Re: Some ideas for the future direction of Includer work.
- Ricardo, Thank you for your strategic vision, which I share. I have
posted your thoughts at the Includer blog:
I mailed the Gumstix processor to Kiyavilo (at the address you gave) on
Thursday, January 8, before I left Bosnia. I need to send money to
Kiyavilo ($250) and Fred ($125), I will do that in the next few days. I
also add my replies to your thoughts:
Processors... Ricardo, great thinking! I appreciate your guidance and
experience. I am thinking that our lab’s best contribution is to do small
projects that show the possibilities. We can therefore focus on technology
like the Gumstix or Bug Labs which may not make sense for wide scale
production, but are great for exploring ideas and building skills. Your
experience allows us to consider more sophisticated approaches as well, as
you write above.
Project Team... Ricardo, yes. I’m thinking that we invest in our
participants to build skills over a longer time frame, say, two years. We
are ready to start teaching our participants basic skills like HTML, basic
electronics, and then more sophisticated skills, like Perl and PHP. I
think if we have a team with basic skills, we might be successful
attracting team members with more sophisticated skills. Kiyavilo and Fred
agreed to help us tutor people online through chat and wiki. I’m wondering
what kind of simple electronics hardware education we might provide. I’d
like to work further with Malcolm Duerod and Goran and other Roma in
Bosnia who are handy with electronics (such as repairing mobile phones).
We can start with small projects like DIY Solar and I wonder what next
steps we could take. I left our digital picture frame with Malcolm and
Ricardo, I think that we can try this out with some practical problems of
immediate relevance. We need to send Pyramid of Peace videos to Kenya.
Also, we want to send back and forth videos of phonics flash cards and
other projects that are best explained visually or orally, such as
acrobatics, singing, dancing, sign language.
Andrius Kulikauskas, Minciu Sodas, http://www.ms.lt, ms@...
Hi Andrius, Kims and all
As you're at the time of the interim report, I thought it might be
useful to jot down some ideas for the future direction of Includer
work, to see what you think.
The Gumstix will be useful practice, for Kims to learn
about 'embedded systems'. It uses Linux, and I think any Includer is
likely to need an operating system, to run applications on. It
allows the software to be a collection of off-the-shelf software,
not specially written from scratch.
The alternative, just booting up into one text-editing application,
might allow us to run a program on a very, very cheap PIC Processor
for $2, but at the expense of requiring a lot of new software
development. We would have to keep other interrupt processes running
in the background to handle displays, USB, etc. That would require a
team of experienced software developers, and we are a bit short of
those at the moment.
I recently found a website for the OpenEmbedded project. It provides
an online facility to assemble thousands of open-source software
packages together, to produce a build of Linux for a wide variety of
target hardware and processors. Projects such as the OpenMoko open-
source hardware phone use OpenEmbedded.
OpenEmbedded may help us in 2 ways...
1. To build Linux for our chosen processor/board, if we don't use a
2. To provide a list of likely processors and boards, to use as an
I notice that their list of target processors that will run Linux
includes some very affordable processors, such as the Atmel AVR32 at
about $5. We looked at 'manufacturability' issues before. One very
good processor, the Atmel AT91SAM9261 with LCD and USB Host
interfaces, suffered from one big disadvantage; it is only available
in BGA (ball grid array) package, not suitable for hand-soldering.
In contrast, the AVR32 is available in QFP Quad Flat Pack, a square
package, where the leads could be hand-soldered to a circuit board
(a SchmartBoard for prototypes or our own production PCB). There are
a number of ready-made AVR32 boards to use as a protoype, if we want.
You have already suggested that Kims involves other people at his
university with his Gumstix work. It will be good to make use of any
existing expertise in Tanzania etc, or build up new expertise in
Aims of the Includer Project
One of the aims of the Includer, for people who have ocassional
access to the internet at expensive internet cafes, was
(paraphrasing) "to make more productive/cost-effective use of their
time at internet cafes". Instead of spending $1 or $2 an hour at an
internet cafe PC, writing long documents (yahoo group/blog postings,
email replies, etc), people could do their text-editing and reading
at home on an Includer text-editor device, for free.
I've been thinking. As well as developing an Includer device, we
could also look at online-services that would help people do the
same activities as before, but using less time at an internet cafe
(at $1 or $2 an hour).
For example, I think it would be useful for each person to have
their own online file-storage area. Some existing companies promote
this idea as 'your flash drive on the internet' and provide people
with 100MB for free, or more space for a fee. Some services use a
proprietory web-interface, so you can only upload/download files via
their forms. Others make the storage area available like a Disk
Drive on your PC, as X: drive, for example. This style is more
useful, as it lets you 'upload' files (that are already online) for
tasks like attaching files to emails, where you normally upload for
real from C:.
The online storage would provide 2 main advantages :-
1) It really is like an online flash drive, a useful place to store
files when you often access the internet from different PC/cafes.
2) It would allow people with very slow/expensive internet access to
get a friend in a big city with faster internet access to
upload/download large files for them, to/from their online storage
area. They just need to post the files to them on CD-RW Disk or
Flash Memory Card/Drive (a simple Sneakernet). The person could then
just use their slow internet connection to issue commands, to attach
the files to outgoing emails, or to change sharing privileges, to
share a file with friends/groups/public, such as large video files,
collections of photos, etc. They don't need to pay high cafe or GPRS
charges to do the bulk upload/download tasks themselves.
It would be good to have 1 'helper' with a fast internet connection
in each country (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, etc) to do bulk
This is just one example of a service to make people's internet time
at cafes or on GPRS Phones more productive. I'm sure we can think of
others. Being centralised online services, it's a way to help a
large number of people without having to spend money on new hardware
for each person, and many people can work on developing the
services, online from a whole range of countries.
The online storage idea could be used in conjunction with an
Includer device or just with ordinary PCs/Laptops.
I would be interested in any feedback on this idea.
All the best.