Let the airwaves be free!

I am a believer that technology, when applied effectively, can be a boost to the development pace of Maldives. However, technology isn't always put to its best use in the country. For example, one of the things that the government has maintained through the years is a strict constrictive policy on broadcasting. They are proud to claim that the (government operated) Voice of Maldives is the sole radio station in the Maldives meanwhile ignoring the fact that they've denied anyone else from doing the same and thus letting the government operation reign the airwaves all this while. (This misdirection is similar to the headlines that feature on the telly and radio news about Maldivian contingents "winning" the third place in sports competitions abroad - the unspoken word here being that the competition was only participated by three countries!)

Anyway, the purpose of this control over TV/Radio broadcasts undoubtedly lies not far from the fact that they are an effective medium to educate and inform the masses. Conservative and authoritative governments often resort to imprisoning the airwaves and monitor the airwaves for anyone breaking this sacred law. The Radio Monitoring Station in Male' polices the airwaves for disruptive use of radio transmitters as well as keeping a lookout for those who dare raid the airwaves with their own content.

I agree that some degree of control over the radio spectrum is necessary and is advised. All governments do have laws that govern the use of the airwaves - primarily to let the spectrum be managed effectively so as to be of use to as many people as possible. It lets radio stations broadcast without fear of being trumped by other nearby radio stations. It lets radio stations broadcast without much interference from industrial and home use devices. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case in the Maldives. The sole radio operator is the government using up only a single slice of the radio spectrum leaving the rest unused. Therefore, a policy to restrict other broadcasters could not be for any other purpose than laying a grip on what is broadcasted!

The content currently on the radio is also something I deem questionable. This (government) station has been bombarding the airwaves with their line of thinking, with the limited content they deem worthy. This operation also allows for the intentional (or unintentional) spread of a single propaganda that has gripped the minds of its listeners. What the station deems unworthy or unsuitable for airtime never gets heard by the populace. Additionally, anyone who listens to radio knows that it has been dominated by more or less the same old bunch of people - I know I've heard the same voices for the last 15 years or so that I can recall! The typical content they broadcast throughout the day has been Dhivehi and Hindi songs. News feature on the hour, dictating the government news and activities. English music is scattered sparsely into the day with an additional English-only hour at sunset. Educational programs have typically been far fewer from the many "argument" heavy drama's broadcasted. All this content of course has a sizeable following - after all this is coming from the sole local station in operation and has been the only source of news about the country. Some people even like the content - after all what other choice is there? what alternative have they heard?

It might be high time that the restrictions on broadcasting be relaxed. It might be high time that the masses have access to alternate view points. It might be the time to unleash a radio spectrum full of diverse programming and content. Let it be full of music varying from Dhivehi, Hindi, English, from pop, classical, trance and even industrial! Let people have access to educational content with programs on everything from language learning to electronics! Let it be broadcasting news relevant to people and society!

Are these mere ideals? Does anyone agree with these opinions?

Sexy Dhivehi libaas doll

I was going through one of my photo albums when I stumbled across this photo of a doll clad in the Maldivian traditional dress - the "dhivehi libaas" with black and white striped "kandiki". The dress also has authentic "kasabu" decoration around the neck of the dress. The doll even has a model "fahtaru bai" (necklace) around its neck to complete the attire. My mom, who is an avid craftswoman, made this doll as a present for the host family that I stayed with when I attended the Asia Pacific Children's Convention in Fukuoka, Japan in 1994.

This lady in red (dhivehi libaas) makes for a eye catching item on a mantelpiece and probably would make a popular souvenir if someone were to start producing these locally...

The Dhivehi libaas doll next to Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Falling for the Mars hoax

Haha. I am still laughing. There had been a recent rumour, spread via email and SMS text messages here in Male' (and possibly the rest of Maldives as well) that Mars was coming so close to earth that it would be visible tonight to the naked eye almost as large as the full moon. The message had apparently been passing around quite fast and people were talking about it excitedly - even the Kasauti stuck housewives, the bling sporting I-am-so-cool youth littering Male' and even much of the rebels-without-cause political acivitists that make up the majority of this sad city seemed to chattering up about it. As I walked along the road tonight, I saw people looking up at the sky to grab a glimpse of this so-called spectacular event. Some had flocked out to road from the confines of their homes to get a better look. I even saw a man looking up eagerly into the sky with a set of binoculars!

However, the sad truth is this is all a hoax. Yes, you've been duped had you believed the whatever SMS or friend who told you about it. In fact, Mars came closest to earth in 2003 and at the time it was so close that the red dot that signifies Mars on the night sky outshined the brightest and largest stars in the sky - it even easily grabbed the attention away from Venus and Sirius that usually are visible the brightest on the Maldivian night sky. Technically, the planet was around 56 million km way from earth and would be closest it comes to planet earth in 60,000 years! The news was mentioned in popular media outlets. Read about the event from these articles at NASA, RedOrbit and BBC.

A bunch of my close friends and I watched the planet through my telescope back then and was in awe of the clarity with which the mysterious red planet appeared. The close proximity of the planet made it easy to view not only with the naked eye but was a total delight to witness with the aid of a telescope. I would have captured images but my telescope wasn't as cool as the one that President Maumoon supposedly has in his mini-observatory in Theemuge.

Anyway, if this hoax has ignited and interest in the stars and events taking place in the mostly dark canvas of the night sky, then let me point you to SkyMaps.com where they have a freely downloadable map of the sky for each month to make your viewing easy. The constellations, planets and stars are shown for easy spotting and the celestial events for the month are also listed on the maps. It surely can contribute toward an exciting educational evening with friends/lover as you try to spot the stars and map the heavens ;-)

Enjoy :-)

Magnetic implant

I stumbled across a very interesting article featured on a body modification enthusiast site sometime around May/June. The article had popped up on Digg and had gotten quite a lot of coverage. The article documents the process of implanting a neodymium magnet under the author's skin and his experiences after this body modification procedure. The magnet was tiny and protected by a biocompatible sheathing to prevent the (toxic) neodynium from reacting with the body. Neodymium is a rare earth natural magnet that is very very powerful. I had read about it in a Edmund Scientific catalog around the time I was in Grade 8 and had fancied owning one ever since after being very fascinated with the magnet powers these magnets supposedly posses.

The article stirred up curiosity in me in two things - the magnetic power of the magnet, and the sensory extension the implant process brings. I am especially curious about the latter. Any sensory extension, be it temporary or permanent, would be quite an amazing feeling. Maybe I am wrong but I reckon this would be an easy way to experience new/artificial sensations we could feel once science and technology lead to easier/cheaper routes to sensory/mental enhancement via direct neural connections ie. the cyborg era!

I am now decided and eager to undergo the magnet implantation process. I also have a few ideas burning on some experiments I want to run if/when I get the implant done. All that remains now is to get those magnets and get someone to slice my hand open and dump the magnet in. Very simple. I hope...

File sharing via RapidShare

I love RapidShare.de. RapidShare is a free file hosting service. Anyone can simply head over to the site, use the upload feature to quickly upload any file to their servers and in return you will be given a special URL for the uploaded file. One can use the URL to distribute/share/save any sort of files. Rapidshare takes off the bandwidth burden from having to host a file on one's own server. It is awesome for use as sharing large files between friends while on MSN Messenger - which so far is a pain-in-the-butt especially when there are firewalls on either side forcing Messenger to use data proxying via their servers.

There are also entire communities devoted to sharing files over online file sharing services and RapidShare stands tall among them all. There are gigabytes of ebooks, videos, applications, photos and songs on RapidShare - all one has to do is to find it. A simple search on Google for RapidShare'd linked will turn up a lot of hits but more effective is locating a place where the stuff you are looking for are posted. Ofcourse, the question whether the shared/posted content is illegal or not boils down to the fact that uploading/downloading copyrighted, commercial material is covered under the same rules and regulations as that done on Peer-to-Peer services like KaZaa, LimeWire and the lot.

I had been using the free service for quite sometime. I even used it to share that Maldivian tourism promotion song here on my blog. If you are a serious downloader, then the premium (paid) service is well worth it - it has no delays, no time restrictions, no speed restrictions and download managers are supported. I've had solid 4000 Kb/s (total on 4 simultaneous streams) download speeds from RapidShare servers - it's not speeds I seem to get from many other servers well except for the almighty Microsoft downloads.

There are other file hosting services too: MegaUpload, MegaShares, UploadGalaxy, ZUpload are a few...

Dump that LimeWire. HTTP downloads rule!

EDGE on Dhiraagu

I don't think it is not official yet but Dhiraagu has deployed EDGE service on quite a few of the mobile base stations around Male' and Hulhule'. EDGE (Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution) is an update to the now familiar GPRS data services everyone uses to browse internet and send/recieve emails and MMS from mobile phones.

The coolest thing about EDGE in the perspective of end-users is that it provides three times the speed of GPRS. EDGE has a theoretical limit of 473 kbit/s while the usual EDGE over TDMA implementations can clock speeds of 384 kbit/s! Dial up and standard ISDN connections indeed do pale in comparison to the data speeds of EDGE. However, few of the current popular handsets in the Maldives seem to be EDGE capable. Accordingly, anyone wanting to enjoy the faster data transfer speeds would have to upgrade their handset to one of the newer models that do support EDGE/EGPRS.

My current handset, an i-mate SP5m smartphone, is EDGE capable and I have been able to make use of the speeds provided by EDGE. Infact, I have been able to use Woize to make smooth real-time voice calls over the EDGE connection - that is something quite unimaginable with GPRS. (Woize is an application similar to Skype but has versions available for Windows Mobile Smartphones). Browsing with a laptop or PC with the EDGE handset as a bluetooth modem also gives a more enjoyable browsing experience compared to the same with GPRS which I had posted about earlier [1] [2].

Both Dhiraagu and Wataniya are purported to have EDGE support in testing at the moment.

More books up for grabs

The used books I put up for give-away in a previous blog post are all gone now. I hope the people who got them enjoy their new acquisition.

Here are a couple more books I am giving away. The books are only a few years old and are all in excellent condition. The dedicated techies among you would most probably enjoy the first two books listed here. Grab the books you fancy by dropping me a line with the book you want and I'll let you know when and where to pick them up from.

Toodles. :-)

A Guide to Expert Systems (info) GONE!

The Design and Analysis of Computer Algorithms (info)

The Study of Palmistry for Professional Purposes and Advanced Pupils (info) GONE!

SAMS Teach Yourself Linux in 24 Hours - 3rd ed. (info)

Internet Information Server 4 for Dummies (info) GONE!