Hello, There are several aspects of this discussion that are important: Although I agree with Dr. Morrison, generally, that simple and durable systems are best, simplicity and its virtues can been seen from several perspectives. In addition, new tools are called for to meet new needs and to make new/appropriate technologies available in otherwise underserved areas.
On simplicity: Although laptops are durable and feature low power requirements, they're more expensive and much more difficult to service. In school computer labs, teachers and students often become adept at scavenging parts to repair desktop computers. Such activities, although arising out of need, become one of the "benefits" of participating in school computers clubs. Such activities are _much_ more difficult with laptops. In Zimbabwe, at least through 1998, servicing of a laptop required that the machine be shipped to South Africa. On new technologies: Several features of Matthew Grant's proposed server design have already proven valuable for the Virtual Didactic Lab education project in Sao Paulo -- and could be of similar value to other projects that require heavy e-mail / Internet use in regions that are infrastructure-poor or poorly regulated. The LabVirt project engages secondary-school students in the design of physics simulations, which are then built in Java by graduate students at University of Sao Paulo, and uploaded to a central repository for use as teaching/learning tools. Schools involved in the project, located in underserved communities throughout the state of Sao Paulo, generally have 10-computer labs, with machines on the order of Pentium 1s and 2s. The project has designed and built a "blackbox server," which sits on one of the school's 10 workstations. This server links the computers in a LAN, giving them all access to the printer and maximizing the lab's limited hard-drive space. Critically, in a project that involves students uploading graphics and downloading Java applets, the server uses call-scheduling to optimize all email transactions -- processing these when the lab is unused and when the city's phone lines have the least traffic. If the phones are down or the connection is poor, the task is re-scheduled. (The LabVirt project has completed its second year -- I'm unaware of any publicly accessible "web artifacts.") One could argue, as well, that _any_ Linux-based proposal for developing countries should be given serious consideration as part of an effort to reduce the future costs and constraints of participation in an otherwise exclusionary networked society. Linux has already become much more user friendly, with graphical interfaces (not unlike Windows) and simpler distributions. It continues to run well on older computers (e.g., 486s), and provides good Internet-browsing capabilities even on those machines. And integration of Linux into development projects is one way to ensure that this collaboratively created alternative evolves to better meet the needs of developing-country users. In an alternative view of the future, Microsoft is releasing its new developers' toolkit (C-Sharp) this week, intended to compete with Java [open-source, free], and to integrate with Microsoft's dot-Net and Passport services -- all of these are designed to create greater dependency on Microsoft's proprietary software and Internet services. Regards, Edmond Gaible Natoma 350 Townsend Street, ste 312 San Francisco CA 94107 +1.415.543.6643 / fax 863.6398 www.natomagroup.com ------------ ***GKD is an initiative of the Global Knowledge Partnership*** To post a message, send it to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To subscribe or unsubscribe, send a message to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>. In the 1st line of the message type: subscribe gkd OR type: unsubscribe gkd Archives of previous GKD messages can be found at: <http://www.globalknowledge.org>