Infotech 2013 – The Review

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Inf

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It’s that time of the year again: Infotech, with its lot of IT gadgetry, mobile phones, TVs, macbooks and other laptops. Many people have stopped going to the event since it became Mobiletech instead of Infotech, but I still go, mainly out of curiosity. While the fair is a good opportunity to discover new players in the sector, do not expect to find any new technology there, especially if you follow the international tech scene closely. However, there are still a few surprises here and there which makes it worth my time. Anyway, on to the review.

TL;DR: Lots of tablets. Lots of mobile phones. Many TVs and other consumer appliances. Not much of pure IT, sadly. Just as expected.

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Mauritius Budget 2014: What’s in for IT

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Inf

TL;DR: A few interesting things. More continuing from last year.

There are a couple of measures I think are quite interesting and I will elaborate on those. However, the other measures are what I would call continuing the trend from last year’s budget. Let’s get on with the list.

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Shifting to 8 digit mobile phone numbers: DIY method

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Inf

As you may or may not know already, all mobile phone numbers in Mauritius are shifting to 8 digit numbers as from 1st September 2013. So if your number is 777-8888, it will become 5777-8888. So to call or SMS you, I’d need to put a 5 in front of your number. Same for SMS. More info from Emtel here.

The problem is how to change all your mobile contact numbers to add that 5 before. I hear the various mobile operators are developing mobile apps to handle it for you, but I wanted a DIY way for my S3. If you have a similar DIY way for your own mobile, feel free to share in the comments. This article is NOT a guide, but merely the steps I will take to add 5 to my own numbers. It may, or may not work for you so use at your own risk. I hope I don’t end up with a horribly broken contact list! :/ Feel free to suggest if you have a better idea, apart from using an app coded by a third-party. I’m interested in DIY methods, or how you are planning to do your own migration if your phone doesn’t have an app.

Here’s my plan:

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Mauritius March 2013 Flood – Two Ideas

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Inf

Following the March 2013 flood that caused unimaginable chaos in Port Louis, I was thinking about how private radios, in particular Radio Plus, played a major role in ensuring communication in such a time of crisis. They relayed important information on traffic jams, where water accumulated, precautions to take and important announcements from the Police etc. While thinking on how technology could have helped, it struck me  – What if we made use of mobile phones? Virtually everyone in Mauritius, including kids, has a phone in their pocket or purse now, providing a good means to communicate information to large numbers of people quickly.

SMS Alert System

It’s immediately apparent that there was a lack of communication in such an emergency. Radios can only do so much. After all, you need a radio close and switched on to be able to hear announcements.

An alert system would make use of SMS messages to alert people about what to do and areas to avoid. The messages must be short and easily understandable. For e.g., in case of a flood, the messages would contain a list of regions to avoid and in case of a cyclone, it would contain the current Class alert like Class 3 now in place as soon as it is decided. For torrential rain, it would inform people that schools are closed for the day.

There are a few things to remember if such a system is to be put in place:

  • The messages must be easy to understand. French is preferred since it’s close to Creole.
  • The messages must be short. You can only say so much in 160 characters.
  • The messages must not be sent too frequently, otherwise people would disregard them. They must only be used for the most important of messages.
  • All heads of emergency services in Mauritius should be able to send messages, including Police, Traffic Unit, Fire Services, Health Services, Met Services and maybe, the Prime Minister’s Office. Access to the service should be distributed so that important messages do not get delayed by bureaucratic slowness.
  • The system could cause additional load on an already-strained mobile network if there is an emergency.

For the fourth point, it’s possible to use cell-based location to restrict who gets what messages. For e.g., a flood alert and evacuation notice can be broadcast to only people in Port-Louis and surrounding regions, but not to people in Souillac. This would restrict the load to only a region of the mobile network and not affect everyone. If needed, the network could assign higher priorities to those emergency SMS broadcasts, dropping normal user SMSs if required to alleviate load on the network.

Extending the idea further, a special number, like the well-known “96″ for cyclone information could be set up for emergency announcements. People could ring the number and hear a recorded message on what is happening and what to do. Ideally, this number should be the same number that sends emergency SMS messages.

 

A Twitter account for collaborative information sharing

Just like the @WeatherMu account re-tweets about #weathermu hashtags, a Twitter account could be set up to relay important information to the public in real-time. This method also allows for less intrusive alerts to be sent to users, as well as instructions.

To ensure people can communicate with each other, the account could be on the lookout for special hash-tags and re-tweet messages that people might send. For e.g. if you saw an accident on the motorway, you could tweet about it (after stopping your vehicle, of course) and the account would selectively re-tweet it, cutting down on spammy tweets. So, it would work as a two-way communication channel and possibly become a collaborative effort.

This idea can be implemented quite easily I believe, even without Government intervention. A “collaborative” Twitter channel that would aggregate important events about happenings in Mauritius, live. The same idea can be implemented on Facebook, possibly via a Facebook group and the information relayed to Twitter and vice-versa.

However, if Government were to do it, it would be more trust-worthy. Also, in times of non-emergency, the police could use the account to broadcast non-emergency messages such as roads to avoid because of traffic jams or because an accident is causing slow downs. Again, it has to be used only for important information, not to tell people to not speed on the roads. People will stop caring if they receive too many “spammy” messages or tweets.

 

Well, those two ideas occurred to me, and I thought it would be a good idea to share and get the opinion of the community. If you have other ideas about how technology could be used to improve communication in times of emergency, to reach a large number of people, please post your suggestions in the comments section below.

Major Technological Provisions in the Mauritius Budget 2012

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Inf

The Finance Minister, Hon. Xavier L. Duval has started his budget speech with a fair number of technology-related provisions. Most of them are quite significant for our country, and I can only hope they will be implemented. The Minister mandates that they be implemented by March 2013, and we hope to see most of them implemented. Below are the major measures announced and my take on them. Your opinions are appreciated; hit the comments section if possible.

I think I got all of the IT related measures, but if I missed any, drop me a word in the comments.

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[Solution] Text is fuzzy or pixellated when LED HDTV is connected to PC via HDMI

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Inf

I recently encountered a small problem when configuring a Samsung LCD TV (UA32EH5000, specifically). Text displayed was fuzzy, looked as if it was anti-aliased with a sort of coloured or sometimes white halo around the text.

The solutions are simple:

  1. Ensure you set the resolution to native for the screen. For this particular TV, it was 1920 x 1080. You can also try lower resolutions to see if the problem is decreased. 1600 x 900 was quite good in this case, but I wanted to keep the full 1080p resolution so it was a compromise.
  2. Connect the HDMI cable to the appropriate HDMI port. In my case, HDMI1 was also labelled HDMI1 / DVI so I selected that one. On your remote, press the Source button. Select the appropriate HDMI source.
  3. You have to rename the source to PC or PC/DVI or equivalent. In this screen’s case, go to Source selection, press the Tools button on your remote, choose “Edit Name” then select “PC”. Doing this disables all processing that the screen does on the image and enables 1:1 pixel mapping. You should instantly see the text become much sharper.
    • Adjust the screen settings such as Contrast and Sharpness to change how the text looks like until you like it. I’m using Backlight: 13, Contrast: 85, Brightness: 55, Sharnpess: 65 and other minor adjustments to make the image look good to my eyes. Your settings may vary according to your screen.
  4. Adjust the Cleartype settings in windows for the particular screens. Type “Cleartype” in start menu, select the screen you want to configure (the HDTV) and walk through the settings that work best for the screen.
  5. Use a good quality HDMI cable. Avoid converters such as HDMI-DVI etc if possible.

Hopefully these should solve your problems. Point #2 did it for me. I didn’t know “Edit Name” could have such a big effect!

Note, you may notice black borders around your image as the image no longer takes the full size of the screen. You need to disable Overscan in your graphics driver. I have an ATI card so for me it was:

  1. Open ATI Catalyst Control Center.
  2.  

  3. From the top, choose Graphics → Desktops and Displays.
  4.  

  5. From the display, select Configure.
  6.  

     

  7. Go to the Scaling Options tab and drag the slider to 0%. Your image should now take the full screen.


 
(Source, if you need further information)

Thanks for reading and hope this helps.