Work In Progress : History of the internet in Trinidad and Tobago

I had this idea (for some time now) of doing a blog post about the history of the internet in Trinidad and Tobago. Got my hands on a scan of this September 21 1995, Newsday article when TSTT launched their internet service. I couldn’t find this online. I have reformatted it for sharing on this blog. If you have any articles, links, dates or other information about “the history of the internet in Trinidad and Tobago” please send them to me in the comments below. So this blog post will be a ‘Work in Progress’ and I’m starting with this article. Plans are to contact media houses, NALIS, TT Archives, historians, TATT, ISPs and the likes.

work-in-progress-history-of-the-internet-in-trinidad-and-tobago-tstt-surfs-the-internet

Photo by RATTAN JADOO
INTERNET FUN. TSTT’s Chief Executive Officer, Sam Martin, (second from left) makes a jovial point, encouraging smiles from TSTT’s Public Relations Manager, Patt Christopher (left), Newsday reporters Horace Monsegue and Kris Rampersad, along with TSTT’s Marketing Analyst, Sherry Ragoo (far right), at yesterday’s Internet demonstration.

Page 4 NEWSDAY Thursday September 21, 1995
NEWS

TSTT surfs the Internet
By HORACE MONSEGUE

MORE TRAFFIC joined the Information Superhighway, yesterday, when Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) launched its Internet Service at a special media communications workshop at Textel House, Edward Street, Port-of-Spain.

Participants were able to “cruise” the Superhighway, as TSTT revealed the latest advancement in technology that is turning the world into a “global village.”

Chief Executive Officer of TSTT, Samuel Martin said that the speed of technological advancement was so astonishing “that it is all too easy to be left behind.”

Martin said that the launching of the TSTT Internet Service will now make it possible for customers to be able to dial-up access or have dedicated access to the Worldwide Web through a local node. Martin said that in early 1996, TSTT expects to introduce Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) which will enable the transport of voice, data and video on a single line.

Martin added, “International incoming 800 services will be available by the end of this year and Pay 800 Service in 1996, to allow customers to access 1-800 numbers.”

“Public fax, video conferencing and Personal Communication Services are all part of the planned product offering which will complement or be added to the current range of services TSTT now offers.”

Jean Wilson, acting General Manager of TSTT’s Marketing Department explained that significant infrastructural work had to be conducted in introducing not only Internet but also Call Master. “In only six months our engineers were able to complete work on the modernisation of the exchanges.”

This feat was accomplished in what Nortel (Northern Telecom) described as ‘industry record time’, Wilson said. She said, “Nortel has been so impressed by what has been achieved here that they have requested TSTT’s participation in joint presentation with themselves at international fora.”

Wilson said there are 10 services being offered. “The services are being sold singly or in multitudes to meet the needs of our customers, satisfying their requirements for privacy, convenience and security.”

Recover Files From An SD Card

Recover Files From An SD Card

I was asked to help recover files (photos and videos) from an SD card that was used with an older digital camera for several years. Person didn’t know what had happened and tried to do their own recovery using software found through a Google search. The software listed all the files that could be recovered but they had to purchase the software to do so. I found another software called Recuva that was free to use. There is a paid professional version that gives you additional benefits. I installed it and it was able to recover about 400 files. It was the first time I was doing recovery like this. Here are some notes I made that I want to share.

  • I bet the different software (and versions) use different algorithms so the results will vary.
  • You will have to go through the recovered files (looking at the dates also) and determine if you are satisfied with the results.
  • It is easy to recover files that are “soft deleted”. It becomes problematic when new files are stored where the old files were. Also formatting (quick and full) changes things.
  • The big time forensics, companies and professionals will have the resources (hardware and software) to go really deep into an SD card (or other storage).
  • Make an exact copy of the card (or drive) before doing work like this on it, in case things go wrong. I used this tool – http://hddguru.com/software/HDD-Raw-Copy-Tool/
  • Also going forward don’t forget to backup your important files (on CD, flash drive, external hard drive, online, etc.) at regular intervals.
  • Keep two SD cards for your photography as a backup and to share the risk.
  • I was told that Spinrite is worth a try but expensive and also software designed for hard drives works well with SD cards.
  • I found that there are local companies that specialise in doing this like revocott.com and datasafe-tt.com

Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below.

bmobile Launches Prepaid Visa Card

bmobile Launches Prepaid Visa Card

Last week bmobile launched a Visa prepaid card as part of their mobile money push. Mobile money is useful especially for the convenience and underbanked. Ordinarily people will want 1) even lower entry requirements 2) less sign up steps and 3) no monthly fee and less fees, similar to what exists in other countries. My observation is that if you tell people why something is done and what they stand to lose if it is not done they are more open to the process. Questions like why you need my ID? Why you need my bill? Is it that we need to lobby for changes in the law? Is it that the fees would be higher to offset greater risks? Is it for security reasons?

This is a commendable first step and I anticipate future competition in this space. Two key features of this offering is that no proof of income is required and it uses chip and pin technology. On a related and personal note, I avoid credit and loans, I only have a small amount of money on my prepaid card as needed and I look out for secure and trusted websites. One way to learn more is by asking questions. Below are my questions and their answers. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Why are forms of ID required? Also why not just one form of ID?

The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card is a financial product and as such is subject to Know Your Customer guidelines which the Central Bank of T&T requires for any financial product of this nature being provided by local financial institutions.

What protections are in place in case of stolen card data and misuse?

The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card is the first Chip and Pin Prepaid Visa Card in Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore all of the advanced security associated with CHIP and PIN payment cards are provided by the bmobile Visa Prepaid Card. This feature thereby mitigates against fraudulent transactions. There is also real time updates via the app allowing customers to view all transactions being conducted.

In the case of transaction disputes or lost/stolen cards, reports can be channeled to Republic Bank’s 24/7 Call Centre Support 1-868-627-3348

Are there limits to how much money can be loaded and used (over a period of time)?

The minimum amount that can be loaded is TT$100
The maximum load amount for the month is TT$3200

Does the exchange rate apply at time of load or purchase and who determines the rate?

The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card currency is in TT dollars. As such our cards are loaded in TT dollars and only at the point of purchase (online or international) is the relevant exchange rate applied by RBL based on the prevailing rate on that day. Much like a credit card.

What about the receiving side of mobile money? Can persons accept money (or payment) into their wallet? And how will this happen? Scan a code of some sort?

The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card works hand in hand with the bmobile Prepaid Card app which allows customers to securely

  • View transactions on their card
  • Pay their TSTT bills
  • Top up their bmobile prepaid phones etc.

This is just the beginning as TSTT seeks to further develop the services offered by the bmobile Visa Prepaid Card.

One future functionality which TSTT would be aiming to develop is the Peer to Peer (P2P) transfer. This service would allow card holders to transfer funds between cards via the ‘Balance Transfer’ option that would be available via the app.

Does this work with PayPal to accept online payments?

At present customers have the convenience of placing funds onto the card via the loading procedure at any of the conveniently located TSTT customer service centres, bmobile retail stores or RBL branches nationwide.

Anything else readers should know?

The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card is a ground-breaking development that is designed to enable more people to safely and securely participate in electronic payments and mobile money. Bmobile intends to evolve towards a state of being able to offer various financial services to our customers directly from their mobile devices. Think about receiving disbursements or paying for movie tickets or transferring funds to a friend. The bmobile Visa Prepaid Card + bmobile Prepaid Card app allows such services to be developed over time, with the assistance of our partners.

Where can readers go to get support and other questions answered?

For further details customer can visit any one of our TSTT customer service centres or bmobile retail stores. Info is also available via our website http://bmobile.co.tt/prepaid-visa/

Trinidad Based Project. Gadget Box. Open Source Robotics Kit For Children and Education.

Trinidad Based Project. Gadget Box. Open Source Robotics Kit For Children and Education.

I came across this project on facebook and my interest was piqued. I immediately contacted them to get some questions answered so I can promote it on my blog. See responses below. I made a contribution and I am encouraging you to do similar. Also spread the word. Let’s build a better tomorrow together.

Link : indiegogo.com/projects/gadget-box-gadgets

How did the idea for Gadget Box Kit come about?

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education hands-on activities have been increasing locally and regionally – prompted by deteriorating examination performance of students in the Caribbean. Robotics activities in particular are popular with children. This has proven to be difficult since robotic equipment is expensive, the units have to be imported at a significant cost and when these units breakdown they are not covered by warranty in our islands and we can’t repair them. This led us to develop the Gadget Box Kit as an affordable, robust and accessible resource to support the teaching of Robotics in schools.

Why Robotics?

We want to ensure that children understand that STEM can be fun, thus any multi-disciplinary subject that gets children excited is ideal. Robotics is one STEM subject, but there are many others (e.g. Renewable Energy).

How does this compare to the Raspberry Pi?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges … or chennet and pomerac!

The Raspberry Pi (RPi) is an excellent embedded platform – other such platforms include Arduino, BeagleBoard, and Gadgeteer (Gadget Box is based on the latter). The different features reflect the different intentions of the platform creators – RPi was intended to replace a full sized computer – Gadgeteer was specifically intended for embedded designs. They both allow us to use open-source software, but some key differences include

  • Our ability to customise the hardware
    • We’d have to design a custom shield-board to link our peripherals to the RPi board (not Open Hardware)
    • GadgetBox controller board was customised based on a Gadgeteer Open Hardware Design
  • The built-in features (reflected in the unit price)
    • RPi has built in network, HDMI, and wireless communications – and can be used with keyboard/mouse
    • GadgetBox controller board has no display or networking – just wireless communications

Further an embedded platform alone does not a robotics kit make – for all of them you need a power-supply, a means of getting code to and from the platform, a range of sensors and motors, some mechanical structure elements – GadgetBox includes these additional items with the controller board. You can buy a RPi based robotics kit – PiBorg and GoPiGo are good examples.

Is this something that the Ministry of Education could or should get involved in?

The genesis of this initiative came from the Curriculum Division, Ministry of Education – at the time they were considering inclusion of Robotics into the Technology Education Curriculum. The Tech Ed Curriculum is focused on developing the critical problem solving skills of students in Forms 1 – 3. Since then the Ministry has facilitated teacher training and robotic competitions in conjunction with many other stakeholders, and has loaned robotics kits, where available, to schools for their use. The MOE has endorsed our plans to trial GadgetBox alongside commercial kits, and will be a key partner in any effort to carry out trials in schools.

Any provisions for persons who can only do offline payments?

Many persons are not able to make contributions online BUT they are more than willing to give cash out of pocket. But all contributions must be appropriately recorded on our site. Persons who wish to make an offline contribution can contact Jeevan Persad @ 793-4166 or support@fasove.com with details of the desired contribution, and the desired perk. He’ll send you further instructions.

Give an example of something a child could learn using a robot.

It depends on the kit, and the activity involved. We’ve seen teachers get really imaginative in their lesson planning using robots – teachers use robots to illustrate physical concepts (like force and gravity), or to prompt them to create a story or play. We’ve also seen children in a team robot-build activity reinforce their social and team work skills, with children from one team voluntarily advising children from another team on how to succeed. We’ve seen children learn to persist and believe in their own abilities when an idea – about how to get the robot to accomplish a task better – actually works.

Is this type of project happening anywhere else in the world? (I’m thinking we can learn from other countries)

Yes! They are happening all over the Caribbean and worldwide (see Across the Ages) and most importantly other researchers (e.g. the SLIDER project) have come up with critical data to inform the conversation about whether such initiatives have meaningful impact.

What do you think about making IT (subject) compulsory in early education (just like Maths and English)?

Firstly – we are not the educators in this partnership – the educators would be better placed to answer.

From a Tech perspective: Why? How? What do you mean by IT? These are all questions that would have to be answered before engaging in such a weighty discussion. There are process, sequence and problem solving skills that can be conveyed/developed in early childhood via the teaching of Math and English. The issue is not the content – it is the method of delivery.

Anything you would like to tell readers?

We want all children to have the opportunity to have exposure to these resources regardless of their economic situation. Every contribution regardless of how big or small, contributes toward the target. We need your readers’ help to share our initiative with the world.