Re: [GKD] The $100 Computer

2005-03-17 Thread Paul Richardson
Dear Colleagues,

On Monday, 14 March 2005, Michel J. Menou wrote:
 What will we do with waste resulting from 2 billion obsolete 10$
 Xputers that might pile up in 2025?

Good point (and noted that you are a follow European-based writer). The
European Waste Directive forbids us to dump old PC's in land-fill
sites... and especially because of the lead and tantalum which will
eventually leach out into the water table and contaminate it.

The 3% (approx) levy on the sale of new PC's will permit their
components to be recycled safely when they come to the end of their life
in 3-5 years. But there remains the problem of what to do with the PC's
that are being thrown out _now_ for which no levy was made.

My investigations suggest that these are being offered to charities and
NGOs who are taking them out to Dev-World countries, particularly into
Central Africa.

Because of the higher temperatures, the air-based cooling system is
inadequate, causing memory, processor and hard-disc failures after about
3 months. (What do you expect, when they've been designed to be cooled
by using air at the temperature of a European office!?)

So the African school or clinic that received the gift of these free
computers then digs a pit behind their buildings and throws in the
broken PC's. After all, there'll be another container-load offered to
them in a few days time, anyway!

So what happens about the lead and tantalum?

My guess is that it will pollute the water supplies used by the children
at those schools but no one will notice because it'll take years to
gradually build up, and the African Governments either don't have such
laws, or else can't afford to police them.

By the time the African children are getting their brains poisoned by
our lead, the Western-based charities which bequethed this legacy to
them will have long since disappeared, having won many accolades for
their selfless giving.  :-(

 Actually there was a report a few days ago that MS was going to sell its
 OS and Office suite in China at much reduced prices.

Of course. 
M$oft products only work on energy-hungry PC architecture. So they're
desperate to lock in users to this technology.

I disagree with Don Slater that what is required is a very cheap XP.
This would still run on the PC platform which is the 'wrong' technology
for the Dev-World.

PC architecture has many drawbacks:
   - high Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
   - short lifetime
   - power hungry (needs mains electricity and power stations which
 cause pollution and go against the Kyoto Agreement)

As Edward Cherlin points out, Linux runs on many other processors, some
of which can be designed into low-energy computers.

And to return to the Subject line on this thread, I also disagree that
the Initial Purchase Price of the computer is the most relevant issue.
This is tiny compared with the running costs and upgrades required over
the lifetime of the hardware.

The answer is to design a different technology which is appropriate
for use in the Dev-World. Since this won't be a PC, it can't run M$oft
code. So whatever level of benevolence is expressed by Bill Gates, it is
irrelevant to meet the needs of the massive rural Dev-World areas.

We don't need a $100 computer. We need a computer that costs $100 per
year to keep running over a massively-greater timescale, and uses tiny
amounts of renewable energy. and it'll run Linux.

   __/_Paul Richardson
  | /  ExpLAN Computers Ltd.  +44 (0)1822 613868
  |-- Computer and Software Development
  |/___   PO Box 32, Tavistock, Devon  PL19 8YU  Gt.Britain

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Re: [GKD] The $100 Computer

2005-03-17 Thread Guido Sohne
I noticed that Ghana came up and I wanted to make a few comments since I
am based there.

On 3/14/05, Edward Cherlin wrote:

 On Tuesday, 8 March 2005, Don Slater wrote:
 If Windows XP were sold at the price it usually commands in pirate
 markets, it would be perfectly OK.
 Not really. There is no practical way to get Windows into local
 languages. The only way Microsoft allows this, apart from doing the
 development itself (Don't hold your breath) is for a government to take
 out a license, contract out the development work, and then hand the
 results back to Microsoft to sell. This is not realistic for more than a
 few major languages.

There is not a huge demand for local language applications right now. I
am not for example, aware of a local language newspaper, though from
time to time, one sees local languages being quoted in the press,
however, these are expressed in an English encoding, since the
characters required are absent from most fonts.

It could be that there is not a huge demand because the capability is
not well integrated with the operating environment, but I would place
more weight on what is seen in the press. Radio is an entirely different
matter where the demand is very strong for local content. Local language
usage here is usually an oral affair outside of the academic

 So doesn't it make just as much sense to pressure M$ for the equivalent
 of educational licences, or simply donated software? The demand would be
 for a more appropriate pricing structure, and would be similar to
 demanding that drug companies allow or produce very cheap generic
 versions of drugs that are essential to lives in poor countries.

There are two problems that I see with a more appropriate pricing

1) The additional volume from dropping prices to affordable levels may
well result in substantively lower revenue. This is not a situation that
I would expect the companies to respond to unless they have to. Free
software may provide the necessary motivation.

2) No one is interested in a stripped down or crippled version of
standard software. People mostly want what works, what everyone else
uses. Specialists or hobbyists may say otherwise but they don't make up
the majority or even close to it. If a company could sell its product
under an appropriate pricing structure and still make money, it may
result in unwelcome pricing pressure.

To add to that, I would say the issue of licensing is irrelevant. I
think that people use the software and get it any way they can and I
consider it a reasonable practice given the local cost of licensed
software and local salaries/revenues. In return, they put up with
inconveniences due to not being properly licensed (such as Windows
Update access) and that's a decision that costs them less.

The companies are able to sell their product at prices higher than what
the majority of consumers could afford in order to maximize revenue.
Those who use unlicensed software help to ensure that the market share
of illegal proprietary software remains high. In this light, one can see
unreasonably high prices as an inducement to ensure illegal copying is
part of the culture of computer usage. Later on, technological measures
can be used to prevent actual unlicensed use (such as encountered when
installing Microsoft AntiSpyware)

 This is Microsoft's strategy in taking over Digital Partners and
 engineering a merger between Digital Partners and the Grameen Foundation
 USA. The Gates Foundation gives away hundreds of millions of dollars
 worth of software (if-sold value) to prime this market. The FOSS
 movement gives away far more software, but our if-sold value is $0.

 I tend to get worried (particularly as an ethnographer) when I
 So you should appreciate the value of local language support.


Indigenous Knowledge is a Red Herring

for my alternate viewpoint on the issue of local language with respect
to the situation in Ghana.

 see the word 'only' used in these discussions - there may seem to be
 only one solution *technologically*, but there are always multiple
 political and economic strategies, and Linux is 'only' one of these.
 Free Software/Open Source software is not a technology. It is an
 economic and political movement, away from The Tragedy of The
 Anti-Commons. Linux runs on almost every 16-bit or better computer
 architecture, including x86, M68000, PPC, Sparc, IBM 390, ARM, and many
 more, and FOSS more generally runs on every major operating system,
 including the many variants of Unix, Windows, Mac (native and BSD both),
 and a multitude of lesser products.

The confluence between software as technology and software as movement
has caused some mismatch in what values should be. Linux is excellent
software but some of the evangelism behind it appears to be floating in
the air instead of feet planted on ground.

I find it worrying to 

[GKD] Phone vs Internet for Economic Development

2005-03-17 Thread Tom Abeles
As many know, the Economist printed a nice summary on the idea that the
phone out ranks the computer for economic development. This article was
reported in the Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune on 15 March 05 for those
who don't access The Economist:

tom abeles

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