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AppCircus in Nairobi

App CircusThe traveling showcase of the most creative and innovative apps, AppCircus, will be hosted by the iHub and Akirachix on the 10th of September 2011.

Developers can pitch in front of an international jury, formed by industry experts. The winner of the AppCircus will get an opportunity to be nominated for the Mobile Premier Awards 2012, which are held during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The deadline to participate is the 22th of August!

Akirachix will be taking the lead in this event as part of their Mobile Social Networking activities that are to be done in Kenya.

The location will be at the *iHub_Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community at the 4th floor of the Bishop Magua Centre on Ngong Rd.directly opposite the Uchumi Hyper.

Here are the rules for participation:

  • Submissions and presentations to the AppCircus are FREE and open to any high school/college/university student.
  • Applicants must send one representative person to present the app live on stage.
  • Apps are submitted through the platform.
  • Registration and membership on appcircus is FREE!
  • members need to add the app to their profile before applying to an AppCircus.
  • Each App can only present in one AppCircus, except if it receives a Runnerup Waiver.
  • One app in each AppCircus will be nominated for the pool of apps from which the 20 finalists for the Mobile Premier Awards 2012 will be selected.
  • The app with most votes after the nomination winner, will receive a “Runnerup Waiver”, which allows it to apply again to be selected at another AppCircus.

To join in AppCircus register here.


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Google Plus, now what?

So … now what?

I got my G+ account back when it was invite only. I felt cool. I felt like one of Malcolm Gladwell’s early adopters. I was won over by the innovative look and feel – all that white space has to be a good thing, right?

I added new friends. Well, since it was invite-only, there weren’t so many of my actual friends on there. Only other early adopters. Other internet and social geeks. Who were already my friends on Facebook and Twitter and FourSquare. Even when membership opened up to the public, my actual friends and family didn’t want or need another Facebook, so I found myself adding former school mates and really, anyone whose name I recognized, however tenuous the relationship. But that’s Ok! There were Circles! The Circles feature is supposed to be the Facebook killer, cleanly solving all the privacy issues that have confounded Facebook and frustrated it’s users.

So now, a couple months later I have a social network filled with people I don’t really know, and I triple-post my status updates on Twitter, Facebook and now Google Plus.  Um… now what?

So far, G+ does what FB does, and sometimes does it better. But it really must go above and beyond, and give us something that is not available on all the other existing networks. Otherwise, it will die a slow boring death. I’m already bored. And I’m an early adopter!

How do you use Google Plus?

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Pivot 25 Coverage

Two posts that talk about the recent mobile developer conference, Pivot 25

Photo Credit: Daudi Were (@mentalacrobatic )

White African:


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Barcode scanner for zebras

A joint team from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Princeton University has combined technology, biology and conservationism in a cool new open source app called StripeSpotter that identifies zebras by scanning their stripes in a way that’s similar to a supermarket barcode reader.

The system itself uses image recognition algorithms on photographs taken in the field. It’s efficient – written in C++ with plain text csv data storage. They also capture GPS coordinates – presumably with the camera/phone that captures the photographs or separately with a separate GPS device. The basic requirements to start using StripeSpotter are a digital camera and laptop – take a photo, load it on to the laptop and run the StripeSpotter application. Seems like it would be a logical next step to make this a mobile device app so that game wardens can photograph and identify zebras right on the spot and thereafter sync up to a shared server to distribute the tagging work – crowdsource, if you will.

The team is currently compiling a database of Plains and Grevys zebra here in Kenya. The technology has the potential to be used by other striped animals eg tigers, and other animals with distinguishing markings eg leopards and giraffes.

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Too good to be true – Facebook ad for US Masters degree scam

I’ve been seeing a Facebook ad recently that advertises a MS in Computer Science in the US. I idly clicked on it, and as I read, I started thinking that I’ve hit on a gold mine. Well, when something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

The ad led to a webpage that advertised a two year Masters in Computer Science from Maharishi University of Management. Red Flag one – what kind of a name is that for  a US college? But I’m keeping an open mind, after all, a lot of people think that Barack Obama is not American enough.

The big sell for the program  was that of the two years, 7-8 months would be in class, while the rest of the time the student would be working full time for  up to two years. The website claims that most of its students find employment in well known companies and they cite Google, Microsoft, Amazon and other heavyweights. The financial aid package is equally enticing. Basically the school gives you a loan of close to 100% of the course cost, and you repay as you start working full time during the program.

So, a virtually free Masters program with the (almost) guarantee of well paying job in the US? Where do I sign???

Well, that’s when the doubts start to creep in. If this program is really what it claims to be, there should be tens of thousands of people beating down their doors to get in.  They should be extremely exclusive. Yet the requirements of admission are disturbingly few – they don’t even require the GRE. The website has  a sample of the programming test that they administer – and it’s Programming 101, as in, find the second largest number in an array – very strange as this is a Master’s program ostensibly for someone with a Bachelors in CS and a couple years work experience.

They try to slip a seemingly innocuous sentence in there –  “You’ll learn a scientifically validated and well-documented technique for personal development, the Transcendental Meditation® program.” Hmm. Why should this you need to mention this when I’m looking at a Computer Science degree? Well children, it’s because that sentence is the most  gentle and non-alarming way to let you know that, um, you’re about to join a cult. Apparently this Transcendental Meditation is compulsory, no matter your religious beliefs or capacity for choice. One man’s ooga-booga or woo-hoo is another man’s religion, and there are plenty of Chrisitian based institutions that are legitimized and expect students to follow certain general rules, eg Notre Dame, or our own Strathmore. However, one student complains that they have up to four mediation sessions a day. Another claims that refusing to take part in the meditation results in being shunned by the community, or even your grades being lowered.  Googling Transcendental Mediation brings up all you need to know about this cult. TM as they call it, was to the 60/70s what Scientology was to the 90/00s.  Crazy celebrities and all.

Another message board warns that even the loan program is not what it seems. Students hardly have anything left over after the monthly loan repayments, and resort to borrowing from banks at high interest rates to live and continue their programs.

So the program, with it’s aggressive marketing recently targeting Kenya, seems to be a combination of a financial money maker and a breeding ground for new converts. In the worst case, you’ll be in debt in a foreign country and a member of a crackpot cult.  But in the best case scenario, you’ll have a frustrating two years of your life, have a fairly useless degree but perhaps you’ll be able to secure a US job based on your former experience. People have done crazier things to go abroad.

Would you risk the cult for the chance to work in the US?

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SA Entrepreneurship MBA Scholarship

The Gordon Institude of Business Science (GIBS) in South Africa is offering an Entreprenurship MBA scholarship for emerging leaders in Kenya and other sub-Saharan African Countries. Closing Date 30th April!

Eligibility and selection criteria: The ELSP is open to emerging young business leaders from the following countries currently supported by Danida:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Women from sub-Saharan African countries are particularly encouraged to apply.

ELSP scholarships cover 90% of the total cost of completing the GIBS full-time Entrepreneurship MBA programme. This normally includes tuition, travel, residence, living expenses and insurance for the duration of the programme. It is the full responsibility of the ELSP applicant to finance the remaining 10% cost share.

More Information here:

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Worse Than Failure.

Some developers have a habit of bragging about how many languages they know, or what latest technology they are using. But its all in vain if there’s a lack of fundamental understanding and logic. If you can’t express it clearly and succintly in *English* (or your own language), then your attemps to code it will be a WTF a la the following:

One of the great things about Boolean logic is its simplicity. At the most basic level, there’s simply TRUE and FALSE with AND, OR, and NOT. It takes a lot of work to overcomplicate such a simple system, yet “certain” developers seem to find such over-complication second nature. Take E.H.’s colleague, for example.

His impressive use of interesting semantic choices, redundant equality checks, and integer mixing make every line of code seem like a puzzle to solve. Take this line, for example.

if (statusIsNotValid.compareTo( Boolean.FALSE ) != 0) skipValidation = false;

Quick! Does validation occur when the status is valid? Now just imagine the fun E.H. has with such quandaries line-after-line and day-after-day.


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