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Andrius Kulikauskas Self Learners Network. Directory of ways of figuring things out. Chicago Street Artist Blog. Video summary of knowledge of everything. Notes on Gamestorming. Living by Truth working group. Twitter: @selflearners Email: ms @ ms.lt
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Samwel Kongere Mendenyo
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Andrius helps with the following websites:
See also: SneakernetTrialInKenya, FlashDriveEditor, FlashDriveContent, TeleCenters, InternetCafe
Ricardo: This page covers Sneakernet - A network of people, who transport files from place to place on foot (in their sneakers, cheap sports shoes), by bicycle, bus or vehicle, carrying files on physical media, such as USB Flash Memory Drive, memory card or Re-writeable CD/DVD-ROM.
Who would use a Sneakernet?It provides a communication network for email text-files and other files where the internet is unavailable or unaffordable. It can link villages, schools, businesses, NGOs and projects together and also carry files to/from a place with internet access.
It could be used to move files, email text-files, eBooks, web-pages and software between people and projects using the FlashDriveEditor (or another low-cost computer) and a place with an internet-access computer. This could be a friend's computer in another town, an internet cafe, a business or an aid organization office. From there, someone could send and receive emails with file attachments for you, to talk to the rest of the world. You can ask friends by email to send files to you or to upload files to websites.
The FlashDriveEditor is now called the Includer. There are several designs under consideration, including designing and manufacturing our own electronic device, building a cheap computer from old spare parts or new parts, and/or using Mobile Phone Handsets like a small cheap laptop or PDA. The internal flash-memory can be used as the Sneakernet transport medium and files can be transferred to other phones and PCs via Bluetooth, IRDa Infra-Red, removeable Flash Memory Card or USB Cable. The PC would have a USB Bluetooth or Infra-Red IRDa Dongle to communicate with phones and form a Bluetooth/IRDa Hotspot, like a WiFi Hotspot/Cafe where WiFi laptops are used.
A Sneakernet can take several days to move a message-file along several links to a distant village or to an internet access point. In this respect it is more like letter-post or parcel-post than email.
A Sneakernet can also link you to the outside world if you live in a country with restrictive controls on Internet access. For example, if you live in Cuba then your government doesn't want you to be able to communicate with people using Internet email. But a Sneakernet can carry your message across a geographic border to a free country, where your message can proceed onward to an Internet email address.
An example of a Sneakernet system designed with this scenario in mind is the Sneakernet Protocol (SNP) currently under development at Information Without Borders. (see http://information-without-borders.org)
Definition and History of Sneakernetshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneakernet - Wikipedia: Sneakernet. Child project Wiki pages....
It has a design for a sneakernet email system on USB Flash Drives, to link schools without internet access to each other and also to a place with internet access. This allows anyone on the sneakernet to send/receive email to/from the rest of the world. Although the article was written with schools in mind, the same sneakernet email system could be used by any group of people, villages or organization.
The sneakernet doesn't just link 2 or 3 places, it can link all the computers, villages and towns in an entire area.
The article discusses 2 different designs; one where files are copied from flash-drive to flash-drive to travel long distances and one where the physical flash drives are passed from person-to-person to travel long distances to/from the internet.
Internet Cafes via a Sneakernet email system
See also: InternetCafe
I thought I'd tie a few things together into a complete system, that I've mentioned here and in the mendenyo Yahoo group, etc.
Actually, it is possibe to do better than this. When moving messages on USB Flash Drive, access isn't limited to someone's own walking distance, to people who live near an internet-computer or cafe.
People can co-operate and set up a complete 'Sneakernet' covering a whole region. People carry other people's email messages and files on their flash drives, not just their own. If someone lives a long way from the internet, they can copy messages onto another person's flash drive and in this way, pass them on from person-to-person, village-to-village to travel a long distance to the internet. People 100KM or more from the internet could send/receive emails and files in this way. The Sneakernet could include long linear chains along roads and rivers, tree-structures, rings, star-formations, etc, like an Ethernet wired network.
In some countries there are existing organizations, like KioskNet, DAKNET, Airjaldi, Motoman, Wizzy Digital Courier, etc, that provide kiosks in villages for computer services, linked to the internet by Satellite, Wi-Fi motorbike, telephone, CD Sneakernet, etc. See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sneakernet#Further_reading for a list of organizations.
The websites for the above organizations list the services that the kiosks offer. I also saw an interesting list of services for the Hungarian Telecottage Association, with several services I hadn't thought of, like CD ROM rental, translation, tourist information, second hand books, etc.
See http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/univ_access/casestudies/hun_mct.html and this MS Word document http://www.bages.org/xtc/the_hungarian_telecottage_movement.doc which describes how they act as information centres to benefit local people, NGOs, businesses and local government. Some kiosks like this might be good on Rusinga Island, Kenya, where SamwelKongere works or elsewhere in Africa.
Anyone with a USB Flash Drive Editor within 100Km of one of these kiosks, could be linked to it by a USB Flash Drive Sneakernet, giving them email access to the outside world, file transfer and other services.
People could use the Sneakernet to send/recieve emails to friends. They can add file attachments with photos, newsletters, eBooks, software, web-pages, MP3 audio files, video files, language courses, etc (any type of file from the internet or from friends).
See this page which I added to the 'One Laptop Per Child' project wiki, to link schools without internet access to a place with an internet-connected computer. It discusses a simple manual system that people can use immediately and also eventually developing routing software to automate it if people want. The article's a bit long, but the introduction and pictures summarize it okay.
When all the users in the region have this (or any other) communication system in place, they can start earning a living from the USB Flash Drive Editor, via the 'Income from Small Computer-Related Tasks' scheme.
See http://incomefromsmallcomputertasks.googlepages.com/ This is where they do small tasks for people in the richer cities and countries, working offline most of the time (text or photo editing, etc). This is a spare-time second job, in addition to their normal work. This is just one way for them to earn money.
ricardo England 18-sep-2007
Security of files in transit on the SneakernetAn area I need to look into is whether it would be a good idea to use flash drives and portable hard disks for the Sneakernet, that are encrypted and secure at the device level. In this way, the whole contents remain private, even if a device is lost or stolen. I need to look for suitable devices and compare prices with ordinary non-encrypted devices. Internet if it weren't for the Internet Protocol (IP). The Internet Protocol transforms a collection of linked computers into a single coherent network, providing a standard way to send a message from one computer to another specific computer. Similarly, it has been possible to copy a message directly from one computer to another using a flash drive or other portable storage since the beginning of computers. What is missing is a protocol that turns a collection of flash-drive-connected computers into a single coherent network, providing a standardized way to send a message from one sneakernet node to another.
Information Without Borders (see http://information-without-borders.org) is developing the sneakernet equivalent of IP, known as the Sneakernet Protocol, or SNP. The protocol not only provides automatic routing through an ad-hoc mesh network, it also provides bridging from the sneakernet to the Internet. A sneakernet user on an SNP network can address a message to an Internet email address and the sneakernet will automatically route the message to a gateway sneakernet node that is in contact with the Internet, and the message will be relayed to a recipient on the Internet. The Internet user can reply to the message, and sneakernet gateways can send the reply message through the sneakernet to the original user. SNP uses public-key encryption for all datagrams so it is also a solution to the problem of datagram privacy.
SyncBox USB File CopierSeveral companies, such as Macally, produce a device called a 'SyncBox'. The Syncbox is a cheap ($40) box that can copy files from USB flash-drive to flash-drive. It can also copy from any other USB mass storage device, such as a digital camera, MP3 player, flash memory card in a USB holder, or a USB Hard Drive (which could provide a village with a cheap file library without needing to buy a laptop or PC).
A cheap copier like this could be useful, if we decide to use devices as an Includer that only have USB Slave capability (like some PDAs), which can't read/write files to flash-drive on their own.
Each Includer-owner doesn't need to buy there own SyncBox, they just need to buy 'one per village' or 'one per Sneakernet mailman'. This means, for a low initial cost and almost zero ongoing cost, any Includer owner can send/recieve files on flash-drive. The flash drives are transported by a) A Sneakernet mailman/woman in an organized service, b) Transported by a friend or colleague who visits a Cyber Cafe or c) Sent/received as parcels in the mail.
See this picture of the syncbox, flash drives and various devices that it can copy to/from...
I bought a SyncBox recently and I've been evaluating it.
Here are my photos of it...
Fig 1 - SyncBox with Source and Destination USB Flash Drives (unplugged)
Fig 2 - SyncBox with Source and Target USB Flash Drives (plugged in)
From the size of the flash-drives, you can see how small the SyncBox is. It's 'credit card size'. It fits easily in a shirt-pocket, for example.
It's a small battery-operated box, that lets people copy files from one USB Flash Drive to another.
It works as follows :-
The source and destinations devices must be formatted as FAT16 or FAT32 format disks. It doesn't work with NTFS or Mac formats.
It can copy files from various USB Mass Storage Devices; Flash Drive, Flash Memory Card in a USB holder or Card Reader box on a cable, MP3 Players, Digital Cameras that appear as a FAT16/32 Mass Storage Device, USB Hard Drive (FAT16/32 only), etc.
What devices don't work:
Mobile Phone - It only copies to/from devices recognised as Mass Storage Devices, and only works with devices formatting in the FAT16 or FAT32 disk format. I tried copying files from my Mobile Phone (a Nokia N73) and, unsurprisingly, that didn't work. a) Even my PC doesn't recognise it as a Mass Storage Device (it needs the Nokia Phone Manager software to see it, and b) The SyncBox can't see the internal memory or add-on flash memory card (Mini SD, which may be in FAT format).
USB Hard Drive - Copying files from my USB Hard Drive didn't work, because I'd forgotten it was formatted in the NTFS filing system, not FAT.
Memory Cards - I may be able to copy files to/from my phone by taking the external flash memory card out, and placing it in a USB Memory Card Holder (that looks like a flash drive), or in a multi-format Memory Card Reader on a USB Cable.
Hard Drive - I may get an old, cheap hard drive, format it FAT32, and check that I can copy files from it and to it.
File Library - It would be nice to know for sure that people could use a Hard Drive + SyncBox as a local village File Library. You can pick up 10GB Hard Drives on eBay USA for $10 or so. The total cost of a File Library would be quite low.
Sneakernet Handout file (4 page PDF)...
Sneakernet Presentation (30 page PDF file (slides))...
Hi Prosper you asked for some information on Sneakernets and the Includer. This email is just about Sneakernets. I wrote a Powerpoint presentation for Samwel to present at a conference. I've converted it into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file (attached). Anyone can view it using the free Adobe Reader program, without needing Microsoft Office installed. I printed it to a PDF from Powerpoint using PrimoPDF.
This is the Wikipedia article for Sneakernet, giving the history of Sneakernets, different types, etc :-
I wrote this article for the One Laptop Per Child wiki site back in August 2007, just submitting the idea of using an organised Sneakernet using flash-drives, to link all the schools in one area that don't have internet access. It's quite long, written mostly for computer engineers and teachers, but you may find the introduction sections and pictures useful :-
The important point about Sneakernets, is that a group of people can set up an organised file-delivery service, that is free or cheap, to use instead of the internet. The users (at schools etc) just use the service, they don't have to worry about how it works. The volunteers do all the work of running the service, or they can be paid staff, earning a small fee from the users. Sneakernets can operate completely offline in isolated areas as a local service between schools/businesses/etc, or they may be close enough for the sneakernet to link up to the internet at one point on the sneakernet, so people can send/receive email and files anywhere in the world.
Ricardo August 12, 2008 17:20 CET
We're aiming to do a small pilot project in Kenya, then publish guides to setting up similar systems, and add more services on top of a basic file transport-layer. We're hoping to use a simple manual system for a start, a bit like a century-old postal service, so people can adapt it without technical skills.
Ricardo January 17, 2009 15:15 CET