Women’s Day Reflections 2014 Version

Today March 8, 2014, International Women’s day, a day of celebration but most of all reflection on the role of women in our lives continuing from Who is a “True African” Woman?

On internal reflection, I accept that I have been blessed to meet many a strong woman in my life to-date, who have unwittingly, unknowingly influenced my life at specific inflexion points leaving me with no choice but to abide & achieve so as not to disappoint them.

When growing up, my mother of course was there, kind and unflinching, but tough in her own way tag teaming us with my maternal grandmother, a Reverand’s wife who gave her life to the Lord at 10, married at 14, had her first child at 24 (10 years later like Sarah), but who left this earth in 1996 the year she celebrated 60 years of marriage. My mother is a multi-faceted iron willed lady whose decisions are based in principle, and who ran a household with 10 kids at one time, all who were well fed and wet to school. Even up to-today, I still wonder how she managed to achieve what she did.

In Buganda, the sisters of my father, Ssenga, have the responsibility of grooming the boys, teaching them how to survive the treacherous pathways of life. Mine is special in that we are friends, colleagues, co-conspirators, partners in crime.

I always wanted to have lots of elder sisters so that they would dote on me, but having younger ones gives you a different perspective as a big brother. They are grown and provide counsel from their viewpoint of things which I appreciate and always take into account.

Professionally, I have to say that by far-and-large worked with some of most impressive women in all circles; starting from my first manager who while non-technical helped feed the flames of my technology curiosity, through colleagues that I recruited & mentored in the software shop that I practiced & horned my craft, via my NGO experience program director, through my former General Manager pair not forgetting my current regional manager who spurs me along day-to-day to scale greater heights. I will not forget those ladies I interact and work at clients & in the local and global tech community.

This post would not be complete without mentioning my friends whom I have met in my journey through life outside work and family. They totally prove the adage, educate a woman educate a nation each in their own unique way.

Obviously in closing there is my dear wife, who by and large is an extension of me creating a larger than life persona, tag-team, as we attempt to raise a family in the modern era while striving to preserve values in which we are brought up in.

A special thanks & best wishes to all the mothers out there, starting with my own (but of course), keep up the good fight because those you fight for appreciate even if we do not get the chance to tell you everyday.

To all those women who are out there, I wish you the best today, and every other day in the year, for you are the blood and spirit with which the world flows.

Tech Tip: Fixing Camera Troubles on Mac

When you use your Mac camera across multiple applications, Go-To-Meeting, Skype, Fuse, Facetime etc, you will find that it tends to not work at times and only a reboot can fix that. Well it happens because probably one of the applications did not release the camera. To fix follow the steps below:

1. Open a Terminal  (yes that black window where you can type magic commands). You can go to the Search in the top-right hand corner and type Terminal

2. Type the command below: sudo killall VDCAssistant

3. You will need to enter your password

Obviously you will ask, do I have to remember this command all the time, not really. Next time you open the terminal, click the up arrow on your keyboard and the command will appear.

Hope this helps somebody else as it does me everyday

Saying Farewell to Madiba outside Houghton Estate, Johannesburg

The world is awash in grief and sorrow over the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. I had the opportunity to go to his home in Houghton, Johannesburg along with other mourners. There was a lot of media coverage and people from all walks of life, even from all parts of the world. While there is a general melancholy all over the country due to his passing, there is also an air of celebration of his life and what he stood for.

My little eye caught a few sights and sounds ….

Local wrapper

Local wrapper

Traditional Wear

Traditional Wear

Full view all decked out

Full view all decked out

Candles, cards and flowers outside the home

Candles, cards and flowers outside the home

Vehicle fully decked out in ANC colors

Vehicle fully decked out in ANC colors

Hare Krishna Tribute

Hare Krishna Tribute

Many people came to pay their respects

Many people came to pay their respects

A Final Prayer

May Madiba’s soul rest in eternal peace, and may the merciful Lord give his family & friends strength to go through this trying time and all of us the wisdom to learn from the path he walked.

Amen

Service Provider Dilema – How to Choose and Live with Your Choice

The dilema and rants of “Service Provider” quality of support and services is one we go through day by day. This morning I awoke to a rant by a Tweep on the costs of certain bank services, in this case US$2.5 (UGX 6,500) for an over the counter withdrawal. I smiled because I has been hit with a similar charge for a statement on my account at US$4.7 (UGX 12,000) per month (irrespective) of the number of transactions.

So then I started thinking, yes its going to get me into trouble, how does a consumer (non-technical) but who knows what they want live with service providers. Personally I follow a couple of rules of thumb:

  1. Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    • I cannot change the service provider however, though I can get them to listen to me
    • The service is mass market so is not optimized for my particular convenience and usage, so I may need to modify some of my behavior to suit my needs
    • If the service is not working for me I can change it, but I must be willing to pay the price for the change
  2. If you make your bed, you need to sleep in it
    • Once you select a service provider, you may need to adjust to their shortcomings in order to make the best usage of their style of service delivery
    • The cost of changing service providers is usually high, so either stick to the one you have or pay it and move on
  3. Research your service providers before committing to them
    • The reality is you never have enough time, but if you do focus on the basic service you need and your special needs (those on which you cannot compromise)
    • Most times the service provider you choose will be based on a referral or positive feedback so accept that you will not know enough when you jump in
    • Read social media on experiences (spend the time now, and you will know better later)
  4. Use multiple service providers
    • This may not always be possible hence  #1, #2 and #3 above
    • If its possible however, you need to determine what each provider is best at focus on that, and mitigate where they are weak. I use 3 different Telecom providers for mobile phone & data services, because over the three plans I am totally covered for voice and data needs.
  5. All service providers cost the same
    • Even with different service offerings, always check the exceptions which is where you will get hit the most (#3 – Research)
    • Henry Ford recommended creating a product or service that caters for 80% of the populations basic needs, leaving 5-10% who have special needs and are willing to pay extra to get it…. Pick a service where you fall in the 80% and it will work for you most of the time
  6. The best tool for the job is the one you know how to use well
    • In the new consumer driven information age, this is true, learn to use your service providers as tools, at times they change to you, other times you change to suit them

How do you manage the relationships with your service providers? How do you deal with their shortcomings?

Uganda National ID – Alternate Strategy?

I have been thinking – some would say that is a dangerous thing, well yes I have been thinking, just what an afternoon with no distractions can do for you. Well there is a general problem in my motherland Uganda, there is no National ID. Oh yes, there is no way of uniquely identifying each and every person in the country, even tracking the babies born or the deaths. Sad but true, how has this affected the populace, to some its a great thing not to be known but to others, its a great source of discomfort since everything is just too hard to do.

What is not helping are headlines like Government suspends national ID project again and with a budget now growing to the hundreds of millions of dollars, a question pops into my head. Are there no other options to get to the same place, are there no other ways? In the words of Benjamin Franklin “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”

So again with the Snowden revelations, and potential for mis-use, there is one fact that is evident, with no National ID, the progress we are making going forward is going to be very very painful. In the software development world, there is the concept of “technical debt”, which has very high interest rates in terms of cost of addition of new feature, slowing down progress as you move along.

The high-level strategies revolve around the following themes:

  1. Frugal Innovation – how to use very little to make alot of progress
  2. Customer Value – focus on ensuring that the 75% who see the value are immediately served, to act as a tipping point for the rest
  3. Relevance – ensuring that the implementation is relevant in today’s “environment”
  4. Accuracy and Trust – the data within the system must be trusted from the word go, it should be easy to spot and very inconsistencies

So here it is:

  1. Target population – above 18 years of age
  2. Implementing body: a government parastatal & accompanying bill which is setup to manage the process of issuing the National ID numbers as the single source of truth whose mandate is to provide the lowest common denominator for citizen registration
  3. Who gets National ID numbers first? The element of trust is very important, but the need is to start with as little as possible to continuously refine over time, so the starting issuance of National ID numbers has to start from those people who are known, by different systems so that their identities can easily be verified which include:
    • Passport
    • National Social Security Fund
    • Tax Identification Number
    • Driving License
    • Voter Registration
  4. Registration of Births and Deaths: this is a critical component of the National ID system as it identifies which IDs are no-longer in use
  5. Regional Offices to ensure that people applying for IDs do not have to travel to Kampala to do it
  6. Technology/Organization:
    • Provide a means of checking the status of application by visiting authorized centers which include regional offices, SMS requests (responses to be sent to the number registered on the application)
    • Access to online verification services for authorized usage
  7. Critical Success Factor: uptake which can only be driven by the network effect of being used by multiple players within the private and public sector as the lowest common denominator for accessing services

What do you think? Where are the gaps that I have not thought through? What other alternatives are there?

Ruby on Rails for the PHP Web Developer – The Journey

For my frequent readers, you may assume that I have run crazy … now Ruby on Rails with all the PHP experience that you have got! Well I am shocked as well, but its a necessary step in my growth as all of us have to move out of our comfort zones at some time. Well I am going to be moving to an organization that uses Ruby on Rails as their language tool of choice as a project manager. So yes I have to learn a new tool, leveraging my experience to manage agile projects, so the geek in me has to understand the tool chain to enable me have better dialogue with the business analysts and developers.

So I am starting out on a new path, but as I was taught (brainwashed actually) the best way to learn a new tool is to use it. So I am trying to build a not so super secret software solution to solve a business problem I keep running into as a way of getting into the guts of this tool.

Ruby on Rails (ROR) is tough to get running on Windows as it was more a *nix development tool chain but I am taking up the challenge to get it to work with lots of Google searches and the ever present StackOverflow (now its my chance to ask questions). The environment is as follows:

  1. IDE – started with RubyMine for Jetbrains (http://www.jetbrains.com/ruby/) with a 30 day evaluation, then I will see what happens next
  2. Rails Installer by Engine Yard (http://railsinstaller.org/) – the smoothest way to get Rails up and running. The strange thing is that I am using Ruby 1.8.7 as that’s the version being used by an opensource project I would like to contribute to … so well why not stay behind and do some good while I am at it
  3. Ruby on Rails Tutorial (http://ruby.railstutorial.org) by Micheal Hartl free online resouce
  4. Stack Overflow (http://stackoverflow.com) – Q&A site most of the issues that I face have already been solved
  5. Git – needed a private repo so ended up at BitBucket (http://bitbucket.org) by Altassian. Having little knowledge of Git too, and having a lot of problems setting it up I downloaded SourceTree (http://www.sourcetreeapp.com)
  6. Ruby Gems – pre-built functionality

Now in the process of moving the dev environment to a Mac … However after trying to install the different pieces alone, I was advised to use Home Brew (http://mxcl.github.io/homebrew/) following the instructions at http://bit.ly/114X2x1

Part II coming up soon ….

Mac Conversion for Windows Guy – Baby Steps

Ha ha ha, most would balk at the thought, have I gone over to the dark side? Have I lost my mind or has the evil empire taken control over me? Many would ask other would run scared to the hills, but well I have decided to make the switch mainly because of the battery life … My last laptop was a 17″ HP Envy 3D – a beast of a machine not very field friendly I think I developed a hunchback lugging it around, and abysmal battery life (what do you expect from a desktop replacement), quad core, 8GB RAM, 17″ screen, and hot as hell.

Many of my friends and collegues have made the switch bragging to me that once you go Mac u never go back… So he not being one who balks away at a challenge I made the jump to a Macbook air… So here is my story actually my 2-3 week journey all summarized …

Unpacking, the box was slim and lightweight … The packaging was I should say magnificent (black) and the air stood out. Only the laptop, and power cables … that’s all! I was stumped so simple ….

Starting up was smooth I was asked for a language, my contact details, whether I wanted icloud and how to use the trackpad. The trackpad was a little bit of trouble since was I was used to click and drag, yet the trackball requires using one or two fingers in a specific direction. I am still getting the hang of it but its impressive that I can get more without having to revert to the mouse.

Having used Windows from the venerable 3.1 (oh yes that old) through 3.1.1 (Windows for Workgroups) then 95, 95 Second Edition via 98 missed the Millenium train landed on Windows 2000 the best release yet. It was a big push to XP but an easier migration to Windows 7 when for the first time a newer version required less resources than an older version. I missed Vista thankfully and not sure if I will go 8, but the jury is still out on that one. I am finding that Mac OS is more like my Android smartphone so it may not be as difficult as I think it will be.

So next step was installing apps, my list is old fashioned but here goes:

  1. Google Chrome – oh yes the beauty is that I can sync directly with my personal Windows laptop
  2. Skype – who does not use it
  3. MS Office for Mac 2011 – I am an MS Outlook super-user without it I feel lost.
  4. Macintosh Explorer (http://www.ragesw.com/products/explorer.html) as a compliment to Finder which is very hard to use, no way to navigate outside system defined folders

The next step was to sync the Google Calendars (both personal and work) with my MS Outlook without needing to use ICal, as I would love to track everything in MS Outlook on the Mac, Windows and my Android smartphone, so that I can create events anywhere and have them auto synced.

I have to say that the battery life is really not overrated, it is goooddd!!! 1.5 hours on using a full charge and I have used 23% of my battery which means I can safely push 6 – 8 hours of power usage, which to me does not make me hostage to a power outlet …

The Air also has a 256GB SSD which provides an almost immediate bootup, and many times I am shocked when I restart whether I did so and usually do it a second time just to be sure.

The trackpad is the most amazing productivity aspect, by using a combination of 2 or 3 fingers, I can access anything and I mean any dashboard, scroll, zoom, slide between windows and apps (I still have to learn many of them though). I now find myself trying to use the gestures on my Windows laptop … so the brain is still in a state of limbo …

The user interface while not so alien needs some getting used to as I am currently getting confused when moving between Windows and Mac …

Please do share your experiences too …

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