One Laptop Per Child Project Discusses Human Powered Generator

One laptop per child
Tech review has an article that features the human powered generator that will accompany the $100 laptop.

The new generators, which will be field-tested beginning this October, abandon the bulky and inefficient hand-crank design featured on an early mock-up of the laptop in favor of a more compact off-laptop design that uses a pull string to spin a small generator.

AT&T and Tech Philanthropy

Earlier today, AT&T announced that it would partner with MetroFi to provide free municipal wifi internet access.

AT&T also announced that it will kick off a tech philanthropy campaign.

AT&T has launched a three-year, $100 million program, called AT&T Access All, that aims to provide technology packages–including a new computer, printer and Internet access–to 50,000 low-income families nationwide.

It sounds like the muni wifi piece is part of the Access All program. This is pretty awesome.

Banish The Digital Divide!

That’s what YellowSheepRiver wants to do.
They are all about selling low cost linux-based computers, according to this Wired story:

YellowSheepRiver Municator is selling a new Linux-based desktop for about $150. Like Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child project, makers of the Municator say they want to banish the digital divide.

The article compares the YellowSheepRiver effort to that of Negroponte’s organization:

The MIT-affiliated effort has had the technology in place for a $100 laptop since January 2005 but has yet to begin production because the program needs 5 million to 10 million advance orders before factories will begin to churn them out. The Municator, however, is ready to go.

Comparing the Wired story to the YellowSheep website, I found the latter emphasize international business competition more than any humanitarian concerns. The first paragraph from their website reads:

Our ultimate goal is to let the Chinese computer-users use our own-made CPUs in which we do not have to rely on the imported CPUs.

Not sure what these guys are really up to so we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Shake Shack Is Getting WiFi Internet Access

Wifi At The Shake Shack
Here’s a snapshot of NYC Wireless volunteers putting up WiFi equipment on the roof of the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in NYC. I helped out with this install and we anticipate the hotspot to be up and fully functional by the end of next week.

The Madison Square Park Conservancy is the organization behind this and they are looking for sponsors. If you know anyone who is interested, let me know and I’ll pass the message along!

“Nearly all homeless people have e-mail addresses”

This Wired article discusses how computers and the internet are changing the lives of homeless people.

While people living in shelters and alleys have found it difficult to cross social divides, the digital divide seems to disappear on the streets. Nearly all homeless people have e-mail addresses, according to Michael Stoops, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “More have e-mail than have post office boxes,” Stoops said. “The internet has been a big boon to the homeless.”

Helping the homeless get e-mail addresses has been a priority for years at shelters across the country. And in an age when most every public library in the nation offers internet access, the net has proven a perfect communication tool for those without a firm real-world address.

In Depth Review of One Laptop Per Child

Check out WorldChanging’s in depth review on the One Laptop Per Child project.

One of the most intriguing features of the prototype was the handcrank. Well, its missing from this latest iteration and WorldChanging explains:

The one feature missing from the prototype I saw – the crank. It’s been clear – even before Kofi Annan broke the crank off an early laptop prototype – that a power-generating crank attached to the machine, like cranks are incorporated into FreePlay radios, might not work. Jim, who has designed the motherboard of the machine and has been focused on power consumption, helped me understand why.

Contrary to what you learned in The Matrix, human beings are lousy at generating electric power. Small children are capable of generating between five and ten watts, for short periods of time.

Muni Wifi In New York City

I spent an evening last week helping NYCWireless install wifi in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The process involved running a Covad DSL line from the basement of Smack Mellon, a nonprofit art organization, and setting up some additional equipment on the main floor, with antennae pointing out towards the park.

So now you can take your laptop over to Brooklyn Bridge Park and have wifi access. If your signal is weak, just move closer to Smack Mellon!

Related articles:
NYTimes: Deadline Set for Wireless Internet in Parks.

Spitzer Speaks Out About The Digital Divide In The United States

Eliot Spitzer, the New York State Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, addressed the Digital Divide issue in the United States during his keynote speech at the the Personal Democracy Forum in New York.

Eliot Spitzer outlined a proposal to provide affordable broadband to all citizens of New York. “In the 21st century, Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said.

Local high speed cable and dsl providers would love to gain more users, but the idea of a “low-cost” solution goes against the profit maximizing needs of these ISPs (internet service providers). There is lots of innovation happening in this space so I’m confident that some level of subsidized or free access will be provided to low income residents in our cities.

However, an analyst throws a wrench into the whole debate by arguing that the lack of broadband penetration among low income residents is due to the lack of computers:

That’s a much bigger reason for the lack of broadband penetration in low-income households than service accessibility, argues Bruce Liechtman, principal analyst with Liechtman Research Group and a former chair of the editorial board for the Cable & Telecommunications Marketing Assn. journal. “Broadband adoption really correlates directly with household income.” If Spitzer wants to solve the digital divide, Leichtman says, “he should be giving everybody a computer.”

It’s a great argument and one that is debatable. If we use South Korea as a test case, we notice that although broadband penetration is high, most people don’t own computers. In fact, most people go to internet cafes to check their email, browse the web, and play online games. Perhaps subsidizing a free internet cafe for the residents of South Bronx could be a worthy test that offers us some answers to the questions this article raises.