Sunday, December 12, 2010

The NEXT Level?

It would really be cool if Maldives has one or two centralized data center that services the whole government. This can possibly be established under the current NCIT or it can be privatized?

We already have a good (reasonable) data network established nation wide. This is one of the biggest challenges moving to such a model in other nations. All most all ministries are located in Male' and this makes things so much easy for such an establishment. If we can improve on our administration via utilization of technology, we can provide better services to our citizens. We can cut down on spending, better transparency in governance, etc. Often we ignore all these factors, or we fear the change. Such a model sometimes is a threat to the people in power as they fear loosing control and reduction on corruption.

Often we send so much and replicate the resources. Example so much money might have been spend on establishing services like mobile banking by MMA and e-goverance by NCIT. All these can be established under one roof, instead of having individual data centers. I am sure we have enough computing power (existing) to cater to our needs in governance. We have so many trained IT guys who are just wasted. We can bring all of them under one organization and cater to the government. This is simple logic and we don't need the technical knowhow to figure this out. If we get rid of the hypocrisy and be logical a lot of these things can improve.

We don't need to spend millions to develop software from 3rd party vendors when we have spend on training people to write them. If they can't do it; I guess the government needs to rethink and stop spending anymore money on human resources. Parents need to stop spending money in educating their children in IT. If this argument that Maldivians can't handle such jobs today. I seriously feel we have a major problem. Why are are guys asking for pay raise when they don't work or just act as store keepers.

Just talking about such changes won't do us any good. Having 100's of meetings in air conditioned rooms, talking in formal languages , taking minutes of the meetings and emailing to all does not solve any of our issues. Some people need to step in and do this or take the initiative. Those people are the elected leaders and people who are getting paid with public money. I don't understand why we can't provide better services to our people when we are a population of just 300,000 people and 10% of our population is in the civil service. We seriously have issues and they won't be fixed on their own. We are almost at 2011 and just concentrating on environment and building flats is not good enough. That won't sustain us, we need better plans and people need to contribute and start acting. We need to find alternative revenue sources, we need to start facing realities of todays world. Just depending on tourism will not be enough when this wealth is only distributed and enjoyed among only a few people. Our leaders need to start thinking and planing beyond just 5 years and our oppositions need to grow up and be more responsible. Now we just fight over power and who gets to rule. This is bringing us all down and we will soon be in great disaster.

The recent political fights are so stupid and we should really consider the motives behind our politicians. I don't see any future in Maldives at this rate and I don't feel it will hold any future for my children. At this rate I feel anyone who has the capability to run away and settle down else where will do so. Its proven that mostly the politicians are just focused on staying in power or getting back to power and just making money. Maybe there are a few who are really concerned and genuine but not the majority. If this goes on like this may god help us. We are doomed.

I guess everyone is a politician today and no one is willing to do the dirty work of fixing things. Everyone wants to give speeches and host press conferences and point at each other. Shame on these people and shame on the people who hit the streets behind these people. What we need now is solutions not more problems.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Off to the cloud

You don't need to own your own infrastructures to support your IT needs. You don't need to take the headache of maintaining your infrastructure. You don't need to spend on capital expenditure. You don't need to be worried about your operational costs for your data centers and IT staff. Think about power failures and backups. Its as easy as getting any other utility service. Electricity or Water. Just get it connected and pay as you use. That is the future of computing.

Today in Maldives too we spend so much on IT. Buying expensive servers, firewalls, routers, etc. Changing PC's every other year. This is a big business. The finance guy takes a cut, the IT guy takes a cut, the vendors make millions. Its good business. This applies to many nations not just Maldives. The IT managers loves to collect servers and other toys to play with. Not even 5% of the servers in Maldives will utilize even 20% of the CPU. This is all normal. This is very common in the government too. Every ministry has its own data center / server room. Its own IT people, etc. We replicate the same data in multiple ministries. We just take quotes from the hardware vendors and let them dictate our infrastructures. Its again all good business. Everyone is happy this way?. Yet we have send millions (of USD) on e-government project mainly the network. Which we use to access a Microsoft SharePoint server. Which is again good. Took us a few years to get this up and running, but it's there. We should be happy. Again 2011 we'd spend a few millions on IT hardware. A few of the MDP members are hardware vendors; need to keep them happy. Some of the DRP members too, they would shout , need to keep them happy too. This is business as usual.

If someone would propose a solution, you can always say IT guys are lazy they just talk and we move on with business as usual. Things like moving to open source is bad, cos there is no vendor behind it who will charge millions. We need someone to be accountable. Even if there is open source service providers they don't charge as much as Oracle and Microsoft. So that is important. Anyway we don't need all that, all we do is word process, facebook and maybe do some spreadsheets. We have enough civil service staff so we don't need automation. That will leave a lot of employees with no work at all. Of course we should talk BIG about plans for IT and automation from cabinet meetings to press releases. That is part of the show.

We will spend a few millions training our people in IT. They will come and install Windows and clean virus for us. That is a hard job. Research and Development is just for the west, we are Maldivians. We only worry about the environment and our beaches. So yes, we live in the cloud. We are happy people. Why should we worry about cost cutting and things like centralized data centers, etc. We have better stuff to worry about like the drama that goes in the Majlis and the "bandaru/falhu konun" projects for islands with 200 people. So many other important things. I hope that explains it all for those who complain on the topic. We can say and write a lot more but would be a waste of time; already is by posting this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Apps Apps Apps

Last few month at work we have been working really hard to get some of the projects completed. We have been able to release two small projects out so far, both of which were listed on Apple app stores "New & Noteworthy" list. The next batch of apps are almost completed now. Above screenshots are from one of them. Can't tell much about the project now, but it's a useful tool and an exciting project.

Been working on a few more ideas, which I hope to start work soon on. Working for a start up is always challenging and demanding. I don't think many people are good at handling the pressures of working for startups. It always sounds exciting (and is too) but from experience I can tell it's not easy.

From coming up with an idea, developing the concept and getting that converted into an app is no easy job. There are thousands of competitors out there and you need to ensure that yours gets the needed attention. That's a huge challenge.

I guess the success factors are a creative, hard working team and staying focused. Obviously the financial factors is one of the most important part of a startup, but that can also be the most stressful thing too. While ensuring the ROI's and keeping a team of developers happy and motivated; that again is not an easy job.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thaana OCR Development

The engine used is tesseract OCR.

After a few hours of training the engine the following image was passed to be processed.

The result is :

ށްރަވަ ލަސައްމަ އެ ންމުބުލި ންސަޓިމެ ށްނަސަމިކޮ އެ ނީބު ންނުޝްމިކޮ އެ
ދިއ .ށެވެމަކަ ވީރުދޮ ށްނަންހުލުފު ށްމަރުކު ގުއީހުތަ ލަސައްމަ އެ އިލަބަ ށްޅަނގުރަ
ށްމަކަ ނެވާއިފަދީ ންލުއ ންގެދިއެ ންހުލުފު ތުމާނޫއަމަ ރުތުއި ޅޭގު އާލަސައްމަ އެ
.ވެއެ ނެބު ންނުޝްމިކޮ އެ ސްވެ

As you can see it's not even close to be perfect. The next stage is to do a more systematic training so that the accuracy levels will improve.

The idea is to improve on the training and develop a small tool that help do Thaana OCR which will be available for FREE and as an open source project. Tesseract presently does not even support RTL languages and that is also something that needs to be handled.


I tried another OCR test and below is the results. This time it shows clear improvements (can conclude it's 40% accurate?). This was after including 2 more training files.The processed result is below:

ގެތުލަދައް ނީދުވަންގެ ންމުވަޅުދާވި ންރުބަމްމެ ޅުކޮދިއި ގެހުލީޖިމަ ކުމަކަ
ނެހޭޖު ންދަހޯ ންހުރު ގެހުލީޖިމަ ރުއި ނަގާ އްޓަންރަދަ ތަނުވަ ނެއްހޯ ށްކަޓަންފުލް
ންނޫ އްމެކަ ތްއޮ ންރަކު ންކުޓަންފުއްކު މެންކޮމެންކޮ ކީމަތުއޮ ނަންއޮ ށްމަ
.ށެވެމަކަ އްމެކަ ހޭންޖެރަކު ރުއިނަގާ ނުހޯ ށްކަމަރިފުންކު ގެތުލަދައް އީއެ ށާއިމަ

Note: Look at the text in reverse order.

If any of you want to try out here is the traineddata file.

If you are on Ubuntu try apt-get install tesseract-ocr now copy the downloaded div.traineddata to /usr/local/share/tessdata/

To test maybe you can download the images (thaana news) from this post or (take a block of text) and do a
tesseract example.tif outputfilename -l div
once done, do a cat outputfilename.txt that should show you are processed text. 

The training files used and training data is here

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thaana on Android 2.2

I have not tested this on a real Android phone, so I am not sure if this will 100% work. Anyway give it a try and let me know.

First you need to root your android. (I never done it but here is a link which might help)

Next download these two font files

Next you need to have Android SDK installed on your box.

Connect your phone to the box .

Push the Thaana fonts to /system/fonts using adb

adb remount
adb push {full path to DroidSans.ttf} /system/fonts
adb push {full path to DroidSerif-Regular.ttf} /system/fonts

* (in my case it's like adb push /Users/sofwathullahmohamed/Desktop/DroidSerif-Regular.ttf /system/fonts)

finally do a

adb shell reboot

I guess that should do it. If all went ok; I guess you should be able to browse thaana websites (unicode; don't think will work). I've tested this on the Android simulator and works fine on Android 2.2.

Update (19, Aug 2010): Started work on a Thaana keyboard for Android

When I started off this I realized it might not be a good idea to directly convert from the QWERTY keyboard layout (conventional keyboard) to Thaana soft keyboard for mobile devices. The user experience might /will not be very good. We need to do some research into the best keyboard layout method to be used on mobile devices. This is important as soon more people will be using mobile devices (like phones and other mobile computing devices) for daily work and entertainment. This is something that needs to be debated and agreed on before any layout is implemented. HELP is NEEDED here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

iDhivehiSites for iPhone (FREE)

The project is now made Open Source and can be downloaded from and the facebook page is here

We won't get much time to improve on the features, so we hope developers who are interested will contribute. Jinah has implemented twitter share and made changes to the UI, so it looks simpler. We had a problem with the font rendering for which also is fixed now (but we do hope haveeru will soon move to unicode).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Busy Bee

Busy Bee is one of the iPhone app ideas that started off simple. While working on a few other project ideas this got to be a spinn off and became an app of it's own.

What we tried to achieve was simple yet was/is not available for the iPhones. The idea was like most other phones (Nokia, etc) when you get a missed call / reject call, automatically compose a message (text/sms) to the caller from a template of messages. This becomes very useful when you are busy at a meeting or while driving, etc. This is not new and widely used.

Now one might think it must be easy. Yes it sounds simple, but when you have to work with iPhones (not jailbroken) you obviously don't get much freedom outside the boundaries set by Apple. That is one of the challenges about iPhone development.

We saw some limitations and a "gray" area where we decided to take a chance. The biggest problem we had was even thought the Core Telephony framework was introduced, it never gave you a way to get the caller ID of the incoming calls. This created a major problem as we can't automatically put the number after composing a SMS (the new SDK did allow you to compose a SMS though you can't send them out automatically). So the solution we thought of was to take a risk with an private API "UIGetScreenImage()". What we did was while the app is running in the foreground if an incoming calls comes we capture the screen and process the image and do an OCR to capture the number (MSISDN) of the caller. This included looking into the Address book if the caller is already listed. This solved the problem of call id, next we implemented a white list and a black list option for the user along with options to customize templates. This did the trick. This was not the right way to get things done, but we had no other option to solve the problem.

The risk was in late 2009, Apple announced it would begin to allow iOS apps to use the private API however it did also say "A future release of iPhone OS may provide a public API equivalent of this functionality". This proved to be the case when we submitted the application, we got rejected. This was expected. We took our chances.

Since we had done some work on the App I did not feel like giving up. It was a small project but I always enjoyed this kind of tools and it was a fun project. So we decided to take off the features and put up a basic version with a new UI. The new app will still get you a composed text message when you are on busy mode, but you had to manually fill in /select the number. You also could use the app as a SMS templates application as the iPhone does not come with any SMS templates features. This becomes useful when you want to send out standard SMS messages and if you are busy/lazy. Example "Almost reaching, come down in 5 mins", etc.

As of today it's still pending approval as Apple usually takes around a week or two to process. Below are some screenshots of the new app. This is one of those fun apps and I thought I'd share the experience with other developers.


The app is approved and in App Store.

We also were listed on "New & Noteworthy" Apps in App Store.

Monday, July 26, 2010

iDhivehiSites for iPhone

New update on app store with additional fonts.

Bug: is having issues of font rendering. We have already fixed this with a UI change. Update will be submitted to app store approval today.


App now supports Bookmarking users favorite sites.

Link to iPad version of iDhivehiSites (itunes)

App revamping done by @jinahadam

Update: App now in app store. App store link

Will be adding more fonts and making an update.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Waaaaatz up?

No posts for long, so thought I'd post something to keep the blog active.

First question. Waaaaatz up? Nothing much is the answer. Been busy with work and a bit of studies. It's been really busy few months trying to get another startup kicked off. This time it's all about mobile applications. Best part about the job is the team and the freedom to bring your ideas into a reality.

I feel there is an exciting future for mobile apps. It's an exciting field to play in and challenging too. You constantly have to work to keep up with ideas and technology. Best of all you get to be part of exciting stuff/time. Working with a team of talented developers/designers is really fun but at the same time a lot of pressure. You need to ensure the right products are delivered and you manage to get them out by the set time lines. I am struggling on that now. We started off with a few big ideas that needed research and time to develop. Things have started to come to life now and I am excited as I see them come alive.

Simple ideas that involve getting data from users and storing them on to a DB with a fancy web page does not excite me anymore. There is a lot of fun apps and exciting productivity / utility apps/tools that you can work on. Thats what we are working on now.

Developing apps for iPhone/iPad is really a challenge. There is the limitations setup by Apple vs. the ideas you have. You need to ensure that your ideas get implemented within the boundaries and developer guidelines set by Apple. However I think the iOS is the way to go considering the apps market factor (for now). We are also exploring into the Androids, which is I guess more appealing for developers cos of the freedom they get. I think for any mobile apps company like us, we need to keep up with all the environments and cater to the demands. It's not good to limit to just iOS, Android or Windows Phones.

I've always enjoyed working on localized (thaana/dhivehi) apps. Published an iPad Dhivehi News reader a month or two back. Initially the work was done for my dad while he was visiting me and he got a new iPad. Later with some minor changes I published it. It's a very simple app the idea that is to help people view Thaana on websites. So far I had around 250 + downloads of the app. I have no idea who they are, but I think not all will be Maldivians as the app is FREE. I did work on an iPhone version too but did not publish it as it needed some polishing. Together with a colleague of mine from work we plan to publish the iPhone version. This will be more an experiment, I wanna have an idea of the iPhone app usage in the Maldives. A news reader might be something that might attract most of the users so it will be easy to estimate the figures. One problem with having an app for FREE is that anyone might download it (not just Maldivians). So this time will not make it FREE.

As for the Maldivian market, it's not worth developing mobile applications targeted to Maldives. The market is too small. Example if you position your app around $ 1.99 with 500 downloads you would only make $ 995 of which you'd only make $ 696.5. This only applies if you develop applications specific to the Maldivian market, but it's always good to know the numbers and have an idea on the market. If anyone is thinking of developing an app specific to the Maldivian market I guess they won't have much choice but to price it a bit higher or just do it for FREE for the fun of it. Anyway I hope we see more apps coming out of Maldivian developers. I feel it's time we explored outside the web apps also start thinking global. Think of ideas that will appeal to the mass market and get them rolled out. My guess is when Windows Phones come out we'd see a few developers publishing apps as we have a lot of good/talented Windows developers in the Maldives.

One of the other ideas that I have is to get an open source OCR tool published for the Dhivehi Langauge. We have been working on a similar project and once we are done with it, I think it would be easy for us to publish/port a Dhivehi/Thaana OCR framework. Already I've seen some demos of Thaana OCR Windows application on the Web. I guess these will be commercial tools though. This might take us a few more months to publish, once we do I guess it can be taken up by the community and improved on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Mobile Phone Market

Blogs have evolved. Today the new trend is micro blogging (example twitter). More people blog today than ever, but the platform have changed/evolved. Same thing has/is happening to mobile computing. We are at the dawn of a major evolution on mobile computing.

Smart phones today are no longer a luxury item (remember those days when people did anything to own an O2 XDA atom?. Though the only they did was playing solitaire ) but a necessity toady. No need to talk about the advantages of smart phones here. One can google for it and you'd find thousands of pages.

Recently the iPhones have been a huge success on the smart phone arena followed by Android based phones. Commercially speaking Apple and iPhone application developers have made millions out of this market in less than two years. Personally I like the Androids more, it's a more open and promising platform compared to the iPhones however if you are in the mobile application business I guess iPhones is the right choice (for now). The new Windows Phone 7 Series is looking very promising too. Maybe the success of WP7S will be a market place like Apples (though some may disagree with me). I am in no way talking about how good the platform is or which is superior , etc. My focus here is on the revenues which will be generated out of these platforms. Gartner, the research firm, predicts that spending on handset apps will hit $6.2 billion this year. With this kind of figures you can see a lot of developers venturing into this market.

The success of Windows OS on the desktop has always been the availability of the applications, I feel the same will apply to the mobile computing market too. It all depends on providing the best development tools / options and a good commercial model. I don't think the handset vendors will matter anymore in the near future. Just like the PC markets. If you have a DELL, HP, Acer or Lenovo it does not matter much to the functionality. We all have our own preferences though. Apple have always been “Thinking Different”. Owning an Apple MacBook and a Notebook is different, the “feel” is different. The same may apply to the mobiles. You can run Linux or Windows on your notebook/Desktop (commonly) or you can have a Apple running Mac OS X. Following the path, you might have your HTC, Samsung or Motorola or others running Android or WP7S or your Apple iPhone. This is how I see it now, I am not very sure where Nokia is heading but I would like to think if they are to keep the strong hold in this market they too soon will need to follow the trend (which already has started to happen).

In the Maldives, most people don't understand this market mainly because they have been so used to the pirated software that they fail to understand the value of software. Software is taken for granted, no one is willing to pay. This is fine by me and good. If you don't want to pay for software go with the Free software. That is more ethical, however that is just my view.

It is sad that the Maldivian investors and the government fail to see such advances and economical opportunities. For the developers I'd like to think this is a very good opportunity, I know it's hard to venture into software development without a good financial backup but this is worth a try. I don't think in Maldives the developers will find people who will support them and help them. You are on your own and it's best if you realise this now and work around it. The talks about improving ICT in the country are all are just “bull shit!”. It will never happen. The policy makers and the people with money are only interested in owning Resorts.

Last few years I've worked with really talented individuals in Maldives. I know there are many more. If someone managed them and guided them this will really benefit the country as a whole. I always feel it's high time we broke away from prostituting our beaches (as in only depending on it alone) and found an alternative source of income. It's nice to see recently individuals coming up with creative web based application, etc. Most or if not all of which are targeted to the local market. This is good for a start but I think it's high time we started to think globally and utilized the talent in Maldivians.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Tears in Heaven ?

It's always confusing for me; the idea of existence of different schools in Islam. The Sunni, Shia, Shafi, Wahaabi and Hanafi, etc. All of them simply can't be right. Maybe ONE is right or ALL are wrong. That is the logic, and many will NOT want to accept this.

I also can't accept that some people do good is ONLY to end up in Heaven. They again may NOT admit to this, but this is again very real. They pray, give zakath, etc only for this reason (not cos they care about the dying and needy). What if there was NO heaven would they still do good?. I don't know.

The question about my faith have been brought up many times. I still will keep it to myself. However I would like to believe that all those NORMAL people you quote can't be right. Not all of them. There is a lot lost in history and a lot of made ups. I refuse to believe all that. Too much politics (examples like The battle of Jamal) and works of unknown forces have been involved. Killings in the name of god and illogical reasonings all of which I can't accept. So call me what ever you wish. I won't mind.

To the people who talk about god and god's ways, they sometimes forget that if god exists there must exist the devil too. If there is a devil, all the while he would not be sitting in a beach in Maldives and enjoying the sun, sea and sand. There is always the possibility that the school you follow is his creation? Maybe he took over and you are just killing for him? . I did not introduce the idea of god and devil so don't look at me. Just think about the possibilities and what you believe in. Don't point a finger at others, three more might be pointing back at you too.

... and may god bless you. :)