Wireless Networking In The Developing World

A new book, “Wireless Networking in the Developing World: A Practical Guide to Building Low-Cost Telecommunications Infrastructure“, has just been released under a Creative Commons license. I’m assuming that this book could also apply to other geographic regions (the Canadian North comes to mind).

I’ve often touted Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) on this blog. Combine FOSS with low-cost hardware and wireless networking, and the digital divide may just dissipate.

“You Have To Learn Computers!”

Maybe I’m a bit cynical today, but this amusing SNL skit (few and far between these days) makes me think of certain individuals and institutions that I have encountered over the years that push hard for technological literacy without much understanding of what they are promoting. This video will likely find itself in one of my presentations in the future.

Update: The link worked at first, then it seemed to link to some sort of porn site. I am now hosting the clip on my local server, so the problem shouldn’t reoccur.

Innovate Journal Call For Submissions: Open Source Issue

Innovate Journal has put out a call for submissions for an upcoming issue to focus on open-source software (thanks Heather).

We seek manuscripts that cover the following topics: (1) developments in open-source programs around the world, (2) challenges related to the development, deployment, and adoption of open source programs, including how specific software is being used, (3) the advantages and disadvantages of open source and proprietary systems, and (5) the future of the OSS movement. We expect authors to take full advantage of Innovate’s multimedia capacity; supplementary files that illuminate the text are welcome, and we are especially interested in the possibility of hosting “Try it!” sites that would offer readers hands-on experience with particular OSS features.

If you would like to submit a manuscript on this topic, please review our submission guidelines at http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=submit and send your manuscript to the guest editor of this issue, Vijay Kumar (vkumar@MIT.EDU ), and to the editor-in-chief, James Morrison (jlm@nova.edu ) no later than March 30, 2006.

I’m thinking I’ll submit something once I get a bit further into my study. I encourage others to as well as I am looking forward to reading some of the fresh research in the field. Maybe someone can write about the greatly hyped, super top-secret Linux announcement expected in less than 72 hours. Hmmmm.

Open Source In Nigeria: Article

I’ve reluctantly taken a break from teaching this semester as I do my best to complete my dissertation (and several other projects) by July, 2006. Therefore, I’m very much back into the open source mode of thinking (not that I ever really left it), so much of what I post here will likely follow this theme.

So it was nice to find an excellent article in the Vanguard titled “Open Source: The Future of IT in Nigeria“. If you are interested in open source software, collaborative culture and economic development, this is a great short read with lots of quotables. Here are a few highlights:

re: the relative economics of open source in Africa,

… Windows XP together with Office XP is US$560 in the U.S. This is over 2.5 months of GDP/capita in South Africa, and over 16 months of GDP/capita in Vietnam. This is the equivalent of charging a single-user licence fee in the U.S. of US$7,541 and US$48,011 respectively, which is clearly unaffordable.

re: the economic benefits of open source to a developing nation,

… when a country goes open source, it gets something much more important than free code – it gets a native software industry. The skills needed to install and maintain OS software flow out through the society … “the open source software community must be regarded as an informal and ‘costless’ skills development environment that provides good training and competitive advantages on the labour market.”

re: the benefits of open source to a nation in regards to the world economy,

When a country goes OS, it changes its relationship to the world economy. It is no longer just a market for developed world know-how. It moves to becoming (to the extent that local coders are contributing to OS projects, and thus developing skills) a maker of knowledge.

re: the benefits of open source to national culture,

… developing countries with an open source approach become participants, nationally, in a collaborative culture of problem-solving which has implications far outside the realm of software and which ideally suits countries with lots of smart young people and not much cash.

re: open source and our relationship with the digital world,

Far from ripping us free of the physical world into some sort of disembodied cyberspace, computers are making us ever more intimate with the material world. Digital design, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials research – the ways we design and build and grow stuff is more and more mediated through silicon: and that which runs on silicon is highly susceptible to collaborative innovation. These days, when you spread technology and the tools for collaboration, you’re spreading the ability of people to redesign the material bases of their lives in cheap, innovative and sustainable ways.

These are some excellent ideas, and will keep me thinking for some time.

Facial Recognition Software?

I’ve experimented with a web-based facial recognition application, and a couple of the results are described below. The application compares your uploaded photo to a celebrity photo database and produces several possible matches. Maybe this will end up becoming a meme.

After several attempts, it seems that I have facial characteristics similar to … Robin Williams?

Robin Williams vs. Alec Couros

Ummmm … I don’t think so.

And, as I scroll down the list, it produces an even more amazing comparison … it seems I also look much like Lindsay Lohan!

Lindsay Lohan vs. Alec Couros

Yea … I have my doubts. The only thing I seem to have in common with Ms. Lohan is that we are both staring to the right in these photos.

Well it’s a neat technology, but obviously, still pretty buggy (at least in this particular case). Or maybe there’s just no one like me. “I’m good enough, smart enough … and gosh darnit, people like me.”

Have a try, and let me know what your results are.

Crash Course In Learning Theory

The “Creating Passionate Users” blog has produced an excellent post on various learning theories. The content is situated for the development of a learning blog, and is well-written. And …

although it’s geared toward blogs/writing virtually everything in here applies regardless of how you deliver the learning–you can easily adapt it to prentations, user documentation, or classroom learning.

Now what I really like is that although I’ve read dozens of textbooks on learning theory, I really appreciate how the art of blogging can remove some of the potential dryness from such academic content.


I’ve been a meat-eater all of my life, but this shocking video from Meat.org “The Web Site the Meat Industry Doesn’t Want You To See” may get me thinking and acting quite differently. This is severe cruelty and so very sad.

Update: I just want to throw Todd’s comment right into this post as I think it expresses an important idea … consumer choice, whether one chooses to be a vegetarian or not.

If you have a philosophical objection I say fine, but consumers have *choices* about the food they eat. We buy grass-fed, pastured beef (hormone and antibiotic-free), milk, chickens and eggs. We know the farmers that raise the animals we end up eating. PETA would have you believe the horrors in the video happen everywhere animals are raised for food. It’s simply not true for those of us who care to educate ourselves, eat healthier foods, and support the local economy and sustainable agriculture.

Update2: And to give equal credit to a great counterpoint, I thank Jaclyn for this comment which I choose to paste below. I won’t summarize as it’s certainly worth the read.

Yes, we have choices. But for many people they aren’t *meaningful* choices.

First, there’s education. Many people have no idea *why* they should buy these better meats, eggs, milk, etc. They may not know about the treatment of the animals involved — if they’d even care — and they really don’t know why it’s better for their health. The news most likely never reaches them, and if it does, it comes side-by-side with the standard claims by big agriculture.

Second is availability. I’m in a college town in the south, and it’s really very difficult to find organic food. We have a small farmer’s market that doesn’t operate year-round (or week-round either), and it’s primarily vegetables. I can’t tell you of a reliable source of local chickens, eggs, or milk. I do know of one source of grass-fed beef, but it leads into…

COST. This is one of the biggest problems. Does it not seem ridiculous that we have to pay more to feed healthy food to our families? And I’m not talking about junk food. I’m talking about the major difference in prices between grocery store meat, milk, and eggs and their hormone-free, antibiotic-free, cage-free, cruelty-free and everything else-free counterparts. For many people, the diet you suggest is not possible from purely a cost perspective.

I do eat animal products, and I try to buy responsibly. But I don’t think that we as a country gain so much from debeaking chickens and battery cages, for example, that those practices shouldn’t be gotten rid of completely.

Obviously this is a very complex subject, and I thank those who have responded with their insight. I’d love to hear more from others.

One thing I should add here as well, is an older site known as “The Meatrix” which focuses on the same issue, but in a much less graphic manner.

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