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Re: [school-discuss] Ways to put Linux PCs in villages w/o electricity (was: This could work...)

Doug Loss wrote:
That's not really as big a problem as you think.  Cellular modems that
attach to ethernet are pretty common in the transportation industry.
Big trucking firms use them along with GPS receivers to keep track of
their deliveries.

On Tue, 2007-07-10 at 17:28 -0400, Daniel Howard wrote:
Yes, the issue I see is getting the Internet connection through the USB instead of the NIC RJ-45. Most cell phone providers that do this have a special set of windows drivers so the PC can talk through the USB to the phone and thence to the network.

Oh, good, for once something's easier than I thought...I've got a ping in to our Malawi foundation guy through my teacher to find out which cell phone providers use which phones there, so we should be able to determine which provider has the best package and compatibility for a trial.

Jim's notion of lighting up a village with solar WiFi is intriguing too, but I'm just focused initially on whether we can develop a cost effective solution using off the shelf components and services to get a school in a village with no electricity 5 PCs (one server, four clients) that have Internet connectivity at least occasionally during the day (see how my goal statement evolves as I gather cost info).

BTW, my teacher tells me that she will take care of the environment/dust issues for our first village, so hopefully we don't have to pay more for dust hardened components, and can get by with covers.

You know how we pay extra fees on our phones to support technology for schools here in the US (and yes, I know the program has it's abusers)? I bet some students and consumers in larger African cities would pay an extra $1 or fraction thereof a month on their cell phone bills to help provide free data connectivity to a village (or the government could force them like ours did...) That would be a very scalable solution and then we only have to link sponsors with villages and local talent to do the installs.

Finally, I recall the stuff about putting extra video cards and USB ports in the server and just using the server, LCD monitors and USB keyboards and mice, no clients. That would probably further drop the electricity requirements, and drop the price per station by another $110, assuming we can use a $40 video card for each monitor. Then, a cell phone data adapter kit is around $150, so our new price list is:

Cell phone: $50 for one that supports data service assuming it's on a contract to subsidize the cost
Data adapter: $150
Trucker/pole style external antenna for boosting signal strength: $50
(see http://www.alternativewireless.com/cellular-antennas/wilson-antennas/wilson-trucker-antenna.html) Server: $500 (I think by the time we do this, a $500 server would power 5 clients or sessions)
4 extra video ports @ $40/port: $160
4 USB keyboards/mice @ $25 each: $100
200 W Solar array and battery (in case a hand covers up the solar array
accidentally): $1000
Power strips (now no need for ethernet switch): $20.

Total is now: $2030 for five solar powered and cell phone fed stations.

Best, Daniel

Daniel Howard
President and CEO
Georgia Open Source Education Foundation