~/`~/`Tech Podium~/`~/`

About life as an info-tech - arguing (preaching?) about what tickles my mind. I like Internet Protocol (IP). Which version? Never mind. But I run on IP. Yes, I do ~/`~/`~/` on IP!
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Location: Riverside, CA, United States

Regular guy? Maybe. Was lucky enough to go places on foot, riding, driving, sailing, flying and even dreaming. I do tricks connecting tech-devices and teaching device users - that gave me the wherewithal to go places in Africa, Arabia, Europe, America and want to go to Asia, then into space to Mars (dream on, dreamer) ! Childhood pass time was always in a mechanical workshop fixing something - so i tinker a lot. I like meeting and knowing people.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

EA Marine Cable?

Some time back, i was getting my hands dirty on the web digging for existing data about strategic plans related to East Africa in respect of data communications technology.

Before i started working for an ISP (another TLA for you?), i never bothered much about what technology i was using to get the Internet onto my desktop. Never did i bother about how i can improve things in terms speed - i was just doing e-mail, Google-ing (and playing tricks with the engine to produce a single result for a search phrase), reading and chatting. Those days, it was fun!
But now, i face clients daily who run critical applications on the Internet and the only impediment to efficiency is the satellite. We use, in East Africa, satellite to get to the world wide communications network. Communications satellites are in stationary orbit providing links to places that may otherwise not be covered by terrestial cables. But they are tens of thousands of kilometres (about 37,000km) above ground, making them slower than cable.

Words like bandwidth, latency, flow control, jitter, QoS, etc., constitute a nightmare for me. I pick up a VoIP phone to say hi to a fellow in South Africa but fail to talk. The conversation is breaking up too much - latency.

Data sent over satellite from Kenya to South Africa will have a minimum round trip delay of about 400 milliseconds. If it was done by terrestial or submarine cable, it could be as little as 35 milliseconds!

Data speeds over satellite links and cable are the same, but the distance to be covered is much shorter by cable which makes it faster.

This is A.D. 2004. The first transatlantic marine cables were laid as early as the 1850s. East Africans are "still planning" to lay one. My minor concern is that the scale at which they want to start is harder than necessary. There is no reason you want to plan for routing diversity when you have none at the moment, considering initial costs and management factors. My major concern and ultimate question: what have the folks in high office been doing all these years? Only eight years ago, South Africa was building a coalition of frontline states to collaborate and lay a second, higher capacity, modern marine cable. Can one say that these fellows (East Africans) did not know of that project?

Instead of laying cable from Djibouti through Somalia and down south, it would make much more sense - in respect of the concerns raised above - even belatedly, to talk with South Africa and group, to just extend the SAFE cable system from Mauritius to Tanzania and/or Kenya. Mauritius is nearer to us than the FLAG (nearest landing in Muscat) and SEA-ME-WE 3 (nearest landing in Djibouti) cable systems that run through the Red Sea. Or extend the system from South Africa through Mozambique to Tanzania and Kenya. Funds saved on reduced marine distances would be used to lay high capacity terrestial cable to inland teleports in Rwanda and Uganda. Besides, Somalia is in no hurry to contribute to project funding.

Technically, my major benefit and interest is low latency and low-cost broadband connectivity. But in serious economics, we all stand to gain. Communications running costs will drop, capacity will increase, distance learning and telemedicine will become more of a reality, and more telecommunications investors would be attracted. We can no longer ignore the role of Internet connectivity in all aspects of life today.

Nevertheless, welcome, EA Submarine Cable!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Engage a busybody

Yesterday evening, i got so tired and bored fighting worms, viruses (no virii in comps, sorry!), trojan horses, malware blah blah blah, using only a free version of AVG anti-virus. Honestly, i do not believe (beleive?) the best things in life are free.

As i toiled to get rid of malware that the said free version cannot sniff, let alone remove, a nut head kept distracting me. So i got myself a trick that students in programming class used to pull on unsuspecting classmates.

Swap the mouse and keyboard cables - both PS/2 of course, then complain loudly: my computer is stuck. The nut head naturally offers to assist. I oblige and meantime he gets stuck trying to fix the problem while i gain freedom doing something else without interuption.

Most folks will never solve that in an hour. Try it on some dude!

Be Mr President

Listen to this. No, no, no. Read:

"I am president of the Republic of Uganda, Commander in chief of the armed forces. I have powers to drop anyone. So those who do bad, we shall discipline them or fight them". (quoted by The Monitor newspaper, Dec 16, 2004).

My initial interest was the segue from a first person singular to a first person plural in the same breath. Who are the "we"? I always thought a personal pronoun should refer clearly to an antecedent. Not always. So, that is why i would like to be president too!

After a second or so, i got scared by the words "fight them". No offense - just kidding.

Anyway, if i was Mr President, i would avoid escapism and would have said: "...So those who do bad, i shall discipline them or fight them". Or even: "...So those who do bad, me myself, i shall discipline them or fight them". Ahem!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Unfinished biz: On Ugandan websites

Allow me to make my humble observation on the state of usefulness or the actual lack of it, that most websites owned and maintained by Ugandans are presently in. I do not want to mention so many, but let me single out a couple: first, www.era.co.ug (Electricity Regulatory Authority); second, www.cbsfmbuganda.com (CBS FM radio).

If these websites ever open at all, try to navigate around them and see how far you can stretch your "cyber patience". Cyber patience is a new phrase i coined to describe the general measure of how cool you can stay even when your favourite web portal is failing to load in time enough for you to stay interested in surfing the Net. It is also fitting to mention that in Uganda, www could easily mean "world wide wait".

But wait a minute, why do these website's webmasters ever post a link that they surely know is not working? Why do they never bother to do an online structured walk-through? Can't they afford to go to an Internet cafe, pay for an hour, and try out their handiwork the way the intended audience would? Sheer daft. Uploading a website is not enough, boy.