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

30Nov/170

Informative and Restrained as opposed to Superficial and Flashy

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Infotech 2017 has started.

And I am happy to notice that, except for one or two stands, things are much more “Informative and Restrained” compared to previous editions where things tended to be “Superficial and Flashy”.

Allow me to explain.

In Mauritius, for the past few years, we have become a nation of seminars, workshops, conferences and exhibitions and, unfortunately, many of them are quite superficial and very very flashy indeed. For the past six months, I have been to many such events where the venue was beautiful (a nice hotel with a beautiful view of the lagoon), the food was excellent, the hostesses out of this world but where, personally, I felt that there was not much to listen to and learn from, except from a minority of the speakers. This is what I call “Superficial and Flashy”.

What I would prefer to have, from a personal point of view, is the kind of chaotic geekish meetup as pictured above. An event where intelligent people of all horizons can meet, exchange views, share ideas and move forward together. Of course, there is a need for a venue and some food but nothing ostentatious. This is what I call “Informative and Restrained”.

The thing is that it is easier to do “Superficial and Flashy” than “Informative and Restrained”. The reason for that is that to be informative, the speakers need to be of high-caliber and need to be properly prepared.

This is your typical Googler. Similar people are changing our worlds everyday at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. but also in the IT division of most of the companies in the world. And, before you laugh, let me remind you that they run the world.

Pictured above are some of the people who have basically built the world as it is known today. Without them, we would still be waiting for The A-Team to be shown on TV on Saturday night. They are Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergey Brin (Google), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon). The missing ones being Linus Torvalds (Linux) and Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation).

Of course, we won’t have Steve (RIP), Sergey, Bill, Larry, Mark, Jeff, Linus or Richard at Infotech. Maybe next year…

But we’ll have the 2nd best thing: the (real) innovators of Mauritius, each on his/her respective “Informative and Restrained” stand and willing to share his/her passion with you.

You just have to put aside your tendency to value the “Superficial and Flashy”, walk toward them and talk to them.

Enjoy 🙂

(First photo, courtesy of Le Méridien. Second photo, courtesy of Concept7. Third photo, courtesy of Business Insider. Fourth photo, courtesy of Youth Connect. Fifth photo, courtesy of PC Risk).

26Oct/170

Countries where Mauritians do not need a visa

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Here are the 94 countries where we, Mauritians, can go without having to have a visa:

Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia (FYROM), Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Micronesia, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

These 27 countries issue a visa to Mauritians as soon as they arrive:

Bolivia, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Comoros, Congo (Dem. Rep.), Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Jordan, Laos, Madagascar, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Palau, Qatar, Samoa, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.

These 3 countries have special procedures concerning the visa they deliver:

India (Electronic Visa), Sri Lanka (Electronic Travel Authorization ) and Seychelles (Visitor’s permit)

And, finally, these are the countries which force us to obtain a visa before visiting them:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Iraq, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar [Burma], Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yemen.

[Raw data obtained from Passport Index]

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6Oct/170

How to reduce the amount of disk space used by the systemd journal

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

We, Linux people, generally use systemd now and one of its components is the journal controlled by the journalctl command line tool.

As explained on the Arch wiki,

systemd has its own logging system called the journal. The /var/log/journal/directory is a part of the systemd package and the journal will write to /var/log/journal/

The journal is always appended and therefore grows in size. On my laptop, the journal was taking 1.8Gb of space and was full of details which, I believe, I’ll never need. So I decided to clear all old contents (which the systemd people call a vacuum). I issued:

journalctl --disk-usage
journalctl --vacuum-size=64M
journalctl --disk-usage

And the journal immediately became smaller. I then issued a

journalctl --verify

which made me realise that some of the remaining journal files were corrupted (for some reason). There is no journal repair tool in systemd so I simply removed the offending files (with rm).

Now, I can easily check my journal entries for today and I know everything will be all fine:

journalctl --since today

6Oct/170

How to reduce the amount of disk space used by the systemd journal

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

We, Linux people, generally use systemd now and one of its components is the journal controlled by the journalctl command line tool.

As explained on the Arch wiki,

systemd has its own logging system called the journal. The /var/log/journal/directory is a part of the systemd package and the journal will write to /var/log/journal/

The journal is always appended and therefore grows in size. On my laptop, the journal was taking 1.8Gb of space and was full of details which, I believe, I’ll never need. So I decided to clear all old contents (which the systemd people call a vacuum). I issued:

journalctl --disk-usage
journalctl --vacuum-size=64M
journalctl --disk-usage

And the journal immediately became smaller. I then issued a

journalctl --verify

which made ma realise that some of the remaining journal files were corrupted (for some reason). There is no journal repair tool in systemd so I simply removed the offending files (with rm).

Now, I can easily check my journal entries for today and I know everything will be all fine:

journalctl --since today

4Oct/170

The relative wealth of Mauritians

Posted by Avinash Meetoo

Last week, during the eLearning Africa conference, a lot of foreign delegates were amazed on how advanced Mauritius is. They marveled at our roads, our hotels, our cars, our clothes, etc.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a very interesting website, Global Rich List, which essentially allows you to enter your annual income (which is, for most of us, 13 x your monthly salary) and gives you an indication of which percentile of the richest people in the world you are. Some examples are much better than this convoluted explanation:

With Rs 5,000 per month i.e. Rs 65,000 per year

You’re in the top 29.15% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 1,749,243,103rd richest person on earth by income.

With Rs 10,000 per month i.e. Rs 130,000 per year

You’re in the top 19.79% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 1,187,104,291st richest person on earth by income.

With Rs 20,000 per month i.e. Rs 260,000 per year

You’re in the top 10.10% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 606,237,728th richest person on earth by income.

With Rs 50,000 per month i.e. Rs 650,000 per year

You’re in the top 0.86% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 51,631,144th richest person on earth by income.

With Rs 100,000 per month i.e. Rs 1,300,000 per year

You’re in the top 0.13% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 8,011,084th richest person on earth by income.

and, finally,

With Rs 3,100,000,000 per month i.e. (approx) Rs 40,000,000,000 per year

You’re in the top 0.0001% richest people in the world by income.
That makes you the 1st richest person on earth by income.

The last one is just for fun of course 🙂

Based on those numbers, we can safely say that we are very lucky to live in Mauritius: it is a beautiful country and, believe it or not, we are rich.

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8Aug/170

Ghost Desktop on Xubuntu 17.04 won’t start

Posted by Jochen Kirstaetter

Ghost Desktop on Xubuntu 17.04 won't start

Already before the migration from Joomla to Ghost last weekend I run the Ghost Desktop application on Windows. Now, after the successful completion it was about time to get going on my other machines. You know, the ones away from the main rig... Usually used during the evening hours, just for fun, or experimenting.

Tonight, I decided to give one of my Linux systems some attention, started to upgrade some packages, and installed new software. Among those also Ghost Desktop App for Linux. On the Ghost website you get version 1.3.0 (as of writing), and it's a Debian package.

Knowing that the desktop app is an Electron-based application, and I already packaged a few Electron apps myself, it would run on any Ubuntu-based system, too.
Note: This post was written in Ghost Desktop running on Xubuntu 17.04 64bit

Installation of Ghost Desktop

Either you double-click on the downloaded .deb package and your system will prompt you to open/install the application in Software, or you can run the following command in the Terminal:

$ sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/ghost-desktop-1.3.0-debian.deb 

Ghost Desktop can then be launched via the Application Menu/Launcher under ghost-desktop or if you prefer the terminal:

$ Ghost

The problem: Ghost Desktop won't start

If you try to launch the application via the menu or any other GUI launcher you won't get any response at all. The software just isn't executed, it seems.

Compared to running it in the Terminal. This might produce the following output:

$ Ghost
A JavaScript error occurred in the main process
Uncaught Exception:
Error: Unable to find a valid app
    at Object.<anonymous> (/usr/lib/Ghost/resources/electron.asar/browser/init.js:121:9)
    at Object.<anonymous> (/usr/lib/Ghost/resources/electron.asar/browser/init.js:173:3)
    at Module._compile (module.js:571:32)
    at Object.Module._extensions..js (module.js:580:10)
    at Module.load (module.js:488:32)
    at tryModuleLoad (module.js:447:12)
    at Function.Module._load (module.js:439:3)
    at Module.runMain (module.js:605:10)
    at run (bootstrap_node.js:424:7)
    at startup (bootstrap_node.js:147:9)

The solution: Set permissions

Fortunately, this has been reported already on GitHub by user letsjustfixit. The issue is caused by a missing permission bit on the Electron app. A temporary workaround has been documented until the package is going to be fixed.

Run the following chmod to set read and execute bits on the Electron app and dependent components. Then launch Ghost Desktop again.

$ sudo chmod -R +rx /usr/lib/Ghost/resources/app
$ Ghost 

 ⚡️  Welcome to Ghost  👻

Happy blogging!

It's great to see that such issues are handled on GitHub, and the "fix" is easily done.

As maintainer of own Electron-based applications I'm interested in the root cause. So far, I didn't come across a similar problem (touching wood!). Thankfully, I'm going to add this to my notes on Electron.

If you're familiar with this kind of problem regarding Electron packaging on Linux, give it try to fix it. On my side, I already cloned the Ghost-Desktop repository. Let's see whether I'm able to create a pull request for the Ghost community.

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8Aug/170

Ghost Desktop on Xubuntu 17.04 won’t start

Posted by Jochen Kirstaetter

Ghost Desktop on Xubuntu 17.04 won't start

Already before the migration from Joomla to Ghost last weekend I run the Ghost Desktop application on Windows. Now, after the successful completion it was about time to get going on my other machines. You know, the ones away from the main rig... Usually used during the evening hours, just for fun, or experimenting.

Tonight, I decided to give one of my Linux systems some attention, started to upgrade some packages, and installed new software. Among those also Ghost Desktop App for Linux. On the Ghost website you get version 1.3.0 (as of writing), and it's a Debian package.

Knowing that the desktop app is an Electron-based application, and I already packaged a few Electron apps myself, it would run on any Ubuntu-based system, too.
Note: This post was written in Ghost Desktop running on Xubuntu 17.04 64bit

Installation of Ghost Desktop

Either you double-click on the downloaded .deb package and your system will prompt you to open/install the application in Software, or you can run the following command in the Terminal:

$ sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/ghost-desktop-1.3.0-debian.deb 

Ghost Desktop can then be launched via the Application Menu/Launcher under ghost-desktop or if you prefer the terminal:

$ Ghost

The problem: Ghost Desktop won't start

If you try to launch the application via the menu or any other GUI launcher you won't get any response at all. The software just isn't executed, it seems.

Compared to running it in the Terminal. This might produce the following output:

$ Ghost
A JavaScript error occurred in the main process
Uncaught Exception:
Error: Unable to find a valid app
    at Object.<anonymous> (/usr/lib/Ghost/resources/electron.asar/browser/init.js:121:9)
    at Object.<anonymous> (/usr/lib/Ghost/resources/electron.asar/browser/init.js:173:3)
    at Module._compile (module.js:571:32)
    at Object.Module._extensions..js (module.js:580:10)
    at Module.load (module.js:488:32)
    at tryModuleLoad (module.js:447:12)
    at Function.Module._load (module.js:439:3)
    at Module.runMain (module.js:605:10)
    at run (bootstrap_node.js:424:7)
    at startup (bootstrap_node.js:147:9)

The solution: Set permissions

Fortunately, this has been reported already on GitHub by user letsjustfixit. The issue is caused by a missing permission bit on the Electron app. A temporary workaround has been documented until the package is going to be fixed.

Run the following chmod to set read and execute bits on the Electron app and dependent components. Then launch Ghost Desktop again.

$ sudo chmod -R +rx /usr/lib/Ghost/resources/app
$ Ghost 

 ⚡️  Welcome to Ghost  👻

Happy blogging!

It's great to see that such issues are handled on GitHub, and the "fix" is easily done.

As maintainer of own Electron-based applications I'm interested in the root cause. So far, I didn't come across a similar problem (touching wood!). Thankfully, I'm going to add this to my notes on Electron.

If you're familiar with this kind of problem regarding Electron packaging on Linux, give it try to fix it. On my side, I already cloned the Ghost-Desktop repository. Let's see whether I'm able to create a pull request for the Ghost community.

Tagged as: No Comments
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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