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

7Aug/170

Métro léger: des personnes de bonne volonté requises

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Depuis la semaine dernière, nous savons qu’il y aura, à terme, un service de métro léger à Maurice. La décision, qui implique un investissement massif, a été prise en consultation avec des experts Singapouriens. En principle, le premier tronçon sera opérationel dans deux ans: de Port-Louis à Rose-Hill et le reste du tracé, Rose-Hill à Curepipe, dans quatre ans.

La mise en place du métro léger va bouleverser nos vies pendant ces quatre ans: des rails à poser, des gares à construire, des parkings à prévoir, de la pollution sans doute et, bien sûr, des embouitellages monstres à gérer.

Je pense sincèrement que, nous Mauriciens, avons les capacités de répondre à certain de ces problèmes, en collaboration avec les experts étranger naturellement. Je pense que nous pouvons profiter de ces quatre ans de chamboulement pour optimser la circulation, repenser les heures d’ouverture des bureaux, innover en matière de qualité de l’air, etc. En d’autres mots, pour faire le maximum pour améliorer nos vies et notre environnement.

Qui est partant? Qui a des idées? Qui veut contribuer?

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4Jul/170

Innovative Mauritius

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Since the beginning of June, I am an Adviser of the Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Yogida Sawmynaden. Those who know me well know that I am not attached to any political party and I like to think that I am now an Adviser because of my expertise, my experience and my easy way of dealing with people. The reason why I have accepted this 1-year contract (and put Knowledge Seven on hold) is precisely because I want to contribute more to the development of Mauritius (however modest be the contribution) instead of always complaining on the sidelines. “La critique est aisée, l’art est difficile”.

In my contract, it is stipulated that I should contribute to “promote a culture of innovation in the country” and “assist in the identification of strategic growth areas […] and innovative projects” (among other tasks) and I find these two things particularly cool and interesting.

So, for the past few weeks, I have been working hard (harder than at Knowledge Seven, that’s for sure!) to understand where Mauritius is, where the Government wants the country to be in 2020, the challenges we are facing and the solutions we need to work on. This is what I found and summarised on the whiteboard found in my office (I can’t function without a whiteboard!) :

Ultimately, we want a smarter Mauritius. One of the things I have realised over the years is that hardware and software are not important. What is crucial for the development of a country is peopleware. Having smart citizens is the only way to obtain a smart country. And, of course, this starts with smart education (for young people) and smart training (for adults and professionals). This is, according to me, the biggest challenge the country is going to face in the coming years : how to transform 1.3 million Mauritians into smarter Mauritians.

Only then will we have a smart government (consisting of smart citizens) which will then make sure that we can all benefit from a smart environment, smart mobility, smart utilities and smart infrastructures.

It is in this context that we will then be able to engage into smart (and meaningful) living while businesses will also become smart.

On 24 August 2015, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, the then Prime Minister, introduced Vision 2030 to the population. The vision is that, by 2030 (which is just in 13 years), Mauritius will move from a higher middle-income country (which it is now) to a high-income country (like European countries, Singapore, etc.) while making sure that every Mauritian benefits (i.e. that the country becomes more inclusive). This is a very ambitious vision.

During the last budget speech, Pravind Jugnauth, the current Prime Minister introduced a very important document on how to move towards Vision 2030. This three year strategic plan (2017 – 2020) explains how Mauritius needs to either get into new sectors of activity (e.g. ocean economy, high-tech manufacturing) or develop further what we have been doing up to now (e.g. exporting our ICT products to Africa, entering new markets for our tourism industry, finding ways to have food security) in order to achieve our grander aims. In other words, we have to grow:

Our agriculture needs to become eco-friendly, sustainable and capable of providing the population with food security for some of our fruits and vegetables. Our financial services sector need to become stronger but in keeping with international rules & regulations. Our ICT sector, which has become the 3rd pillar of our economy, needs to address the major issue of skills development (as young people coming out of local government-funded universities generally lack, well, everything and this has been the case for a number of years now) and find ways to export to Africa (which means that, we, Mauritians will have to know more about our continent, Africa). Our factories will have to move towards high-tech manufacturing (which is more profitable) which means that we will have to train our workers in new technology and find new markets. As for the ocean economy, we will have to attract investors and make sure that we have plentiful fish in the islands while developing new eco-friendly entertainment activities in the sea. Finally, concerning tourism, we will have to expand to new markets by developing new products and exploiting new airline routes.

In order to achieve these objectives, the following enablers will need to become central in our strategy:

First and foremost, Innovation. We have to transform Mauritius into Innovative Mauritius (while at the same time focusing on good governance, investing in the development of fixed- and human-capital and making sure that everything is done in an inclusive manner).

This is easier said than done. In the strategic vision documents, the following important challenges have been identified for Mauritius:

In a number of industries (ICT, manufacturing, financial services), over the years, we have reduced our competitiveness compared to other countries. This is a consequence of salaries being relatively high in Mauritius (compared to, say, India, China or Madagascar), the fact that the population is ageing (and, consequently, the proportion of young people is lower than expected), the fact that our education system fails to create a productive adult after 20 years of free education and that we generally poorly use investors’ money.

It is clear that bureaucracy tends to decrease the effectiveness of the civil sector. This sector needs to become agile and responsive to the needs of the population. The public sector needs to become a service provider. It is also clear that the gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing a lot lately. This is true in all capitalist countries but we need to make sure that the ideals of socialism remain central in our minds while transforming the country.

But, crucially, Mauritius needs to become Innovative Mauritius.

How can we create a culture of innovation in Mauritius? It all starts by inspiring people (and this is what Vision 2030 is supposed to be — a source of inspiration). Naturally, we will have to streamline the communication process as I am sure that most Mauritians are still unaware of this important vision. Then we need to always focus on outcomes instead of features. What we want is that the country becomes a high-income country (i.e. we want Mauritius to become a rich country) while making sure that everyone benefits (the development should be inclusive — this is important as history shows that, while it is relatively easy to have a rich country, it is much more difficult to make sure that this wealth is not concentrated in the hands of only a few). In order to achieve this level of development, we will have to work together (and this is something that we, Mauritians, have a lot of difficulties to do as we do not trust each other — remember, we generally loved hiding our notebooks from our “friends” when we were in CPE…). We need to trust each other in order to be able to work together. And, very importantly, if we need to challenge the status quo then so be it. It is only through disruptions that important changes happen. Of course, we will have to find ways not to penalise risk-takers compared to those who do not innovate and this is where trust, once again, is important.

So there is a very big challenge ahead of us to transform Mauritius into Innovative Mauritius. At the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation, a lot of work has already started and important projects are being implemented by the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council which falls under the Ministry. But a major portion of the work still needs to be done and this starts by inspiring people (and, especially, young people).

Let’s build Innovative Mauritius together.

4May/170

Mauritius should look outwards for experts

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

What’s common with Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage? They all look inwards. (Ils sont repliés sur eux-mêmes.)

Mauritius has always been an outward looking country because our market is tiny and our companies need to buy and sell from abroad if they want to be profitable. We tend to import quite a lot of things. We get most of our raw products and a lot of our finished products from abroad. This allows the population to benefit from excellent products at competitive prices.

Unfortunately, there is one thing we don’t get from abroad: experts. We behave like Le Pen, Putin, Trump and Farage when it comes to experts.

The population is tiny and it is inconceivable that there are a lot of Mauritian experts. As a matter of fact, a lot of Mauritian experts have left the country and only a few remain. This small number is not enough for solving all the problems we currently have.

The obvious solution would be to look outwards for foreign experts to supplement local experts, offer these foreigners interesting packages for encouraging them to come, making them transfer some of their knowledge to (young) Mauritians and, very crucially, making sure that they deliver by carefully measuring their performance. The obvious objective being, of course, to make things move forward and solving problems. This is what Singapore did decades ago with very tangible results.

What we do instead is, for our Mauritian non-experts, to pretend that they are experts and, in the process, spoiling everything. There is an important political decision to be made in the coming years, if not months.

What do you think?

(Image courtesy of The Economist)

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16Apr/170

Stopping by the #RiSk[Solutions] hackathon

Posted by Ish Sookun

A few weeks ago, Ajay Ramjatan, the President of the Linux User Group of Mauritius sent the executive members an email about a hackathon. It's organized by the "Fonds francophone pour l’innovation numérique (FFIN)" with the collaboration of OTAM, MITIA and the Ministry of Technology, Communication & Innovation. It is the fifth edition and this time it's happening in Mauritius.

#RiSk[Solutions] hackathon - Xavier

The event spanned over four days starting on Thursday 13 April 2017. I followed one presentation on Thursday where a « security consultant » talked about state-sponsored hacking. Well, he did talk about a lot of other stuff such as Ransomware, Password Managers etc but those are mainstream subjects. I was interested in the subject of state-sponsored hacking. In the slide the presenter mentioned "cybercriminel" rather than "hacker".

Is a hacker a cybercriminal?

That's an interesting topic but it's not within the scope of this blog post.

I could not attend the second day of the event but Ajay attended the rest of the days. In fact, both Ajay and Pritvi, an executive member of the Linux User Group, stayed for longer hours on Saturday while mentoring the participants. Pritvi stayed the whole night as the hackthon lasted 24-hours. On Saturday night I stopped by for a few minutes and met them.

On Sunday I arrived at the CyberTower 1 shortly after 10h00. The participants looked tired, due to lack of sleep most probably, but the enthusiasm was still there. Ajay was helping some participants with a PHP module that was not well configured on their Kali Linux virtual machine. I greeted them and wished the participants luck.

At 15h00 the ceremony started.

The jury panel was divided in two parts. A technical panel where the jury had already given scores after looking at the work/code of the participants and another panel who would give scores based on the quality of the presentation.

#RiSk[Solutions] hackathon - Jury panel

Members of the jury panel wore red t-shirt, mentors wore green, those from the organizing committee wore yellow and participants were in blue.

The first team that presented encountered a technical issue, which is very common when using virtual machines. Since they changed network after moving to the presentation room the machine IP address changes and possibly if they're on bridged network the virtual machine's address changes too.

The teams that did their presentations are in the following order:

  • Team X
  • Cybercure
  • Intruso
  • Team 42
  • Invictus

S. Moonesamy (SM) live streamed the presentations and jury questions on Periscope. They are available at:

https://twitter.com/sminmu/status/853562017403351043
https://twitter.com/sminmu/status/853570848007098369
https://twitter.com/sminmu/status/853578838860812289
https://twitter.com/sminmu/status/853583597629997056
https://twitter.com/sminmu/status/853585473314463744

After the presentations the jury members moved to a different room to discuss and tally the scores while the participants and attendees received a musical show by Indian artists. SM, Yash and I went downstairs in search of food but unfortunately on a Sunday none of the cafe or shop is opened in Cybertower 1. We came back upstairs and had a chat with Ajay. A few minutes later the musical/dance show was over and the jury panel was ready to announce the winner.

Zakiya called Pritvi on stage among others to offer the second prize. As she did that she reminded it's unique about Pritvi to be helping through several user groups in Mauritius and not just the Linux User Group.

Cybercure won the first prize!

Two special prizes were also given to Intruso and Team X.

6Apr/170

openSUSE Goodies Pack

Posted by Ish Sookun

As the Developers Conference 2017 was approaching Shelly asked me what am I doing with the openSUSE stickers and DVDs. I replied that I would distribute them to visitors when they'd come to the Installfest of the Linux User Group. That's when Shelly came up with the idea of having an openSUSE Goodies Pack. To keep it short it's a package containing various stickers, a bookmark, an openSUSE 42.2 64-bit DVD, and a laptop camera cover.


openSUSE Goodies Pack

In total Shelly made five such goodies packs. However, I couldn't make it to the Installfest as my presentation was on the same day. Bad timing.

I therefore decided to give away the goodies packs as prizes to questions that I would ask during my presentation. My talk was on Microservices and I explained the same using NGINX that ran on openSUSE 42.2. That was perfect to shoot some questions about openSUSE and yes, the attendees correctly answered that packages could be installed on openSUSE using RPM, Zypper and YaST. I had a question that asked which part of the home page of lexpress.mu is a microservice. One fellow answered « the notifications » and that's correct.

The openSUSE Goodies Pack garnered some attention on Twitter and MSP fellow Arwin Baichoo replied with a tweet showing the content of the goodies pack.

The rest of the stickers and openSUSE DVDs were distributed to attendees. Humeira gladly helped me with that.

31Mar/170

The real size of Africa

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Africa is huge!

As seen in the Winkel tripel (Winkel III) projection above,  Africa is much much bigger than Europe and North America. Projecting the world’s surface (which is on a sphere) on a flat sheet of paper is impossible without introducing some distortions but the Winkel III projection has been proved to be the most accurate (preserving area, direction and distance).

It is high time for our schools and institutions to stop using the Mercator projection introduced in 1569 which distorts the size of objects as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles, thus making Europe and North America appear much bigger than they really are.

Interestingly and obviously, Mauritius is bigger on the Winkel tripel (Winkel III) projection compared to the Mercator projection and this can only be a good thing for us 🙂

31Mar/170

How to administer Slackware 14.2?

Posted by Ish Sookun

The last presentation of Day 1 at the Developers Conference that I attended was that of Slackware 14.2 by Pritvi Jheengut.

Pritvi is a member of the Linux User Group of Mauritius and a usual suspect at such tech events. He is perhaps the most popular Slackware user on the island. He made a fierce reputation for that. Some know him for his weird methods of doing things but he remains just a geek with passion for a couple of things that he adores; Slackware being one of them.


Developers Conference 2017 - Slackware 14.2

I missed the beginning of his presentation. In fact, when I entered the room he was in the middle of some important explanation about installing packages using the installpkg command. The screen was black and the text green. Pritvi had worn a Darth Vader t-shirt and I heard rumours that he even started the presentation with the Darth Vader theme. That would be totally legit.


Pritvi made us visit the Slackware internals, a lot about the arrangement of system files and the way packages are kept simple.

The earlier thing that I missed was actually a question about Slackware packages which Pritvi asked the attendees; whether they found it weird to install something that's no more than just a tarball. It generated a discussion about package management, software repositories, the how and why of Slackware and above all its simplicity of software packaging vis-à-vis other Linux distributions.

I craved for some Linux fun which was missing on Day 1 but Pritvi's presentation fulfilled that. It was a cool and interactive session with questions that popped up like mushrooms.

I'm not sure I'll ever ditch openSUSE for Slackware but maybe I have a more decent opinion on Slackware administration now.

27Mar/170

Developers Conference 2017 – Linuxfest

Posted by Ish Sookun

Hey folks! We're back. It's time to meet up and have geek fun at the Developers Conference 2017. At its third edition, I am sure that, this great event of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community will not disappoint you. Of course, there must be something in menu that will suit your appetite.

Shelly and I have planned our DevCon weekend carefully. We'll be there all three days.

I have a session on NGINX Microservices scheduled at 10h30 on Saturday at the Educator 2. The rest of the time that day you would find me hopping between Voilà Hotel and Flying Dodo helping folks from the Linux User Group of Mauritius with the full-day activities.


LUGM - Developers Conference 2017

Members of the Linux User Group will run a Linuxfest and help keen enthusiasts with Linux installs & troubleshoots in the conference room of Flying Dodo. You're all invited to come share your knowledge. We will be running demos on a projector and if you have some cool stuff about Linux which you'd like to share then get in touch, it'll be great to have more fellows around advocating Free Software/Open Source. Ping LUGM members Nirvan, Nadim on Twitter or get in touch with Ajay or Ronny on Facebook.


Care to tweet? Use the hashtag #DevConMru.

15Mar/170

Open and not extract .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files in the latest Gnome 3

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

In the latest version of Gnome 3, a subtle change was brought to Nautilus, the file manager, to automatically extract the content of a ZIP file in a new folder when it is double-clicked on instead of open an application to do so. The problem is that Microsoft Office files (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) are ZIP files. This means that double-clicking on a .pptx file extracts its content instead of opening the file in, say, LibreOffice Impress!

This makes life miserable for all those who need to open Microsoft Office files on a regular basis and, of course, this is a bug (as acknowledged by the Gnome people  and the Red Hat / Fedora people).

Fortunately, it is quite easy to make Nautilus become sane again. Open Preferences and in the Behavior tab, unselect “Extract the files on open” in the Compressed Files section.

Phew!

15Mar/170

Open and not extract .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files in the latest Gnome 3

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

In the latest version of Gnome 3, a subtle change was brought to Nautilus, the file manager, to automatically extract the content of a ZIP file in a new folder when it is double-clicked on instead of open an application to do so. The problem is that Microsoft Office files (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) are ZIP files. This means that double-clicking on a .pptx file extracts its content instead of opening the file in, say, LibreOffice Impress!

This makes life miserable for all those who need to open Microsoft Office files on a regular basis and, of course, this is a bug (as acknowledged by the Gnome people  and the Red Hat / Fedora people).

Fortunately, it is quite easy to make Nautilus become sane again. Open Preferences and in the Behavior tab, unselect “Extract the files on open” in the Compressed Files section.

Phew!