Saturday, March 31, 2007

Post BarCamp Nairobi Kenya - 31st March

This is an initial write up of the meeting's proceeding:

Started at around 1.30pm with about 10 people in attendance. :) Typical Sat Afternoon in Nairobi. But this rapidly grew to more than 50 people coming in ... most were probably not Arsenal or Liverpool fans - or valued this more than football :)
We covered a whole range of issues ... read about them below.

Aother post coming up with all our experiences of organizing BarCamp.

Other BarCamp coverage:

The fastest car in the world The Bugatti Veyron by Josiah Mugambi, video here :)

AfricaDotNet by Edgar Okioga

Edgar heads up the .NET user group in Kenya and also lectures part time at the university. He talked about:

  • The .NET platform, dished out FREEBIES - MSDN community CDs
  • Getting involved in the .NET user group and other community groups
  • Individuals taking action - go and volunteer to lecture at the universitites !!

Equal Opportunity Manufacturing
Kamau Gachigi (Phd) of Uni of Nairobi

  • This guy is my new hero ! There do exist some amazing people in the academia sector ... just wish we could have more guys like him.
  • Dr Gachigi is passionate about what he does ... and it's addictive ! I hope we'll do a lot more with him in SkunkWorks ... watch this space ...
  • He talked about the MIT Fab Labs project - which provides a "lab" or "machine" that helps people fabricate & create ... tools, electronics, aeroplanes even ... much easily. All you need to bring is your own creativity.
  • He then answered a lot of questions about why there is a big disconnect between academia and the real world. And how the universities are trying to bridge the gap:
  • Creation of UNES (a fund to finance startup ideas of students)
  • Presention is here

Software Defined Radio by Nick a JKUAT student (This was really techie oriented)

  • Talked about GNU Radio among other things and how to utilize various technologies (even GSM) to transmit radio
 by Ashok

  • Talked about collection of information from various sources ranging from hard copies to proprietary software copies and open technologies.
  • is one of the end results - check it out!.
  • Clearly from his presentation, open standards go very far in allowing information to reach as many people as possible.

Long Tail Economics of Abundance by Kiptum (MamaMikes)

  • Kiptum first talked about MamaMikes - the history, where they started, and some of the interesting experiences they've seen in the e-commerce business with expanding offerings etc.
  • Then he went on to talk about the long tail

Presentation is here.

Residential Networks with Kiania
(oops i didn't find any DK fotos :) ) but there are some of him preparing his presentation in the photos linked (look out for a guy in ORANGE)

Kiania in his bright orange Asterisk shirt talked about how to take infrastructure development in your own hands and start creating community-based networks in neighbourhoods ...

  • Create a backbone infrastructure of wifi or fiber or utp hooking up your estate
  • Expand your estate to the neighborhood - imagine a South C wide community owned network.
  • Add content ... an asterisk setup, a chat setup for the girl in house 4B :) etc.

Skunkworks and the Halfway Proposition - Riyaz

There is a movement happening in Kenya ... it's evidenced by the drastic jump in traffic when KCSE results were released - local traffic to the servers jumped five-fold. Or on Valentines Day.

There are more and more people developing local content. Online startups, information sites etc ... the key is building this up to critical mass.

More local content = less use of satellite resources, and faster loading = a better user experience ... leading to more adoption of online technologies.

Skunkworks is a free open community for techies by kawa techies. We provide a forum for free exchange of ideas, and in the process hope to start developing "projects" which will grow into web applications - making it easy for people to add local content to the web.

Signup and Come for our weekly sessions - we've realized they're actually like mini-BarCamps.

StocksKenya by Ted Muganda

  • was initially developed for private use :) but later realised it's potential and its ability to meet the needs of many retail investors in Kenya
  • Has a vibrant online community of users.
  • Will hopefully be hosted locally soon?

University LAN networks - Melvin

The guys over at JKUAT have built their own dorm network after the uni admin was unable to provide them connectivity. Put together with strings literally ... this network has exponentially grown in numbers of subscribers.

Most common apps are multimedia - yay Scofield !

They've setup a prepaid card system where students can go buy a set amount of credit - this minimal charge helps them grow and run the network (and pay for the internet link)

Their model has changed slightly - they now ask halls to setup LANs and then interconnect them together. Network is so big they don't know how many devices they have anymore.

Laws of Kenya, Genius Executive Center and Startups in Kenya - Harry Karanja

Harry doesn't always seem to have his hands in other people's pockets like most lawyers :) This entrepreneur does some really cool stuff !!

Harry's SoftLaw idea creation company started off digitizing all the laws of Kenya. They intially put it all on CD, and later put it up on a prepaid website. Now Laws of Kenya is all free as they explore other ways of monetizing.

He's also started an incubation center - Genius - located at ViewPark towers 15th Floor. The center provides a complete office workstation - with PC, phone, internet, messaging etc services. Helpful & affordable for lots of startups.

Harry blogs at Startups in Kenya - which has some really interesting content ... check it out.

Gituma Nturibi on electronic ticketing

We truly live in a paperless world. Now you have no excuse that u forgot your ticket at home when you get to the airport....

More photos, and video to follow..

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Meeting (27th March 2007)

Our weekly meeting for Tuesday will mostly focus on BarCamp planning,
among the usual hangout topics we bring up ...

come with your ideas !

steers as usual ... 6pm. (Muindi Mbingu)

we're also probably going to start having the hangout sessions moved
to weekends at a place like Buffet Park - what say you ?

BarCamp - Saturday - hope to see you all there !!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Meeting Recap

The last meeting winded up on Asterisk ... Next topic we're getting to is WiFi

Covered the setup of extensions.conf which is the Asterisk dial-plan ... it contains all the information about call routing of extensions within the Asterisk PBX. Covered the basic syntax of the configs, and went into details about various patterns used to make the config simpler. Also covered patterns on how to setup queueing, voicemail, call-center, IVR, meetme conferencing.

Extension Patterns

Sample Dialplan

Asterisk Variables

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Google in Kenya

First of all, thanks to Josiah for inviting me. My name is Chris Kiagiri from Google HQ in Mountain View, CA and I have been lurking on the mailing list for a short while prior to this post.

Here at Google, we have just announced that we have signed a deal with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to provide universities in Kenya with Google Apps™ – Google’s set of hosted and customizable communications services. This includes access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets under their university's domain and, as always, for free.

The University of Nairobi’s ~50,000 students will be the first to be offered Google Apps for Education in Kenya. These services will then be extended to ~150,000 Kenyan students in universities across the country. The rollout will be jointly coordinated by Google and KENET.

You've heard by now that our mission here at Google is to help organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This deal is the first step in doing our part to make sure that people in Kenya have access to the same online services as the rest of the world. You can expect to hear more on this in the near future, including the integration of free PC-to-PC phone calls.

(For more on what makes Google Apps tick, check out this video.)

On a separate note, stay tuned for the customizable skins that we are about to unveil on the google home page tomorrow (or later today, Kenya time). They are really cool and will contain some delightful geek-inspired "Easter eggs," for the more observant ones among you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Asterisk pt 3

The final Asterisk session for now ... will deal with configuration of the dialplan (extensions.conf). This shows you how to do call routing, dialling patterns, and covering more fun things like IVR setup for call-centers.

6pm at the Wananchi Online training room (Loita Hse 1st Floor) - 20 March 2007

Next topic we're getting into is "war-driving" for WiFi ... pls give suggestions of topics you'd like covered.
Edgenet folks - what happened to you guys ?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Meeting 5 review

Last meeting was held at Steers - opp Jeevanjee Gardens on 13th March 2007

As usual, it was a free for all discussion. Main points discussed were:

The best techie enviroment in kenya and what they should stock...
  • Beers
  • Ice Cream dispenser ..huh??
  • Loud Music (what would you prefer?)
Personally i prefer Beers and Techno/Trance o'er earphones... And oh gimme a swimming pool any day!

M-PESA and the ripples it would:
  • E-Commerce gateway for M-PESA... (maybe a download service) would open up a market of ~5Million potential customers
  • Easy Transfer of money.. and why choose M-PESA over PostaPay
  • Fraud
  • Possible technical implementations
Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs probably have the worst site on the planet. After much lamentation and wailing on the mailing list, a couple of people volunteered to do a 'free as in beer' implementation. Please refer to the list for an update.

Upcoming BarCamp topics list and possible presenters. If you are interested please talk to eric on the list.

Hacking wifi by encoding packets into ICMP instead of HTTP Quoting Riyaz 'i have no idea .... hehe'. Ditto

Monday, March 12, 2007


Tomorrow (13th March 2007) - Meeting #5

Chill Out - Proposed that we meet at Steers (on Muindi Mbingu Street?)

Next Week (20th march 2007) - Meeting #6

Wind up VoIP on Asterisk Session (Part III of III )
Start discussing 'Exploring Wifi' probably
Brief update on BarCamp - 31st March

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

2nd Hand rack mount servers

As mentioned in the meeting yesterday - it is possible to get second hand rack mounted servers for about 15k from Computer Planet @ Visions Plaza on Mombasa Road. Specs should be around PIII, 512/1024MB RAM, 40GB, dual ethernet cards, some have dual processors. - should be brand names like IBM.

I suggest that for anyone who wants to get hold of one - get to pass word around so that a group can go there and negotiate for lower prices (e.g. <10k clear="all">
Then hacking on stuff like asterisk etc (and for those guys who'd want to starting thinking of colocation) can start in earnest


Friday, March 2, 2007

VoIP - Asterisk Pt. 2

Next meeting is on Tuesday, March 6.

Venue: Wananchi Online at 6pm (Loita Hse 1st floor)

We'll be going into the second part of Asterisk - covering the actual setup & configuration of trunks, SIP ports, dial-plan etc.