Archive for category opinion

Day 1 Training at AcdiVoca Headquarters

Today we trained around 20 AcdiVoca staffers ranging from senior staffers to agronomists to data entry personnel to doctors. It was quite an experience.  The morning session was done in English but the afternoon session was done in French and Creole.  Alex and I shared the French explanations and Eldivert Savoit did most of the heavy lifting in Creole.

Training Acdi/Voca staff at Headquarters in Jacmel.

Training Acdi/Voca staff at Headquarters in Jacmel.

We were supposed to start at 10:00 AM, but we didn’t arrive at the headquarters until close to 8:30.  That left us only an hour and a half to get the phones initialized and to test the system — clearly not enough time. (We thought we were going to do that yesterday afternoon or last evening.)   Our challenge was compounded by the fact that the room we were presenting in had very poor cell phone reception.  We worked furiously to get the phones set up.  That entailed putting SIM cards in the phones, initializing the SIM cards, installing the application, making sure the app’s database was wiped clean.
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Trinity HFOSS Team Travels to Haiti

It was a long day but an HFOSS team is now in Haiti and preparing for end-user training tomorrow at AcdiVoca Headquarters in Jacmel.

The team includes current Trinity students Tina Lipson, ‘14, Alex Zhang, ‘14, Sheena Elveus, ‘12, and is led by recent alumna Rachel Foecking, ‘11, and HFOSS project leaders Trishan de Lanerolle, ‘04, and Ralph Morelli.

We left Hartford on a 6 AM flight (getting up at 3:30 AM or, in some cases, not going to bed at all the previous night).  We arrived, via a stopover in Miami, in Port au Prince at 11:30 AM.  It took about an hour to clear customs — they didn’t like it that a couple of us filled out our immigration forms in pencil –  and then another 4-1/2 hours to drive to Jacmel.  The traffic in Port au Prince was awful.  They are finally working on repairing the main road along the coast, which was damaged by the earthquake.  Here’s a shot from the drive.  Check out the little boy sitting on the dump truck.  After each shovelful his job was to jump down on the dirt and pick out the big rocks and throw them on the ground.

boyontruck

Road construction, Haiti style.

Emmet Murphy, Chief of Program for AcdiVoca-Haiti met us for dinner at our hotel, the Hotel Cyvadier, right on the beach (and on a nice surf spot).   It’s hot here, probably low 80s at 9 PM.  We had a nice dinner of lobster, conch and other seafood dishes.

Dinner at Cyvadier

Dinner at Cyvadier (L to R: Trishan, Sheena, Tina, Emmet, Alex, Rachel, Ralph)

We worked out a plan for tomorrow’s training sessions. Eldivert Savot and some of the other AcdiVoca team members joined us later.  Eldivert brought along the SIM cards he purchased and we loaded them in to a couple of phones and tried the app. Tomorrow the training sessions start at 10 PM.  Before that we’ll be loading the app on the phones and setting up the server.

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HFOSS builds mobile application for Haiti based Project

In March an HFOSS team traveled to Haiti to observe and collect requirements for a new mobile  application to be development by the HFOSS to support beneficiary registration and tracking for ACDI/VOCA to assist with a food aid distribution program for expectant mothers and infants in the eastern region of Haiti.

Presidential Palace after Earthquake in Port-a-Prince haiti

Presidential Palace after Earthquake in Port-a-Prince Haiti

ACDI/VOCA is a private, nonprofit organization that has been managing a USAID-funded Food for Peace program, the Multi Year Assistance Program (MYAP) in the Southeast Department of Haiti since 2008. It currently provides a food ration to over 10,000 registered beneficiaries and their families on a monthly basis.

On their visit the team observed the present system in operation and met with ACDI/VOCA’s Chief of Party, Commodity Manager, MIS manager and potential end users. The goal of the visit was to finalize use cases and requirements for the application and to conduct field tests of various aspects of the overall system using a proof-of-concept prototype that the team developed before heading to Haiti.

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Stallman on free vs. open

In a viewpoint piece in this month’s edition of Communications of the ACM, Richard Stallman makes the case that “Open Source misses the point of free software.” (See Why ‘Open Source’ Misses the Point of Free Software.)

Free vs openFree software is software that protects our software freedoms–i.e., the freedom to use, modify, and share our software.  Free software is free as in ‘free speech’ not as in ‘free beer.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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Open source vote counting

Here’s a great project that I just learned about in Wired magazine–an open source vote counting system written in Python and released under a GNU GPL v3 license. The system was used as part of the Humboldt County (CA) Election Transparency Project, where it discovered 197 missing ballots and a bug (i.e., another bug) in CA’s proprietary voting system marketed by Premier (formerly Diebold) Election Systems.

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Books are spiritual, but …

Some interesting thoughts from James Gleick How to Publish Without Perishing in today’s New York Times

For some kinds of books, the writing is on the wall. Encyclopedias are finished. All encyclopedias combined, including the redoubtable Britannica, have already been surpassed by the exercise in groupthink known as Wikipedia. Basic dictionaries no longer belong on paper; the greatest, the Oxford English Dictionary, has nimbly remade itself in cyberspace, where it has doubled in size and grown more timely and usable than ever. And those hefty objects called “telephone books”? As antiquated as typewriters. The book has had a long life as the world’s pre-eminent device for the storage and retrieval of knowledge, but that may be ending, where the physical object is concerned.

I entirely agree with this assessment. I would add text books and most scholarly works to Gleick’s list of “device[s] for the storage and retrieval [and transmission] of knowledge”. But… Read the rest of this entry »

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Grace Hopper Conference

October 1-4, 2008: Keystone Resort, Colorado

Day 1 began at 5:15AM on Wednesday. A taxi picked up Trishan and Myles, and then came to Trinity for Rachel and I. After we piled our stuff in the trunk, we were on our way to Bradley Airport. We got some breakfast and ran into Professor Ingrid Russell, who would be joining us on our panel discussion. She was taking a later flight, and we’d see her in Colorado. The flight there was fairly uneventful: we had a pit stop in Philadelphia, where Myles happily got a Philly Cheese Steak, and then landed in Denver. We took the shuttles to the rental car place, where we saw many other Grace Hopper attendees—women, in groups, some with posters. We got our trusty GPS and a car, and off we went to Keystone.

The resort, with mountains in the backgroundLet me just say how amazingly beautiful it was. Jagged mountains already snow-capped, tall aspens all around, and a nearby lake to top it all off.  We got to the (huge!) resort and waited in line with all the other women at the front desk (oh, poor Myles and Trishan). We got all our keys and then checked in at the Conference Center, where we got small computer bags filled with goodies: about 20 different pens, pads of paper, a hand-powered flashlight, some cheap binoculars, a post-it-note booklet, 4 different kinds of chap stick, a water bottle, and Facebook mints, to name only a few. Then we checked out the condo: wow. We had a kitchen, dining table, gas fireplace, living room, 2 bathrooms, and 3 bedrooms.
But to the conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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