Saturday, September 29, 2007

Network Connectivity - I agree with Om Malik

Om Malik wrote a post about the One Laptop Per Child project and mentioned that he is fairly critical about the project. Having stayed in a developing nation for almost a year, I tend to agree with him. I remember my excitement when I first learned about the OLPC. I was then an intern in a major US company and that company itself was involved in the OLPC project. From an engineering perspective, the OLPC project is the way to go. Instead of donating money, provide a device that is affordable. Bootstrap developing nations to help themselves. It's an excellent idea.

Staying in a developing nation, I realized that it is not only a money issue but as well a development issue. How do you make sure that people interact with the device responsible? How do you make sure that it doesn't end up with the wrong person? How do you provide support? How do you get replacement?

From my current perspective, the OLPC project is only the first step. An important step but many important steps have to follow. One of those steps is mentioned in Om's post: internet connectivity.

Before I came to Bhutan, I took good internet connectivity for granted - at least during the last seven years. Coming to Bhutan, I soon realized that not everybody has good internet connectivity. At the institute that I'm staying, we have a 1 Mbps down / 256 kbps up connection. We pay more than US $1000 per month to our satellite provider. Compare this to Switzerland where you can get three times the speed for a tenth of the money. 100 computers are using this connection and it easily follows that we wait now and then. Making things worse, the 1 Mbps / 256 kbps are not guaranteed but we rather have to share this bandwidth with 20 other customers in the worst case. Effectively accessing the internet is almost impossible. Loading GMail - forget it!!

The situation has improved a little bit after I tweaked our proxy server. Configuring squid, caching windows updates (1.5 GB in a week), blocking all porn / dating / .. sites. But still, it is a pain to access the internet.

The developing world needs innovative solutions for this problem. Putting cables into the ground may prove to be too expensive; at least for mountainous countries such as Bhutan. Maybe Stratellite?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow is dead right about the hierarchy of needs. If your basic needs are not covered, you do not think about intellectually challenging ideas. It is difficult to truly understand this if your basic needs have always been fulfilled. It is important to keep this fact in mind while interacting with people that have uncovered basic needs.

Coming home today, we discovered a few hundred ants in our room. Guess, I didn't think about the latest Google product but rather about how to get those ants out of our room in the most efficient way. We are done now and I hope that we got most of the ants out. Uff, it took a good three hours to accomplish that...

Happy trails!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Business

Guys, I started recently a business down here in Samtse; have a look at the picture :-)!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 10, 2007

More fungus!

Guys, just wanted to share this pic of my watch. Looks scary - doesn't it?

From Rain Season i...

During the last couple of days, the weather has been pretty sunny but at the same time really warm. Time to dry all the things!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rain Season (2)

Some of you were asking for proofs of the impact of the rain season. Let me give you two. This morning - after a short trip to India - we went to the place where the bridge was washed away to take a few pictures. It's quite amazing to see how powerful water can be - not only the bridge was washed away but so was the entire street. Right now, there is no water and cars can pass through the river bed. But as soon as it will start to rain, this will not be possible and there will be no connection to the other side of the river.

The second proof is a car with fungus. Never seen a car with fungus?? Well, it exists. It might look like dirt but it is not!

Guys, have a awesome Sunday!

Friday, August 03, 2007

JavaScript on TV!

A couple of weeks ago, I was conducting a week long workshop in JavaScript for lecturers from both the Colleges of Education. Eight lecturers were participating and we had a good time although the subject was not trivial for the participants. Using compact sample applications, I tried to give the participants a feeling for how to design applications. We were drawing rainbows, changed the color of a title according to the rainbow, designed a clock ('why should I program my own clock - I could just go down to checkpost and buy one for 80 rupees ...'), displayed pictures in a slide show, and built our own calculator.

All in all, we had a good time fighting with JavaScript. But unfortunately, on the first morning of our workshop, a team from BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Service) - the national television - showed up. They asked a bunch of questions and were shooting a bit. A few days later, BBS reported on a JavaScript workshop held at the Samtse College of Education. Fortunately, I missed that report as I wasn't keen on seeing myself. A few days later, random people that I have never met before asked me 'Hey, are you the guy that was conducting that workshop?'. For villagers, this must have been a really strange report. A chillip (foreigner) in Gho teaching something really strange on a computer :-).

Guys, have fun and enjoy life!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


It's rain season down here in Samtse and we got enough water during the last couple of days. Our roof starts to leak, we have to dry all our clothes inside, and Sunday shopping is dominated by umbrellas. A couple of days ago, a bridge and part of a road were taken by the river. It's going to take a bit of time to restore that bridge and the road.