Archive for the ‘Connectivity’ category

Small Thoughtful Actions

15th 2009f October 2009
Photography by Calvin Cropley

Photography by Calvin Cropley

I can’t remember when I first learned about the danger that we are in of permanently altering the biosphere of our planet. At primary school I was taught to pick up litter and later the importance of recycling and renewable energy sources. Even now, when I watch films like Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” and read articles like this one from National Geographic, I’m shocked by how our actions are changing our world.

It’s depressing sometimes, to contemplate the magnitude of the problem, but you have to remember that it was only small actions that caused it, and it will be the small actions we take every day that solve it.

Things like buying a cheap plastic toy or watering a field seem like harmless every-day activities until we become aware of their environmental cost. When we start to ask, how was it made, where did it come from. It’s through this awareness that we discover the hidden truth behind the calming super-market musak.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t hate super-markets. I don’t even begrudge the consumer economy that supports them, hell I’m a part of that economy! That’s where my dilemma begins, I accept that this rat-race is a necessary stage in our evolution, but I’m eager to move on to a greener, more sustainable future.

So I take small, thoughtful actions. I continue to pick up litter, recycle my paper, plastic and glass. I use some hyper-miling techniques to reduce my fuel consumption and monitor the results with a great little iPhone app called AccuFuel. And I dream of the day I’ll be able to take big actions, like buying a hybrid car, putting up solar panels on my roof, travelling to my holiday by sailing yacht or building a wireless Internet infrastructure in Africa and Asia to promote a knowledge economy.

This post is in honour of Blog Action Day 2009 and this years topic: Climate Change.


A lesson in Entrepreneurship in Seville

28th 2009f May 2009

No two men could be better qualified to teach entrepreneurship than Ken Morse and Bill Aulet. They came to Sevilla from the E-Centre at MIT, to deliver a seminar on “Entrepreneurial Sales and Product Marketing” and they over-delivered.

My expectations were exceeded by far, we were given a rich insight into the growth of high-tech start-up companies. Through case studies of real companies they’ve helped to build, and actual sales forecasts, Bill and
Ken enthralled us with stories from the front-line of entrepreneurship and they lessons they have learned in the process.

23rd 2007f June 2007

I was going to write a rambling post about Facebook and social networking sites today, but I found something much more worthwhile to do. I discovered a short video about a site called KIVA through Guy Kawasaki’s blog. Kiva is a P2P micro finance site that connects normal people in developed countries with entrepreneurs and small business owners who are making a difference in their communities in developing nations.

Tsevi from TogoI’ve just joined kiva and contributed $25 towards a $750 loan for Tsèvi Bedzra a 29 year old barber in Togo in Africa. He’s applied for the loan to buy electric clippers and other equipment for his barber shop, he feels this will enable him to be more profitable and better support his son.

All of the entrepreneurs on KIVA are vetted and approved by loan officers from micro-finance organisations on the ground. When Tzevi’s load application was approved his picture was taken and posted to the site with his details, where I found him.

You can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the business is going. The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back – and Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

Kiva - loans that change lives

Rural Internet Connectivity

14th 2006f April 2006

It seems the further you move from the hubs of civilisation, the worse your connection to the Net becomes. We’ve moved from a busy seaside town where we were able to connect via 1Meg ADSL at 1Mb/s downstren, 250Kb/s upstream. Had we felt the need we could have got an 8Meg connection (actually about 7.2Mb/s, currently the maximum speed for copper based ADSL connections).

Now, here we are about 5Km from the coast and all we can get is a 56Kb/s modem connection. This means the phone line is constantly engaged during the day and all my Internet activity is reduced to a snails pace. You can forget about downloading Podcasts in iTunes or Internet video on Democracy Viewer.

We’ve tried petitioning our incumbent telco ‘Telefonica’ to install a DSLAM, along with around 40 other residents. We’ve also tried signing up to a new WiMax based Wireless ISP Avired but our terrain puts us out of their signal footprint.

As a last resort we’ve signed up to skyDSL, a satellite broadband service based in Germany. The system cuts cost by only downloading information through a normal digital satellite TV dish connected to a DBV receiver in your PC. All your uploads are sent through your modem line. So we now get 16Mb/s downstream and 56Kb/s upstream.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Twice the speed of the fastest available ADSL. Fixed monthly fees for unlimited traffic: 45€ for the skyDSL and 20€ for unlimited dial-up, works out expensive but when your business in web development, broadband is indispensable. We can now download large Podcast files at break neck speed. A 100MB file will come down the pipe in under a minute (depending on the web server).

The downside is the upstream bandwidth. When surfing the web you first have to request the page you want for example:, that request is sent up to the net via a proxy server on your PC which redirects it to a skyDSL server in Germany. skyDSL then resolve the DNS name into a web server address and download the actual page (or find it through their own proxy server). The data containing the Apple home page is tagged with my skyDSL subscriber number and waits for an uplink slot to be transmitted to a satellite (Eurobird 3), that bounces the data back down to the whole of south western Europe. My dish channels the signal into my PC, which recognises the tag and text an images begin appearing on my screen. If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is! Check out this visual.

The latency introduced by all this bouncing around and waiting for satellite time, means there’s a delay of up to 5 seconds between my requesting a page and the page actually beginning to download. This delay makes it impossible for us to use any Internet application that requires low latency (like Skype for making VoIP calls).

Another complication: I use a Mac, the skyDSL service is set up on a PC server connected to my LAN. I’m not sure if it’s just me but there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell MacOSX to use a proxy server for e-mail. That means all my e-mailing has to be done through web-mail services. The same with FTP. I have to disconnect the skyDSL and connect my Mac via the built-in modem to upload any changes to a website.

The upside to all this is that I’m seriously thinking about becoming a Wireless ISP for my area. I’ll let you know how that goes when it happens.