Linux User Group of Mauritius Promoting open source software in our beautiful island

18May/150

World Telecommunication & Information Society Day 2015

Posted by Ish

I attended a workshop by the National Computer Board on the theme “Telecommunications and ICTs: Drivers of innovation”. I represented the Linux User Group of Mauritius. Though the workshop was scheduled to start at 09h30. I reached a little before nine. I signed the registration form, my name was properly written & clearly mentioned “Linux User Group of Mauritius”. That was good. I enquired if S. Moonesamy had arrived. They said no. SM was representing the Mauritius Internet Users.

The workshop was held at La Canelle, Domaine les Pailles. I went inside, found a cozy place and was going through the programme. Shortly after, SM arrived and we had the casual chit-chat if there was free WiFi available and all. I replied, no, I was using Orange Mobile Data. SM grinned saying attending a “telecom” event without free WiFi isn’t encouraging.

The Executive Director of the National Computer Board read the welcome address & then invited Mr. Biju Kadapurath of PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the major sponsors, to address the audience. Mr Kadapurath gave a broad overview of the day’s topic about innovation and took a few examples of Smart Cities like that of the city of Barcelona, he mentioned the Clinic-in-a-Container project and the National Fiber Optic project that bridges the bandwidth gap suffered by remote places in India.

ubuntu-mauritius-220The Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation then opened the workshop after addressing the audience. The one thing that was a highlight during his speech was the emphasis he laid on Open Source Software and his mention of Ubuntu as an example. It didn’t go unnoticed.

After the tea break there was a presentation on Innovation in the knowledge economy by the Executive Director of the Mauritius Research Council. At some point I was bored with the prez and I tweeted about the relation between seaweed and telecom.

mrc-prez-at-ncb-workshop

Then he mentioned about a National High-performance Computing (HPC) Center. I rose from my sleep and started paying attention. Yeah. That was interesting though I pondered why the Linux User Group of Mauritius hasn’t been made aware of the same. Oh… Oh… I reserved that for the question time. Indeed, as he finished his prez I shot my question. I briefly explained about the Linux User Group of Mauritius, showed my interest on this National HPC Center and I mentioned that there is an open source developer in Mauritius & what is the MRC doing to connect with the young bright minds of Mauritius. He explained that indeed the Mauritius Research Council should collaborate with user groups & make it easier for the bright minds to come forward with their ideas. He stressed that work should be done to connect the MRC with local talent. Then SM questioned about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) saying that internationally it is used as a metric to measure innovation. The Director mentioned that there hasn’t been much IPR from the projects in Mauritius. SM was disappointed with the answer and proclaimed the Mauritius Research Council as a failure.

Then followed a presentation by Dr P.C Catherine from the University of Technology about an Ecosystem for Smart Cities in Sub Saharan Africa. By this time I was feeling hungry. Though I wanted to question Dr Catherine on his data & his conclusion about urbanization as I did not agree to compare rural Mauritius with rural Africa. For example, his conclusion about 200K people might move to urban regions in the coming years might not reflect in Mauritius. There is not much of a difference between the rural & urban in Mauritius based on accessibility of facilities within a few minutes drive in a car. Well, it’s not because FTTH is taking time to reach Providence that I am going to live in Quatre Bornes. There are many advantages attached to living in Providence than living in Quatre Bornes.

Mr. Biju Kadapurath made a comeback with his presentation on Driving innovation through Smart Cities. Oh, by this time, I was too hungry and nothing was getting inside my head.

hungry-at-ncb-workshop

At around noon we had lunch. Thank you NCB for the good vegetarian food :-)

I made some acquaintances during lunch and we discussed about 100Mbps local access. We looked at the different pictures to have such a local bandwidth. It could empower individuals to run applications & share resources over a localnet. User groups could chip in to set up cache servers and consequently decrease the load of international bandwidth when it comes to downloading huge files.

After lunch there was a prez by Dr Mahen Soobron from the Central Informatics Bureau. He explained about innovative Public Service with ICT. His slides went through the Government Web Portal and he talked about mobile apps. During the same time I was checking the mobile responsiveness of the Government Portal on my mobile phone. At the bottom of the page there is a “Pay Online” option. When I clicked on it, the same opened a blank page with a gov.mu URL.

However, my question was going to be about the Google “Terms of Service” that one has to accept when entering the captcha on the login page of the portal. Oops! When I tried logging on my mobile, there was no captcha displayed. I thought they removed it and showed the same to SM. However, when I entered my username & password it reported that I need to enter the captcha. WTF!

govmu-org-mobile-no-captcha

Screens before & after logging. Where is the captcha?

I made this remark during the question time, to which Dr Soobron replied that I could call the technical team and report such issues. Wait, it only suffice replying my emails when I send, I’d be happy :-) I can’t spend long minutes on a phone call explaining tech issues to non-tech people.

I took the above screenshots for this article when I came back home.

Anyway, after getting the “call tech team” answer to my first question, I thought it would be futile to beat around the bush explaining the issue of a Google “Terms of Service” and an “unfound” captcha. I rather asked him about the several un-used tools on the portal, namely the forum, blog and chat rooms. I wanted to know if any study was carried out prior to implementation to assess the need of implementing these. I also asked if there is data available from such studies and if the same could be made available so that enthusiasts and developers from the community could use the data and may provide a better alternative. The answer wasn’t up to my satisfaction. I didn’t argue further.

Next there was a presentation by Dr Saumtally from the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI) and he presented some interesting work based on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I did not comment on the same as the subject was outside my field.

The last presentation I attended was that of Mr Ben Mann from IBM UK. He went through 7 ways to boost innovation for a SMART Mauritius. I was eager to know these 7 ways. Well, he started by going to the basics of “innovation”, taking example of the famous lego blocks. The idea was to explain the audience about APIs and how they are changing the developer world. Well, changing? Hmm… Let’s say leveraging rather. He gave a quick intro of IBM Bluemix and Cloud Foundry. As he finished his prez I was first to question him about Bluemix. I already registered for the Bluemix trial some time back and noticed that Virtual Appliances are still in beta & not currently available. I am more interested in tweaking & deploying appliances rather than developing and writing code. I questioned about the engagement of IBM with regards to the latency that we Mauritians suffer. I tossed that Mauritius being far from the rest of the world, it takes much time for our requests to go to and fro the destinations such as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Coupled with concurrency issues this latency can at times be a headache for us. I wanted to know what does IBM have in its pipeline to tackle this issue. That’s when Ben mentioned the acquisition of Softlayer by IBM and a long term plan to geo-localize resources. He also mentioned the possibility of having local instances of Bluemix. That does sound interesting vis-à-vis competitors such as Microsoft Azure and AWS. Only time will reveal the tech specs & we’ll know the real thing that is in the IBM pipeline.

I enjoyed the workshop, engaging with people & getting acquaintances. Though for a successful workshop I’d rather expect more of the Question & Answer happening. We (SM and I) were not allowed to more questions and that somehow didn’t let me broaden the different aspects that could have been discussed and brainstormed today.

Nevertheless, as I said, I did enjoy meeting new people :-)

The post World Telecommunication & Information Society Day 2015 appeared first on HACKLOG.

15Feb/140

LUGM meetup – Presentations

Posted by Ish Sookun

We had one of the much awaited LUGM meetups today. This meetup comprised of two presentations:

  • New features brought in OpenSSH v6.5, by Loganaden Velvindron
  • What if .mu was in Mauritius?, by S. Moonesamy

It was held at Ebène Accelerator, Orange Tower, Ebène. I reached earlier, got time to have my lunch and a while later Logan came. We were having a general chit-chat when Pawan came. He passed his driving test today, that was great to hear.

On the facebook event page we had 30 RSVPs. However, I felt less people will make it today since there was a LAN Gaming event at University of Mauritius. Most probably UoM Computer Club folks wouldn’t make it. Anyway, 19 people showed up, that was great already.

Who made it today?

Neha Gunnoo, Darshini Seeburn, Nitin Mutkawoa, Pritvi Jheengut, Nadim Attari, Ajay Ramjatan, Selven, Chelon, Wasima Damree, Pawan Babooram, Avinash Mayaram, Ashley Babajee, S. Moonesamy, Thomas C, Shamsher Khudurun, Irfaan Coonjah, Fei Tan, Loganaden Velvindron and me.

13h30, we started with the first presentation. OpenSSH 6.5 features, by Logan. He briefed us about the project, OpenSSH and a little bit about OpenBSD. Logan gave us an insight on where OpenSSH is used and why it is favored over Telnet.

S. Moonesamy (SM) added a couple of quickie information which prompted a question & answer session. Especially when both explained the role of IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) in assigning numbers & standardizing Internet stuffs. Simply said, IETF folks strive to engineer the Internet as we know it.

Back to the presentation Logan continued explaining new security features. He talked about Edward Snowden’s revelations and weakened crypto algorithms into the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards. He talked about a new private key format, called Ed25519 and the ChaCha20 cipher. For those who were having trouble grasping this part, SM & Ajay gave a brief explanation about ciphers. Simply said, a cipher allows encryption of plain text data. However, Ajay highlighted that this does not guarantee data can’t be intercepted. It can be, but the obtained data is encrypted and pretty much unusable. Logan gave a small demo on generating keys using Ed25519 and how to connect using chacha20-poly1305 cipher. Among other new features is sandboxing support around pre-authentication part of the code. This however uses the Capsicum API which right now is available only in FreeBSD. Logan informed us work is being done to port Capsicum to Linux, which would enable Linux users to benefit from OpenSSH sandbox features in the near future. In the endnote, Logan stressed a few words on donation to the OpenBSD project.

SM started by showing us a map of .mu servers around the world. He then showed us a slide containing information about loading time of a .mu page that wasn’t hosted in Mauritius. He compared that with websites hosted locally. Yes, there was a huge difference. His presentation was very much interactive in a way that involved everyone in the conference room. When he tossed about the online news websites, it seemed like everyone had something to add. Yup, something fun to add. Many of my comments never showed up on the news websites, my emails went unanswered. I wasn’t surprised to hear that I’m not the only one though. SM’s aim was not just to bring a topic about page loading speed, but having the .mu infrastructure locally would also contribute in lowering the price of the .mu domain. He showed us a table comparing prices of different TLDs (Top Level Domain). Whoop! .mu shines above with Rs 2,000 / year. I shouted I initially got my .in domain for Rs 90. Ajay then tossed the topic on DNSSEC and they briefly explained the technicality behind.

The debate on .mu was interesting and it involved participation of the audience as a whole. SM highlighted the importance of having technicians, admins, engineers & decision makers in the Mauritius Internet Users mailing list that he created. He hasn’t made the list public yet as it’s still in a kind of brainstorming phase where people are expressing the difficulties, issues and discussing about possible solutions.

Meetup finished on a happy-ending-note, with people willing to join & discuss further about bringing .mu to Mauritius.

Meetup finished on a happy-ending-note, with people willing to join & discuss further about bringing .mu to Mauritius.

Oh! Wait… I forgot the fun part. In the previous meetups we expressed the need of recording presentations. Nadim, Ajay and Pawan made it happen this time by providing the necessary gadgets. Once the videos are processed they should go on LUGM YouTube Channel.

Photo highlights