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?

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!

Dawiyani bas

I was quite perplexed when one of my kid cousins asked me recently if I knew "Dawiyani bas" (literal translation: dawiyani language). Dawiyani, being one of the letters of the Maldivian alphabet and never ever having heard of anything remotely close to such a dialect of Maldivian language, I answered with a puzzled "no!". The cousin then tickled my curiosity of this "bas" by telling me a little about how it is spoken.

Apparently, "dawiyani bas" is a method of speaking that inserts the letter "dawiyani" in between every letter in the normal Dhivehi language speech/text. Though this sounds utterly simple, I remained puzzled till she amazed me by successfully engaging me in meaningful replies to what I say with continuous speech in the said "dawiyani bas". So, to answer me for a question like "gadin kihaa ireh?", she would reply me immediately with almost a machine-gun fire reply of "midahaadaruda gadadinda edagaadarada jedahyda". The resulting speech comes out as meaningless gibberish and I was amused by the speed and ease with she was talking!

A little digging up about the origins of this neat speech trick turned up that this isn't something new. My cousin had learnt it from her mother, who in turn had learnt from her mother, who in turn still narrate vivid memories of how the children of her time engaged in this past time. It was a cute way of talking that amused children and children often found in it a practical method to speak to each other without being understood by the adults and/or other children. In fact, "dawiyani" was just one of the letters used. The letters "gaafu" and "tawiyani" is also said to have been a popular choice of letter to fill up the alternate character spaces - under the same principle with which the "dawiyani bas" operates.

Unless one has practiced and gotten used to this speech trick, decoding the "dawiyani bas" as it is spoken would rattle one's brain cells to and fro fast enough to result in utter confusion. It seriously is quite a tough operation. Anyway, maybe it is time to introduce a bit of ROT13 in the mix as a route towards an even more cryptic speech? :-P

Earn money - RentACoder

There is an increasing number of people going into the IT field in the Maldives. A lot of them are self-taught, quite a few of them sought help from local training centers and a number of others acquired academic training overseas. The problem however arises that there is only a limited number of jobs available. Additionally, for most of the jobs that are available, the applicant pool for that given job position tends to be quite large. This translates to low salaries and low overall income from the work.

Anyway, the issues aside, I would like to point to a resource for (additional) income earning in the Maldives - RentACoder. RentACoder is a US-based auction site for IT work. There are a variety of projects that pass through the site and they vary in complexity, the type of work, the expertise required and the time frame of the project. The projects are competed for by individuals and teams from around the world. The procedure basically involves signing up for the RentACoder service (which is free) and then bidding on the various projects that get posted there. The projects are always flowing in so one has to keep an eye constantly. Once you bid, the buyer selects the most suitable bid from the coders. The project thus begins and RentACoder does its job of acting as mediator and escrows the money from the seller to their account to make sure the coder can get paid for the work. Once the coder completes the work, the buyer reviews the final work and signs off completion. Sometimes, the coder maybe required to lodge progress reports and send updates of the work. RentACoder then makes available the funds to the coder. The coder has the options of being paid via PayPal or via Bank Checks. The bank check option is quite ideal for Maldivians as the checks get mailed to the coder. Best of all, the checks are in US dollars.

This was something I got into soon after my O'levels and started earning right after. I placed bids, competed, won some and soon had checks coming in! It is a good way to earn income and detach oneself from needing to have a job that requires physical presence. Take in a few projects a month and one would probably have more than a government or private salary would pay. Moreover, you would be doing the country a favour - by earning foreign cash! There seems to be many Indians in this overseas project grabbing business, isn't it time we get into it too?

Man belittled

The tsunami that struck Maldives on the 26th of Dec 2004 is still a bitter memory to a good number of people. Bitter memories lay within remnant ruins. Man, as in the bipeds that 'walk in extended pride and boast of rule over the little they inhabit' were humbled by the might that nature could lashed out with. All in a matter of mere seconds, more horrific in real life that anything a movie has portrayed, the wonderous earth jumped out of serene slumber to Shock 'n Awe a 'paradise' nation.

Here's to taming the beast...

Beethoven night

I like classical music. It is very rejuvenating, refreshing and energizing. Tonight, I am stuck on Beethoven. Ludwig van Beethoven is the most loved among my classical collection. I find his music very energizing - especially the famed 9th Symphony. My knowledge of music is an utter shame so I know nothing of his music's greatness. However, I can stand witness to the power of his music. The 9th Symphony is the sort of music that plays with my auditory systems and permeates into myself...

The 9th Symphony was Beethoven's last complete composition. Interestingly, he was totally deaf at the time of its composition! At the premiere of this work, Beethoven is said have been so immersed into his own world that he continued conduct after the musicians had stopped playing. The 9th symphony has made appearances in movies (A Clockwork Orange) and cartoons (Tom and Jerry). Someone even went as far as stretching the 9th Symphony into 24 hours! The ninth symphony (download) is in four "movements". My favourite is the second movement - it is the most moving - but the fourth movement is amazing too.

Then again, Beethoven has so many other great compositions. "Violin Romance" (download), "Fur Elise" (download) and "Moonlight Sonata" (download) are among my favourites. (note: the links provided are just free for download renditions that a quick search on Google turned up)

Syncing back to Beethoven now....