My nomination as Chairperson of the ICT Advisory Council

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On Friday 6 March, the Government announced my nomination as Chairperson of the ICT Advisory Council. As specified in Part VII of the ICT Act 2001:

  • The Information and Communication Technologies Advisory Council consists of ten members including the Chairperson,
  • The Council shall advise the Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, on the promotion of the interests of consumers, purchasers and other users concerning IT services, equipment and effect of any tariff policy in Mauritius,
  • The Council shall also advise the Minister on research opportunities in ICT, the adoption of new technologies as well as the improvement of existing services.

ICT is an enabler: it allows people to do things that they couldn’t do before. During the past few decades, ICT has revolutionised the world. But this is nothing compared to what is going to happen next…

As you can see, the Council has a broad mandate and I am looking forward to contribute to make Mauritius better through the proper use of ICT in all fields.

To be complete, it should be noted that the ICT Advisory Council is distinct from the ICT Authority (ICTA). In a certain way, the ICTA looks at the present while the ICT Advisory Council looks at the future.

I would like to thank all of you who have sent me words of encouragement. My apologies for not being able to reply to every single one.

Just do it: Vote!!!

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We, Mauritians, will elect the people who will represent us in the Parliament for the next five years. I know politics might seem bizarre for young people as our politicians are so disconnect to (and somewhat clueless of) the kind of life the new generation has now. Heck, even I don’t relate to most of them, even though I’m 41…

But, and this is a major but, voting is a right and a duty. Our votes count.

Have a look at Elections Mauritius, a website Christina and I did a few days ago, to provide maximum information on constituencies, parties and candidates.

Just do it: Vote!!!

The five biggest problems in Mauritius

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According to a survey done by L’Express and DCDM Research in October 2014, here the five biggest problems in Mauritius right now:

  1. Unemployment (58.2% of respondents)
  2. Poverty (42.7%)
  3. Lack of purchasing power (27.2%)
  4. Problem of law & order (19.3%)
  5. Bad education (15.0%)

It is obvious that these are interlinked. For example:

Bad education (5) can lead to Unemployment (1) which can lead to Poverty (2) which can lead to a Lack of purchasing power (3) which can ultimately lead to Problems of law & order (4).

As an educator, I tend to think that the root of all evil is our education system. It was never very good and now it’s abysmal. Young graduates fresh from university lack essential skills which companies need and, as a result, unemployment is rampant. Ultimately, this can lead to major poverty and law & order issues if the root cause (i.e. bad education) is not remedied.

Of course, there are other ways to look at this picture. For example:

Poverty (2) leads to Lack of purchasing power (3) which can lead to Problem of law & order (4) which obviously leads to Bad education (5) and, at the end, Unemployment (1).

Here the root cause is poverty and, to all casual observers, Mauritius is two countries in one now. The first “country” (Maurice, c’est un plaisir!) contains the high income earners driving their BMW in company of their trophy wife towards their residence in a guarded community. This is, at most, a few percent of the population. The second “country” (Maurice, c’est une galère!), is the country of modern slaves: people who are just numbers and are treated as such. They generally have low income and tend to spend their few rupees very unwisely because they lack general knowledge.

In my opinion, this divide is going to increase during the coming years. We need to find good solutions quickly.

I wonder if the current crop of politicians are equipped to do that? Are they even interested? Or are they too busy driving their BMW in company of their trophy wife towards their residence in a guarded community?

Creating an RPM file for XMind

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I am a big fan of mind-mapping software and, for years, I’ve been using Freemind.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are moving towards XMind which, for some peculiar reason, is only available as a Debian (.deb) package. This is a bit problematic as I run Fedora and CentOS which are both based on RPM (Redhat Package Manager). Here is how I managed to convert the .deb package into an .rpm which can then be easily installed with a yum localinstall:

(1) Download the Debian package

(2) Create the RPM

alien -r --scripts package.deb

This command (alien) converts the Debian package into an RPM and makes sure that any scripts (pre- and post- installation) will run when the RPM file is installed. See this for more info.

(3) The issue is that the RPM will fail to install as there is a conflict with three directories: /, /usr/bin and /usr/lib. The solution is to install rpmrebuild and use it as follows:

rpmrebuild -pe xmind.rpm

Remove all lines for /, /usr/bin and /usr/lib in the %files section and you should then get an RPM. See this for more info.

Have fun with XMind ;-)

Using jigdo to rebuild a Linux ISO image

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A few years ago, Internet was very slow in Mauritius (and some will argue that this is still the case…) Downloading a Linux DVD (or, more precisely, an ISO image) took ages.

Now the Internet is way quicker but downloading a 4Gb ISO image still takes a long time.

A few years ago, a Debian guy invented Jigdo, a tool which I’ve been using for some time now to only download the few files I don’t have when a new Linux release is made and reconstruct the ISO locally. The steps to follow are documented in this post but are basically:

(1) Download the full ISO on a server where Internet is very quick (I do that on a VPS I have in the middle of the Silicon Valley where I routinely get 250Mbit/s). Let’s call the ISO image Centos-Linux-6.6.iso

(2) Use jigdo to create a .jigdo and a .template set of files. Before that it is important to mount the ISO on the distant server so that the individual files in the ISO can be accessed directly by jigdo. I generally do:

mkdir Centos-Linux-6.6

mount -t iso9660 -o loop Centos-Linux-6.6.iso Centos-Linux-6.6

jigdo-file mt -i Centos-Linux-6.6.iso -j Centos-Linux-6.6.jigdo -t Centos-Linux-6.6.template Centos-Linux-6.6/

(3) On completion, Centos-Linux-6.6.jigdo and Centos-Linux-6.6.template (which are generally small) need to be downloaded locally.

(4) The final step is to reconstruct the ISO locally. This is done by:

jigdo-lite Centos-Linux-6.6.jigdo

jigdo-lite will prompt for folder names with existing content. For example, when I used jigdo yesterday to reconstruct the latest Centos 6.6 ISO image, I already had a Centos 6.4 DVD and all the updates released since. I only had to point jigdo-lite to these existing folders and, voilà, in a few minutes I had the latest Centos 6.6 ISO image ready.

To be complete, jigdo-lite complained that one file was missing (python-paste-script-1.7.3-5.el6_3.noarch.rpm) which I had to download manually. It was just a small file so no big deal.

All in all, jigdo, even if the software is now in maintenance mode, is still a lifesaver for me. I hope it becomes one for you too.

Have fun ;-)