Time to hide your money: John Mahama is desperate

kofimusings:

Straight from the heart of a friend. No Gimmicks.

Originally posted on Nana Ama's View:

Cash Mahama

Immediately they imposed taxes on condoms I knew government’s desperation for money had resulted in a sudden loss of common sense. The withdrawal of that tax left me believing the madness had been cured. But the Ghana Revenue Authority’s list of non-core banking services to be charged 17.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) shows that the Mahama government is tone deaf. They never learnt from that condom tax fiasco.

Click here to see the full list of financial services that would attract the 17.5% tax.

In what universe is issuing of cheques, loans, letters of credit considered non-core banking services? This list covers almost all the core things banks do for their clients. I have a savings and a current.  Mostly I withdraw money using my ATM cards or a cheque. The bank alerts me via text message and email anytime there is an activity on any of the accounts…

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Apple lays claim on the future of computing

 

Photo Credit: theverge.com

Apple CEO Tim Cook Photo Credit: theverge.com

When Tim Cook, CEO of technology company Apple Inc, took to the stage to open the 25th anniversary of its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), technology enthusiasts and industry watchers all over the world were aware that a slew of software enhancements were going to be announced.

They were not disappointed.

The unveiling of iOS 8, the next phase of the iPhone and iPad operating system, and OS 10.10 or OS X Yosemite, the new Mac operating system named after the California park (known for its incredible natural views) drew a series of applause and shouts of approval from more than 6000 developers who had gathered at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco. Drawn from some 69 countries (with the youngest developer aged 13), the section of the over 9 million worldwide developer community who were gathered in the hall, received a note of thanks from Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook.

“From all of Apple, thank you very much.”

The CEO of the 5th placed Fortune 500 company was right to do so. It is the commitment and mental acumen from those individuals that has given the company the gravitas to make make the sort of bold statements it made on Monday. It is this same commitment that the company will be banking on as it takes a bold step into laying a hand on the future of computing. The company’s current operating system for their Mac computers, OS Mavericks, has been installed 40 million times and currently makes for 50% of the installation base since November. This is in comparison to that of rival technology company Microsoft, whose Windows 8 operating system accounts for only 14% of its installation base. The mobile operating system iOS 7 currently accounts for 89% of its installation base which is comparable to 9% of its closest rival Android from Google.

Several of the enhancements announced, however, are mere reflections of already existing softwares and show Apple as a company playing catch up. The several ‘improvements’ to iMessages including renaming group message threads, ability to add and remove recipients, self destructing photos and audio messages, ‘tap to talk’ function and the muting of messages from groups, are currently available in messaging applications such as Whatsapp and Snapchat. The displeasure and sarcasm of Whatsapp CEO Jan Koum were expressed in a tweet, “very flattering to see Apple “borrow” numerous WhatsApp features into iMessage in iOS 8 #innovation”.

The Apple OS X Yosemite, with its translucent panes that take on different colours as they move around, has also been tagged as mimicking the Aero function in Windows Vista, Microsoft’s operating system released for personal computers in 2007. The redesigned version of Spotlight, Apple’s search function, has been criticised for its close resemblance to Google Instant, a search enhancement tool from search company Google Inc, that shows results as you type. The newly announced Apple Drive, a file system for iCloud, the cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple Inc, comes two years after the launch of Google Drive and 7 years after the launch of Windows Live SkyDrive (now known as One Drive) and file hosting service, Dropbox.

The list goes on.

However, throughout the presentation by Apple’s head of software engineering, Craig Federighi and the brief appearances by other members of the Apple team, it was clear that the company had its eyes set on conquering the future of computing. A move that will make founder Steve Jobs smile (Investors too).

 

Photo Credit: theverge.com

Federighi outlines some of the enhancements to the Mac and iOS experience for developers.
Photo Credit: theverge.com

Courting the Developers 

The gratitude showed by Tim Cook and the subtly humorous video that opened the Keynote address were clear signs of the push the company was making to court the growing worldwide community of programmers and developers responsible for shaping the success of several companies today. The technology company announced, among others, a new programming language for IOS and OS X called Swift. It is intended to make it easier for programmers to develop applications.The iOS 8 Software Development Kit (SDK) with more than 4000 new Application Programming Interfaces (API) – the system which instructs software components on how they should interact with each other – and  Metal, a new graphics technology were also unveiled. As Himanshu Sareen, Founder and CEO of Icreon Tech put it in a post last year, “software developers will be the future masons of the smart city.” He argues that by year 2020, the role of developers and programmers will be most crucial. The claim was based on the projections made by US networking equipment company Cisco Systems Inc, on the growth of the ‘internet of things’ (over 50 billion things will possibly be connected to the internet). CEO of social networking service provider Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, in an address  in April at the company’s F8 Developer Conference, made several commitments to the programming community in what industry watchers consider to be a move to woo them to use his company’s platform. New CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella is also quoted as saying at a recent gathering: “It’s exciting times for us and exciting times for developers in terms of the opportunity to be able to take your creativity, your applications, your systems, and then bring them forth to Windows as it evolves.” It should not be surprising therefore, that Apple will also want to get a bite of the ‘developer’ cherry.

 

Photo Credit: techcrunch.com

A new operating system Photo Credit: techcrunch.com

The Apple Ecosystem

The consumer electronics and computing worlds have craved a software ecosystem that allows for seamless interaction across various devices – phones, tablets and computers. Google has for years pushed its Android ecosystem as the “open approach” which application vendors will favour, as noted by the company’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt in 2012. Microsoft’s Windows operating system which has for years dominated the personal computer market has struggled in recent years to maintain the stronghold it had several decades ago. The latest iteration of the operating system, Windows 8 and 8.1, have failed to revive the declining fortunes of the company, according to statistics website, Statistica. The announcements made on Monday by Apple’s Craig Federighi showed the company’s desire to “engineer (our) platforms, services and devices together… to create a seamless experience for our users across all our products that is unparalleled in the industry”. The introduction of Continuity, a software platform which allows the Mac and iOS devices to communicate seamlessly is an indication of the company’s commitment to ecosystem future. Handoff, a platform developed by the company, allows users to start an activity on one device and pass it to another and also make and receive phone calls directly using the Mac computer as a speakerphone. The unveiling of HomeKit, a platform that allows users to connect devices seamlessly for better management of homes, should win over some skeptics. HomeKit, according to Apple, offers the ability to easily control individual or groups of devices throughout the house, including integration with Siri – the company’s voice assistance service – thereby transforming the way people interact with their homes. This streamlining of the functions between the various Apple devices will likely improve not only the share performance of the company’s stock – currently at $630 a share – but also its chances of winning over the next generation of users.

 

Photo Credit: theverge.com

Developers were there in their numbers Photo Credit: theverge.com

Banking on your health

Though the announcement of the iWatch - Apple’s rumoured and soon-to-be-announced entrant into the wearable technology arena – was not made, the introduction of the Health app and HealthKit APIs will see various fitness applications communicating with each other to manage people’s health. John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic President and CEO noted: “We believe Apple’s HealthKit will revolutionise how the health industry interacts with people.” The debate can be made about several fitness and activity trackers available on the market, including those on Samsung’s Gear 2 (which also serves as a watch), Moves (purchased by Facebook for an undisclosed fee in April) and Endomondo. Despite the drive for investment into fitness tracking devices and software by so many other companies, Apple’s Health application and HealthKit offer the added advantage of medical professionals being able to track, in real time, the performance of their patients, for example. The prospects of this are limitless. The launch of hardware that supports this software such as the iWatch, will go a long way to boost investor confidence and drive up sales.

The Cupertino based company has made its intentions clear to the world as it kicks off its conference in San Francisco. It is declaring a stand in the future of the internet of things. The interest of the technology industry, consumers and investors is on high alert. The ball now lies in the court of companies such as Google, who are planning their I/O event slated for June 25, to make their move.

I cry

There is emotion in you... Express it

Do you sometimes sit by yourself

Alone in the nakedness of your thoughts

To the sound of your beating heart

In the comfort of your aloneness

Through all the organised chaos that is your life,

and cry?

 

Do you sometimes want to run around screaming

Declaring your love for a complete stranger because you feel like it

Singing away the blues of your depression

Rejoicing at the sight of your hopelessness

Acknowledging the helplessness of your strength,

and then cry?

 

Do you want to cry?

I am crying.

There is no reason. There is no cause.

I just sit here and cry.

There is a swelling in my heart

A heaving of my chest

An instability in my touch

A quickening of the beats that make up a heartbeat.

I feel human

I feel real

There is blood, water, air, life

They flow inside me

My senses are disarmed

My pride is lost

My being is overcome

and then i cry.

 

I smile as i cry.

There is a music in the distance that wills me on

That wills me to scream

That calls me to let go.

Do you know that feeling?

I do.

I feel it now.

It is empowering

Relieving, comforting, soothing

I cry.

 

Not for the failures of my days

Not for burdens that await my shoulder’s support

Not for the prospects of futures unknown

Not for the great unknown unknowns.

None of that.

I cry because i can. Because i want to

My spirit needs it. My self need it.

I need it.

I need to cry.

Yes, i cry.

 

 

Credit: Music by: The Cinematic Orchestra: Arrival of the Birds & Transformation

Get your bearings right

Support comes in all shapes and sizes.  Photo Credit: Rumela Basu

Support comes in all shapes and sizes.
Photo Credit: Rumela Basu

It was in the Kervan Palace Turkish Restaurant in downtown Glasgow that I realized how lost a man (or woman) could get. I realized just how easy it was for people to get so enveloped in their ‘issues’ that they tended to neglect the world around them. They did not see that the elements of the universe just kept going on and on and on despite their woes.

Damn the universe!

Can you not see that a man is suffering? Can you not see that losing his girlfriend to his best pal and missing the bus to his new job interview because he was finding out about the loss is an unfair move? Can you not see that denying her access to the internet minutes before she hands in her final assessment could be regarded as plain cruel?

Anyway, that is just to let you know that you can be unfair. Back to my epiphany.

I realized in that restaurant (and in the car as we struggled along the M8 into the city earlier) that i, and human race, waste a whole lot of time being pushed around by things we cannot control. We get flustered. We lose hair. We palpitate. We don’t even eat sometimes.

Know the destination. Plan to get there. The rest will fall in place. Photo Credit: Rumela Basu

Know the destination. Plan to get there. The rest will fall in place. Photo Credit: Rumela Basu

It gets so bad that we do not eat!

The road trip into the heart and the highlands of Scotland taught me something. There are things you cannot do ANYTHING about!

Eight people drove for 48 hours in 72 hours in two cars with one thing in mind; EXPLORE SCOTLAND. Over 3,200 miles of road was covered. In three days those eight people got only 12 hours of sleep. They spent over 570 pounds on fuel and realized just how bland the meals served in 10 different rest stops along the way could get.

The eight people journeyed from Cardiff to Edinburgh to Inverness. They got lost in their quest along the Loch Ness trail and ‘pretended’ to see the monster. They grudgingly and eventually settled for some good food and free wifi in a restaurant in Portree and walked quite a few miles to discover the breathtaking Fairy Pools near Carbost, a village on the south shore of Loch Harport on the Isle of Skye. Those same eight people travelled long nights and sung songs in Hindi and ‘Twi’ (Ghanaian language) as they sought refuge in Loch Lomond.

Those eight people ended up, however, with one thing. MEMORIES. Memories that will last a lifetime.

Those eight people chose to enjoy themselves silly. They chose to bond with each other. They chose to do the ‘Macarena’ in the backseat of a vehicle guided by the power (or lack thereof) of Google Maps. They chose to tell each other the stories of their families and friends in countries so identical they could be siblings. They chose to smile through the pain of not peeing for hours because the drivers of the cars they sat in needed ‘spotters’ of speed cameras.

The point here is this. In life, there is only so much you can do about the things that happen around you. There is no point getting messed up about those things you can do nothing about. You cannot control the steering wheel of the car approaching in the other lane at breakneck speed. You cannot control the algorithms that feed your phone with GPS coordinates and leave you miles from your destination. You just cannot.

What you can change is your attitude to these things.

Plan what you can. The rest is out of your hands. Stop stressing!  Photo Credit: Rumela Basu

Plan what you can. The rest is out of your hands. Stop stressing!

Like the eight road trip junkies, you can allow the beauty of the Fairy Pools to dazzle you and inspire you to write poems. You can allow the snow-capped mountains on the Isle of Skye to amaze you and get you screaming like a 5-year old. You can drive an automatic car for the first time in your life in a foreign country. You can fall on your bum and laugh out loud about it as tens of strangers walk past. You can even learn to say “I love you” in Bengali (Ami tomaye bhalobashi).

Get focused. You know what you can control.

Get your bearings right!

Things you don’t get right

Colour in the Mountains

In life there are things you will are most likely never going to get right.
You will try so hard and yet end up failing at them.
It might seem pointless to keep trying, but then, that is why we were not made perfect.
There are things you will not get right, the worst you can do is to stop trying.

 

This is Divinity

The road for Fairy PoolsThis is divinity

There is green and blue and turquoise and brown and black and floating branches

There is marble and stone and rock and hard objects I simply do not know about.

There is water, lots of water.

Ripples from unknown sources beyond the bend.

There is crashing sound, waterfall-sound, flowing sound, bubbling sound, amazing sound.

I could sit here forever.

The water is clear as day, pure as light; rich and tranquil.

This place calls to me. Invites me in. Wants me in.

The hairs on my neck are standing yet the warmth of my spirit glows.

I am alive.

This is divinity.

Experience DivinityNo explosion could have caused to into existence. No molecular construction could have reasoned the intricacies of this ground.

No. None.

I stand atop a hill looking up a mountain.

I sit in a place where men have made war and women made life.

I sit in a place where God’s hand has touched the earth.

This is divinity.

 

Hello Inverness

The sights of Inverness

After over 1000 miles of nestling in the backseat of a silver Vauxhall Vectra and a blue Mazda3 Takara. After over 10 hours of driving, close calls and rediscovering friendships. Finally, Inverness, we meet. 

The guidebook next to me describes you as a city in the Scottish Highlands and one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. I am reading about your traditional beach resort of Nairn and the mystery of Loch Ness and even Charlie Chaplin’s supposed Scottish hideaway! Yet, as i walk along Young Street and hear River Ness flowing freely underneath, I am convinced there is more that meets the eye than the words in a guide book.

I am here with seven friends. We initially got lost trying to find Winston Guest House because you had not informed us about the road construction works and subsequent closures. However, driving on your roads is delightful experience I must say. The only downside is the drunk young men who speed past people like us screaming strange obscenities. 

Take a walk on the wild side

Take a walk on the wild side

My friends, in case you were wondering are Neeraj Krishnan. He is like the dad around here. You should see him when he is in his element. He has a good heart and a humble spirit though. You will like him. There is Aparna Rajagopal. She does not speak much, but her silence can sometimes speak more than a pack of wolves. 

Chakshu Rani and Nidhi Kajie are a couple. I know my supposed ‘snoring’ might wake them up in some 20 minutes, but then are the cutest bunch you will get to know. They are perfect for each other. You should have seen them earlier today when Chakshu was driving along the A70. Her long stares were met, though briefly, by his quick glances. CUTE!

Then there is the ‘terror’ of the group Anugrahe Hadke and her Housemate Samruddhi Pisal. There is a third musketeer called Aabha Koley but she couldn’t come. Anu (that’s the way we choose to call her) has an arsenal of cuteness, a big laugh and great sense of humour. She constantly ‘terrorised’ Neeraj through the journey with one liners and stories and was a disc jockey at a point. We are grateful for the like of Samruddhi though. A calming presence. It was weird how at almost every service stop, she switched cars. Guess she was spreading her love for all around. 

Now back to you, Inverness. 

The Inverness Castle

The Inverness Castle

Your restaurants along Bridge Street look inviting from the outside, but i am yet to taste any of their cooking. I am used to being spoilt by the cuisine from Cardiff so you will have to work harder. I am only going to let this McDonald’s burger and its accompaniments issue slide because it’s our first meeting. 

If there was another way to put what i am going to say next, i would have done so. The Inverness Castle looks magical under the light of the full moon. Despite the chill of the night, my gaze never wavered from its magic even when the giggles of some of the ‘town girls’ drifted past.

In a few hours, i will be expected to rise again for a proper tour of your true character and hopefully it will be different from what these sheets of paper are telling me. 

I have to be frank with you though, you are located in a land that is flowing with sights that turn heads. At every corner, grown folk like us studying for postgraduate degrees kept turning in our seats and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahhhing’ all over. Look, you have to understand something; you just simply can’t have that many snow-capped mountains, rivers with wildlife drinking from it, landscapes that literally come alive as the sun goes down and expect us to do nothing but just stare at them. 

We took pictures. There is said it. We took lots of pictures. Deal with it.

We are glad to be here, though. We love it here. 

PS: There is a girl, lady, woman, individual here as well. She is one of us but i wanted to save her for last. She is the most excited of the bunch. She actually got me to go out after 12 just to take pictures. Can you believe? This happened while everyone was getting into bed! Who does that? Then again, i have to admit. I will not have been on this trip if it was not for her. You will like to meet her. She is in the one with the broadest smile who thinks the moon should be in her pocket for safekeeping! Rumela Basu.