promoting OpenOffice.org in Norway. So far the Norwegian project has been administered and financed mainly by counties and municipalities, but recently the foundation has started a process for getting commercial companies more actively involved. We realise the need for a more substantial commercial participation to establish a long-term sustainable project.

Our foundation notes that the other Nordic countries, a majority of the European countries, as well as a range of worldwide big companies like Google, Novell, Canonical and Red Hat are now cooperating with The Document Foundation. We believe this is the right way forward also for Norway. A cooperation with The Document Foundation will make it easier to create more innovative and user-friendly solutions integrated with the LibreOffice suite. Eliminating license barriers and obtaining easy access to source code and standards will facilitate further development of related and integrated surrounding products.

Additional information, including the mission, are available on the web site of The Document Foundation: http://www.documentfoundation.org
Biographies and pictures of the founding members of The Document Foundation are available here: http://www.documentfoundation.org/foundation/
There is a specific page for people interested in contributing to the development of the code: http://www.documentfoundation.org/contribution/

The Document Foundation has a Twitter account and an Identi.ca account at http://identi.ca/docufoundation

The announcements mailing list is at announce+subscribe@documentfoundation.org
The discussion mailing list is at discuss+subscribe@documentfoundation.org
The IRC channel is #documentfoundation at irc.freenode.net

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Corporations and You: Who's Who in Open Source - Part 1

We are living at crucial moments for Open Source: Oracle is suing Google for patent infringement, Apple is fighting the Android the way they can, while it boasts that it is an open source company (I'll adress it below), and Microsoft's  declaring in the press its love for open source (huh? WTF?).
With all the bombardment of news, factoids and half truths, how do we stand in the middle of this whole mess?

To try to understand this  mess, I'll do a brief analysis of firms working with Open Source, and comment on how is their relationship with it.
The following list is not definitive and does not cover all companies.

Pro Open Source

Red Hat: It is the company that best sums up the ideals of the Free, Libre Open Source in the world. It has its paid distribution, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and one free distribution: Fedora Linux, a distribution focused more on the common desktop user, and there's a derivative of RHEL, CentOS, made by a community, free of charge, a distribution that is focused on servers, but always out of date compared to RHEL.
It never did agreements that betray the Linux community and is not supportive of contamination, either the desktop or server, with alien stacks to Linux, being faithful to the four freedoms of the GPL. And even virtualization being one of the hottest topics in computing today, Red Hat released the KVM as open source, after acquiring the company Qumranet Israel. For all these, Red Hat wins the first place.

Mandriva Software: French company that was born from the merging of Mandrake Software with Brazilian Conectiva Informática, is in second position. It has the free version, one version (both free) and the Powerpack (paid under subscription).
The free version comes only with free open source software , while the One version comes with a mix of free software and some proprietary and Powerpack is the paid version, which features several exclusive software like Cedega (for playing windows games) and a collection of proprietary codecs  to have multimedia  out-of-the-box.
In the server business, Mandriva has an enterprise distro with versions for both corporate desktop and server.
It is a mature distro, has great tools (one of them, the famous drakconf) and have open and free versions of its software for the community.
Did not make any shady licensing agreement and remains true to the ideals of the four freedoms of the GPL.

Canonical: The company behind the beloved Ubuntu Linux comes in third position.
Canonical Ltd is a private company founded (and funded) by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth for the promotion of free software projects. Canonical is registered in the Isle of Man and employs staff around the world along with its main offices in London, the support office in Montreal and the OEM team in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA and Taipei, Taiwan.
The company has a product line around the Ubuntu distribution, which is its flagship. Its products include:
  • Ubuntu, a Debian-based Linux distribution with a GNOME desktop.
  • Kubuntu, the Ubuntu core system with the KDE desktop in place of Gnome.
  • Xubuntu, the Ubuntu core system with the lightweight Xfce desktop in place of Gnome.
  • Edubuntu, the Ubuntu core improved specifically for educational or thin-client environments.
  • Gobuntu (now discontinued), a stripped variant of Ubuntu consisting entirely of free software.
  • Lubuntu, the Ubuntu core system with the energy-saving LXDE desktop system in place of GNOME, which is designed for computers with low hardware specifications.
  • Ubuntu JeOS, an efficient variant of Ubuntu configured specifically for virtual appliances.
Besides the products based on Ubuntu, Canonical has a few Open Source products such as Bazaar, Storm and Upstart Quickly.
Now, a company that has a way for free distribution of Linux (the Shipit), has no paid version for desktop distro and is one of the most friendly distros, how come it's in third place?
Let me explain: The company's strategies, making alliances and agreements, may impair the freedom of its users. It made an agreement with MPEG LA to license the H.264 codec, which is a threat to free videos on the web, and in any place, because of the patents involved. Allows contamination of Ubuntu with Mono and its  libraries (about the dangers of Mono, I'll talk later) and, using a predatory strategy to gain market share, the actions of Canonical should be watched closely.

Google Inc: The number one company  in search appears here in a fourth position, and, surprisingly, even better than another software company (of which I'll address in the sequence).
Google Inc is a darling of the users in general, has good products, a very interesting motto (Do not Be Evil), and is a synonymous of competence with its services.
Its relationship with Open Source is very good, since the company is always working to provide its tools and softwares in open licenses, so they can be used by the entire community.
It has two Linux distributions, Android, for mobile phones and Google Chrome, the distribution focused on cloud computing.
Two recent examples of Googlian benevolence  with open source are: Wave communication standard(which, unfortunately, failed to attract public attention)  and the codec WebM, that Google intends to be the standard of the videos for HTML5.
But we must not forget that Google Inc is not a software company, it is a company that uses open source software as a means to achieve their goals. Thus, it is not an open source company. Some examples of the tyranny of Google are: the shutdown of CyanogenMod Android (a mod of the mobile operating system that had the Google Apps already installed), and recent conversations with Verizon, which threaten net neutrality. Sure Googlian benevolence has its reasons, and the greatest of these is data mining, essential for the business of search and advertising at Google. For all these reasons, we must be alert for Google Inc. to do not become Evil.

Novell: The historic firm based in Waltham, U.S., which was one of the pioneers of computer networking in the early days of enterprise computing, is now a company that provides solutions based on Linux and open source.
Linux was one of the key components for the re-invention of the company and its adaptation to a new era, after Novell Netware, which was one of its most successful products in the 90s.
But we must not forget that Novell Inc is not an open source company, but one which saw in Linux and open source an opportunity to remain relevant in the fierce market of client-server computing. In fact, Novell has tried to lure customers from Unix and even from its own Netware systems  in the early 2000s, since its clients were  migrating to other platforms.
Unfortunately, Novell has not had much luck in their strategies, always lagging behind Red Hat, sometimes in second place, sometimes in the third, and, thanks for the fateful agreement with Microsoft, began to attract antipathy within the open source community. Worse yet, it still neglects to develop open source projects to concentrate efforts in alien languages and frameworks to Linux, as Mono, which is based on Microsoft's .NET technology , discouraging the development of native applications for the Linux architecture.
Novell is still the manager of Suse Linux Enterprise and Open Suse, which is a major Linux distribution, and therefore must be carefully watched.
Recently, several rumors of acquisition of Novell appeared. Therefore, it is not a question of IF Novell will be acquired by another company, but when this will happen.

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By Alessandro Ebersol with 5 comments

Corporations and You: Who's Who in Open Source - Part 2

Continued from part 1


International Business Machines, the century old computing company, with a focus on enterprise computing, is a company with many open source projects: Eclipse, the framework, the development of the Linux kernel, which IBM helps with hired programmers to contribute to the Linux kernel, SELinux, Xen, among many other projects, which could not fit here.
IBM first got involved with Linux in 1998, and with Linux, it saw an opportunity to add value to the services it already offered. Since Linux is excellent in scalability, from medium to large scale, IBM began using Linux in its activities.
In 1999, it created the Linux Technology Center, to integrate Linux to the services it was offering, but also to improve the Linux kernel for its products. One result was the release of the Linux kernel for various platforms: x86, mainframe, PowerPC, and more recently the Cell processors (Playstation 3).
IBM found in Linux a tool to remain relevant in the scenario of client-server computing. It does not have a distro, but supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse Linux Enterprise on their servers.
How come a company that supports Linux so much is classified here as neutral? There are several reasons for this.
The company supports Linux only where it is needed for IBM to succeed in the marketplace, doing nothing more for it. Bob Sutor, VP of Linux and open source, said in 2009 that desktop Linux was a losing battle. Hey, a losing  battle that's worth  several billion dollars for the big blue, and also makes it relevant in the present scenario? Wow, a little effort for Linux as a whole would be good, no?
Another aspect that IBM misses the mark, and sits over the fence, is the issue of software patents, in which IBM says it's a company that supports Linux and open source, and at the same time, is in favor of software patents. IBM recently showed that it could use its portfolio against a company that developed a product based on the Hercules emulator.

Yahoo: Yahoo, a technology company, was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and was incorporated on  March, 1st, 1995.
The company is best known for online search and various online services, but has had several open source projects under its umbrella (perhaps the best known is the Zimbra email/groupware server,  open source alternative to MS Exchange, and sold to VMware in January this year.)
There are many other open source projects still being developed by Yahoo, such as:

Being Hadoop, OAuth and OpenID the most famous. In 2008, the company suffered an unsuccessful attempt of take over from Microsoft, and after the replacement of CEO Jerry Yang by Mme. Carol Bartz, Microsoft finally managed to take over Yahoo. Several Open Source projects within Yahoo have been extinguished, casting doubts whether the company will carry out their projects after the disguised take over  by Microsoft.


In this class, we have only one company. But this one is enough. I would say that, with friends like Oracle, Open Source does not need enemies.

Oracle: Founded in 1977 by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oates, Oracle has always been a proprietary software company, and its relationship with the Open Source was never the best.
3 years ago, having failed to buy Red Hat, Oracle  created a Linux distribution based on source code of RHEL, Oracle Unbreakable Linux. That is, Oracle could not fullfill its intent, but found a way to take advantage of the work and expertise of Red Hat. Even worse, began offering to Red Hat's customers its version of Linux, for a much lower price. Tell me about unfair competition...
Oracle recently acquired Sun and has shutdown the Open Solaris operating system, putting in doubt the future of several Open Source projects that were developed by Sun (MySql, Open Office, Virtual Box and others).
To crown the clumsy actions of Oracle, on 12 August 2010, the company sued Google Inc. for patent ingringment  on the Java platform in its mobile operating system Android.
And Larry Ellison himself said in 2006: "If an open source product gets good enough, we'll simply take it," showing that Oracle would have no qualms in exploiting the work of the Open Source community.

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Corporations and You: Who's Who in Open Source - Part 3

Continued from Part 2


Finally, the most expected category . Companies that, with their actions (or inactions), affect Open Source, with the intent to destroy or uncharacterize it.

Apple: The number one company in (expensive) gadgets, Apple has deep connections with Open Source. Some Open Source projects are closely linked to it.

Apple, of course, loves the BSD projects, which allow it to suck what it can from the community and give nothing in return. Apple loves Open Source so much, it even based its MacOSX on a BSD like operating system core, putting a proprietary GUI(Quartz) on top of it.

But not only that, Webkit, the engine behind Google Chrome, started as a fork of KHTML, the HTML engine of KDE.

Apple approached the KDE developers in 2002 and took advantage of their job very well. But, as it was expected,  in time to incorporate the work of Apple back into the code of KHTML, the company hindered in every possible way access for the KDE team to the changes that were made in the code, asking for NDA's and claiming to be protecting trade secrets.

The relationship soured over time, and even with the opening of Apple's Webkit code (part BSD license, part LGPL) there are still fears for the future of KHTML, an essential component of the KDE browser Konqueror.

But that's not all. Apple still has a vital point for Linux, CUPS print system, adopted by all Linux distributions, which Apple began using in 2002 in its MacOSX, and eventually bought the company behind it in 2007.

And there were changes in their license, being part LGLP, and part proprietary (after the acquisition by Apple). But once again we see Apple's habit of taking advantage of someone else's work without concern about giving something in return to those who produced it.

And let's not forget that Apple sued HTC, a manufacturer of mobile phones in Asia, because of the Open Source operating system Android. So it's a company that can be very damaging to the Open Source.

Microsoft: Microsoft has a longstanding relationship with Open Source. At the time of Windows 95/NT, its TCP / IP stack  was "inspired" by BSD. Yes, Microsoft Loves Open Source. It loves to appropriate it, charge high prices for it and  giving nothing back to anyone.

More recently, Microsoft, in a gesture of "goodwill" with the community, created its own web portal to accommodate Open Source projects, Codeplex Foundation, and has had for some time a portal for developers, Port25.

But what a surprise when  a tool for installation of windows 7 "surfaced", which code was very similar to a project that was hosted at Codeplex. Oh, shame on you, Microsoft, shamelessly grabbing code from the projects on Codeplex .

But it was not just that: Code being used in its virtualization supervisor , Hyper-V, also had traces of  copy of Open Source projects. Microsoft, caught with the hand in the cookie jar, then quickly made a "donation" for Linux kernel drivers.

In the same spirit of "inspiration" for the work of others, Microsoft has also been inspired by Plurk to create a similar service, MSN Juku. Of course, had to shut it down after it became public their Juku service was a blatant rip off.

Some time ago, Microsoft sued Tom Tom, a maker of GPS devices, about patents on file systems. And recently, sued Salesforce , aggressively and unprovoked, as its CRM system can not compete with the Open Source  Salesforce's CRM system.

And then, there are the agreements with Novell, HTC, Samsung, LG, which adds an "imaginary" licensing fee of their patents, so others can use open source projects, of which Microsoft has never helped and never wanted them to thrive.

Besides Mono / Moonlight, which is a time bomb, which enables Microsoft to take actions as Oracle's lawsuit against Google. That is, if the Mono / Moonlight is not ejected from the Linux environment, we can see, in a not too distant future, more ridiculous lawsuits such as Oracle's.

(dis)Honorable Mentions

The companies listed below are companies that have violated the GPL at some point, or continue to violate until today.

And, this list may change at any time. We hope to increase Open Source supporters and followers of the GPL.

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By Alessandro Ebersol with 4 comments

Friday, September 24, 2010

Open source TB mega-project yields first fruits

This post originally appeared on Science on Development Network

[NEW DELHI] A unique effort by scientists to pull together scattered genetic information about the tuberculosis (TB) bug, with the goal of developing new remedies, has identified its first candidate molecule.

The Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme aroused huge interest when it was mooted by Samir Brahmachari, director-general of India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in 2007, because it offered a new route to finding drugs for diseases in the developing world traditionally neglected by drug companies (see 'Open source' urged for TB drug design effort).

CSIR launched the programme in September 2008. Its research is conducted through collaboration and open source information, guaranteeing, it is hoped, that any drug developed from the process will be affordable.

Brahmachari announced this week (11 April) that the one of the first projects undertaken under the initiative —  'Connect to Decode' or C2D — to pool all available genetic and biological information on Mycobacterium tuberculosis has yielded the first tangible results.

He said that for the first time TB scientists, research students and five private companies had used online tools to combine their work to show the links between the 4,000 genes of M. tuberculosis and the proteins for which they code.

The work is held in a shared database that OSDD will share through its open portal.

"This is the first time that a comprehensive mapping of the M. tuberculosis genome has been compiled, verified and made publicly available. C2D's findings may contain critical data to unlock previously undiscovered details of tuberculosis resulting in development opportunities for urgently needed new TB drugs in India and other developing countries,'' Brahmachari said.

The project has already yielded a molecule that could form the basis for a drug to fight TB. Rajesh Gokhale — director of India's Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology — and his team have given the molecule to pharmaceutical company Jubilant Chemsys for development.

Five private pharmaceutical companies have so far joined the OSDD programme: Jubilant Chemsys, TCG Lifesciences, Sugen Life Sciences, PREMAS Biotech and Vimta Labs.

"We were looking for a solution that would make research into drugs for neglected diseases possible and would not pass on the expense to patients and governments. OSDD provides these answers,'' said Leena Menghaney, programme officer at the Indian branch of international medical and humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.

"Companies go where there is money," said Brahmachari. "Our philosophy is we will take private sector companies if they agree to our cost-plus-ten-per-cent model and the condition that the molecule is generic from stage one. There may or may not be patents but it would still be open for the whole world as the entire research is open source.''

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Millennium Development Goals- Another Awesome Joke on the Poor!

The rich countries have always played awesome jokes on the intellect of the poor time and time again. This time around it is through the meme that has been flaunted around so much as the Millennium Development Goals. I so much have no problem with the targets set in as much as I do with the massive fanfare with which it is being received.

I would not go into the economics of why this 'project' is a joke. This piece originally tweeted by William Esterly really brings the point home. Forget about aid and all the other philanthropic overtures. Take away the subsidies that have killed the farming businesses of hundreds of thousands of petty farmers in all poor countries, let there be a little fairness in trading between the haves and have-not countries.

"The biggest success story was textile exports from Madagascar to the US – but the US kicked Madagascar out of the AGOA at Christmas 2009. The excuse for this tragic debacle was that Madagascar was failing to make progress on democracy; an odd excuse given the continued AGOA eligibility of Cameroon, where the dictator Paul Biya has been in power for 28 violent years. Angola, Chad and even the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also still in. The Madagascan textile industry, meanwhile, has collapsed."

These so called goals that are purportedly  in the interest of the poor are just another way to soothe the conscience of the rich countries who knowingly, willingly and with the connivance of some greedy few who are supposed to be on the look out for the poor have inflicted so much harm on the unsuspecting masses. There is no better way to take a person out of poverty than to create the conducive atmosphere for them to be able to run their own small business.

In Ghana for instance, when you try to set up a business, you suddenly realize how the entire system is against your noble course. Talk of fees, levies, licensing fees, permit fees, regulatory fees, name any kind of fees and evil, state sanctioned extortion, it will be thrown your way. What all these MDG pundits and noise makers forget is that the achievement of these 'goals' will automatically be achieved when people are given the opportunity to fish on their own.

Aid was not, is not and cannot be the answer to the overwhelming majority of mankind that is wallowing in knee-grinding, abject poverty. There should be fair trade, remove those subsidies, let the poor countries themselves cut down on their mostly needless and egotistic bureaucracies, let the poor countries not focus hard earned resources on running their mostly large, greedy and highly ineffective governments. Then finally, let these poor countries themselves work together and invest like there's no tomorrow in technology and education.

MDGs are a joke, a big one for that matter on the lives of the already desperate people who struggle to get even a Dollar a day to live by. Spare us the noise. You all know what to do!.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Open Source, Global Health and Information Systems in West Africa

This piece originally appeared on the IntraHealth International Blog

The West African Health Organization (WAHO), WHO, the University of Oslo, Health Metrics Network (HMN) and the IntraHealth International-led USAID-funded CapacityPlus project have joined forces to organize an “unconference” in Accra, Ghana, next week to strengthen health information systems capacity throughout West Africa. Additional partners include the Kofi Annan Center of Excellence in Information-Communications Technology (ICT) and the region’s ministries of health.

“The absence of accurate, readily available health information is one of the greatest challenges in West Africa” notes Professor Kayode Odusote of WAHO. “Using open source technologies to foster innovation, adaptability and ownership of health information systems can save countless lives.”

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference designed to avoid some of the downsides of a conventional conference, especially high fees and sponsored proprietary presentations.
“We can increase in-country and regional capacity using mature and interoperable open-source software while fostering a developer community,” says Carl Leitner of IntraHealth, who will be running an installfest and training sessions at the event.

The gathering, which will be held September 20–24, will bring together decision-makers, health information system (HIS) managers, ICT support staff from the region, developers of open source software for HIS, and other stakeholders involved in HIS strengthening activities.

"Wide participation is essential to ensure that research, development, and implementation of health information systems can be driven by local forces.  Country empowerment is only a part of the puzzle, the best systems are created by involving users as active developers," states Johan Saebø of HMN.

The five-day technical meeting will focus on open source core software solutions that address specific health worker challenges including:
  • iHRIS:  a suite of open source tools for managing and supporting the health workers
  • DHIS2: an open source system for collecting and analyzing health information for national planning and decision making
  • OpenMRS:  an open source medical record and clinical care health system.
“We see this as a launching pad for ongoing locally designed unconferences across Africa supporting local capacity and community building around open source technology for global health,” explains Heather LaGarde who oversees IntraHealth’s OPEN Initiative, a coalition aimed at building technological fluency, local capacity and innovation in open source systems for health in the developing world.

O'Reilly Media has supported this conference by generously donating many books on using Linux, Ubuntu, and open-source software.

Contact: Brooke Buchanan (919)433-5700 bbuchanan@intrahealth.org

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Can Android be the answer to Nokia's Problems?

 With a slew of new handsets, Nokia hopes to maintain- and hopefully regain- its position as the most dominant handset brand in the world. With it's "fight back" strategy, it is clearly pointing its guns at Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platforms.

I have been wondering if it can really succeed against the tide of the two platforms that seem to be causing uncontrollable stir and insomnia to all parties in the industry. Losing 10% market share in just one year to competitors to me sounds like a lot of trouble.

With a resigned CEO and the head of the smartphone division, all is not well with Nokia. What I am actually wondering is, how impossible is it to manufacture Android based devices? Yes Symbian is great, but it looks more like a dying breed to me. Is it at all possible that the two platforms could be marketed side by side to the myriad of markets that Nokia is found in?

Of course it is always easier said than done. But with almost every strategy ever failing to attract the very market that Nokia cannot seem to let go- aka North America- I am firmly convinced Android might help with some magic in winning what the politicians call hearts and minds of our American friends. What do you think?

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Your Internet- Should Internet Explorer Get its Way!

I have always had a certain mistrust of Microsoft, not just because it is too "evil" but also because if it had it's way, it'd cripple the entire internet as we know it. Should you wake up tomorrow and realize Internet Explorer 9 has now annihilated both Firefox and Google Chrome, this is how your internet would look like.

First off all sites will only display a message telling you how you need to view it via IE9. Then when you hop over to download IE9 and are unfortunate to be using XP, you'd be told to switch to 7. That will require you to shell out some cash. With XP still being the dominant OS version out there, that would mean heaps of upgrade cash for Redmond.

If you need one more reason to use a better browser like Firefox or Google Chrome, it is that IE must be denied the majority share at all cost. In any case, of what good is that browser other than to fire it up to download a better one?

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating Software Freedom Day in Ghana

This press release below is from AITI-KACE concerning the upcoming Software Freedom Day Celebrations in Ghana

Celebrating Software Freedom Day 2010 in Ghana!

We are proud to announce that the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE) in collaboration with the FLOSSInclude Project will again be hosting a special event on Saturday, September 18th under the theme “Knowing the alternative software solutions”. The venue for this year's celebrations is the AITI-KACE premises and the time is 9:30 – 15:00. This is the biggest international celebration and outreach event for Software Freedom globally involving hundreds of teams from all around the world.

In an increasingly digital age, more and more of our everyday experiences depend upon software. Software influences how we interact with each other, enjoy different media, get paid, and even navigate our roads. Software underpins our very way of life, our basic freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of thought, freedom of choice and much more, yet many people do not realize the importance and influence of software and other technologies on their lives.

What do we mean by Software Freedom? Software Freedom is about a technology future that we can trust, that is sustainable, and that doesn't negatively impact on the basic human freedoms we take for granted. For instance, spyware is a software that monitors what we listen to, our banking details and who we email. This software can be installed on our computers without our knowledge. Proprietary data formats can mean lockout to accessing your own information! Software Freedom can be maintained by transparent systems (such asFree and Open Source Software - FOSS) that are based on open, secure and sustainable standards including data formats and communications protocols.

Software Freedom Day is a yearly celebration of Software Freedom and why it is important; our purpose is public education about these important issues which we believe will eventually ensure that all barriers to the use and deployment of software are eliminated.

The AITI-KACE and its partners have been celebrating Software Freedom Day for a number of year and we have had many members of the general public and IT Community participate through the doors. We would like those that have attended or are attending for the first time to bring a friend along. Share with us the possibilities. Come and see demonstrations of open source software to suit just about every usage that you might think of. Take home some ideas, and CDs/DVDs full of software that you can use straight away.

People in the Eastern Region of Ghana can also join the Computer Science Department at the Koforidua Polytechnic to celebrate the day.

AITI-KACE is located near Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), adjacent to the Council of State Building on 2nd Avenue, Ridge, Accra.

Members of the media are invited to cover the event.

Contacts : Fred Yeboah - Tel 0302 679542-4 or e-mail: fredericky@aiti-kace.com.gh

This post originally appeared on The Gamelian World via Gamelmag

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Why Internet Explorer 9 is Just Awesome!

I woke up this morning to a lot of buzz about the release of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 beta. So I hop onto the MS site to download a copy on my work machine to try out. And believe me, it is just awesome. This is what MS told me!

I actually need to shell money to upgrade to 7 before I can try the beta? Mr Ballmer, WTF!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Get this Anti-Virus for your Nokia Smartphone!

Using a smartphone, unlike a feature phone, is like running a computer, complete with its attendant security risks and headaches. For Nokia Symbian S60 phone users, Netqin mobile AV available from the Ovi Store or GetJar should be a must have if you are interested in having control over the security of your phone.

I personally like this one for its simplicity, resource efficiency and cost. It's features include
  • Realtime monitoring
  • Fast scanning
  • Firewall
  • Anti-spyware
  • Anti-Virus
  • System Optimization management 
  • Light footprint
The simple interface also makes finding your way around the app a breeze. Working in the background, it scans all the files you work with to make sure nothing untoward happens on your handset. The parameters for the real time scan are customizable to individual preferences. 

If you are interested in security on your Symbian powered Nokia phone, you might want to take a look at this app!

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Can these Phones Save Nokia?

Nokia has announced a number of sleek new handsets at its on going Nokia World 2010 in London. These devices are clearly aimed at going after both the iPhone and Android, two platforms that are bent on eating up all of Nokia's smartphone market share.

The question that begs for an answer now is can these devices really save Nokia its market share and help it win some more, especially in the very competitive American smartphone market landscape? 

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Monday, September 13, 2010

How GSM Networks in Africa Can Make More Profits Through Android

With the introduction of the IDEOS in Kenya, Android is set to make inroads onto the very profitable but undeserved African market of over 850m people. If I was in charge of running a GSM network here, I could make a lot of profits simply riding on the back of Android. Here is how.

You see, the mobile phone has moved from the stage of just a hello gadget to a total service delivery platform. Also, the mobile phone is the sole medium of accessing the internet for a majority of people. A look at the demographics of mobile phone service users in my country for instance, suggests that the majority are the youth who are into "cool stuff," those who will be willing to pay for better phones beyond Java ones.

Now if I run a GSM network, I'd go into an agreement with any of the Chinese handset manufacturers who have the economies of scale to produce smartphones at reasonable prices preloaded with Android, cutting down on any licensing hassles. 

Then, target the youth who are very technology savvy by selling the phone to them through a contract service as is done elsewhere. That's it. Do not sell the phones for cash upfront but rather spread the cost over a given period, say a year and let the buyers pay through the airtime they buy.

I am yet to meet anyone here who'd not want to buy such a phone under such a plan. Back that up with an intensive media blitz and  you will be on your way to becoming the Apple of Africa. There currently is one network that has this plan but unfortunately sells the Sony Ericsson Xperia with Windows Mobile, and the terms of payment are also not that favorable. 

Android has a great potential to expand here and also rake in lots of profits for handset manufacturers and service networks. Which of them will blaze the path?

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Yea Wired Magazine is Dead!

Not the Internet but rather Wired Magazine is DEAD. RIP. Via AC

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Can We Have This Phone Too Here in Africa?

Meet the ZTE Racer, an Android 2.1 powered ultra low cost smartphone currently available in the UK. Who will bring this to Africa and in return make oodles of profits?

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

[REPORT] Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa

With mobiles increasingly becoming complete service delivery platforms in Africa, the following report from the Journal of Economic Perspectives written by Jenny C. Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti gives very interesting insights into how this ubiquitous device is impacting on the socia-economic development of the world's second largest continent.

Thanks to @mac-jordan for the tweet.

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Africa and the Imminent Domination of Android

There is a no doubt that Africa is a vast market whose profitability is mostly unrecognized or just glossed over by firms from advanced countries. With a population of over 850m people, there should be no question at all about how this market can help a firm dominate its competitors.

For quite sometime, I've been wondering why Google still had no Android powered phones here. Earlier this month, that prayer was answered with the introduction of the Android powered IDEOS smartphone in Kenya .

For Android to finally overtake RIM's Blackberry in the smartphone market, it will need additional territory, and if you ask me, that territory is my homeland of Africa. With the introduction of this low cost, Android 2.2 powered device, Google has actually paved the way for a potential revolution in the way Africans access the web.

On a continent where the overwhelming majority access the internet exclusively on their phones, a reasonably priced handset with features other than a WAP browser will sure make headway in terms of profitability and domination, and that is exactly what Android is going to do.

Now what I expect from Google will be to work with all the major GSM networks in most of the African countries to expand the availability of this device. We might sing the praises of the IDEOS, but if it is not widely available, it still will be the same old story. To everything there is a first step, and Android's first step to domination is it's cheap entry onto the African market.

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The Huawei IDEOS- The first Google Backed Smartphone for Africa!

Seems Google answered my prayer teaming up with Huawei to bring the Android powered Ideos to Kenya via Safaricom. Take a look at the phone in the video below.

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An Update to Ghabunt.com

It's been quite a while since this blog was updated, something that regular readers may have noted already. This is due to a change in my work schedule and also the just ended Holy Month of Ramadan. 

Now that the latter is over, I am making room in my routine for writing and keeping this site updated with the latest perspective from the Mother Land. Please do bear with me while I get my head around things :-).

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By Seraaj Muneer with 6 comments
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