About the recent survey Outernet emailed out

For the question "How important is the transmission of limited bits of information (emails, tweets, content requests)? "

I chose:

“It is a nice-to-have, but not absolutely necessary.” I would add “…right now.”

I, personally, hope Outernet will stick with the original plan laid out in your original pitch where two-way communication was something to be incorporated later. My thoughts are Outernet has shown they can achieve their major goals - the sats are, after all, transmitting data and you’ve already released products that can receive the data. I understand people want to see Lantern released but I don’t get the accusations of “scam.” If it were a scam there would be no receivers available and no data being transmitted.

My own feelings are stick with your original plan and don’t let us arm-chair quarterbacks pressure you to change things too much and add on stuff. I feel if you’re allowed to stay with your original plan, you will be able to deliver on a form of basic two-way communication, eventually.

I don’t blame you for getting a little off track with Lantern. It’s normal to second guess a design. I don’t mind the new design but, someone on the forums pointed out that, with the loss of the four directional solar panels, the new design may lose the ability to optimally aim the receiver while solar charging. So perhaps you shouldn’t have second guessed your first design???

Either way, as a consumer, I consider the first Lantern only one of perhaps several different iterations, a later one obviously incorporating two-way communication. So I’m not too hung up on design as long as it works. Free data from space where there was none before is nothing to laugh at, after all.

The ability to give people the ability (especially in nations without the proper infrastructure) to access information and education without a recurring bill, alone, is a success. I like that Outernet hasn’t lost focus on the people without access to information and education overseas. In the West it’s very easy for us to get all worked up about design and deadlines when there are people overseas who still only want digital access to the outside world and have been waiting for decades.

Based on past performance, the Outernet team has proven itself. I like that you are asking your clients for feedback but I also think Outernet shouldn’t second guess their plan too much.

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I fully support the comments made by Spacebar, and would like to add the following:

Outernet has implemented a process by which articles can be suggested to be added to the data stream. One method allows you to pay for accelerated downloads, and a second method (with a lower priority) allows suggestions to made at no cost.

Having reviewed recent Outernet content, it is mostly Project Gutenberg books and Wikipedia articles. In the Twitter Feed Section, I find the Breaking News area very useful.

There is a need for a greater selection of content, and plan to recommend articles for upload. I’m focusing on such subjects as do-it-yourself building help guides in construction that rural communities might find helpful, and medical advice articles from organizations such as the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Let’s see what the existing infrastructure can deliver with our help. What are some other opionions from Forum Members? Ken in Annapolis, Maryland

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@spacebar Thanks for the kind words. It’s great to hear the words of encouragement as we grind away at the hard work of building something that is a little different from what currently exists.

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To follow up on kenbarbi’s post about content, here is a link I came across. http://rachel.worldpossible.org/ They are aiming at 32GB of offline curated data that may lend some ideas to the outernet core. I ran across this by way of the villagetelco.org project.

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Ah yes, RACHEL. We previously had a Raspberry Pi image with that content pre-installed on the card.

As I recall, when Rachael was included in Lighthouse and the ORxPi, it required too much space and slowed down Outernet content searches.

But, Rachael does have allot to offer. After I learned about Rachael from my Outernet experience, I purchased a Rachael 32 GBIT USB stick for installation on a Windows computer. (Also Rachael comes in a 32 and 64 GBIT Pi version in several languages). If you have time and a really fast Internet connection, you can download all the versions at no charge from their server.

Rachael can coexist with Outernet if it is installed on one of the computers operating on the Outernet WiFi HotSpot. If configured that way, everyone in a school (for example) on the Outernet WiFi can look at both Outernet and Rachael on their computer, tablet, or Smartphone.

That said, do we want to replicate Rachael data on Outernet? Do we want to send select Rachael articles on Outernet to places that may not have Rachael data bases? Do we want to assume everybody who has Outernet installed also has Rachael and then send supplemental articles? Things to think about.

The versions of Rachael are dated November 2014, and I have not found any method for Rachael to be updated, so maybe Outernet can work out some sort of agreement to transmit Rachael updates. This would require inter organizational coordination between Outernet and WorldPossible, and a technical way to move new Rachael content from Outernet files into the Rachael data base.

Outernet can handle delivering new Rachael files to your remote computer thru the Lighthouse or ORxPi by allowing you to copy the file out of the Lighthouse or ORxPi on to the computer running the Rachael data base, but Rachael can’t integrate them into their search engine.

Food for thought. Ken

I deployed a WiderNet eGranery many years ago. They are another project that would benefit from the ability to update their cached data via Outernet. https://www.widernet.org/eGranary/

Excellent point. WiderNet eGranery, from the University of North Carolina, is another viable candidate for using Outernet to upload new information. Here’s what Rachel (excuse my spelling error in my last post) from a 32 GBIT USB Stick has for starters. You’ll see many similarities between the two:

I purchased Rachel on a USB for $20. If I were to go out and install Outernet with a Ku Band satellite in a remote school as Syed has done, I would put Rachel on one of the computers on the Outernet WiFi network so students could look at both Outernet and Rachel as this screen shot shows:

Lot’s of interesting possibilities. Ken

Sadly, Widernet has no interest in working with Outernet. I was told that updated information was not important to their customers.

@Burdick Is the eGranary really worth $3000? What kind of content do they have on it?

Worth $3000? Not today, not to me. They are obviously targeting a deep pocket humanitarian audience or university, not local organizations in the developing world. It’s a Windows Pro/Server OS running IIS as (fixed) cached proxy to the internet. This works well in the situation of dozens or more PC’s with a slow internet connection. The user does not really know where the content comes from, just that the cached data loads really fast…I forgot, maybe they have a menu webpage to browse the local content? I don’t recall any special (paid) content, just that they amassed quite a large amount of the “good” internet. Given that they can keep increasing their cache at the rate of hard disk capacity innovation, that’s a good thing. Still, if I were operating an eGranery today, you bet I would want integration with Outernet to update a small set of popular, short term data while the bulk of it does not change very often. They might feel that their userbase is being eroded by increased availability of internet and the Outernet. If you have a university in the developing world, you’ve got better options today than $3k proprietary solutions especially if you know how to burn a disk and load linux.

I don’t think that’s fair, Syed. In our conversations I’ve been clear that we’d be happy to work with you to identify content and that once you’ve surmounted all the obstacles and gotten the service in play, we’d likely use the Outernet service.

Do our partners tell us that updates are not important: mostly. More specifically, most content in most situations.

We worked with lots of ways to send content updates, including your predecessor, World Space Radio, and found that our colleagues voted with their wallets: they were not interested in paying even a modest amount to receive updates.

It was a humbling and costly mistake, but also a great lesson.

Instead we worked with them to develop ways that they could update the content they wanted… when they wanted it.

Thanks, Burdick, for taking the time to understand the eGranary.

Yes, we are not targeting the poorest of the poor yet (I think few of us peddling IT should be), but the eGranary fills a niche for those organizations with computers and no or lousy Internet. Our little non-profit eGranary has over 1,000 installations worldwide and two-thirds of last year’s installations were done by people who had already installed one and were returning to install more. They are voting with their wallets.

It’s not just 32 million educational resources on a drive. That would be “shovelware.” Instead, we have librarians (both volunteer and paid) who have put in over 40,000 hours to develop finding aids like a catalog similar to what you’d find at a major American library, search engines, user-specific portals, curricula, hundreds of CD-ROMs, and hundreds of downloadable software titles. We have trained thousands of people in Africa and Asia and we have twelve entrepreneurs who provide on-site installation and training in their countries.

On top of that we’ve added a host of Web 2.0 features, like PHP, MySQL, and Moodle. But most importantly we’ve added the ability for every user to be assigned an account so they can create unlimited Web sites, upload local content, and remix all of the content into resources that better serve their community.

We’re watching Outernet’s progress and wishing everyone the best. We’ve been at this for 15 years and we’ve seen lots of similar schemes come and go. We tried and failed as well.

You’re right: if Outernet succeeds, it will make an excellent way to deliver targeted updates for freshness-critical content. Like a slow drip that eventually fills a bucket.

Everyday I pray that, as you put it, our “user base is being eroded by increased availability of internet.” In the best of all possible worlds everyone would be privileged enough to have high-speed interactive Internet (along with the critical life sustaining and fulfilling needs that should proceed it.) But I’ve worked in rural water development for 30+ years. (See http://www.wellspringafrica.org ) As long as I can remember, there have been actors who predict that “everyone will have water” in a few short years, usually because of some new technology or program they are promoting. Today one person in ten still does not have access to clean water and they are mostly African, rural, and poor.

So our work is cut out for us: we must all do our bit to improve access to information and education and we must continually look for better models to deliver the goods.

Real librarianship – and service – goes far beyond knowing “how to burn a disk and load Linux.”

Solidarity librarianship is about working alongside our partners, listening carefully to what they have to say, and delivering solutions they want. Sustainably. For years and years. We falter on this many times, but I like to believe we’re getting better.

Best regards,

– Cliff

Hi Craig (@WiderNet), glad to have you in the forum. My apologies if I misunderstood our previous conversations. We’ve been successfully delivering files over our broadcast system for over a year now, so I assumed (shame on me for doing so) there was no interest on your part. We would be happy to integrate a tuner and our software against an eGranary server. If it’s running Linux, it won’t be a problem.

I don’t understand why anyone would need to pay to receive content updates. That’s a fundamentally flawed approach to building a broadcast media service. The pipe is huge and it costs nothing to add additional users. Requiring payment for content reception only reduces the number of users who would normally find value in the service. Our business model is identical to the broadcast tv and radio industry–free to receive but pay to send. In our case, it costs $10 to send 1 MB to the world.

But in order for our model to work, we need scale. The math for just a thousand users will not make the numbers happy. Once we get down to the $40 price point–a price similar to what even low income homes are paying for satellite tv decoders–that’s when things become interesting.