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The Go-Anywhere Cyber Cafe In a Shipping Container

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the want-one-as-a-back-yard-clubhouse dept.

Businesses 145

nk497 writes "UK IT charity Computer AID has come up with a clever idea to use shipping containers to house thin-client-based, solar-powered cyber cafes, which can be used to bring connectivity to rural communities in Africa. The £20,000 boxes use a single Pentium 4 PC split out using thin client devices to offer computing to 10 people via local wireless access or mobile broadband. The solar power created from a single panel is enough to power the PC, 10 monitors, lighting, and also to charge mobile phones. Computer Aid founder Tony Roberts notes, 'The power of this idea is that we can drop that container anywhere in the world, literally in the middle of the Sahara desert.'"

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that much!? (4, Insightful)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300596)

20 grand?! Must be some pricey solar panels... Containers aren't that expensive...

Re:that much!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300616)

A good router can cost $20,000 by itself. Much less a set of PCs, software, licensing, hardware, smooth power, HVAC systems, etc.

Re:that much!? (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300938)

A good router can cost $20,000 by itself.

For a maximum of 10 people? $100 will do you fine.

HVAC systems,

It's a P4 - you know, the type of computer that people are giving away because they're pretty lousy in terms of performance and electrical consumption per bogomip.

Most of the shipping container is taken up with chairs and two counters for the keyboards and thin-client monitors. It would be a lot cheaper to just send a server, a wireless router, and the thin clients on a palette, and set up a solar-powered charging station.

The shipping container is going to be too damn hot to sit in, even with a door and a window or two.

Re:that much!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301528)

Pallet is the wooden shipping thing. Palette is that thing a painter holds.

Re:that much!? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301936)

Pallet is the wooden shipping thing. Palette is that thing a painter holds.

[X] I'm from Quebec, you insensitive clod!

Language lesson - Bon cop, bad cop [youtube.com] - funny.

Sometimes the franglais spills over :-)

Quebec, the only place where if you say in french "my host of the chalice of the tabernacle of the dirty dog", you're exceedingly rude, but where "C'est fucké" is polite enough to use with grandma. .

Re:that much!? (1)

Zemran (3101) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302530)

The shipping container is going to be too damn hot to sit in,

No problem, if you set this up in somewhere like the sahara, as the article says, people will not walk to it until after dark when it is cooler. This is the same as in most third world hot countries. In the middle of the raod countries people are working in the fields etc. until after dark so they will not mind either... ... I do see another problem with this though...

Re:that much!? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300820)

Man, you've gotta stop thinking in terms of price. You've gotta think in terms of value and interoperability. Given the fact that Google can drop a datacenter-in-a-storage-container off anywhere, you could build your own personal Intarweb anywhere you want, complete with users! I hear there are even plans to have the containers directly linkable, using something industry pundits are referring to as "Lego" architecture. What exciting times these are.

Re:that much!? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301050)

No, my complaint would be that the admin costs on the charity side would be > 50% judging by the "industry" standard...

It is an exciting "product" and I can definitely see its value and viability, my only problem is the inefficiency of charities... You price it up and see where you get. This is aimed at Africa, the main issue would be the internet connection, and the largest single cost after the container itself or maybe the solar panel (doesn't have to be a super efficient one given the climate of the majority of the region). The PC/server would be something donated no doubt, they have drives to get people to donate old computers.

I'm not saying "oh, too expensive, won't work", I'm saying "someone else should do it for half the price"... You can get containers that are no longer fit for service for the price of scrap steel, you don't need an ISO certified one for this use. Solar panels can be cheap ones from a few technological generations back. The computer doesnt need to be powerful, what the aim is is to have email and basic internet access, you don't need youtube, you need something from 10 years ago... We had a setup with an old AMD machine powering 4 thin-clients back in the 90's that even had napster running on several machines by the end of its life with no upgrades.

Great idea, inefficiently executed

Re:that much!? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301120)

you need something from 10 years ago...

it is from 10 years ago - an old p4.

The worst part - they expect people to sit inside this thing in desert climates, and they painted it dark blue?!?. No AC, dark blue sides, and they actually expect people to PAY to sit inside this thing to use an underpowered thin client?

"Because there's only one PC, we can put solar power on the container, provides enough power for the users and also additionally power for a light on the ceiling, and to also recharge people's mobile phones - so it has two income streams that make it sustainable," Roberts noted.

"Look, you can pay us to recharge your mobile phone!" What a whack-job!

Re:that much!? (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301308)

I really don't think you've been to the places that this is suggested for. These people don't have electricity, running water, let alone a powerful computer at home.

Stop thinking about this in terms of what you have and what you would pay for.

More than likely these boxes wouldn't even cost the users, as they would be used in aid programs.

Re:that much!? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301812)

More than likely these boxes wouldn't even cost the users, as they would be used in aid programs.

You didn't read the article. They want it to be "sustainable" by charging users for use of the computers and for charging their cell phones as a second revenue stream. So it's going to cost the user.

F*ing stupid. If they have cell phones, they already have access to electricity. And they're talking about sharing one used p4 by running up to 10 images. That's not a "powerful computer" - that's a "gee, we're slower than AOL dial-up".

The *only* good thing about this is the solar panel. Everything else is pretty much garbage. Better (and cheaper) to ship them the solar panel and batteries, and 10 minimalist laptops (one of which can be configured as a server).

Re:that much!? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301692)

My post wasn't intended for serious consumption. Is your humor detector broken today? :)

This is also known as Whoosh Syndrome

Re:that much!? (2, Informative)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300892)

Most of the pricetag goes towards the mini Starbucks they fit inside there.

Re:that much!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301136)

Why aren't AFRICANS making their own cybercafes?

Oh, wait...

Re:that much!? (0, Flamebait)

chibiace (898665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302212)

they are lazy, you cant blame everything on bad rulers.

Pentium 4? (3, Insightful)

marciot (598356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300598)

A Pentium 4 powering ten web browsers? I hope everyone doesn't go to YouTube at once.

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301146)

Not to mention a Core 2 Duo would probably put out half as much heat.

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301182)

Boy I ought to read more before posting. Someone brought the same dang thing up right below here.

very nice idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301212)

I'm impressed, and their mockup picture looks a sight cleaner than some of the filthy places I've been in, in Ireland!

Re:Pentium 4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302192)

For a wireless connection in Africa, I think bandwidth might be the first limiter.
This is probably good for nothing more than viewing mostly text-based web sites.

Re:Pentium 4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302302)

you can run firefox as a local app. See:

http://www.suares.an/index.php?topic=technieken&style_id=0

Pentium 4? (4, Insightful)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300602)

They should have went with a more power efficient (and faster) core 2 duo. It's not like the cost difference would have been noticeable given the cost of the shipping container, solar panels, etc.

Re:Pentium 4? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300680)

Really?? How about using a single 12-core processor from AMD. But then that only uses 80W or so on average. Considering you can get that system for $1000 + RAM + HD, looks significantly cheaper than using P4.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819105267
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813182230

At that point all you need is a cheap ass switch and you can *easily* handle 15 thin clients. Thin clients running ARM processors and energy efficient solar panels would be best.

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301066)

They are most likely using donated machines, something this charity is something of a "specialist" in...

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301220)

Which is nice and all but I wonder if the costs savings of using a secondhand P4 really make up for the extra power it uses compared to a modern equivilent (on loads that can be paralellised even a bloody dual core atom beats the lower end P4s)

Re:Pentium 4? (2, Informative)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301686)

If the power difference between a P4 and a modern CPU wasn't enough the change the number of solar cells required, then it doesn't matter if it uses extra power. Given the point of the charity is specifically to reuse old equipment, then they might as well pack up and go home if they have to buy all new stuff.

A P4 would be enough to run 10 users. 15 years ago I ran a 10 user office from a single 386. By today's standard it was slow, but it still worked. Considering that the communications in the remote regions of Africa is likely to be high latency and low bandwidth then it is not as if it will be possible to use Youtube or anything like it.

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301382)

They are most likely using donated machines, something this charity is something of a "specialist" in...

Regardless, the difficulty in getting the shipping container and everything else so outweighs the difficulty of getting a more practical system that a 1% boost in the cost of the setup can literally provide a 10x improvement in performance. Even if they are trying to make use of donated equipment, they should still be able to get donated core2 and better systems at a greater rate than they get donated shipping containers...

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302198)

How much do you think a container costs?

You can buy as many as you want on eBay for $1500 each.

Re:Pentium 4? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301914)

Unless the thinking is that the lower-end P4 and the supporting hardware may be more reliable under harsh conditions (think the Mars rovers.) Plus they could throw one or two prebuilt P4 boxes in the container for backup.

.

Convenient (3, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300606)

They make everything in convenient container sizes now:

- servers
- internet cafes
- anti-ship missiles
- nuclear reactors
- nuclear bombs

Shipping containers are the "in" thing to do nowadays.

Re:Convenient (2, Informative)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301072)

US Army living quarters in Iraq... You should look at how the prices shot up with the war over there kicking off and getting in full swing. Loads of containers went off the market over a very short period of time...

Re:Convenient (1)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302020)

Houses! [ecoble.com]
You missed houses! [inhabitat.com]

Re:Convenient (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302532)

There are so many unused shipping containers that it makes sense to use them. Also, they provide the easiest method of relocation anyplace around the world.

Amsterdam has an apartment complex comprised entirely out of shipping containers. The idea being that if you want to relocate, you transport your container/home to another city. So you can forget having to box up your things and move crap around, which is nice!

http://www.tempohousing.com/projects/keetwonen.html [tempohousing.com]

I wish they had these in America. It would make job relocation that much easier and not feel confined to just the city you live in. It would also make the States more competitive with each other and thus more employment friendly. After all, getting out of your apartment lease or trying to sell your home is the last thing you want to deal with.

Golden Girls! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300608)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.

Mod Parent up! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300930)

Or at least insightful....

Why use a Pentium 4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300624)

Many modern cpus are twice as fast for the same power draw.

i look forward to the mail (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300646)

telling me i have won the lottery and have been randomly
selected by the bank of Africa who want to send me 50million dollars (they only want 2% commission)

Re:i look forward to the mail (1)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300696)

which they will then use to buy some new shipping containers containing the latest P4 chips to bring more internet to africa!! how can you be such a selfish twit and not want that!

why not use amd?? (4, Informative)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300674)

why not use amd?? more cores at less power then intel.

and a P4 with HT? Dual core? doing 10 VM like systems?

How much ram does it have 256? 512? 1g 2g 4g?

Re:why not use amd?? (3, Funny)

threephaseboy (215589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301566)

Post made entirely of questions

(Score:5, Informative)

Never change, slashdot.

AC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300684)

Gonna get a little hot in there, especially in the sun.

The £20,000 cost (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300706)

The £20,000 cost probably comes from Microsoft charging them for 10 licences for the 10 monitors.

More Scammers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300710)

Cool idea..but great, that's all we need is more scammers.

Cargo cult (5, Insightful)

ugen (93902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300732)

Dropping this container in the middle of Africa is a good way to establish a new cargo cult [wikipedia.org] .

Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first (including proper hygiene, medical care, food, clothing, development of civic society, business, infrastructure, etc etc). Providing internet without these other things results in proliferation of "Nigerian scams" and very little else.

Re:Cargo cult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300838)

Once they have the internet they can just order everything they need; water, food, medicine, ebay. They will be able to actually afford it when they find out they have a long lost cousin in Nigeria who passed away recently and left them $100,000,000 US dollars.

On the other hand, how about we just use the solar panels to run a pump well, so they can grow some food instead.

          Once they have the internet they can just order everything they need; water, food, medicine, ebay. They will be able to actually afford it when they find out they have a long lost cousin in Nigeria who passed away recently and left them $100,000,000 US dollars.

On the other hand, how about we just use the solar panels to run a pump well, so they can grow some food instead.

Re:Cargo cult (4, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300850)

I was just wondering how far down I'd have to scroll to see this traditional response to this type of story:

Dropping this container in the middle of Africa is a good way to establish a new cargo cult [wikipedia.org] .

Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first (including proper hygiene, medical care, food, clothing, development of civic society, business, infrastructure, etc etc). Providing internet without these other things results in proliferation of "Nigerian scams" and very little else.

You're responding to a post about a:

( ) Technical innovation in a developing country
(*) Product shipped to a developing market
( ) General discussion about IT in the developing world

The location is:

(*) Africa
( ) India
( ) Bangladesh
( ) China
( ) Somewhere else in Asia
( ) South America
( ) Central America
( ) Other _unspecified_

You're objecting to it on the basis that:

(*) Poverty hasn't been eliminated in that country yet
( ) American jobs will be lost

Your argument is bogus because:

( ) Poverty hasn't been eliminated in the developed world either, that doesn't mean we should halt all technological research
( ) This will not adversely affect any efforts to alleviate poverty
(*) This will help to alleviate poverty
( ) Poverty in that country isn't as widespread as you say it is
( ) The US does not have a divine right to keep all the cool jobs

Re:Cargo cult (3, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300970)

Whilst I would generally agree with this kind of debunking, I have to disagree this time around - purely because of the cost. This is a massive amount of money. 'High level' stuff (computers, internet etc.) can wait until basic amenities are fully in place. This huge amount of money can be spent on something more crucial before computers etc. because very few people die because lack of a computer in a cargo carrier. Coupled with the fact the first one is going to Zambia of all places - which is stricken not only by poverty but also AIDS

I get where you're coming from. The idea everyone in place X is struck by poverty is naive. But Zambia of all places is not exactly in dire need of computing power versus other kinds of donations. To top it off, a good 20% of their population is AIDs positive.

Re:Cargo cult (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300980)

I meant to finish off my last line with: This money would be better allocated to orphanages. Huge amounts of children in Zambia must be without parents due to AIDs. 10-20% of pop. is huge

Aah... BUT! (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301222)

You can't sell a donation that easily.

Sure, maybe you could make it tax deductible but it is not the same as someone actually paying you or your friends £20,000 for an "Boxfull of Internet".
Someone, somewhere has to pay for those components - even if Zambians and Kenyans get it completely free and if the labor and transport are also donated.

Donations to developing countries are a great resource if you want to launder some money.
Get your own charity and make a anonymous donation or two with that "pharmaceutical" money you have under the mattress.
Then, have your charity buy the necessities for the developing nations with that money from your other company, ship them via your shipping company and distribute them to the people in need.
And there you have it. Clean money and maybe even a laundered conscience.
Plus you get to call yourself a philanthropist.

Re:Cargo cult (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301198)

The actual computer hardware is crappy and cheap. A used P4, 10 thin clients, and a router to connect them all. Oh, add in some cheap chairs, and a counters along the container walls for the thin clients.

The most expensive part is the solar cells - and buying a more energy-efficient pc (say a dual-core laptop) to act as the server would more than pay for itself by needing a much smaller solar cell array. And who's going to want to PAY to sit inside a hot, stuffy Cyber Cafe shipping container?

I give them a -1 Retardo.

OK... I'll bite... (5, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301062)

How in the hell will this alleviate poverty?

Let's take Nigeria [wikipedia.org] for example.
I KNOW FOR A FACT that they've got both Internet AND a working postal system there. I've seen the evidence.

How will the "Internet in a box" magically alleviate poverty there? You can't just have the whole country running 419 scams.

Re:OK... I'll bite... (3, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301150)

Internet access [www.idrc.ca] helps alleviate poverty in the same way that cell phones [businessweek.com] : by removing intermediaries and giving farmers access to up-to-date pricing information and buyers.

Or did technology that dramatically improves communication suddenly cease to be useful because you don't have derivatives to sell?

Lovely examples those... (3, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301594)

Internet access [www.idrc.ca] helps alleviate poverty in the same way that cell phones: [businessweek.com] by removing intermediaries and giving farmers access to up-to-date pricing information and buyers.

This is what that "internet access" (which was actually a broker and micro-loan program) did:
http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-122219-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html [www.idrc.ca]
http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5877.html [hbs.edu]

The epilogue to this project is not good. One year after the follow-up data were
collected, the exporter refused to continue buying the crops from DrumNet farmers since
none of the SHGs had obtained EurepGap certification. DrumNet lost money on its loan
to the farmers and collapsed, but equally importantly farmers were forced to sell to
middlemen, sometimes leaving a harvest to rot. As reported to us by DrumNet, the
farmers were outraged but powerless, and subsequently returned to growing what they
had been growing before (e.g., local crops such as maize).

As for the "cell phones" link, you don't have to go farther than the article itself:

Most of these unconnected masses live in rural areas that are much poorer and more remote than Muruguru.
Now cell-phone makers and service providers understand that they can make money by bringing cell-phone service within reach of people who live on $2 a day.
Users buy new phones for as little as $20--and secondhand models for far less--as well as airtime in increments of just 75 cents in Kenya, enough for nearly 10 minutes of off-peak calling.
.
They increased their profits by an average of 8% after they began using mobile phones to find out which coastal marketplaces were offering the best prices for sardines. Yet consumer prices for fish dropped 4% because the fishermen no longer had to throw away the catch they couldn't sell when they sailed into a port after all the buyers had left.
"That's what economic efficiencies are about--everyone is better off," says Jensen.

It is simply wonderful seeing such selective blindness.

A mobile phone costs as little as 1000% of your daily costs.
10 minutes (charged by a minute, so that is less than 10 calls) of mobile-credit costs you 37.5% of your daily costs.
And to even that out, your income has increased by 8%.

So, on average, that one 10-minute charge eats up that 8% increase in profit five out of seven days a weak.
But all is not so dark and dreary - if they work 7 days a weak, they will earn 0.32$ of extra profit each weak.
That way, they get to pay off that 20$ phone of theirs in only 1.2 years. Not accounting for interests.

After that - the sky is the limit!

 
Sure. For some people in developing nations mobile phones are providing A phone for the first time.
For some even a way of long distance communication of any kind for the first time.
And there are bound to be benefits from that as well as some measurable increases of quality of life.

But attaching the "it alleviates poverty" label on the mobile phone is way off the target.
Only people whose poverty is alleviated are mobile-phone merchants and local telecommunication companies (that practice the best kinds of monopolies - uncontrolled and rampant).
For a "regular Joe" they are more of a resource drain than a "poverty alleviation".

Re:Lovely examples those... (5, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301646)

Notice that the problem in the first article had nothing to do with internet access, but with a certification process attached to their new crop.

Furthermore, what you fail to understand in your analysis of cell phone usage is that it takes only one person in the village to make one call to figure out what to do. The way it actually works is that someone who already has some money buys a used phone, and then resells phone calls to an entire village, or entire area. The costs are indeed spread out among many people, which makes the system work - as demonstrated by profits going up, not just revenue.

Seriously, if you want to critique something, at least know the systems in place. Not to mention that it is a straw man of epic proportions to argue that because neither technology was a silver bullet, it should never be used by anyone.

Re:OK... I'll bite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301776)

How will the "Internet in a box" magically alleviate poverty there? You can't just have the whole country running 419 scams.

That might not be so bad.

One could almost say the scammers deserve the money more than the stupid victims, who need to be parted from their money, and it is best they lose their money to scammers in Africa, where the money will help build the local economies.

Re:Cargo cult (0)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301094)

Wish I could mod this up

Re:Cargo cult (1)

ugen (93902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301114)

There is a reason these replies appear on every such news article - they are exactly the right ones :) I know, it must be boring to have 2 + 2 = 4 every time, but that's what it is and will continue to be.

Specifically to your "reply" - no, this alleged device will most certainly not help alleviate poverty in any way (unless you consider any potential scam earnings :) ). There is absolutely no way at this point for any useful technology to end in the right hands in Africa. Of course closeted geeks that never seen what's going on there would not know that.

Re:Cargo cult (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301872)

(*) This will help to alleviate poverty

I hate to confuse you will concepts beyond the grasp of most 14 year olds (or those arrested at that level of cognitive development), but African countries aren't poor because they don't have internet access or because they lack options for wealth generation. They are poor because they are politically backward and they will never advance politically until they fundamentally change their cultures. It is probably beyond even your guilt-ridden, trying-to-impress-your-friends-with-how-much-you-care, superhuman, messianic, completely full-of-yourself character to achieve this, but knock yourself out.

Teach a man to fish... (2, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300958)

... by throwing a fishing pole into his face.

Basically, this is yet another fruit from the tree of philosophy of "if only Africanians had the KNOWLEDGE they would fix all their problems by themselves".
Like the missing infrastructure - they would learn how to build roads and how to grow crops using only their hands by reading wikipedia.
And maybe playing Civilization. And Farmville. Clean water would be provided from similar sources.
Also, they would use the internet to study medicine and become doctors.
In their spare time, between building roads, feeding themselves and getting their medical degree, they would figure out that whole economy shtick and kick ou.. no BUY OUT the foreign industries that keep exploiting them and their countries' natural resources.
They would also inherently gravitate towards a free democratic society.
Schools and hospitals and (clean industry) factories would simply pop-up everywhere when enough people learn enough things.
There would be no corrupt politicians, no criminals, no dictatorships or interracial hatred or conflict.

Really... All these people need to pull the Utopia up from the sand by its umm... cables?.. is The Internet.
Then they would have the same wonderful system that all the remaining people in the world have - only better, cause they would have it "ready-made".
No need for pesky experimentation and all those nasty revolutions when you have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips.
Right?

Re:Teach a man to fish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301388)

Straw man arguments are lies.

Re:Cargo cult (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301088)

Maybe something along the lines of what Soros did in providing free photocopiers? Allowing uncensored mass communication to get rid of a corrupt regime in a more efficient manner through free information flow?

Re:Cargo cult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301410)

Think about the teach a man to fish parable. Access to the net is like having the biggest library in the world.

Re:Cargo cult (3, Interesting)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301518)

Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first

What does it matter to you? It's their charity, their money, and therefore their decision about what they want to do. If you think people need something else more, start your own damn charity.

Re:Cargo cult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302186)

Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first

What does it matter to you? It's their charity, their money, and therefore their decision about what they want to do. If you think people need something else more, start your own damn charity.

I applaud naive fools who think they can reform other people's societies simply by giving them some of the things that they themselves value. I very much prefer that the fools waste their time and resources on such misguided efforts rather than spending their time and resources screwing with their own countries. Keep it up clowns. Tell yourself how wonderful you are. The world is so very impressed.

I could see $20k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300754)

A new shipping container might run $5000. But then you have to finish the insides. I could see $20k, especially with insulation.

But dropping it into the Sahara desert? Sure, you could drop it there but then everybody inside would die.

Re:I could see $20k (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301272)

Used shipping containers are dirt cheap. They're piling up because it's cheaper to make new ones than to ship the old ones back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvcUe_yPHdg [youtube.com]

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2006/jun/15/20060615-122003-3483r/ [washingtontimes.com]

But then you have to finish the insides. I could see $20k, especially with insulation.

I bet you've never seen the inside of a shipping container. You can get them with wooden interior walls, floor, and ceiling. Air them out, slap on a coat of paint, and you're good to go. People are buying them to make work sheds, etc., you can get a 40' for $1500 0 $1700 without even trying,

lots of empty (2, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300764)

Lets go haul a big empty shipping container around for giggles? This thing looks like it could be condensed down to 11 netbooks and the solar panels to power them, figure 4k for the lot vs 20k for this. Aside from the solar panels your talking about 20kg of netbooks than can be stored at night and carried by a single man to the destination on his back. Want something permanent get the locals to build something or reuse an existing building. This just seems like a me to me to see we have shipping container stuff isn't it cool.

Re:lots of empty (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300852)

Containers aren't very "big", fit on common container hauling trucks, and make nice structures. (I have two 40' High Cubes for shop buildings, the extra height is nice.) Paint the top white and the internal temp drops quite a bit. They make nice weatherproof enclosures ideal for protecting electronics.

Re:lots of empty (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301092)

Doesn't seem like a very appropriate structure for Africa. Or for any place you'd want users to work for extended periods of time. Little natural light, little airflow. Painting them white isn't going to help much in African temperatures. Plus there's the whole social overtone of packing people into a crate. Seems a bit too prison-like to me. Perhaps it's all about preparing Africans to work in cubicles?

Re:lots of empty (2, Informative)

AmishElvis (1101979) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301506)

the US military uses converted shipping containers to house deployed soldiers in Afghanistan. They have lights, power, small window mounted heat/air conditioning units, and sometimes they're even wired for internet. Much more comfortable and private than tents or communal b-huts. Also, do you really need to let in sunlight to A) an internet cafe in B) the middle of the desert?

Re:lots of empty (1)

IdolizingStewie (878683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301984)

You can get these things fairly nice. When I'm offshore, I live in temporary quarters that are basically a modified shipping container (1 bathroom, 2 4-bunk rooms) and have my office in another. Mine, I will admit, have air-conditioning, but still, I have no complaints at all.

Re:lots of empty (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301126)

It's a lot harder to steal a container than it is to steal a netbook...

Always (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32300796)

Everything for africa. farms for africa. fish for africa. one laptop one child for africa. cyber cafes for africa. what has africa given to the world? AIDS, and niggers.

What has Africa given to the world?: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301240)

How about, the entire human genome that runs your sorry ass excuse for a self?

Or are you one of the young earth creationists that thinks humanity romped with the dinosaurs, and didn't develop in Africa?

Re:What has Africa given to the world?: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301332)

yea... and racists too!!!

This is exactly what the world is crying out for. (2, Funny)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300802)

More 419 spams.

A Pentium 4?!? (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300856)

They are taking an expensive container unit, and a very expensive solar array, and buying ten thin clients, and the main computer is a Pentium 4?

That's just crazy. All I can think is that they are a computer recycling outfit, and they had a Pentium 4 on hand and just said "Eh, good enough."

I would have spent a few hundred and gotten an AMD dual-core or even quad-core chip and some ECC RAM. And probably a flash boot drive. You want the computer to be as bulletproof as possible, and it would be nice if it was energy-efficient. A Pentium 4 is basically a device for heating a small room... in other words, not power-efficient. It has a single core. I don't believe any Pentium 4 chipset supports ECC RAM. (Hence the AMD suggestion. Yes, I am an AMD fan, but Intel reserves ECC as a feature of only their expensive server chipsets; whereas ECC has been a standard feature with AMD for years now.)

If you are sharing one computer among ten users, extra cores would be a very good thing. Large cache would be a very good thing. Both of those argue for a modern CPU.

The article didn't say what the OS is. However, the article has a link to another article about the first such cyber cafe, and that previous article says they are using NComputing [ncomputing.com] thin client technology. NComputing appears to be a solution for hooking up external thin clients to virtual machine images running on a host. Which begs the question: ten virtual machine images running on a Pentium 4?!? Let's hope they are least are using one of the models of Pentium 4 that supports [wikipedia.org] the Intel virtualization "VT-x" instructions.

Oh well, I'm sure it works, and it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

steveha

Um, what about heat?!? (2, Insightful)

printman (54032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300874)

OK, so lets put a metal shipping container (i.e. a big metal box) out in the desert and have people sit in there throughout the day - won't that get awfully hot?!?

Re:Um, what about heat?!? (1)

FishOuttaWater (1163787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301356)

Doubles as a solar oven during the day! Or perhaps if they cover the entire top of the container with solar panels they could drive an air conditioner with 'em.

Re:Um, what about heat?!? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301656)

OK, so lets put a metal shipping container (i.e. a big metal box) out in the desert and have people sit in there throughout the day - won't that get awfully hot?!?

That's the idea. One of the advantages of the thin clients is that they don't *have* to be in the shipping container - but if you don't meet your quota of 419 spams, back in the box!

Sort of like the sweat box in "Bridge on the River Kwai".

Solar Coffee Too? (2, Funny)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32300886)

Maybe one solar panel can run a PC and ten monitors, but how do you power the Cappuccino maker?

Re:Solar Coffee Too? (1)

chibiace (898665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302244)

exercise-bicycle chairs.

It about time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301018)

Yay! here comes the computing power, it about time we had access to computing power any where on such short notice.Now I can logon to the information superhighway at work, or at home , or when I just out on the town!

Computing power anywhere...What a wonderful age we live in!

Business plan... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301138)

Ok guys were are gonna take all these shipping containers and outfit them with server racks and air conditioners and people will pay use big us big money to use computers in a .... shipping container.

Summary:
1. Put computer in shipping container
2. ???
3. Profit.

Didnt Sun already do this???

what a (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301142)

half-arsed idea!

Beside the heat issue, they did not even consider the internet connection itself. For this thing to make any sense they should equip it with a satellite link...

Re:what a (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301554)

Beside the heat issue, they did not even consider the internet connection itself.

Oddly enough, they did consider that. Here's a quote from the article that you failed to read: " The first cafe is set to go live in Zambia soon. While the tiny town it will be sited in is 70 miles from the nearest major centre, it is home to a malarial research institute that has a satellite dish link with John Hopkins in the US, so the cafe will piggyback on that connection."

What about the connection? (2, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301188)

Yes, the box itself can work in the middle of the Sahara, but how much is a satellite link and the ground equipment for it going to cost? I'm guessing it doesn't provide enough power to run that as well as the unit itself. So, you probably also need a power source for the ground station.

It might be more usefull in a village with no power, but close in to a city with wireless connectivity that could be accessed with a good directional antenna.

If you've already got a place with a hard wired connection or a ground station, then the PC's and power source are likely already available.

Yes, but a "job-killer" in the Australian Outback! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301340)

We see the advantages, but there are some disadvantage, too.

Eg, in Australia, where any Aboriginal communities still without a "TeleCentre" (as Internet cafes are known in AU's Outback) need jobs for local community members, as well as access to the Internet:

Dropping in a "complete" system that provides Internet "kills" such jobs - eg:

1. refurbishing a "transportable" office module to serve as home for a Telecentre,

2. painting the refurbished module with local art, colors, etc., &

3. installing satellite Internet systems, suited to [possibly more cost-effective] local Internet services.

For many the thought of rectangular forms (eg, container) is not culturally apropriate,
so even a container may be the wrong structure to use in Outback Australia.

Newer architectures are beginning to explore round shapes in housing, offices,
clinics, etc. Telecentres will sooner or later be located within such structures, &
- before they are so integrated - they may need to fit into the larger community's
building style.

We suggest asking the community what they might prefer & maybe just send-in
sets of computer & Internet comms equipment, with options like community
WiFi.

In fact, low-cost mesh-networks for distributing Internet to homes might both:

1. encourage people to have computers in the home, &

2, give people an affordable means of having a VoIP phone service in the home.

(Many Aboriginal people, who live on Outback communities feel they must
rely on an open-air public phone - ie, when it works - saving the Au$21 / mon
minimum line fees charged by de facto monopoly telco Telstra. There was
ONCE a cost-free incoming phone service "InContact" available for such
homes, but Telstra has stopped providing it... leaving many Outback
communities' members dependent on a few public phones.)

It could inly take WiFi access points & VoIP ATA's (at each home wanting
its own phone, ie, if it's with in VoIP-quality range of [proposed] community
TeleCentre's WiFi connections.

yeah great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301396)

Call me strange, but I suspect they'd prefer it if you dropped a container full of food, or clothes, perhaps farming equipment and seeds.

Solar-powered thin client labs (3, Interesting)

terminak (1817050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301444)

I worked for an NGO in Cambodia (http://www.kapekh.org) that implemented a similar program with thin clients powered by solar panels, but without the cargo container.

The program saw these thin clients installed within high school computer rooms, and had the simple goal of teaching office skills to impoverished high school children. Prior, we had a dozen or so standard computer labs that had endless issues with maintenance, misuse (video games, vcds, etc) and the expense of electricity. Thin clients ended up being way easier all around. Prior to getting USAID funding, we were sourcing them directly from a Chinese vendor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7OYQzv75Pk [youtube.com] - A video of one of our first labs being opened and an overview of the idea. I believe there are about 20 of these labs now.

One of the issues we found with solar panels and the battery banks was the misuse of electricity perceived as "free". Charging mobile phones using high-end solar panel batteries was an issue, especially when our networking equipment was unplugged to allow for more charging devices.

Re:Solar-powered thin client labs (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301558)

That's the old problem of what's perceived as valuable to the community: Internet access. And what's more valuable to the individuals: a phone charged for "free".

Why does rural Africa need cyber cafes? (2, Interesting)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301480)

I can't, for the life of me, imagine why Africa needs cyber cafes. In all seriousness ... there aren't internet cafes in rural Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah or Idaho - places I drive through or hike in. Do those folks want internet cafes? Can you order something from Amazon and have it delivered there? If they go to news sites all they see is how bad their continent is compared to the rest of the world, at least if the BBC, Reuters, CNN, etc ... have anything to say on that.

Re:Why does rural Africa need cyber cafes? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301842)

Well, acknowledgment is the first step towards recovery. If they can read about how bad it is, then perhaps they can do something about it.

Re:Why does rural Africa need cyber cafes? (1)

rednip (186217) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301916)

We have homes with electricity and connectivity (telephone, cable, etc) already. Also, while not labeled as 'an internet cafe' plenty of places have WiFi.

If they go to news sites all they see is how bad their continent is compared to the rest of the world, at least if the BBC, Reuters, CNN, etc ... have anything to say on that.

So like you'd prefer if they didn't know how good you have it, maybe you're worried they be coming to steal your stuff. :)

The shipping container is a gimmick, but access to communications and information is a very good thing.

Re:Why does rural Africa need cyber cafes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302002)

Stop trying to pull the old *smug* racist card. All it does is paralyze thinking. You people are deluding yourselves if you think rural africans need the internet. Most are subsistance farmers if that and the internet will do nothing at all for them. You need to get outside for once and live in the real world, there is more to communication then the internet.

Can O' Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32301508)

What you mean they have no internet in Africa? Well, why don't we just put some in a box and send it to them?

Um...sir. I don't think that's how the internet works.

Just do it, Goddammit!

NComputing PC Sharing (1)

BaldingByMicrosoft (585534) | more than 4 years ago | (#32301618)

Does anyone who has real experience administrating an NComputing environment care to weigh in on the usability and sustainability? Other than horsepower limitations, I've heard that they frequently react poorly to patching the base Windows environment.

We have some resource-restricted K-12 environments looking at this, as well as Microsoft's Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 [microsoft.com] to save money on workstations and power infrastructure. Fair warning, the Microsoft site seems practically devoid of substantial implementation detail and is more geared toward the kind of fluffy K-12 marketing that makes school administrators spend your tax dollars. I think it's somehow using USB keyboards, mice and monitors -- but I haven't been able to tell.

These technologies seem to be under consideration in place of, say, a "nettop" (atom-based) lab running workstation management for ease of administration, and possibly one of the many teacher-snoop-and-control software applications for managing their use. Given state testing requirements, most of our region uses Windows or Macs for compatibility with their testing software. The Macs are generally too expensive for regular purchase cycles, but it's apparently easier to find grants for them as opposed to PCs.

SUNrays (1)

init-five (745157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302036)

SUN had that for years - and it didn't cost 20K and it was not limited to 10 clients either.

See real African natives whacking off together! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302546)

I don't know about this. Ten native villagers whacking off at the same time to their first Internet porn in a hot shipping container in the desert... ...why spend £20,000 for that... ...unless maybe the company has a live feed into the trailer and also runs a porn website proclaiming, "See real African natives whacking off together!"

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