Lo-fi wi-fi network springing up from junk in Jalalabad

Paul Raven @ 03-03-2010

Jalalabad FabLab wi-fi reflectorOffered here as an extension of the arguments made by the Prospect Magazine piece I linked to the other week about the lessons to be learned from the last-minute low-cost solutions of slum residents and other disadvantaged social groups, Free Range International hosts a report from an MIT team working in Jalalabad, Afghanistan that describes how an injection of knowledge and expertise can accelerate local progress far more effectively than an injection of externally-managed aid money:

… the irony of the graphic above is particularly acute when one considers that an 18-month World Bank funded infrastructure project to bring internet connectivity to Afghanistan began more than SEVEN YEARS ago and only made its first international link this June. That project, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, is still far from being complete while FabLabbers are building useful infrastructure for pennies on the dollar out of their garbage.

People are smart, adaptable; show them where they need to go, and they’ll find a way. What’s that old saw about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day?

The post goes on to highlight the patient and painstaking work of showing the Afghanis that they need to work together to overcome their differences; a carrot and stick operation it may well be, but I’m guessing it’ll do more good than training up and arming local militias, and then expecting them not to fall back into old habits once your back is turned. All depends on whether you want to give these people their freedom or to take control of it yourself, I guess.


Smarten your car with downloadable software

Tom Marcinko @ 27-02-2009

flickrFirefox prompts you for updates every 15 minutes. Why can’t your car be more like that?

…[A]n automotive software architecture [is being] developed by European researchers to keep vehicles up to date with the latest technology.

Developed over two and a half years by a consortium of research institutes, software companies, vehicle manufacturers and parts suppliers, the architecture represents a fundamental building block for an intelligent car able to reconfigure and update itself autonomously, as well as communicate with other devices, such as the driver’s mobile phone or PDA.

Much as the software on a personal computer connects to the internet to download and install updates, the DySCAS architecture allows automotive software to automatically download patches and improvements whenever the vehicle is in range of an accessible wireless hotspot – in the owner’s garage, for example, or even in a public parking lot. It could then download new maps for the navigation system, update the entertainment system to play new music formats, or even adjust engine timing based on more fuel efficient settings supplied by the manufacturer.

A little better fuel efficiency — well, a lot better — and we’ll be good to go. In a few years, the researchers say.

[Image: FlickrMobile by Leo Reynolds]


WiFi flu

Paul Raven @ 04-01-2008

Haxx0r3d-router As if we don’t already have enough “regular” viruses to worry about, a research team from Indiana University suggests that a specially designed computer virus made to attack and propagate on unsecured WiFi routers could easily infect entire cities.

While the risk is apparently only theoretical at the moment, the potential for trouble is a function of the rapid uptake in wireless technology; there are enough open routers about nowadays that the theoretical bug could hop all across town unimpeded. [Image by kludgebox]

People tend to forget that routers are just little computers, but you can bet the malware industry is well aware of it. That said, I can’t really see the commercial potential of such a virus* – and if it can’t be used to make money, surely it would be a four-week proof-of-concept fad for script kiddies at worst?

[* The inevitable disclaimer here is that I’m not a computer security expert by any stretch of the imagination – if you can explain in more detail, please do so in the comments.]

[tags]WiFi, computing, virus, malware[/tags]

User contributed wifi – the advantages of Foneros

Tomas Martin @ 16-10-2007

Soon the internet may be free for allHere in the UK the FON network is gradually reaching a point where people are aware of it. The company asks users to siphon off part of the wireless internet on their router and offer it up as a wireless node for other users. This can be done in the ‘Linus Torvald’ way of linux and be free or in the ‘Bill Gates’ way, giving the router owners a small cutback.

Back when the idea first came around there was little traction – the software wasn’t compatible with most routers and ISP. Meanwhile, most wireless nodes were incompatible with each other and you had to shell out a load of money to use each one. Now with ISPs like BT coming on board with the idea and many other wireless networks springing up all the time, it looks like much of the UK will have wireless access before too long. With content from the BBC becoming freely available over wireless nodes, it looks like complete connectivity throughout the country will be a reality sooner rather than later. Use this handy Londonist map to find free wireless points in London. By making the internet more freely available and decentralised we can use web 2.0 products that are less dependent on infrastructure, encouraging non-profit web solutions that benefit everyone.

[via BBC News, photo by Londonist via Matt From London]