Digital Development
Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Thursday, February 17, 2005


Network Startup Resource Center: A venerable source of help, founded by Randy Bush about the same time as CGNET.  "The Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a non-profit organization, has worked since the late 1980s to help develop and deploy networking technology in various projects throughout Asia/Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the New Independent States. Partially supported by the US National Science Foundation, the NSRC provides technical and engineering assistance to international networking initiatives building access to the public Internet, especially to academic/research institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)."  Nice recent shot from Bhutan.

  11:33:29 AM  permalink  

WorldChanging: Nanotechnology and the Developing World:  "the Global Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the Poor [is] a project intended to trigger a conversation about the ways in which nanotechnology can be applied to the problems of development and poverty. Anyone may participate .."  SciDevNet covers the conference and has an introduction to the material.   The 29-page report covers risks as well as benefits, with a useful appendix showing the UN Millenium Goals for reference.

This has been a major interest of mine since 2000.  The bottom line for me came down to two things:  nano-engineered materials for energy and water.  Nanotech's first fruits are a new universe of materials with electrical and chemical properties that will offer new options to engineers of all goods, including those meeting basic needs.  It's like plastics a century ago; we're at the start of a decades-long absorbtion of new possibilities, both good and bad.  This time the changes will come faster, sped up by computer-aided design and manufacturing.   (Nano-assembly, whenever it arrives, will only further add to the changes.) 

For developing countries, the key benefits are in the basics for manufacturing and urban life.

  • purified or desalinated water
  • distributed electric generation and new options for fuel, ideally from renewable sources with hydrogen and/or battery storage of power
  • more efficient use of energy and materials overall 

I think this will be on balance good for the environment, in its greater material efficiency.  However, nano-engineered materials will also be applied to increase the efficiency of raw material extraction, such as taking fossil fuels from the earth faster and cheaper.  It will also give rise to more extravagant ways to use energy in the developed world, perhaps super-sonic transport, large-scale military applications, or ever-larger interiors for housing and commerce.  I am optimistic that enough funding and volunteer attention will be given to pollution-reducing and poverty-alleviating applications to tip the balance.  (I think that the top-down and exploitative applications have been refined so much already, that it's probably easier for researchers and innovators to have a big impact in the less-explored sustainable applications.)

  1:37:18 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 07, 2005


Ethiopians unite for Marley anniversary: "About 200,000 people gathered in Ethiopia's capital Sunday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of reggae icon Bob Marley. The concert, dubbed Africa Unite and billed as the country's largest ever, marks the first time the late reggae star's birthday celebrations have ever been held outside his native Jamaica. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981. .. Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson also declared an official year-long celebration to honour Marley's birth."  In the 80s, I spent 5 years on the road in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  I don't think I spent a week without hearing Marley's music in the street or on the radio.   Long live liberation music.

  11:50:26 PM  permalink  

EPIC 2014: Very amusing flash projection of media in 2014.  Worth all 8 minutes.  12:04:47 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 04, 2005


More on the AMD PIC:  Cringely offers some info and suggested applications outside the developing world:  "the OS is Windows CE. It keeps user changes and personal settings on a separate disk partition so that the main OS partition can be updated at any time back to factory settings from a hidden 'factory reload' partition. It has no legacy interfaces at all (just VGA, RJ11 modem, AC'97 audio ports, and four USB 1.1 ports). It has no fan or even any passive ventilation. It has a 366 Mhz AMD Geode processor, 128-megs of SDRAM, and a 10-gig Seagate hard drive. It is ugly [but] cheap.  Think of the PIC as a cheaper, dumber Mac Mini. ..

in the ultra-low-end computer market right now as consumers are starting to use mobile phones to perform functions that might previously have been done with handheld computers like the iPaq. As a result, handheld sales are actually dropping, which in the PC market means the niche is already dead. .. The logical thing to do, it seems to me, is to split the niche into its two component parts -- mobile communication and cheap computing. Phones get the nod for mobility, but HP and Dell could easily pick up the cheap computing segment by selling many sub-varieties of PIC. It is ideal for home automation, for becoming a car video server to end drowning in Dora the Explorer DVDs, for acting as a home Internet gateway, for hosting the inevitable VoIP home PBX -- each a 100 million unit market, and each totally untapped by the big OEMs. .. Given a bit more effort on AMD's part, this little guy could be used to replace fading K-12 PCs all over America at prices that schools can actually afford. The power savings alone are such that an eight watt PIC will pay for itself in under two years. .. "

Cringely links to a page showing an Antiguan hacker's view of the PIC, and the AMD annoucement page that says that Linux will soon run on it.

  10:11:29 AM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 4:28:59 PM.
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