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.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Demise of GHfind Billboard

GHfind Billboard was a short-lived initiative whereas I sought a more prominent, individualized way to promote businesses in Ghana that is more multimedia-based than GHfind Phonebook since the latter is search-first and by and large doesn't incorporate any multimedia but is mainly composed of text.  Of course the first option was to use Facebook - GHfind as a billboard, but up until recently I've been having issues as in most of the URLs I posted seemed unable to extract images from their respective websites, which was imperative in making the posts more attractive.   Now I figured out how to rectify that problem, by simply adding a forward slash to the end of the URL, and since website addresses look better without the last slash once Facebook picks the images then I go back and remove it, but the images will still remain.

GHfind Billboard was implemented partially based on an ideology of handcrafting ads, a very-uncommon practice in the age of robots, and in that regard I may work on it again in the future as a premium-advertising option.

THE FUTURE OF GHfind

As of now I'm not generating income from this venture, even though a lot of work, time and energy goes into it.  In other words I'm basically advertising everyone for free.  As such in the near future I'm leaning toward converting GHfind into a business-advocacy, nonprofit, non-governmental organization.  The overall goal of this project is to get every single Ghanaian business - both large and small - into an online searchable database, as I'm confident having such a service will help us all in terms of networking and income generation, and as such I have to put this organization in the position to receive donations rather than only relying on clients looking for website design or premium-advertising services.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Vodafone Done Jacked My Credit

Vodafone has been linked by some independent researchers to the KKK.
Vodafone Ghana has a system whereby customers can request a credit advance (by dialling *505#) at a fee of 15% interest.  The amount they credit you is based on how much you usually spend topping-up and how fast you paid off previous debts.  To my knowledge the minimum they allot is GH₵1.00 (which now seems to have been raised to GH₵1.50), and the maximum is GH₵15.00.  

If you take a long time paying off a previous loan, no matter how big it may have been, when you reapply Voda is only going to credit you the minimum advance, which again I think now has been raised to ₵1.50 because I borrowed for the first time today after taking like two weeks to payoff a previous advance, and that's what they gave me.  My goal was to just bundle some small data to conduct some light browsing throughout the day.  I didn't even want ₵1.50 because traditionally Vodafone has a daily bundle where you get like 50MB for ₵1.00, but lo and behold, that bundle no longer exists, and the only option ₵1.50 can actually afford is 20MB for ₵0.50.  Now this presents a number of issues.  For instance 20MB can be consumed in a heartbeat, even on an android, so chances browsing with ₵1.50 you're going to have to purchase more than one bundle, which can be irritating asfuk.  Second is that, as I mentioned in my previous article about internet service providers in Ghana, if you bundle and leave any excess credit on your chip (that isn't bonus) chances are the service providers are going to consume the credit before you get a chance to use it - or as we called it in the old days steal that sh*t.

For instance as aforementioned this morning I borrowed ₵1.50, bundled ₵0.50 of it, didn't make any calls or exhaust my data but yet currently have a balance of only ₵0.30, meaning ₵0.70 has been jacked from my account in the span of about an hour since I made the transaction, and I'm confident within a matter of time even those remaining 30 pesewas will disappear.  Before I realized what was going on I went out and purchased a ₵5.00 Vodafone card with the intent of using it to pay off the debt (₵1.65) and then activating a more-powerful bundle (550MB/₵3.00), but now that I know they're going to jack the remaining ₵0.35 it's like damn, might as well have stuck to MTN.

CONCLUSION

Although both Vodafone and MTN, the two largest telecommunication companies in Ghana, abuse their customers like this, in the grand scheme of things I now believe it's better off to just stick to MTN for general browsing (not necessarily downloading) because you can use Mobile Money to buy credit for your phone, and you can send the exact amount you need to purchase the bundle to your chip without leaving anything leftover to be unfairly deducted.

CONCLUSION UPDATE (16 March 2018)

I now realize that the leftover credit is being deducted for browsing.  In other words even though I've bundled and still have plenty of data left, Voda is arbitrarily consuming my remaining credit at a pay-as-you-go rate, which of course makes it disappear in seconds.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Introducing... GHfind Billboard

http://post.ghfind.com
I've taken the GHfind Classifieds site down for a number of reasons.  First off visitation was sparse, and even most of those were bots.  Secondly the free classifieds' apps that are available on Cpanel, such as Osclass, require a degree of maintenance that I currently don't have time to dedicate to.  Third is since the collapse of the classifieds' section of Ghanaweb other sites have emerged, such as Tonaton and Ghanabuysell (which has a cool mobile interface), that are proficiently enabling Ghanaians to post advertisements online.

However I felt that GHfind should still have a page dedicated to people who want to advertise outright, since visitors won't know what businesses are currently listed in the Phonebook unless they search first.  So I decided to start the GHfind Billboard (post.ghfind.com) for this specific purpose.

WHAT MAKES GHfind BILLBOARD UNIQUE

Upon visitation you may notice that the Billboard is unlike most ad sites you see nowadays:

1 - The page is not run by bots and scripts but actual HTML.  In other words the site is designed by hand; it's not the type where users enter information and automatically see a generic ad appear.  The main advantage of this is that each advertisement can be unique based on the client's specifications.  For instance they can include video (or any type of media), and text can be formatted, including hyperlinks.  My estimation is that in the age of automation a site like this that is handcrafted will have a certain appeal, just like a person will pay more for a piece of pottery made by hand than one produced in a factory.

2 - All ads will make the front page.  Ads will appear on the main page for one week, and then after they will be archived in categorized links.  In other words when you visit the page you may see a wide variety of advertisements from all categories of products and services because the world is a big place, and you never know whose looking, so theoretically all visitors to GHfind Billboard will see all (current) ads, greatly increasing exposure for our clients.

PRICING STRUCTURE

Due to the fact that every ad will be hand-designed and prominently displayed to potentially millions of people this will not be a free service.  However the pricing structure will be very affordable as the goal is to get as many people as possible, especially Ghanaians, to patronize.

1 - Text-Only Advertisement (GH₵1.00).  These are ads that consists only of words, and again the text can be formatted.  Since all of the ads will be edited (unless the client requests text posted verbatim) you won't be seeing any bad English on the site, which is an added advantage to clients who may not be overly-proficient in the language.

2 - Advertisement w/ 1 Pic (GH₵1.50).  This is a text ad including one picture.  Pictures can also be hyperlinked.

3 - Advertisement  w/ 2-4 Pics (GH₵2.00+).  This is a text ad including 2-4 pictures.  If the pics are 4 in number they'll likely be put into a 2x2 table, although if compatible they can also be merged into a single animated gif.  Pictures can also be watermarked with the logo of your business, if you have such in the form of a transparent gif or png file.

4 - Advertistment w/ Video (GH₵3.00+).  Smaller vidoes can be embedded right into the GHfind website, but larger ones will have to be uploaded to YouTube and may accrue an additional charge.

For now I want to avoid doing any Flash advertisements since it seems most mobile browsers aren't equipped to display such content.

SUBMIT INFORMATION

If you decide to post an ad on GHfind Billboard there are a number of ways you can submit your infromation, including pics:


-
050-537-0677
-
050-537-0677
-
facebook.com/ghfindcom
-
malcolm@ghfind.com

CONCLUSION

Personally I like the look of the Billboard, especially the mobile version, and I'm hoping that many people will patronize and visit the site for years to come.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Ghana ISP Comparison

The general mood amongst the Ghanaian populace is that all telecoms cheat, and in this article I will focus primarily on Vodafone, not necessarily their questionable ways but rather how to prevent yourself from losing credit browsing that you may not intend to.  When I originally composed this piece about two weeks ago I wrote it in a spirit of anger, wanting to get Vodafone back for chopping my credit, which is why the focus is primarily on their service, but since then I've calmed down yet will still post it with Voda as the focus because the same measures I advise to prevent you from losing unintended credit browsing using Voda can more or less be applied to all of the telecoms, like MTN, in Ghana.

1 - STAY COGNIZANT OF HOW MUCH DATA YOU ARE CONSUMING

On most Vodafone chips when you have exhausted your internet bundle by default browsing charges will be deducted from your regular (not bonus) credit, which is not ideal since the pay-as-you-go rates are utterly ridiculous.  Thus you have to stay aware of how much data you consume so that you can stop browsing or purchase a new bundle accordingly.  Even according to its own software Vodafone cheats as in they charge you for more data then you've actually used, so if you buy say a 80MB bundle it behoves you to stop browsing at 75, and if you purchase like 500MB stop around 490 (or if you really want to be safe 485), or else you may discover your precious, non-bundled credit has been consumed.  In fact my personal recommendation is to only purchase exactly enough credit you need to bundle, as in not to have any additional, non-bonus credit on your chip at all.

2 - BE CAREFUL WITH BORROWED CREDIT

One of the greatest benefits of being a Vodafone customer is that they can, based on your account history, extend you up to 15GH in borrowed credit (at 10% interest), but if you patronize this service with the intention of bundling it don't try to get fancy and say borrow 10GH, bundle only 6 and then reserve the remaining 4 for later use because I've noticed when you leave borrowed credit on the chip every few hours or so Voda will arbitrarily deduct like 40p from it, whether you've made any calls, browsed or not.  My personal theory is that this is some kind of interest they charge for borrowing the credit in the first place, but damned if I can deduce that from their convoluted, semi-informative website.  I also notice something similar occurring even when I'm using regular, unborrowed credit but haven't really studied it enough to feel comfortable writing about it in detail at this time.

3 - DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ

This one is kind of similar to the first point.  Another positive thing I can about Voda is that they have the best midnight deals, and I patronized this particular service for the first time a couple of weeks ago by purchasing the 1GB/1GH bundle that lasts from 12am-5am.  I only used about 200MB and was surprised to awake around 7am and find that the remaining 800 was still active until the next midnight.  In other words Vodafone was indicating that the bundle spanned from 12am-11:59pm, basically making it 24 instead of 5 hours, but lo and behold, upon experimentation (which luckily only cost me like 1GH) I discovered that this remaining credit seems to only apply to Whatsapp and (free) Facebook.

CONCLUSION

Based on my personal experience I rate telecoms in Ghana for browsing in the following order.  Airtel and Glo (are they still active?) didn't make the list because I have yet to use them to browse:

1 - VODAFONE

Vodafone has a wide network and more importantly the most-competitive data charges, still making them my overall favorite network for general browsing, as I've noticed that their service seems unable to open some sites, like when I try to edit websites using Elementor (Wordpress), which of course is something the general populace is completely unaware of - until now hopefully, but I have yet to ascertain whether this is due to their general service or the particular bundle (1GB/5GH/3days) that I've been using lately.

2 - MTN

MTN works in remote areas where Voda may not, but in some cases the vice versa is true.  Where I currently reside MTN is the preferred choice amongst the masses, and although I haven't noticed a monumental difference between their browsing speed and that of Voda's I still prefer to use MTN in this current setting primarily because they can open Elementor and other sites (like videos posted on Facebook) that Voda seems to have issues with.  My biggest gripe with MTN is that compared other providers their bundles aren't even economically-competitive, but I guess the higher price is due to them having a superior network (in some areas)(?).

3 - TIGO

Tigo has really good data-bundle rates since (in some cases) the data you purchase actually triples, but they also sport the weakest network of the three mentioned, and in fact I had one homey who used to get pissed off and call Tigo nightly complaining about their lack of qservice which sometimes even resulted in not being able to make/receive phone calls for an extended period of time.  However if I'm in an area where Tigo is coming in strong honestly I prefer it to both Voda and MTN, but these days it's rare that I find myself in such a predicament.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Be The Change Foundation


I'm currently working directly with an NGO called Be the Change Foundation that is run by an exceptional young entrepreneur and philanthropist named John "California" Eduafo (pictured above).  John is a resident of Elmina, which is where Be The Change Foundation is based, a coastal area of Ghana that is primarily known as being one of the historical centers of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  

Be The Change Foundation was founded in 2014 as the Okyena-Ntsi Children Foundation, and the primary mission of this non-governmental organization is to provide free clothing, shelter, healthcare, education and nutritious food to children (especially orphans) and generally anyone who may be of need.  The motivating ideology of this organization, which has also inspired the recent name change, is for individuals to take initiative to bring about positive changes instead of waiting for others to do so - or as Mahatma Gandhi would say to "be the change you wish to see in the world".

Be The Change is directly affiliated with another company John founded called Authentic Ghana Tours, not an average tourism company but one that actually encourages and facilitates volunteerism, as pictured above and below with visitors John recently received this past September from Germany and the Netherlands.
Diet and exercise for that ass.
In the international arena Ghana is increasingly gaining a reputation as a hub of fraud, so if you want to effectively do charity in the Republic you have to find a reputable and effective means to do so that ideally would produce a result you can immediately see and feel.  When charity is done from the heart it's not about notoriety or monetary reward, and along that vein I won't write about the things John has and is doing for the citizens of his impoverished community but only for whatever it's worth recommend that any volunteers, donors or visitors strongly consider patronizing his services.