Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Ken Novak's Weblog
Monday, January 31, 2005
The hundred-buck PC: "The founder and chairman of the MIT Media Lab wants to create a $100 portable computer for the developing world. Nicholas Negroponte, author of Being Digital and the Wiesner Professor of Media Technology at MIT, says he has obtained promises of support from a number of major companies, including Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Motorola, Samsung, and News Corp. The low-cost computer will have a 14-inch color screen, AMD chips, and will run Linux software ..
An engineering prototype is nearly ready, with alpha units expected by year’s end and real production around 18 months from now, he said. The portable PCs will be shipped directly to education ministries, with China first on the list. Only orders of 1 million or more units will be accepted.
Mr. Negroponte’s idea is to develop educational software and have the portable personal computer replace textbooks in schools in much the same way that France’s Minitel videotext terminal, which was developed by France Telecom in the 1980s, became a substitute for phone books." 10:14:22 AM
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
HumaniNet - Tsunami Relief
: "RBGAN working in Banda Aceh area of Indonesia. We have received additional confirmation that the RBGAN will operate in the Aceh area, although it is not within the guaranteed coverage area. Both the World Food Program and International Medical Corps confirm successful connections. (One user reported they were unable to connect.) We received this report on January 14 from an Inmarsat Land Earth Station (LES): "We have been told by Inmarsat that Regional BGAN works in Northwest Indonesia (Banda Aceh Province, Andaman & Nicobar Island). As with Thuraya, it is outside of the official coverage and service is therefore not guaranteed. " 11:48:32 AM
Saturday, January 22, 2005
CMU project envisions computers even the poorest Third World farmer could use: Further coverage of Raj Reddy's project. "Sometime next year, Reddy plans to begin field tests in India, China and Africa of a device he calls the PCtvt ---- a combination personal computer, television, video recorder and telephone that wirelessly connects with the Internet. It all comes at a projected cost of $250 apiece. ..
These computers, in turn, would link up with an ultra-low-cost broadband technology being developed at the University of California, Berkeley. The goal, said A. Richard Newton, dean of Berkeley's College of Engineering, is an antenna, power supply and other equipment necessary to provide wireless Internet access for a village for about $500. ..
At Berkeley, the initiative is called Information and Communication Technology for Billions, or ICT4B. The National Science Foundation has provided Berkeley with $3 million to help develop low-cost broadband networks." 10:30:50 PM
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Wired 13.01: The BitTorrent Effect: Nice intro to the software and its effects. "One example of how the world has already changed: Gary Lerhaupt, a graduate student in computer science at Stanford, became fascinated with Outfoxed, the documentary critical of Fox News, and thought more people should see it. So he convinced the film's producer to let him put a chunk of it on his Web site for free, as a 500-Mbyte torrent. Within two months, nearly 1,500 people downloaded it. That's almost 750 gigs of traffic, a heck of a wallop. But to get the ball rolling, Lerhaupt's site needed to serve up only 5 gigs. After that, the peers took over and hosted it themselves. His bill for that bandwidth? $4. There are drinks at Starbucks that cost more. "It's amazing - I'm a movie distributor," he says. "If I had my own content, I'd be a TV station." [Update: It just passed 1 TB.] ..
[In] November Jon Stewart made a now-famous appearance on CNN's Crossfire. Stewart attacked the hosts, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, calling them political puppets. .. Delighted fans immediately ripped the segment and posted it online as a torrent. Word of Stewart's smackdown spread rapidly through the blogs, and within a day at least 4,000 servers were hosting the clip. One host reported having, at any given time, more than a hundred peers swapping and downloading the file. No one knows exactly how many people got the clip through BitTorrent, but this kind of traffic on the very first day suggests a number in the hundreds of thousands - and probably much higher. Another 2.3 million people streamed it from iFilm.com over the next few weeks. By contrast, CNN's audience for Crossfire was only 867,000. Three times as many people saw Stewart's appearance online as on CNN itself..
"Blogs reduced the newspaper to the post. In TV, it'll go from the network to the show," [and for that matter, MP3 reduced the album to the song]
The P2P technology company Kontiki produces software that, like BitTorrent, creates hyperefficient downloads; its applications also work with Microsoft's digital rights management software to keep content out of pirate hands. The BBC used Kontiki's systems last summer to send TV shows to 1,000 households. And America Online now uses Kontiki's apps to circulate Moviefone trailers. In fact, when users download a trailer, they also download a plug-in that begins swapping the file with others. It's so successful that when you watch a trailer on Moviefone, 80 percent of the time it's being delivered to you by other users in the network. Millions of AOL users have already participated in peercasting - without knowing it."
Friday, January 14, 2005
'Our government in Burma is lying when it says just a few people were killed': Aid workers "say the death toll is certain to be higher than Burmese officials have admitted. "It is in the thousands," estimated one foreign diplomat. ..
Since the tsunami the military's grip has become even tighter. Conscript soldiers have been deployed on main roads leading out of the southern town of Kawthaung. They have orders to prevent foreign nationals from travelling more than two miles from the centre. The naval vessels are looking for boats that they do not recognise in order to prevent unauthorised missions landing along the ravaged coastline. ..
A government official intercepted our vehicle as we left Kawthaung with the aim of catching a glimpse of the damage wreaked on one of the world's last dictatorships. "Go back now," he told us. "I cannot give you permission to leave town and the army checkpoints will stop you. There is nothing to see. We are handling the situation in our own way." ..
Rangoon brushed aside most offers of help, accepting a token £104,000 worth of aid from communist China. .. [Aid organizations are prevented from visiting nearby islands and coastal areas] Further clues to the extent of the damage come, however, in reports of foreigners who are missing in the area. Two South African backpackers and a group of Christian charity workers have not been in contact with friends and relatives for a week. A Florida-based missionary group has launched an appeal to rebuild a Burmese village destroyed in the tsunami. From the government, however, there is no word." 8:48:38 AM
The politics of disaster: What happened in Burma from the Tsunami is still unknown. "for the first three days, the official version was that Burma had survived without a scratch. The uniformed gangsters who run the kleptocracy, ravish its forests and murder its citizens, expressed their heart-felt sorrow and decent regret at the news from the rest of the region, but made no mention of the waves taking Burmese lives. A meteorological officer from Rangoon explained the miracle. The border with Thailand may only be 150 miles north of the devastated hotels of Phuket, but Burma was fortunate to have a coastline which rose from shallow seas. ..
On Wednesday the hacks on the New Light of Myanmar, the junta's mouthpiece, admitted that 43 people had died and 25 were missing. Few believed them. Ever since Boxing Day, opponents of the regime who produce the Democratic Voice of Burma website have been receiving leads from scattered sources. An anonymous naval officer told them that a military installation on Coco Island in the Indian Ocean had been washed away. Magye Island in the Gulf of Bengalmay also had been swamped, other sources said. There were reports of the Maubin University building being torn apart, possibly by an earthquake which hit after the waves, of fishermen never returning from the sea and of villages losing dozens of inhabitants. One rumour doing the rounds says that 500 died in one district alone, and it sounds plausible... the inhabitants of the coastal districts are desperately poor. Their flimsy shacks never looked as if they could withstand a raging sea. ..
It will take weeks to find out if the real death toll is anywhere near as bad as in Thailand - if, that is, we ever find out. The junta has an interest in maintaining the illusion of total control.. Last week reporters who tried to get information from the Unicef office in Rangoon were given a short course on the facts of life. The aid workers stonewalled because they would be thrown out of the country if they said a word out of place. ..
In Burma, many charities have decided that giving aid to Rangoon is like giving EU grants to Sicily or oil-for-food programmes to Saddam's Iraq: whatever your good intentions, the money always ends up strengthening one mafia or another. Thus, while Unicef, Save the Children and a handful of other organisations cling on, most won't go near the place. They know that what Burma needs isn't hand-outs but a revolution. " 8:44:46 AM
Nuclear test monitoring network useful:
Here's a tidbit from Cringeley: "Here is word from a reader in the UK: "The infrastructure for a global tsunami warning system already exists. The system set up to monitor nuclear testing is capable of, detected, and pinpointed the South Asian tsunami as it happened. The monitoring headquarters is in Berkshire, England, and the head of the station had made suggestions in the past that its role be expanded to include earthquake and tsunami monitoring. Better still, the necessary treaties are in place to allow immediate two-way communication between the centre and affected countries. Indeed, they carry an up to date list of contact numbers for key people. What's missing is political will. With that in place organisations, public information, and training can be put in place to make sure any warning is responded to on the ground."' I recall seeing a map of the placement of their monitoring devicesand the satcoms that relay their information (uniformly spread around the planet). Interesting to think of the other uses of that sensor network. 8:26:28 AM
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The Pen, Too, Is a Tool for Rebuilding: A view of tsunami reconstruction in India, where the local government and NGO sector are leading. "It occurs to me that the tsunami has done something not even Mahatma Gandhi could: It has brought fundamentalists together to work for a common cause. Since Dec. 26, three sworn enemies have been working with each other on the relief effort: The RSS, the Hindu extremists who are part of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party; their fierce rivals, the Marxists in the Communist Party of India; and the Jamaat, the authorities who run the mosques and serve the Muslim community. ..
The politician told me that the government will endeavor to rehabilitate the islanders on shore. One of my traveling companions, an engineer from Madras, whispers to me that politicians aren't afraid of breaking promises, they're only afraid of the press.
And he's right. India has a dozen 24-hour news channels -- the most in the world. They're all offering nonstop coverage of the disaster and the relief efforts. So much scrutiny is focues on the government, relief organizations, and politicians about their responses to the devastation that any slipups become national news and prompt heated debates. Although I had wanted to volunteer to help with relief efforts, I now don't mind being a reporter again." 11:06:37 AM
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
More on IBM tsunami recovery aid
: "volunteer and corporate support that includes $1 million in cash and services, a total that may increase. IBM Corporate Community Relations worked closely with its US business partners to secure the technology -- as well as extra batteries, country-specific power supplies, Web cameras and fingerprint scanners -- over the New Years holiday weekend. IBM volunteers are now in the process of preparing the equipment for shipment to Bangkok, Thailand, where they will be distributed to outlying areas. IBM managers in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand have received calls from officials in those countries seeking recovery assistance. The IBM Crisis Response Team has been in the region for nearly a week coordinating universal technology solutions that can be used across geographies to help coordinate disaster recovery efforts." Mark Prutsalis
of Strong Angel II is leading one IBM team in the region. 11:17:17 AM
Monday, January 03, 2005
: Develops software and shares best practices in disaster relief logistics. Good resource for background information, case studies, and links to practitioners. 12:37:31 PM
: FT Story of how UNHCR used volunteers from Microsoft and other companies (Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Screen-Check and Security UK) to create a refugee registration system in Kosovo, which is still in use in refugee situations elsewhere. Shows how corporate partnership programs are potential win-wins in many areas, highlighting the desire of corporations' staff to contribute to humanitarian efforts. 12:19:14 PM