Category: Programming


This is a story of what started as crazy idea turning into a realistic work. A group of passionate hackers, developers, I.T enthusiast and fans of hackathons meet at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology with a main goal of solving various problems affecting communities. Now for those not familiar with the word ‘hackathon’, it is actually a meeting of the said groups that team up to try to solve a particular problem within 48 hours. The main task therefore is identifying a problem.
I had attended such an event before so this wasn’t a new deal for me. I took my time in trying to settle on a perfect proposal to work on then immediately noticed a lady had been flanked by a couple of guys. Curiosity got the best of me and couldn’t resist joining the group keenly listening as the lady explained what she had in store. Turned out to be some kind of a solution to the problem farmers do encounter in trying to settle on market prices for their produce. Honestly at this point the whole idea didn’t seem that catchy to me so I resorted to finding another serious problem on the internet. I failed. Nothing came up. Guys who had seen loopholes made specs of what they came up with and it was up to the rest of the crew to make a decision on who to join in accomplishing the task at hand.
Still undecided, we went for lunch then and it was at this time I got to meet Jane. She made it clear to me how the situation was on the ground for farmers. Jane had been in the country for well over a year now and had volunteered to be posted in rural Ukambani to pitch base there and feed her organization on the happenings. What interested me was the fact that she had let go an otherwise well-off life in upcountry west of New York to months of hardships at a rural village in Kenya. The question was in the period her stay there, had she learned something? Apparently, yes. It dawned on her how local farmers had it difficult in trying to settle of the right market prices for their farm produce.
The turning point; I was now more than sure that this is something I would love to see solved. Together with a friend, we pledged to help her quest and soon a couple of guys joined us to form a team of nine. 30 or so hours later, Lipwa Poa was born. We settled on the name Lipwa Poa because our main aim here was trying to see farmers get a fair share of their handwork and evade being exploited by middlemen. It wasn’t that easy though. First, the option of Internet was ruled out since a larger share of local farmers doesn’t have access to Internet. Consequently, a web-based or mobile application was out of topic. We needed to come up with a text-based service since most farmers do have phones with minimum features as compared to the smartphones. We also settled on a framework to work on and brought our heads together on how the structure of our database would be like. I’m not going to go deeper into the system but at the end, our system was up and running. We set up a gateway, did a test, saw it passing and got to marvel at what we had accomplished.

The Lipwa Poa team

The Lipwa Poa team

Now the system would see farmers register with us, post prices of their commodities in various locations and be able to retrieve prices of various commodities in their market regions. All this done via short message service (sms) with a specific format. Sending messages for registration at normal charge rate and posting prices at a fee of ksh. 5 bob per sms, our business model was all inclusive. The service would also offer a platform for firms in the sector to advertise various products to the registered farmers.
The journey could be long but we’ve achieved half or greater part of it. Our wish is to see the system operational so that farmers ‘walipwe poa’. You better watch out, Lipwa Poa could be out anytime soon!

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A newbie joins twitter and after a while starts to pick up in this amazing world of social media. Then someday he spots a tweet from one of his following and it’s from a client with his name. I have been in those shoes and went like ‘I want this’. There are various ways of building a twitter app most of which are tedious as they require lots of setup and above all, require prior knowledge in coding with some programming languages. That might be a miss for a person like me who was just starting on python-django framework.

For this to work. You must have a python installation on your computer so probably it will be relevant and make sense quite easily to python users. I took the steps bellow to creating my new twitter client; tweets posted from my Ubuntu terminal.

 Step 1: Downloading Tweepy.

Tweepy is a twitter library python that basically handles all twitter functionalities per say. You can install it in your system using pip install tweepy or downloading it from https://github.com/tweepy/tweep then manually installing it.

Step 2: Creating a new twitter application with Twitter.

Log into your twitter account then navigate to http://twitter.com/apps/new to create a new client. It should look as below. Fill in the details making sure the access type is read & write. The name you give is what will appear in you tweet as via say me. Click save once you are done. The next page will be the OAuth tool page will have Consumer key, Customer secret, Access key and access secret. Take note of them.

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Creation of a new twitter client

Step 3: Connecting Twitter account to the client.

Open the python shell (type python on the terminal). Then input the following filling in your Customer key and secret from the OAuth tool page.

>>> import tweepy

>>> auth = tweepy.OAuthHandler(‘PASTE YOUR CONSUMER KEY’, ‘PASTE YOUR CONSUMER SECRET’)

>>> auth_url = auth.get_authorization_url()

>>> print ‘Please authorize: ‘ + auth_url

Copy paste the generated url to your browser and navigate to it. You should see the window as below. Click on authorize app and some PIN will be generated for you. Enter the PIN in the terminal and proceed as below.

Image

Authorizing the twitter client

>>>auth.get_access_token(PASTE_YOUR_PIN)

>>> print “ACCESS_KEY = ‘%s’” % auth.access_token.key

Make a note of this ACCESS_KEY

>>> print “ACCESS_SECRET = ‘%s’” % auth.access_token.secret

Make a note of this ACCESS_SECRET

Step 4: Sending tweet from the terminal via your client.

Open a new python shell and enter the following replacing it with your OAuth values.

>>> import tweepy

>>> auth = tweepy.OAuthHandler(‘PASTE_CONSUMER_KEY’, ‘PASTE_CONSUMER_SECRET’)

>>> auth.set_access_token(‘PASTE_ACCESS_KEY’, ‘PASTE_ACCESS_SECRET’)

>>> api = tweepy.API(auth)

>>> api.update_status(“YOUR TWEET”)

In the last line, the values in the bracket ie YOUR TWEET becomes your tweet. You can replace it with what you want to tweet. If it goes well, that tweet should appear in you timeline. Save the following as a script in your system(use .sh extension) as below and know that you have understand, you need to paste your values.

Image

script to save

To send a tweet. Open terminal then to open type ./NameOfYourScript.sh “YOUR TWEET”. It should send your tweet to your timeline. There we go. Enjoy having to tweet from terminal that basically ends up having your tweets posted from your client.

MyPal: AN ANDROID KILLER APP.

One day you wake up and in the usual rush that is almost becoming a norm then later remember you forgot your phone in the house. Think of it. Your workplace could be miles away or maybe you are a student and have to catch a class. What do you do? Here is what I think. You get to your best friend then explain to him or her what happened in the hope that they may help when you need to make a call. But times have changed. The friend might have to turn your request down because his credit has got way ‘better’ things to do or maybe he just doesn’t have credit on it. I’d say you are to blame but of course I am sympathizing with you. This scenario gave birth to an android app that is the solution to the problem; MyPal.

Image

A group of students converges on the 22nd of December 2012 at Dedan Kimathi University for an annual hackathon event. In the group are two students from JKUAT university who later team up with other three students of the host university to form a group that would answer the previous question. The team has 48hrs to sit down and plan on turning the then idea into a reality; an app. I was part of the team. The two visiting students had actually extensively researched on the problem and had figured out that it was workable. The task at hand was to code it and basically add some other features. In about 30hrs, MyPal was born.

MyPal is an android app that seeks to solve a couple of problems. Let me take you back. Realizing that you have forgotten your phone, this app will make it pretty simple. All you have to do is borrow a phone; here’s a thumbs up, it doesn’t have to have credit. What MyPAl does is to query your phone, send to your friend’s phone any number you want retrieved and then you can make a call from your friend’s phone with the charges on your sim card. Here is what the app allows you to do:

  • Query you phone for specific contacts. You just have to remember the first two letters of the contact name.
  • Retrieve saved messages from your phone.
  • Save a new contact to your phone.
  • Forward message to other phone.
Image

A screen shot of MyPal app.

Then came another idea latter. What if you misplaced you phone in your place but you had put it in a silent mode? The app allows you to change the mode of your phone( to either silent, vibrating or ringing modes) from your friend’s phone. Thereby in the above situation, it will be easy to find your phone. All this is possible through a couple of specific query methods that you make for each operations. No worries, the queries are provided for in the app’s help button.

Pros.

The app basically has lots of advantages but the main one is that your friend’s phone does not have to be an android phone. If at all your friend’s phone is not an android one or say it doesn’t have MyPal app, all queries are made through short messaging service(sms).

Thumbs down.

On the down side, the might have security issues in a situation where users have same passwords and make same queries though this is highly unlikely.

You pretty much understand the app now and know why we settled on the name MyApp because basically it’s all about borrowing a pal their phone. The app is currently not available on Google Play since there are some improvements that are to be made and the two guys are also to present an improved version in Nairobi early next month. But it will roll out soon. I have it on my phone and I love it. Matter of fact, sometimes I make sure I forget my phone :). Watch out for it!

Janet's Planet

Please note this is not an official Peace Corps site. The views expressed are not those of the government or the Peace Corps but are Jane's own, unofficial musings about her life and travels. All material is intended for friends and family, not the paparazzi.

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