Sunday, 20 May 2018

Freeware Review: Bluestacks

Bluestacks is an android emulator, basically meaning you can use it to turn your laptop or desktop into a giant android device and as such run android apps on your PC that under normal circumstances wouldn't work in Windows.  Achieving this functionality isn't as simple as it sounds as not only is BlueStacks almost 300MB, but it also consumes more RAM than any other program I use.  So accordingly when using it I tend to close all other programs, including graphic designers and even office-related applications, that may slow the computer down, and I also don't like to leave BlueStacks running in the background but rather close it when I'm finished using it.

"PLAY BIGGER"

Of course the people who would benefit the most from having a large android display are gamers who can enjoy the benefit of playing android games on a bigger screen, and as you can see from the above logo and indeed their official website this is how the BlueStacks' company mainly markets it.  However I think most people who use it in Ghana actually do so primarily to run Whatsapp on a PC.  

Using Whatsapp on BlueStacks not only affords you a larger display but also lets you open an account using a different phone number than the one you may have registered on your android, although to my knowledge you can also use the same number you already registered, basically meaning you can operate the same account on both your android and PC.  It also lets you use Whatsapp if you don't have an android altogether, but you'll have to have your chip in some kind of device for when they send you the mandatory verification code.  However one disadvantage of using Whatsapp on BlueStacks is that all of your contacts (phone numbers) have to be reentered manually.  


There's also the obvious advantage that using Whatsapp or another android chat program on Windows would afford actual typists the opportunity to use a conventional keyboard as opposed to the tiny android touchscreen version (although some people can type really fast using an android), but this benefit is reduced by the fact that again due to consuming so many system resources the characters you type can come out slowly, which makes accurate speed typing almost impossible since the autocorrect feature that is in place by default on most androids also isn't present (although I would presume can be downloaded elsewhere).  As such if you are typing a longer message the best option would probably be to do so in a lightweight word-processing program like Notepad and then pasting it into BlueStacks.

FILE MANAGEMENT

The primary reason I personally use Whatsapp on BlueStacks is that doing so gives me direct access to the files on my PC.  In other words you can upload files to or download files from BlueStacks directly onto your computer, which I personally see as the greatest benefit of using this program.  However doing so is not easy, and you'll need a program like ES File Explorer (as well as proficiency in navigating through Windows), and I also suggest you follow this tutorial for the basic on how to do so.

Once you figure out how to transfer files from BlueStacks directly to your PC then you can then use it in conjunction with other programs such as TubeMate, the best application I currently know of for downloading copies of videos from streaming sites like YouTube, since due to recent browser updates applications that used to do the trick such as Internet Download Manager or certain Firefox extensions no longer seem to work.  In other words TubeMate, though an android app, may be better for downloading duplicates of streaming video than even any currently-popular desktop applications for doing such and comes in especially handy if for whatever reason (such as file size) you're not particularly fond of downloading such directly onto an android device.


CONCLUSION

BlueStacks is such a complicated program that it's relatively difficult to install, occasionally crashes and can slow your entire operating system down, so if your PC isn't powerful enough then it's best to leave this program alone until you get one that is.  However once you get pass these limitations it's a very-useful program especially for gamers but also for those who prefer transferring files directly from their PC to and from android apps.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Freeware Review: Parallel Space

This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight some of the best free software (freeware) available on the 'net.  Sometimes software can be expensive and even inaccessible in this part of the world, so it's cool to be aware of free alternatives as well as applications that can help us in everyday life.
One such program is Parallel Space.  Parallel Space allows you to run two instances of the same app on a singular android.  So for instance you can have two Whatsapp accounts or two Messenger accounts (which I think is what most people use Parallel Space for) on the same android, which really comes in useful if for instance like many of us you're using a dual-sim 'droid and want a Whatsapp account allocated to each of your numbers.  Also if you have two separate Facebook accounts now you can receive messages from them both without the hassle of logging in and out.

The only thing I don't particularly like about Parallel Space is that every time you boot your phone you have to remember to start the program and activate the desired apps you want cloned, which I often forget to do since under normal circumstances programs like Whatsapp and Messenger don't need to be turned on every time you boot your 'droid.  However the original default accounts will still start automatically once you turn on your phone.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Private Tertiary Institutions in Ghana Added to GHfind Phonebook

The GHfind Phonebook now features the contact information on almost all 82 "private tertiary institutions offering degree programmes" in Ghana as provided via the National Accreditation Board's website.  One of two had to be omitted due to inability to find adequate contact information for them on the internet.

I'm currently processing the list of police stations as provided by a site called Nationton Republic.  This one should go pretty smoothly as all I'm basically entering is their phone numbers since all of the departments apparently share a common website and email address.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Chillin' @ Alberta's Palace Beach Resort


Above is a video I shot this past Friday at Alberta's Palace Beach Resort in Elmina.  The picture is a bit grainy, but the audio and dancing are off the hook.

The occasion was that the Palace was entertaining a group of African-Americans from Chicago and Kentucky, and it is my sincere hope that this post reaches other members of the Diaspora who are interested in coming to Ghana so that when they do so they'd stop by Alberta's, which is a very friendly and free place.  The resort is close to Cape Coast, so visitors to the upcoming PANAFEST are also encouraged to lodge here.  The organizers of PANAFEST seem only semi-competent in releasing up-to-date info, like their official website is down, and on their Facebook page all their advertising is for PANAFEST 2019 which is like over a year away, but I plan on going down to the Centre for National Culture in the near future and getting the info on PANAFEST 2018(?) myself, and when I do so I'll be sure to post it in this blog.

The performers in the video are from the Cape Coast-based  Kor Yԑ Cultural Troupe.  In the Fanti (the indigenous people of Cape Coast and Elmina) language "kor yԑ" is translated as "togetherness", and they really represented, so I had to give them a shoutout.  Anyone interested in booking a room at Alberta's or patronizing the services of the Kor Yԑ Cultural Troupe can contact them via Alberta's General Manager Dawood Ampah (Wofa) at telephone number 024-288-5341 or email address info@albertasbeachresort.com.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

(Most) Government Ministries Added to GHfind Database


I came across an online list of all of the ministries (departments) under the Government of Ghana via the Government's own official website and am proud to announce that I've added the contact information of most of them to the GHfind Phonebook database.  The reason that I was not yet able to get all is because only about 60% were hyperlinked to their ministries' respective website, and then even out of those a couple of the links weren't working.  I'll probably have to do more in-depth research, like going down to Ministries (Accra) myself, to get contact information on all of the departments, but until them I'm appreciative that the Phonebook at least contains information on most of them since the Government is of course a very-important institution, and in the near future I'll focus more on including other essential services - such as hospitals, fire departments and police stations - in the database.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Education Colleges Added to GHfind Database

I've recently entered contact information on all 41 colleges of education located in Ghana as listed by Wikipedia.  The breakdown for the number of these institutions per region is as follows:

Accra - 2

Ashanti - 8

Brong Ahafo - 5

Central - 3

Eastern - 5
Northern - 4

Volta - 7

Upper East - 2

Upper West - 2

Western - 3

I commend those who have functioning websites complete with accurate contact information, and as for those who didn't I had to resort to third-party sites like T-Tel (and of course Facebook), and in some cases even that wasn't sufficient.

Currently I'm entering the information of all accredited higher-educational institutions in Ghana offering degree programs via the National Accreditation Board website.  These institutions seem more committed to having active websites, so hopefully compiling data for them should prove to be a more expeditious venture than for the colleges of education.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

GHfind Now Taking Donations

Female merchants @ Makola Market, the central market in Accra.  Farmers and market women like these are the basis of the Ghanaian economy.
I've gone ahead and changed the status of GHfind to a non-profit organization primarily because I'm not making any money from it yet still feel compelled to continue with the project in confidence that in the long run it will financially benefit not only myself but the entirety of Ghana.  In other words GHfind is currently my primary means of giving back to the Motherland, and I still believe when it blows up it'll be one of the most heavily-utilized business tools in the Republic.

The main goal of GHfind is to compile an online, searchable database that contains contact information on EVERY BUSINESS IN GHANA.  Gathering and compartmentalizing this data takes a lot of effort, especially considering that most Ghanaian businesses do not have an online presence, which is why business owners and other concerns citizens are encouraged to submit their own information by way of the online form on our website, via email (phonebook@ghfind.com) or even through Whatsapp (050-537-0677) - whichever means proves most convenient for you.  For one man or even an organized group of people to collect info on every business in Ghana is unrealistic unless the general populace gets involved and submit their own information, like we do for say Facebook, and of course having your business information entered into the GHfind database is absolutely free.

In terms of income generation I introduced two components - website design and premium advertising - to GHfind.  I have yet to get a website contract directly through GHfind and as such am about to eliminate that component from the project altogether, but as for premium advertising, i.e. via Facebook, a blog post (article) or being highlighted on our website, that's a feature that I'll keep around under the belief that once the site becomes popular it will be a heavily-patronized service.  But as for now premium-advertising clients are few and far between, and as such this project can't rely on them as a source of consistent revenue to perpetuate operations.

Thus, like any good non-profit, GHfind is now taking donations.  Keep in mind that this initiative is designed to benefit all Ghanaian businesses (as well as foreign entities catering to Ghanaian markets) via global, national and even local networking, and as such all affected parties are encouraged to donate to the extent they feel compelled to do so, as no donation is too small or for that matter too large.  For now we're only taking donations via MTN Mobile Money, with the phone number being 054-769-4322, and the name on the account being my own, MALCOLM AARON WHETSTONE.  Parties from outside Ghana, if in possession of a valid credit or debit card, can also donate money into this mobile account using WorldRemit.

CONCLUSION

If GHfind fails to be self-sustainable, either through premium advertising revenues or more specifically donations, then the project will have to be terminated as not only is lack of resources negatively affecting the expeditious compilation of the database, but also it's ultimately illogical to keep pumping time, energy and resources - even if in the name of the people - into a project that's not bringing any return.