Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Laptop security

You've a good strong password to access your laptop, you might even have a BIOS-based password too. But what can you do if your laptop is stolen?

The Laptop Lock is a site that allows you to register your laptop, and if it's stolen you can flag it as such. The site will connect with your laptop (you install a little piece of software) and you have access to a number of options the first time your laptop connects to the Web - including the ability to encrypt specify folders.

One interesting option is to be able to geographically track where the laptop is accessing the Net from once stolen... that is, if the thief's managed to by-pass your passwords!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Next Big Scam

The Nigerian Scam gets even better. I received an invitation to attend the "2nd International NGO/CBO Workshop". Sounded great, all expenses paid trip to New York for up to 4 members of my organisation. Funded by the real Jacobson Foundation, and in part by the Bill Gates Foundation, and the invite was a 'glossy' PDF brochure. Only catch was, to attend you had to Western Union $300 per person to a post office in West Africa....

If they'd have had you wire the money to the US it would have been perfect. I know of a case locally where a whole group were invited to West Africa only to get there to find it was a scam. Our Government even contributed air fares. At least the group got to see Africa.

But like I did with this scam, Google the event. If there's not a whiff of the event, take a closer look. Especially given it was supposed to be the 2nd of its kind, why nothing online about the 1st?!

ALERT: watch out also for the 'Forum on Human and Community Development Financing'!

'The Perfect Yorker'

That was the ball from Dominica's Matthew that bowled-out Jeffers of the BVI in last night's 20/20 cricket match, one of the first in the competition presently being held in Antigua. It was a great game - especially to see our team do so well - and the Dominicans in the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it too!

Next game - Barbados on Feb 5, which is the day before our football team play Barbados in the World Cup qualifier!

(a Yorker by the way is a ball pitched right at a batsman's feet. Click here for my old 'Cricket for Beginners page').

Friday, January 25, 2008

Value of Tourism, part 2

Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I spoke about the typical contribution of tourism to Dominica's economy. That's in a typical year.

The filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 in Dominica in 2005 (yes, that's me in the rigging!) brough in around EC$47 million. Then last year we had PirateMaster. OK, so it flopped, but they still filmed here, and again, based on our pristine environment. As one of the producers said:

"We selected Dominica for its lush, pristine landscape with rugged mountain peaks, deep river gorges, towering waterfalls and accessible coastline - the ideal setting for a pirate adventure..."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The geo-politics behind the oil refinery?

An interesting article on the possible regional politics behind the proposed oil refinery. Read in full...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Value of Dominica's Tourism: US$69 million/year

I was just looking at the latest IMF report on Dominica. Tourism brought in EC$184.6 million dollars (US$69 million) in the last year. And yet there are some who say tourism does nothing for us...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

XO potential for Dominica

I've been testing out one of the XO laptops - part of the One Laptop Per Child project. First thing you need to bear in mind is that it's not any kind of 'ultra portable' PC, it's an educational computer for children. Which is why it's pitched at $200.

But what's great about it is it's mobility - both in size but more in its connectivity. Though I've yet to get it working on a fixed-IP wireless network, it does connect well to DHCP wifi networks, and even more importantly to other XOs via their 'mesh network'. If one on the mesh can connect to the Net, they all can. A basic PC with the 'XS school sever' software on it then connects all to the Net. And to other meshes of XO elsewhere in the world.

And therein lies the potential for somewhere like Dominica. I imagine a network of children in a small village like mine, connected to each other, and via a XS to the net. Bill Gates, you want to send a dozen XOs so I can set up the Caribbean's first XO mesh?!

In fact, there presently is a scheme to collect donations for an OLPC in Dominica here.
Update: XO laptops in Dominica!

Detailed review of the XO.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Dominica's government recently embarked on a 'Residence Tourism Policy', and here's an excerpt, which speaks volumes to the total reversal to declared policy that an oil refinery would be :


5. In Dominica’s context the island would likely be of interest to certain segments of the retiree market because Dominica is viewed as an unspoilt destination with a relatively good record for security and safety and for friendly people with a relatively good living standard. Dominica is noted for its pristine natural environment and opportunities for healthy lifestyle, research in environmental and related disciplines and wellness tourism.

6. These attributes, by themselves, will not translate into investment in residence tourism on a significant scale unless a deliberate policy to promote the destination to this segment is adopted. Dominica also has other inherent constraints such as the absence of state-of-the- art medical facilities and evacuation procedures.

Dominica should seek to capitalize on this vibrant and growing industry."

Listening to: The Police - Deathwish
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My EIA, Part 2: Jobs

Jobs don't really come under the 'environment' part of an EIA but do come under the 'impact' part. The claim is, the jobs created by a refinery would be of critical importance. Big project, lots of jobs building it. Then a few running it. But given it's claimed will be state of the art, you know it would be very automated. I suspect in both areas, they'll be more Venezuelans benefitting than Dominicans.

But you have to look it's the impact on tourism. It's the fastest growing sector for employment and the income from tourism outstrips any other sector. The database has 135 accommodations, 50 tour ops, 10 dive ops, 32+ restaurants, 15 car hire companies. Let's say 250+ businesses directly involved in tourism. Now for each one of those, you've got several supporting employees. Then for every person staying, you've got to feed and water them. That's employment for farmers, fishermen, and sales for the Kubuli factory. And as you wave each tourist off, we take their departure tax, and remit all the sales tax/VAT. And you also have to include all the people employed in constructing the many projects still underway.

So in short, one tourist visit employs dozens of people directly but possibly twice as many indirectly. I don't see a refinery drinking Kubuli and eat local food.

And building a refinery would without a doubt impact on tourism. We market ourselves as an eco-tourism destination. As I speak of here, our tourism product has an inbuilt wow factor that generates untold publicity for us. Replace that wow factor with a 'what a shame' factor and we're just another Caribbean island that's harder than the rest to get to. And that will impact on jobs.

Next: the environment

Friday, January 18, 2008

My EIA, Pt 1: Location

Given that the public haven't been given the first EIA (was it critical?), I'm doing my own EIA for the proposed oil refinery. Part 1 will look at possible locations.

Too close to people, especially the good people of Belfast. Can you imagine them looking north to the smoke stacks of the refinery?

It's got the water you'd need, and therein lies the problem - there are also millions of tons more held back by the natural but flimsy dam of Miracle Lake. Plus the issues of flooding from the Layou.

Pointe Ronde
Flat for sure, but dry, so not much water. And isn't it earmarked for a golf course? Still, you'd have a great view of a refinery there from the entire Portsmouth area. Including Ross School of Medicine, the Cabrits, and the soon-to-be under-development Cabrits marina. Mmmmm.

Dominica in general
Volcanoes & earthquakes. And hurricanes.

Best location: Venezuela

Next: Jobs

Listening to: Soul II Soul - Mood
via FoxyTunes

EIAs R Us!

Just as we love outside consultants (because we don't pay for them), we love Environmental Impact Assessments (because we don't follow them).

Every project has one. We do them, but rarely are they made public, and as far as I know, a project has never had a critical EIA. That's as much because we just churn them out - people actually make a living from writing them, not because of their environmental background and knowledge, but because they'll say the right thing.

Recent pronouncements from official sources in Dominica even talk of doing the EIA for the refinery, then going right ahead with it!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blowing in the wind

Being a small nation, we tend to take what's given. However much it contradicts what we may have been given just a short while ago.

So one day, we take what Taiwan offer, then the next we take what China offers and sing the One China Policy song as if we have all our lives.

Personally, if I was the European Union I'd say 'Are you taking the mickey? We give you millions of Euros to develop your eco-tourism product, then you turn around and want to build an oil refinery???'

OLPC laptop

OLPC laptop
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I'm a proud owner of a OLPC laptop, and doesn't it match the greenery well?! Review to follow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On oil and energy

As our Government takes a step closer to turning Dominica into an oil refinery for Hugo Chavez, it's worth remembering what they said in 2006. I will start with the closing paragraph first:

"The pursuit of cleaner and environmentally friendly sources of energy is in keeping with Government’s aim of lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuel while at the same time maintaining Dominica’s reputation as the Nature Island of the World. "

Now here's the full press release:

"Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports, Dr. Colmore Christian has outlined the strategy being employed by the Government of Dominica to harness Dominica’s renewable energy resources, mainly geothermal and wind in response to the escalating price of oil on the world market and the need to pursue reliable and affordable sources of energy.

Dr. Christian was at the time addressing an Alternative Energy Symposium, organized by the Environmental Coordinating Unit (ECU) in partnership with the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Project (GEF-SGP) and the Florida Association of Voluntary Agencies for the Caribbean Action (FAVACA), USA.

Speaking at the symposium on Thursday, Dr Christian noted: “ The increase in world prices for oil have had and continues to have devastating effects on small developing economies and economies in transition.

“These international developments have forced countries and development strategists to explore options for sustainable renewable sources of energy. Surely, the current high price of oil on the international market and the call for a reduction in the use of ozone depleting substances globally have made some non-oil based sources of energy much more economically attractive and environmentally desirable….”

The Government of Dominica, through the Ministry of Housing, Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports has embarked on a multi-pronged approach, the primary elements of which include:

· Development of Hydro: Presently Hydro makes up 40% of Dominica’s energy production. Although there are no plans to expand that percentage in the short term, the goal is to at least maintain and consolidate that level of hydro energy production into the future.

· Dominica’s geographic location presents opportunities for harnessing the abundant supply of available solar energy. The State has invested in a totally solar-powered facility at the Morne Diablotin National Park at Syndicate.

· Wind Energy Research has confirmed the potential for wind energy generation in some parts (Woodford Hill and Delices) of the island.

· Geothermal Initiative- Phase I of the GEF-funded and OAS coordinated sub-regional initiative, involving Dominica, St. Lucia and St.Kitts/Nevis.

A funding proposal for Phase II of this initiative is presently before the GEF for consideration. Further investigations to be undertaken and the possibility of developing a pilot project in Dominica has been proposed under this second phase.

· Collaboration with the French (funded under Intereg)

· Government is actively pursing the development and commissioning of a 5-megawatt geothermal plant by December 2008.

Also addressing the symposium was FAVACA’s Chief Engineer, Dr. Bill Young., also from the Florida Solar Energy Centre. Dr. Young delivered a presentation on photovoltaic/ wind energy.

On the invitation of the Environmental Coordinating Unit, Dr. Young was on island from April 17-21, 2006 to undertake an assessment of Dominica’s potential in regard to the generation of solar/wind energy. While in Dominica, Dr. Young also made site visits to a number of communities including Penville.

The pursuit of cleaner and environmentally friendly sources of energy is in keeping with Government’s aim of lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuel while at the same time maintaining Dominica’s reputation as the Nature Island of the World. "

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In which I (tenuously) 'share' a stage with Johnny Depp

Click for photo
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I finally got to step-through the frames of the (unforgettable) Shipwreck Island scene of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. And there, 1 hour 25 minutes and 25 seconds into the film, am I!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Naps inprove memory & learning!

sunset 10-Jan
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
" A new study shows that a midday nap can help you retain information, as well as learn new skills:"

That's it, I'm off!

Even the FBI has to pay its phone bill

Just read an article about the FBI and how their wiretaps got cut off because they didn't pay their phone bills. Would that happen here, I thought?

I recently attended a 'workshop' on the forthcoming legislation on 'The Interception of Communications Act'. (I did ask about existing wiretaps, and was told there aren't any since without this legislation they'd be illegal. Yeah, yeah). (Note to the presenters: read this on Powerpoint presentations!)

Anyway, the article made me wonder how it'd work here in Dominica. Little people get cut off after 7 days of an unpaid bill; Govt. gets to run up huge bills, years in arrears, so I guess their wiretaps won't get that annoying automated Cable & Wireless messages about 'Your service has been disconnected'.

Mind you, I do pity the poor guy who has to intercept e-mails. But I also think he enjoys our vibrant (and a little subversive) Message Board!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

World Cup qualifier

Just found out that Dominica's world cup qualifying game against Barbados is on (or around) February 6th. I hope it's at the new stadium!

And reading this article about the sorry state of Bejan football gives me hope. Because the winner plays the US!

Going ultra mobile

2008 is, I have declared, the year of the UMPC: the Ultra Mobile PC. I get my hands on the OLPC laptop very soon, but am also excited by the Eee PC by Asus.

These type of pcs are also known as 'mobile internet devices', and it's the light-weight, rugged mobility that's particularly appealing to me.

And being ultra mobile doesn't have to be ultra expensive. While the Sony Vaio UMPC is around $2k, the Eee PC is just $400.

Asus Eee

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Great Reunion Arch Cock-up

Reunion arch
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc

The Roseau Bayfront and roads leading off are 'spanned' by several of these arches, built for this our 30th Reunion year. The problem is: all of them are around 6 feet too narrow - far too narrow even for two cars to pass.

Nevertheless, they remain steadfastly in place, almost a week after being put up. And in place despite the fact they restrict traffic on several key roads in Roseau. And held in place only by plywood bases.

So OK, someone screwed up, maybe reading the internal width as the total width. But still, to leave them in place - on one of the busiest roads in town? A case of the the Bumbling Arch Constructors meets the Unable to Admit You've Screwed-up Event Organisers....

Watermarking Flickr pics

Sunset 5-Jan
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
There's a cool website that makes it easy to add a 'watermark' to your Flicker photos. interfaces with your Flickr account so you can add watermarks to your existing images.

Mind you, it somewhat spoils a photo to have 'copyright 2008' etc over it. I'm happy to put them up, then, if they are stolen, I'll take matters into my own hands...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Watch that bulb

I love low-energy light bulbs, and they've certainly taken off more here then the UK. But seems you have to be careful disposing of them.

"Environmental scientist Dr David Spurgeon said: "Because these light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury they could cause a problem if they are disposed of in a normal waste-bin.

"It is possible that the mercury they contain could be released either into the air or from land-fill when they are released into the wider environment.

"That's a concern, because mercury is a well known toxic substance."

Official advice from the Department of the Environment states that if a low-energy bulb is smashed, the room needs to be vacated for at least 15 minutes.

A vacuum cleaner should not be used to clear up the debris, and care should be taken not to inhale the dust.

Instead, rubber gloves should be used, and the broken bulb put into a sealed plastic bag - which should be taken to the local council for disposal."

I guess the TV act that ate broken light-bulbs is with us no more!

New Year, new Persona...

If you're a fan of Firefox like me, it's the add-ons that set it apart. The latest is a simple theme-changer. No more browse-install-restart nonsense. Personas are easily changed and easy to use. Now, let me get to work on a Dominica persona ;)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 the international year of the frog

And Dominica's endangered Crapaud - 'mountain chicken' - takes centre stage. Read more...