creativity in Africa

Saw this fascinating site showing creative talent of people making things in Africa. Inventors at work making things such as a simple water pump, and a satellite telephone that has a battery thats charged up from a bicycle, this home made helicopter from recycled parts of a Toyota is simply awesome though.Stuff like this quite excites me, as these people are a world away from the wasteful disposable attitude of the west, and have an abundance of creative and resourcefulness with limited materials, this kind of attitude to solving problems is something the rest of world should be adopting.

Many 3rd world countries are about to get computers given to children, the $100 laptop known as the OLPC (one laptop per child) project aims to provide IT to kids everywhere in developing countries. Running Linux and able to have the batteries charged by a hand crank or solar power, this is a completely new approach to IT infrastructure as no hard disk or CD drive but using flash memory and tough construction able to survive harsh environments, this proves an incredibly exciting initiative. People have criticised the project due to not being able to stick the original target of $100, more like $170, its thought once the first production run of laptops has been shipped, and R&D costs, have been covered after a year or so this should much less. Where as you could reason people are more need of food, clean water and medicine, this uses the “teach a man to fish..” idea that people can get training on farming, healthcare, education and communications from what they find and share on the internet.

If you look at IT and cars, both are similar, as vehicles running on alternative fuel to petrol always get shown in the media as an exciting possibility of the future, but never quite get there. The knowhow for electric cars is there albeit with some limitations but
to me the real reason why cars on other fuels aren’t being adopted yet is that government haven’t found a workable business model yet to get tax from it.

With these low cost computers and technology provided in the right way, who knows, with a clean sheet of paper to build their IT infastructure, the African and South American developing nations may be able to teach the west a thing or to about technology.

googlemail as an online backup device?

Recently I discovered a interesting app that lets you use your gmail account as a drive.

This is a quite slow but handy and has all kinds of possible uses.  In terms of backing up files, if you are a mobile laptop user and are working on the move, in an internet cafe or at a client’s premisis, copying files onto DVDR or a USB memory stick isnt quite a good idea if the laptop then gets stolen with items of media with sensitive information in the carry case.  One example of this is a friend of mine who went on holiday to New Zealand and did web design on a laptop whilst on the move.

The gmail drive works by sending the file as an attachment to your own gmail address, Gmail have now upped the storage space from 2.7Gb to 4.3Gb.

Now Im not sure what the limit of individual files that can be sent as attachments as google, but I think a zip application like WinRAR or 7zip could chop up a large file into small pieces.

Imagine that, you could compress a large amount of files you want to back up into one file as a zip or rar file, then cut the file into smaller chunks (where necessary) then send to your gmail account whilst you are in hotel room on a wireless connection, whilst probably quite slow, this method could maybe used as a handy disaster recovery set up for a small bunch of traveling salesman or engineers who travel quite a lot.   If a problem occurs the user could recover the files themselves or the IT support person could put them onto a DVDR and post it out to the user’s location.