Category: Peace Corps

I keep forgetting all that other stuff

Time is just flying by here at the baby ranch. We are starting to settle in to a nightly routine which is probably going to be helpful for all involved. It’s slow going but the little guy knows what’s about to happen, and that seems like it gives him a more peaceful rest for the first part of the night. I’m quite lucky in that my wife takes the absolute bulk of the responsibility overnight so I can continue to function like a human being at work.

The previous paragraph described all that has been happening lately. I definitely anticipated getting very little done outside baby raising and work. What I didn’t anticipate was the fact that I would continually be in a state of forgetting to do something that doesn’t include baby or work. The bills are paid, my wife makes sure I have food and water, so the necessities are in. What was it I was supposed to buy on Amazon again? Didn’t I have thing that I was supposed to do today?

There’s been two small threads that keep popping up more and more. Well possibly three or four. Any spare brain power I have on the weekends gets sucked up pretty quick trying to work with on securing a fantastic grant that would allow them to offer some really neat additions for their elderly residents. I really hope that goes through, I’m less involved than I originally thought I would be, but the management at Elderhaven is quite aware that I’m booked solid for the next 25 years.

Dang… what was the second thing? Oh yes… computer security. I’ve been reading a lot more about the Sony pictures hack than I originally thought I was interested in doing. It isn’t every day the poor security practices of an enterprise-class IT infrastructure are laid bare for people to see and perform their own post-mortem. I’ve seen all of the same problems pointed out so far before at most of my jobs. Password files stored in a Word doc, with the name password on them. Unencrypted. Scary.

And of course there is another security risk that keeps bobbing up, the Rubber Ducky. It’s a USB drive that has been modified to make the computer think it’s a keyboard and mouse (newer version). This modified USB then is able to type and issue commands as if it was a keyboard. Since all operating systems Giant Rubber Ducky in Hong Kong (picture from Wikimedia)automatically detect things like USB keyboards and mice, it allows a quick easy way to load code, simply by plugging in one of these. I really do understand the importance of 1. not running your computer with administrator permissions, and B. disabling USB ports on servers.

(to not run with Administrator permissions on your home computer is smart too)

I already can’t remember what the 3rd thing is, but 4th is a realization that I want to have the ability to play music wherever I am in the house. And I want a remote for it. I took two hours last week and started putting RaspBMC on my Raspberry Pi, and download the Android remote app for XBMC. It wasn’t too long before I realized I’m working on an outdated project, the lead developers have moved on to OSMC which is still Alpha and that the amount of work I put into this is pointless for something I want NOW. I am not looking for a tinker-toy. I sighed and slunk away from the keyboard, slow Charlie Brown music following me through the house. The next day my father-in-law’s Xmas gifts showed up. Inside: cool Very Hungry Catepillar stuff for the kid, and one bluetooth speaker. Thank you sir, not only did you achieve my goal of music in the house following me, but you saved me hours!

I’m trying now to forget that I have a Raspberry Pi that needs something done with it…hmmm… and trying to forget about Androids that are coming preloaded with rootkits.

Underwater cable map

NetSquared hangout on Net Neutrality!

I had a great opportunity to join a Google Hangouts to discuss possible implications of the loss of Net Neutrality and how it can affect Swaziland and other developing nations.


I want to offer a big Thank You to NetSquared Northern Michigan for inviting me.  This was my first Google Hangout, and a great crash-course for me as SCS moves our meetings to a hybrid of the Hangouts platform and live meetings.

This really is a topic where I feel conflicted between my passion for the open and neutral Internet, and the possibility that people of the Swaziland Computer Society could have an opportunity to develop local alternatives to US-Based offerings.  I mentioned during my turn on the panel.  Go check it out… pretty interesting site about where the underwater cables lay.

Underwater cable map
Screenshot of the map

If you are in the US please make sure you add your comments to the FCC comments request page

And don’t be afraid to call them at 1-888-225-5322.  There are over 100,000 comments on their page, but filling their phones will contribute to helping them protect the free and open Internet.

Tweet by EU Commissioner on Net Neutrality

Loss of Net-Neutrality could spur innovation in other countries

I’ve been holding off on commenting against the FCC’s new rules which would create the “fast lane” tiered Internet that many individuals, corporations, and news outlets are shouting about.

There is a brief article from Voice of America titled Net Neutrality Debate in US Could Have Global Ripple Effects that mentions the potential boon for non -US-based content providers.  In essence if your nations ISP has no partnering agreement with those in the US, accessing US-based services will be slow enough to encourage locally-based alternatives to spring up in their place.

A tweet mentioned in the article from the EU commissioner states:

Tweet by EU Commissioner on Net Neutrality

Have you ever heard of the a Splinternet?  Splinternets are an idea where different countries or institutions create their own subset of the Internet which appeals only to those interested in it.  This is a particular possibility with the ISPs in the US screwing with speeds and accessibility of US based content.  This fracturing of the Internet could result in every country having its very own nationally-based Internet, subject to its own rules and regulations.  The global internet that we know could come to a quick end.

Throughout my Peace Corps service I tried many different routes to encourage local innovation and content creation amongst the members of the Swaziland Computer Society.  I wanted to encourage this behavior for a few different reasons.

  1. The primary and most obvious reason is the impact local knowledge could contribute to solutions that are important and meaningful to the users within the country.  When we started talking about the “Lets-Meet-App” phone app, it was a locally developed app to solve a local problem.  Our group has the talent to create solutions for our communities, why not use it!
  2. Secondary to the benefit of locally-contributed solutions, was having the services hosted in-country means less reliance on foreign content providers. Keep the money inside the country!  Basing services off MTN Hamba-mali (mobile phone airtime-to-cash service) keeps the economy local and enables locally-relevant payment processes.
  3. Local services would be faster, there are a limited number of government-controlled Internet gateways into and out of the country, presenting a serious bottleneck as more and more Swazis get online and accessing bandwidth-heavy services from outside the nation.
  4. It’s important to remember that Swaziland is an absolute monarchy under growing international pressure to reform.  There is a constant simmering belief that the Internet connection to the outside world could be severed arbitrarily at any second.  It already fails a few times per year. If the services are hosted in-country, disruption from beyond the national borders could be reduced.

If the FCC continues down the path of eliminating Net Neutrality and encouraging the tiered access model, services in the US will quickly begin to resemble the situation in Swaziland.  Not very long ago childish and illogical court battles over who could provide mobile data services in the country resulted in a devastating blow to the digital future of the country.  The court decision there resulted in the cutting-edge 4G WiMAX services being forcefully turned off.  A country that was on the cusp of digital transformation was shoved back into the Internet dark ages.

image from using CC license

After the court ruling, the fast-lane that was affordable to everyone was shutdown in favor of continuing the over-priced monopoly that MTN offered for 3G service.  This older 3G service is slower and costs 5 times more than that was offered with the 4G services.  Suddenly the ability to access content was stolen from regular people and given back to only the rich that could afford it.  The average income for a Swazi living in the rural areas is less than $2 per day.  It is an offensive idea to suggest they spend 50% of that income on 10MB of data.

How on earth can any one of the SCS members be innovative and create new online services and revolutionize their country when they are oppressed by a “rich-people only” Internet.

With the US supreme court striking down the FCC’s net neutrality arguments, they have created a space for corporations to split American content-providers between the wealthy and everyone else.  While the implications for the loss of Net Neutrality may have a positive side-effect on the local-solutions created by developing nations, the effects of this for US solution providers are disastrous and should be deeply troubling to every American and every consumer of American-based content.

I am constantly looking for new ways to support the technological-inclusion of developing nations in the future.  I want to help bridge the digital divide, but how can I tell people about new developments if they have to pay access fees to even get to my website?

How can the Non-profit I help with hope to get visitors to donate to their page if visitors can’t even load a video plea?

How can the business you are working for right now draw more viewers if the ISPs want to charge you extra for your content?  How could you ever hope to increase your market share against the titans of your industry?


We simply can’t allow the FCC, the corporations, or anyone from destroying the most incredible tool that humanity has ever created.  We are all in this together, please send the FCC your comments now before June 15th and help support the continued freedom of an Internet-For-All!


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