Kenya: How to get Safaricom 3G on your iPad

1. Get a new sim card. Do not cut it just yet.

2. Turn SIM PIN Request off (On Nokia E71 go to Settings, Phone, Security, Phone & Sim Card, PIN Request set to off)

3. Add credit *141 voucher number #

4. Purchase a data bundle by texting the word ‘Activate’ to the appropriate short code. i.e

safaricom data bundles

5. Text 450 to get the balance of the data bundle

6. Once you’ve added credit to the sim card, you are now ready to cut the regular SIM into a microSIM.
Instructions are on this link. You just need a pair of scissors and an exacto knife to trace out the microsim shape on the regular sim.

Safaricom & Ipad

At this stage, you can also create a regular sim template using the same instructions on Hijinks, as you will likely need it later.

7. Fit the microsim into the ipad tray, you might need to gently hammer the Microsim into the little ipad tray it so it lays flat. Insert the tray into the ipad slot.

8. You can put the new MicroSIM into the iPad and voila’! you are connected to Safaricom 3G.

Safaricom & Ipad

The tricky part now is how to recharge your account when you run out of credit. The fastest way is to MPESA your MicroSIM number, though that would mean you would be using the more expensive 8 kes per MB instead of the cheaper rates afforded by bundling. At this point, you can remove the MicroSim, fit it into a template created step 6, put into a regular phone, add credit and text ‘activate’ for the appropriate short code and for the bundle you prefer.


On the iphone, you can use the SIM applications to check your MPESA and Safaricom credit balance, that is not currently possible on the ipad. You can view and even send the request for balances, but there isn’t a mechanism to display the response from Safaricom. I am hoping someone can come up with a solution for this, if you know how, please comment or get in touch.

Update with info from @69mb
Re: Topping up, its possible from a postpaid line to topup a prepaid line with a data bundle from the *200# menu. So if you’ve got a postpaid line / a friend with one you can mpesa their bill for the bundle. Sucks this isn’t also on the *100#

Update 2: Safaricom has MicroSims available. Via @blongwe and @whiteafrican. Yet to find out whether topping up issue is easier on the special MicroSIMs.

PS: Rates on Orange look better, here is a grid (thanks Charles!)

Orange rates

Nerds Need Art

Digital art.
At Ars Electronica in Linz, I was struck by the amazing pieces exhibited, and more so by the Ars Electronica center. It is set very near to a bridge on the Danube river.The Exhibitions archive page uses a schematic of the center to give you an idea of what is curated where.

Ars Electronnica Center Schematics (roughly)

The outdoor space atop the main gallery and before the future lab space seems to tie the old architecture of the church to the futuristic style of the Ars Center. Click on the image below for a larger size, the church is to the left of the future lab stairs.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

It is one of those buildings that people either love or hate…I loved it. At night, the LED lights that line the outer glass wall change color. Something like a nocturnal visual surprise every time you glance at it.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

The festival itself is something to experience. Since its now over, i would highly recommend visiting the Ars Electronica center to see some of the pieces that formed a benchmark of the festival. Besides, I am convinced that Linz would make a perfect location for any techy, futuristic or even a good action movie. Be it Minority Report 2 or next Bond 007, I can totally vouch for the stunning imagery it would evoke if someone like Daniel Craig would rappel down the Ars Center and straight into a boat on the Danube. (Spielberg, Soderberg, Wachowski brothers and whoever produces 007 – you are welcome :-))

Ahem, pardon my digression. Back to nerds needing art.

This has admittedly been a very busy year for me, and I have to admit that I did not expect it to be. With time, I’ve realized that being in the tech space can sometimes sap your sense of wonder. Or maybe its just me. If you are one of those people who feel mired in tech and sometimes feel like the ‘wow’ factor is gone when you see new innovations…and it elicits a bland ‘hmmm’ reaction and god forbid ‘meh’ – Well you need a healthy dose of art. Attending Ars Electronica helped me marvel again at what artists, architects, performance artists and idea mongers have to share. Below I will share afew of the pieces i particularly enjoyed, and provide some links to blogposts by the other wonderful speakers and friends from the Cloud Symposium.

Quartet is a Web-interactive robotic music installation. The machine you see in the live video feed is housed at an innovative museum in Linz, Austria, ARS Electronic. Seeing the machine live, inches away is an visceral experience that shows the real power of live music… and that robots can be a part of that experience. Visitors at the museum are able to enter melodies from a laptop in the museum for immediate interactivity

You play a short melody on the site then you see the music interpreted onto the machine. Try it…

Since I have a thing for mobile phones (Nokia) I greatly enjoyed the robot controlled by bluetooth.
This is a picture of the phone.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

This is the little robot it controls. How fun!

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

The Anoto pen

This is basically the livescribe pen on steroids. You can write and record audio which is digitized and transferable pdf docs or uploaded online. The steroids bit: The Anoto pen can be used to navigate a map, displaying relevant data on a big screen. For example, if you click on a specific point on the map of Linz, and would like to know the demographics of the region, you can tap on the legend provided on a page to give you stats on number of divorced people between the age of 21 and 45. This was preety cool because it combines maps, tactile input of using a pen and a digital display to add more data.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

I got to play the loopscape game with the renowned tech journalist Cyrus Farivar. I really could claim victory, but really…it was a draw.

“loopScape” is an innovative video game for two players that blurs the conventional distinction between good and evil, between “my side” and “the opposition.”

The action does not take place on a flat display but rather on a 360 degree band arrayed around the edge of a ceiling-suspended metal doughnut circumnavigated during play. The object is to shoot down the opponent. But be careful! If a fired missile misses its target, it continues on its trajectory and threatens to strike from behind the game figure that launched it.

This loopscape game is a form of interactive device art, and for some reason, it brought to mind the idea of participatory art. Something that Wambui, Sciculturist and I were discussing at RAMOMA gallery in Nairobi. Check out this ‘Watoto Wa Kwetu’ piece by Wambui. More pics are on this flickr set. I think the loopscape game has participatory qualities just like the Watoto wa kwetu paintings, because both pieces are best experienced with others. There are some observations that Wambui made on the Watoto wa kwetu paintings that I would not have noticed. Do note that the paintings are done by a group of children, and not one artist. So, there is that aspect too.

This is just but a sampling of what was in store at Linz. I havent even touched on the animations. I hope you enjoy the perspectives shared by the others on the Cloud Symposium blog, videos posted there and the following links too.

Kristen Taylor – Mosaics, food and the cloud If you are wondering about her cool dress, its vintage. I had to ask 🙂 I am not much of a beer drinker, so her suggestion to get some Secco (Austrian white sparkling wine) with our dinner was just invaluable.

David Sasaki – An outsider’s guide to Linz Indispensable. His talk about cloud intelligence provided the framework for discussion that day.

I keep digressing from this nerds need art theme, but hopefully i can tie it all together.

In the quest to not lose your sense of wonder, sometimes you need to look inward, be quiet and just think about the bigger picture. To find the creative place. If you’ve ever used the words ‘code is poetry’ ‘Math is elegant’ or ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’. There is this need to look inward, to find that inner muse and embrace the imagination. I think whenever you need to go to such a place, art can provide that gateway.

The Thinking Chair by Arthur Ganson

Where does inanimate material end and where does life begin? Arthur Ganson lets his “Thinking Chair” straddle the boundary between those two states. Through its movements—which resemble the gait of a human being walking on two legs—the chair exhibits animate traits. Arthur Ganson had the idea that led to this work while taking a walk. Near his studio, there is a small rock outcropping on a trail, which he likes to walk around in slow circles, deep in thought. During this walking meditation, each cycle finds him back in the same physical place but in a slightly different emotional place

Wired For War

“Dr. Singer is considered one of the world’s leading experts on changes in 21st century warfare. He has written for the full range of major media and journals, including the Boston Globe, L.A. Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Current History, Survival, International Security, Parameters, Weltpolitik, and the World Policy Journal.”

Dr.Peter Warren Singer studies and writes about war. He was recently on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to talk about his new book ‘Wired for War’ If he cranked TDS’s geekometer to 11, It is quite likely that the geekometer here at TED will break.

If Moore’s law holds true, robots will become even more powerful than they are today. There is a revolution in the instruments of war. They affect not only the how, but the who of fighting wars. It changes the experience and identity of the warrior. You have to think of other countries working on robotics. What does this mean about the state of education, science and tech in America. As sw has gone open source, so has warfare. The components can be sourced from around the world. Bad guys can also make drones just like Hobbyists (like GeekDad) do.
2 trends
-Reinforcement of power of individuals against govt.
– Al-Qaeda 2.0 and a shift in tactics of terrorist organizations that might use robotics in their attacks. ‘You do not have to convince a robot that they will get 72 virgins for their sacrifice’

The future of war will also be a youtube war. The war will be recorded, most of the footage gathered by drones. This is typically termed as ‘war porn’. It will affect the public’s experience of war. When war becomes like an espn sportscenter version, it loses its humanity. Drone pilots also have high PTSD levels because of the difficulty in separating the experience of killing people, then having to continue with real life, go home and have a normal evening with the family.

What is the message we are sending by using machines? But when you ask people in places like Lebanon, the perspective is that use of drones is cowardly, not willing to fight mano a mano.

There are now wrinkles in the rules of war. What happens when drones misfire? How do you prosecute a robot for war crimes? Is it just a product recall issue? (as pointed out by a scientist PW singer interviewed).
The challenge: Are we going to face the reality of dealing with 21st century war? or are we going to be in denial because it all sounds too sci-fi. Is it the machines or is it us who are wired for war?

Lets talk about phones baby! …

Lets talk about you and me! Got your attention you Salt and Pepa loving peeps?O.k. Its been awhile since I mused on mobiles, but this is as good a time as any to get back to my ‘wag of the finger’ ‘tip of the hat’ thing…Indulge me.

First, I have been accused of hating on the Iphone a bit too much and being a Nokia fan girl. Those accusing me of this may be on to something. Here is why. I have previously wagged my finger at Apple for tying their beautiful device to a crappy provider like AT&T and ranted about my misgivings with the 1st gen Iphone.You see, i have had first hand experience with this monstrosity of a telco named AT&T. When I became blinded by the 3G speeds and the GPS on the new Iphone, i succumbed to the hype, the hipster call of duty and got the 16GB model of Iphone. First, the process of activating the phone at the Apple store did not go well, plus the ‘genius’ who was assigned to me was saying rather daft things like ‘i am required by Apple and AT & T to ask you whether you will be traveling out of the continental US’ and some other drivel all culminating in her telling me that I would have to get my phone activated by AT&T. After this that and the other, i finally got the phone activated and after even more drama that i shall save you the pain of reading and weeping, i was able to port my old phone number from T-Mobile. Let me just warn anyone reading this. Learn from my ginormous error people, do NOT for a moment think of switching from T-mobile to AT&T not even for the Jesus phone, Buddha phone or ‘There-is-no-deity’ phone. T-mobile is a far better company to deal with than AT&T, so save yourself the headache. I am glad to be back in the T-mobile fold thank you very much. Lets not even talk about unlocking your phone so you can use it when you travel, that would just be rehashing my old rant on this very point. Again, i learned first hand why I have unkind words for AT&T. In order for you to get decent rates when roaming, you have to sign up for a monthly roaming service where you pay an addition $5.99 so you can save a few cents on a pre-existing exorbitant roaming charge. So if you were to receive calls in say…Finland, if you had the roaming service it would cost you $1.19 per minute, if not, it would be $1.99 per minute or something close to that. Same applies if someone leaves you voicemail. You would still get charged at the roaming rate. T-mobile does not charge you a ‘roaming service’ fee. Data roaming is also very expensive. Do not dare get lost and use your Iphone maps for directions. You will flail, cry and quite likely faint when you receive your bill.

This pairing of a beautiful device with a crap company had me all worried when Apple announced that they would be making inroads into various parts of the world including Kenya. In the case of Kenya, Orange Telcom is the carrier of choice. Rebecca wrote about this in Network world August’08. Please be warned the following quote is plain and simple self promotion…But do I say?

Telkom Kenya will start selling the iPhone in Kenya next month after launching the Orange mobile phone service.
Orange entered into a contract with Apple that gave it the right to sell the iPhone in Kenya and the sale will commence once the service rolls out, said Njeri Rionge, chief commercial and marketing officer at Telkom.”My concern with the iPhone is the return to the old telecom hegemony where you are tied to one carrier because of a contract (since the telecom subsidizes the hardware), this system can be very annoying especially with the freedom that Kenyans have enjoyed in terms of their ability to switch carriers easily,” said Juliana Rotich, a Kenyan technologist.

Did you buy an Iphone in Kenya? What was your experience with Telkom like? Inquiring minds would like to know.
Ahem. moving along..

Second, the authoritarianism of the walled garden approach taken by Apple, particularly with DRMed songs on Itunes irks me to no end. I try to buy songs from Amazon MP3 store and would encourage all who believe in freedom, truth and chocolate to do the same. Yes hyperbolical of me, but dude, i wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you use up your ‘authorizations’ from Apple because you switched between one too many computers/iphones. Lets not even talk about Apple yanking useful apps like Tether that would help you make the most out of that 3G data speed you are paying an arm, leg and pancreas on your Iphone data plan. Yes you can jailbreak it using Pawnage and get apps on cydia, but I digress.

All this brings me to my new device of choice.The Nokia E71, and my new device of drool and gadget lust, the N97


*cc licensed pic by JKE on flickr

Just so you know I am seriously getting rid of my Iphone. Yes, i will miss the nice lines and one touch ease of interfacing with the web, the sleek simplicity of apps like Twinkle, Brightkite and even FB for Iphone. I will be content with Twibble and locr. I never got comfortable typing on the Iphone, sometimes I still pine for my old Q with the wide QWERTY keyboard, so E71 with its slimmer frame is a good compromise. The E71 is a phone that truly gives you wings…(sorry Redbull) You can travel with it, stick a local sim card and get talking, emailing, fringing, tagging photos with locr, mapping your way with the super fast GPS all the while having the freedom of having whatever blinking ringtone you want on it. I know you do not care, but I am indulging today aren’t I? My current ringtone is the song Gongo Aso by 9ice. I have the freedom to change it Moloko’s ‘Fun for me’ or Morcheeba’s Enjoy The Ride (Silver Saver Mix). Try doing that on the Iphone…you would have to pay Apple to create a simple ringtone?!! When Wired’s gadget lab proclaimed this phone ‘Best of Test’ I wholeheartedly agreed then and still do. On the podcast I think the guy said ‘This phone is not for everyone. It is for people who want a higher level engagement with their phone’ I haven’t even touched on the barcode reader! You know what, just head on over to Juergen’s for a complete rundown of E71 awesomeness if you haven’t already.

The Nokia N97


CC licensed pic by Inky on flickr

From the looks of it, this could be THE phone that combines the best of ALL worlds, at least while the Morph concept phone remains just that. A concept.The N97 has a full QWERTY keyboard, touch screen, Micro SD slot and generous memory – 32GB onboard memory, you can add 16GB on the Micro SD card slot. For more spec-goodies see the Data_Sheet_Nokia N97.pdf. I care about the 32GB memory because if you truly want an Ipod replacement such that you would have one device to rule them all, and have access to your substantial collection of music, space matters. If for some odd reason you’d want to listen to Longomba’s ‘Vuta Pumzi’ while you recall the good times circa 2005-’06, or early 2000s Kenyan rap that sounds rather bad right now, yet at the time you were bobbing your head going…’oh this is nice’ well you’d have the freedom to. Wings from Nokia i tell ya. Wiiings! Caveat: The N97 does not have a flashlight. Readers of this blog know that i have this thing for Nokia phones with flashlights, and believe that it is The.Best.Feature.Ever! so on this one point, i am going to ding the N97 just a peg. If someone can hack the Dual LED camera flash to act like a flashlight when i type a combination of keys…well it is quite possible that I would sign over an IOU stating my infinite adoration to the person who hacks this. Yes oh yes, BET ON NOKIA.

I am looking forward to being in a country where i can switch mobile companies vuka/unvuka as I darn well please. Kenya, see you in a bit.

Nokia Takes on Apple’s Digital Music Dominance

Nokia Could Loosen Apple’s Grip On Digital Music:

For years, Microsoft and others have attempted without much success to shake Appleâ??s tight grip on the digital music scene. From subscription services to the Zune, companies have searched for the winning alternative to the iTunes, iPod bundle. Analysts now believe Finlandâ??s Nokia may have a good shot of chipping away at Apple dominance.

More than 80 percent of people would pay for Nokia’s Comes with Music service – particularly when it feels like they are getting tunes for free. Nokia says it will launch the handsets Oct. 17 in Britain.

Strategy Analytics said cost and selection trump brand – even ones so tightly woven as Apple, iPod and iTunes.

Nokia Comes With Music effectively bundles a year subscription of music downloads (PC and mobile) into the price of a handset, analyst Pitesh Patel told Cult of Mac.

Patel said Nokia – the largest handset maker – could overwhelm Apple’s iPhone.

Nokia’s strong distribution and handset marketshare means that it currently sells more music playing devices than Apple, the Strategy Analytics wireless analyst said.


It turns out that brand is irrelevant,said Patel.

(Via Cult of Mac.)

I often tell my friends to ‘Bet on Nokia’, and it seems like this is another reason to continue to do just that. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, though I would expect Nokia to continue its world dominance, and expansion in emerging markets. If Nokia can grab some of the Digital music market share, even better.
Why am I rooting for Nokia over Apple? Because Apple, with its DRM and charging 99cents to create a ringtone( and only from songs bought on itunes) smacks of authoritarianism. Let alone the complete handset lockdown of the Iphone, with threats to turn it into an ibrick if you unlock the device then install a sw update. Sigh* With Nokia, you get an unlocked phone that affords you much freedom. You can use whatever song you want as the ringtone (at least that is the case with the E71), you can use your phone as modem, tether it to your laptop. This is particularly important when you are not in broadband rich areas, but are in a wireless-signal-rich locale.
Speaking of the E71 do check out JKE’s series of E71 reviews. 1 mobile blogging, 2, 3 pics , 4, and stay tuned because the man is not done reviewing this phone.

I often have to remind myself to buy music from the Amazon mp3 store instead of Itunes, because I believe DRM (Digital Rights Management) that Itunes still saddles on music is just plain wrong-headed. I am not about to be left in a lurch like the Yahoos who bought tunes from the Yahoo store (forgive me…I couldn’t resist!) To be fair, Itunes does provide DRM free music, but good luck finding the ‘itunes plus’ versions of the songs you want.
So in conclusion…AFM recommends you Bet on Nokia and buy your music on Amazon mp3 download/or other DRM free service. You do reserve the right to ogle at Iphones, but only John Oliver, Anthony Bourdain and Joseph Kabila reserve the right to be awesome. 🙂

I phone Odds & Ends

Well, last october I let out a little rant about the Iphone, and how it did not make sense to me to buy it at the time. Basically, no 3G, not unlocked, i didn’t complain about the lack of a GPS chip though I should have…and we all know Wimax is a dream that will be realized in Uganda and other developing countries eons (in tech years) before the US. So later today, we find out if I and other demanding folks will get what they’ve been waiting for since bread was first sliced, paradigm was shifted, calories became free and all that good stuff.

Gosh there are always rumors with these Apple products…this one got me all Hallelujah-ing, and this one brought it down to ‘hmmm, really?’ type of mood. This mockup (via cultofMac)is just flat out hilarious….

Here is a URL i will probably be refreshing quite a bit today…The cult of mac Live blog of WWDC 2008 Keynote. Refresh and try to keep your underarms dry… I am using extra strength underarm deodorant to stave off the sweats. Heh.

Mea Culpa: 6/22/08 – I was upgrading wordpress…cleaning up spam and inadvertently deleted your comments, sorry about that.

Nokia Debuts Phones for Emerging Markets

The Nokia Event Site announces the debut of new phones designed for the emerging markets like Sub-Saharan Africa. Nokia put alot of thought into the functionality that they added, which makes me want to give one of these gems a whirl. I am a sucker for features such as FM Radio, and there is just something about a phone with a flashlight…that is absolutely genius IMO. You would think so too if you were in upcountry Kenya (around 2005i  sh), torch/flashlight batteries are dead and you uhhm lets just say you need to walk from point A to B in the dark of night…then your cousin says “Here! Use my phone, it has a flashlight!” Indeed not all heroes need wear capes. Before i get all mushy about inanimate objects, here is the blurb…

While features like phone-sharing, cost monitoring and flashlight remain relevant to consumers in entry markets, Nokia continues to add new functionality, such as mega pixel cameras, FM radio with recording functionality, email and Bluetooth connectivity technology to mobile phones targeted at consumers in entry markets.

  while on the site, and if you have a decent connection, do check out Julius’ story; on how he uses his Nokia phone in Kapenguria, Kenya. I am still admiring this silhouette image of Julius and his phone.

If you have an N95 or other Nokia phones that have video recording capability, record your story and submit it to the, where noted film director Spike Lee is going to review  the entries (includes music, photos and text) then weave your bit (if chosen that is…) into a film to be released later. (Hat tip Shel Israel via Twitter)

Shindana Kuunda – Google East Africa Gadget Competition

Google announced a competition for students in East Africa to build gadgets (as in software). I am blogging this here just in case the skunkworks crew hadn’t seen this already. The competition is open to university students in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

The deadline for this is March 17th; so if you have some great ideas, you can still submit them for consideration. The categories/types of software gadgets and apps that they are looking for include:
(1) Best Gadget UI
(2) Best Local Content Gadget (Most Locally Useful Gadget)
(3) Best Education Specific Gadget
(4) Best Procrastination Gadget
(5) Most Technically Sophisticated Gadget
(6) Gadget Most Likely to Get International Traffic
(7) Best Social Gadget

What the winners get:
“Six students will be awarded prizes. Five students will receive a $350 USD stipend and 1 student will receive a $600 stipend. All winners will receive a Google t shirt, pen, and notebook valuing $7 USD (£13).”

More Information on the contest
Rules and fine print

Other Info: Hash’s post on Google moving in East Africa. It is no wonder that one of the categories is ‘Best local content gadget’. I think that the market for localized, useful and contextualized software is huge. When you have African developers creating applications for use in their own communities…I would say “prepare to be amazed”. I am really looking forward to seeing the ideas and applications that come out of this competition.

Hat Tip Think >>Innovate

Noon Solar Bag

This bag looks very nice. Its like the BMW/mac book Air of solar bags; beautiful, but just a tad out of reach for this blogger, as it is definitely quite expensive. Doesn’t hurt to gawk a bit though…
Noon Solar bag

You can view more bags here.
Hat tip whiteafrican!
PS: My thoughts are with Kenya as always…the GV special coverage page for Kenya is back up.
Amnesty International is appealing for action today to protest Human rights violations in Kenya. You can find more information and details on how to participate.