Village Servers

By eweek  |  Posted 2005-03-10 Print this article Print

?"> Do you feel the server approach (for wireless, e-mail, etc.) makes sense? Not sure what you mean by the server approach. If you mean a village or school server, with access through cell phones, Palmtops or so-called "thin clients," it is wrong-minded and misses the key point.

On the other hand, our approach, a local mesh network, has points of access to the Net, and those may be server-like, located in a school, for example. In very remote places, where there is neither electricity nor wireless telephony, we will have a satellite hub in the village. There is a server, but not a "server approach."

Read more here about wireless mesh networks.
The eWEEK article references a 75-watt power load. But theres been no shortage of lower-power portable computers, such as the early ProLinear MiniNote (x86, 4 AAs, DOS), and the HP OmniBook 300 and 400 series (x86, 4 AAs, Windows 2.0, DOS) ran Windows 2.0 and DOS ... not to mention a wide range of "Jupiter"-class Windows CE machines that can run on AA batteries, such as the IBM WorkPad Z50 (8 AAs), the NEC MobilePro 700 series (6 AAs), or the AlphaSmart (3 AAs) Do you have any thoughts for lower-power computers?

Yes, we are looking carefully at all of the above. We are considering two approaches, emissive and reflective. The former shows promise at 100 lumens per watt by the end of 2006, with 85 percent efficiencies in some cases. Reflective can go far lower, using no power whatsoever when the image is not changing. Traditionally, these cannot do video, but we have some chemistries that can, though not in the first or second release.

What are some of the power-generating initiatives, either through the Media Lab or elsewhere, that you believe will help provide the necessary power? Will the wind-up or treadle options be sufficient for the computer you have in mind?

Over the past 10 years, the Media Lab has done a series of projects in parasitic power, particularly in the form of toys that kids play with, that generate power during "toying." A major goal is to make the $100 laptop so power-friendly that it can be wound up. Treadle is a fine option, and well be offering that as well. Much of the invention to be done going forward is to do more of this kind of work. We have also been in discussions with Dean Kamen [inventor of the Segway Human Transporter] with regard to his Sterling engine, as an innovative way to provide power to remote schools—with a side benefit of gallons of pure drinking water.

Perhaps you can see why I was so shocked to see such a reputable publication suggest that we were ignoring this matter. The author should have made the small effort to ask. Click here to check out the column, "Power Politics Overshadow $100 PC Concept." Do you feel the AMD $185 computer initiative could fit into your goals?

Yes, indeed. In fact, AMD is a close working partner in this effort. Their PIC machine is superb. They have done a surprisingly fine job.

Language and literacy are often cited as barriers in the "digital divide." How do you propose to address the need for localization/internationalization of any text aspects, and how will nonliterate people be able to use the devices?

Keep in mind our focus is primary and secondary school. In the projects my wife and I run in Cambodia, teaching English is as big if not bigger than using computers. Localization is crucial, and I am beginning to learn what a good job the open-source community is starting to do. Our plan is to be Linux-based, and we are hardly alone in looking at the issues of internationalization. Open source is certainly the best way to be multilingual.

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