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The Go-Anywhere Cyber Cafe In a Shipping Container 145

Posted by timothy
from the want-one-as-a-back-yard-clubhouse dept.
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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The Go-Anywhere Cyber Cafe In a Shipping Container

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  • that much!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:16PM (#32300596) Homepage
    20 grand?! Must be some pricey solar panels... Containers aren't that expensive...
    • 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.
      • 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
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          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 m

          • 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.

            • by tomhudson (43916)

              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 s

            • by shiftless (410350)

              I don't think you've been inside an un-airconditioned steel Connex (i.e. 40 foot "shipping container") in a desert climate for any length of time, now have you? It gets pretty damn stifling hot in there.

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

          This is also known as Whoosh Syndrome
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by T Murphy (1054674)
      Most of the pricetag goes towards the mini Starbucks they fit inside there.
  • Pentium 4? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by marciot (598356) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:16PM (#32300598)
    A Pentium 4 powering ten web browsers? I hope everyone doesn't go to YouTube at once.
  • Pentium 4? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaCh0 (6124) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:17PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • They are most likely using donated machines, something this charity is something of a "specialist" in...
      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Gadget_Guy (627405) *

          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 regi

      • by forkazoo (138186)

        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 sh

        • by Ritchie70 (860516)

          How much do you think a container costs?

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

        • by kenh (9056)

          The NComputing thin-clients aren't donated, and they likely aren't cheap compared with other options (like an Atom-based thin client with local compute functions)...

          They appear to buy everything in the container either new or second-hand, they can't throw an extra $100 into the mix and use a low-power current model CPU/"server"?

          Honestly this sounds more like an ad for the awesome computing power of a P4 system, likely funded by NComputing...

    • by RevWaldo (1186281)
      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.

      .
    • They should have went with a more power efficient (and faster) core 2 duo.

      Core 2 Duo? That could've gone with a faster and more power efficient Atom. P4's are just that bad.

      I'm a bit surprised they didn't strike a deal AMD, or a big eTailer. It's good PR. I've seen Athlon II X2 CPUs going for $35. Toss in a $45 board, $15 of RAM, a cheap PSU and case... an old HDD... presto, you just built a sub-60w computer, for maybe $150, and it's at least 4x faster than a P4.

  • Convenient (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:18PM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

      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...
    • by Ruvim (889012)
      Houses! [ecoble.com]
      You missed houses! [inhabitat.com]
    • 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 m

    • by shiftless (410350)

      Seems like I remember a science fiction short story about a world in which people had little miniature houses inside shipping containers, with standard power/water/sewage hookups, and they just shipped themselves somewhere when they wanted to travel. Neat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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)

    • 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?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:23PM (#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?

  • The £20,000 cost (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • Cargo cult (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ugen (93902) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:29PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:41PM (#32300850) Journal

      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:54PM (#32300970) Homepage

        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.

        • 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

          • 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 "pharm

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          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

        • by thaig (415462) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @03:45AM (#32303574) Homepage

          There are a lot of people to cure or help and no money to cure them with. Hence it's much more important to invest in wealth creation than charity.

          I've seen your proposed way of doing things and it didn't work well for us:

          A Zimbabwean.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by troll8901 (1397145) *

          which is stricken not only by poverty but also AIDS ... a good 20% of their population is AIDs positive.

          Well said. Considering the widespread belief that raping a virgin girl will cure a man of AIDS [wikipedia.org], I believe we have more basic issues to resolve.

          • Well said. Considering the widespread belief that raping a virgin girl will cure a man of AIDS [wikipedia.org], I believe we have more basic issues to resolve.

            But getting rid poorer country of AIDS would require, among other, access to information. To help fight popular belief and misconception.

            Similarly, lots of other urgent immediate problems can benefit from better access to information.

            Ergo : a ready-to-use cyber-cafe/container *CAN* be useful in a developing nation.

            What people have to realise is that access to information is always crucial. Traditionally, that has meant good schools and libraries. But now on-line access is also starting to play an important

      • OK... I'll bite... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by denzacar (181829) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:02PM (#32301062) Journal

        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.

        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:12PM (#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?

          • by denzacar (181829) on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:20PM (#32301594) Journal

            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".

            • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:31PM (#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.

              • by denzacar (181829)

                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.
                .
                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.

                Look who's talking.

                Notice that the internet was not the solution either. Nor has it done anything except add hype to the project. "WOO-HO! Internet will fix poverty! Click here to find out how!"
                As for the "straw man", where exactly did I say that "it should never be used by anyone"?

                Oh shit! I didn't!
                I actually said that the tech IS useful to people in developing nations (just as it is to those living in 1st world countries).
                What I DID argue was it is NOT a silver bullet.

                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".

                What was that... how was it called...

                • as demonstrated by profits going up, not just revenue.

                  And how exactly does that alleviate poverty?

                  Now you're just trying to live up to your sig, don't you?

                  Cause they go and sell their fish to the highest bidder now - not where it may be needed the most.

                  That is the definition of need. He who needs it the most,pays the most.

                  Did you also notice that the price of fish went down - which helps the wealth accumulation of where the price goes down?

                  Good grief, do you realize you're actually arguing against the fishermen increasing their profits? Where does the wealth accumulation start then? Education is good, but it is a tool - it is not wealth in and of itself. I really have no idea how you would increase

      • by ugen (93902)

        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

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        (*) 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, superhuma

      • the funniest part is that you 're-used' the Solaris installer for your funny post. I wonder if it was keyboard-only driven.

    • by denzacar (181829)

      ... 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 the

    • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jeremi (14640) on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:10PM (#32301518) Homepage

      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.

    • by matt4077 (581118)
      Because Africa isn't the cliche poverty you're thinking of, small children with big bellies etc. Here's a nice example how useful information can be in the third world: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/05/22/infoladies-of-bangla.html [boingboing.net].
  • lots of empty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas&dsminc-corp,com> on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:32PM (#32300764) Homepage

    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.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      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.

      • by dangitman (862676)
        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: (Score:2, Informative)

          by AmishElvis (1101979)
          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?
        • 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.
      • Thats great when you have the infrastructure to support it. Getting a big truck back into the boonies is hard to impossible. My point is the actual working bits are a tiny fraction of the size / weight and could be man portable. A container without AC in the middle of the desert is going to be incredibly hot. Also dragging in everything is rarely cost effective, when people earn a few dollars a day vs a few dollars for a gallon of petrol it's often more cost effective to have people do the work. Locall

    • It's a lot harder to steal a container than it is to steal a netbook...
      • by kenh (9056)

        I think the big steel container provides security for the contents, both people and technology.

    • Shipping containers are easy to secure in transit; thievery is rampant in transit through some places.
      Shipping containers are easy to secure at closing time; there's human beings involved, and therefore a five-percenter will appear who will steal anything.
      Shipping containers can be power-sawed into a structure which opens up easily yet closed for security at closedown.
      A tent-fly can be suspended above the metal to deflect sunshine and keep much heat from collecting.

  • by Mike Van Pelt (32582) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:36PM (#32300802)
    More 419 spams.
  • 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

  • by printman (54032) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:42PM (#32300874) Homepage

    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?!?

    • 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.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      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".

  • by rueger (210566) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:44PM (#32300886) Homepage
    Maybe one solar panel can run a PC and ten monitors, but how do you power the Cappuccino maker?
  • 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...

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      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."

      • by kenh (9056)

        So this is a complete, stand-alone internet cafe solution - drop it anywhere in the world you want with a moments notice (note: Internet access sold separately, a 50 foot Cat5e cable is included to connect to existing network).

        So the malarial research institute has power and internet access (via satellite link), what exactly was the pressing need this solution provided? Apparently they have power and internet access already, they just needed a little bit of office space, ten flat panels, and chairs?

        This exa

  • by Hartree (191324) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:16PM (#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.

    • Absolutely - this container has everything you need, just add "internet access" and it can provide, uhm, internet access! Sounds a bit like freeze-dried water - just add water!

      As I read the article, it seems to be supplying a start-up business with multiple revenue streams (charge for internet access from the thin clients, charge for phone charging, charge for WiFi hotspot access, etc), NOT dropping free internet access in the remote parts of the world.

  • by terminak (1817050) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:54PM (#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.

    • by Hartree (191324)

      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".

    • by kenh (9056)

      The article describes cellphone charging as a possible revenue source - they want to encourage this activity, for a fee.

  • by joelsanda (619660) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:59PM (#32301480) Homepage
    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.
    • by Thing 1 (178996)
      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.
    • by rednip (186217)

      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.

  • 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 impleme

  • Shortly after New Orleans flooded I had an idea to create a set of emergency response trains with containers fitted for living and all necessary emergency response supplies. Two or three such trains could be parked in Kansas / Missouri area and be able to reach any part of North America in 24 hours. One such train could provide housing for several hundred families with supplies and power that would last weeks. I don't even need credit - mostly I just want to see it happen because I think it would be cool.

    Yo

    • That's actually a neat idea, but aren't train tracks quite vulnerable to flooding damage? I guess you could make a sandcrawleresque land-train, that would be crazy awesome.
      • by LandGator (625199)

        Depends on where you park it. There are some high dry parts of Missouri. Might have to pick your route carefully.

    • by kenh (9056)

      Remember the Katrina trailer fiasco? How would your idea resolve the issues in those trailers?

      Once the container train arrives, how will it get unloaded? How will the containers be positioned, powered, and provided with water? Once you get past the "neat, they stack for easy transport" all you've done is stuff an airstream into small steel box that is hard to reposition without expensive equipment (crane, trailer bases, tractor-trailers to move them from here to there, etc.).

      It's a nice idea, but I think th

      • by LandGator (625199)

        Carry a crane on the train, as well as generators, a 'water buffalo' tanker, trailer bases & intermodal tractors.

    • by LandGator (625199)

      Did you publish your concept? I am very curious as to how far this was developed and believe I could add to it constructively. Pls contact me, k7aay {ayt ] arrl [ daht} net

  • OK, here's what I see - a shipping container with a PC shared among 10 users, 10 desks, flat panels, and a WiFi access point. It is powered by an array of solar panels. Sounds lovely, but a few observations:

    - I'd like to see a power comparison between latest Atom MBs netbooting off a server (like the Intel D510MO with new low power chipset) and this thin computing solution. Those particular Intel MBs are about $90/ea retail with lower-cost units available, including boards that can be run off 12VDC.

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