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The Media

US Geeks Recycle GNU/Linux Boxes for Ecuador 303

An anonymous submitter writes: "According to this article on Salon, geeks involved with Indymedia are recycling 300 GNU/Linux boxes to send to independent media activists in Ecuador. The machines will be used to create free public computer labs across South America, networked with donated wireless 802.11b cards. Anyone wanna chip in to help cover the shipping costs?"
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US Geeks Recycle GNU/Linux Boxes for Ecuador

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  • Now... (Score:1, Funny)

    by SonicBurst ( 546373 )
    if I only lived in Ecuador! :) I mean they're giving out free 802.11b cards? I'll take some!
    • I really wonder if a few pounds of cardboard will really make much of a difference?
  • by Spy4MS ( 324340 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:19PM (#4320379)
    They make Linux boxes out of donated parts and volunteered time. They also recycle monitors, motherboard parts and steel.
    Please be gentle [freegeek.org]
    • FreeGreek is actually helping out on this project a lot! They put together a bunch of the computers and helped us with the install. Despite the salon article we actually used Debian for the install not Mandrake. It was the FreeGeek folks who put together the netinstall.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you are not familiar with IndyMedia, it is an extreme leftist "news" organization that is essentially committed to the destruction of America. Basically it blaims all of the world's problems on America and glorifies terrorism, like Yassir Arrifat and Osama bin Laden. It has suggested that President Bush is responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is extremely anti-semetic (to the point of being Nazist) and consistently attacks Israel.

    If you want to cut a check to these people, be my guest, but you should at least know what your money is going to support.
    • News for you, sir: a majority of people outside the US
      blame the world's problems on the US. And sometimes they are right.
      Attacking Israel is not the same as being anti-semetic.
      Indeed, the behaviour of most parties in the Middle East should be stoutly attacked. Rogues the lot of them.
      IndyMedia represent a moderately left-wing viewpoint, one that the world would be poorer without.
      And I speak as someone who disagrees with their views.
    • Indymedia is an independent site that anyone can submit articles to (hmm.. sounds familiar?) and it has local editions for all over the world. It is not anti semitic - check out the israel edition and see jewish people posting articles at both ends of the spectrum.
    • A flaming AC comment is not telling of the cause nor the political involvement of Indymedia. This issue, however, is politically charged, and one ought to know the implications before donating time or money. If you agree, go for it, if you don't -- then dont. Just make an educated decision.

      From the article:

      "Project to ship a container of 230 refurbished computers to Ecuador to extend the technical capacity of civil society and the anti-globalization movement leading up to the anti-FTAA protests in early November. If successful this will be the first stage in an ongoing project to send large numbers of computers to social movements in the global south through indymedia."

      Now, for those of you that want to make up your own minds, here's the FTAA Official website [ftaa-alca.org] and here's Global Exchange's take [globalexchange.org] on the situation. A Google search for FTAA turns up many links, but pro and con, and should provide enough information for the interested.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:20PM (#4320402) Homepage Journal
    For shame! Slashdotting these poor good samaritains!

    Couldn't you post links to the RIAA or something?
  • As much as I enjoy helping people, this isn't really very good news for Linux from a marketing perspective. "Media activists" are generally hairy-armpitted girls and non-shower-taking guys. And "free computer clinic" brings to mind a dank, messy and smelly closet with an aging clunker of a PC inside. Do we really want computer students in Ecuador (and the US, for that matter) thinking of Linux as the bottom of the barrel that will be replaced with "standard Windows" when they have the money?
    • Re:All about image (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mithrander ( 589462 )
      It could be good news if it helps these "Media Activists" to rise above the pitiful stereotype you've labeled them with, wouldn't it? I'm sorry, but isn't your logic kind of like saying "The Catholic Church shouldn't have let Mother Theresa hang out with all those poor, sick people...it gives Catholics a bad image"?? Maybe we should give poor people in third-world countries the chance to rise above their current conditions, eh?
    • by GypC ( 7592 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @02:11PM (#4320806) Homepage Journal

      All women have hairy armpits except those Americans that shave them... oh, and whores in other parts of the world.

      What's the matter with you? Are you some kind of pedophile that can't cope with a post-pubescent woman's natural body?

  • by UNIBLAB_PowerPC ( 443101 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:22PM (#4320417) Homepage
    Here's an idea: these folks should talk to their local Air National Guard unit. I've worked with medical missionaries in the past who went to Ecuador for a month (imaging blogging over a 9.6 modem connection over AOL -- only provider we could hook up with -- it wasn't pretty, but that was mainly user error and I digress). These physicians managed to purchase/gather enough supplies and talked the Alabama Air National Guard into shipping everything down in a week or two in advance. Of course, I don't know how to pull those kind of stings, but I know it has been done in the past for medical missions so I guess this effort might differ in the eyes of non-techies, who don't believe that information technology is as essential as proper medical care. I'd chance a guess that pilots are like us in a way they'll look for any excuse to do what they do best. ;-) Good luck, though!

  • Wearing combat boots and a T-shirt emblazoned with a large skull and crossbones, Nix looks more like a biker than your stereotypical computer geek.

    That sounds like the stereotypical computer geek to me. I think he's getting his geek-types mixed up. Or maybe non of the geeks I know are stereotypical?

  • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:25PM (#4320441) Homepage Journal

    Somehow this reminds me of an old Jay Leno bit about humanitarian efforts to give Christmas toys to starving kids in the third-world:

    Child: "Kalimba eat potato?"

    Humanitarian: "No, Kalimba *play with* potato! See, you can put eyes, ears and mouth on the potato!"

    Child: "Kalimba eat potato?"

    Humanitarian: "No, no..."

    That's about all I remember. It was hilarious, but I can't find the whole routine on the web.

    • Unlike the christmas toys though, they are actually working on acheiving something. According to the article the goal is to build an infrastucture allowing the poor to communicate and thus organize for a better life.

      [BTW:: I knew that you were kidding but I wanted to make the point.]
    • ...Jay Leno has never, ever been funny.
    • Re:Humanitarians (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zooks! ( 56613 )
      The other day, NPR was talking to some teachers in Afghanistan and they basically said everybody was sending them computers, textbooks, etc. The only problem was they didn't even have walls for their school, or chairs, or desks, much less anywhere to plug in a computer. The kids basically had to an agreed upon spot outside and sit on the ground.

      Don't get me as jaded, though. I think donating computers to these folks is great. However, before we send them computers, we should first help them get to the point where the computers will do them some good.

      If you want your donation of a computer to do some good in the 3rd world, send a few desks, chairs, and maybe a generator along with the computer.

      Of course, while Central/South America is not well off, particularly in certain areas, a donation of computers might actually be OK because they might have some or all of the requisite items (like 4 walls). Sending a generator might help, though.
      • However, before we send them computers, we should first...ask them what they need. This is generally regarded as one of the West's major errors w/ "Aid" - you should help, not try implement a model of yourself somewhere you believe needs help.
    • Re:Humanitarians (Score:5, Informative)

      by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @02:14PM (#4320835) Homepage Journal

      Ecuador does not need food. It is the largest banana exporter [transnationale.org] in the world. It is a hugely agricultural nation which is not suffering from droughts, etc. Ecuador does need infrastructure. These computers are part of that needed infrastructure. They need to leap beyond agrarian subsistence farming to get the country out of its economic hole.

      What can accelerate this change? Education for sure. Books, schools, etc. How about a computer and internet connectivity? We've got a lot laying around here gathering dust. Probably more so than textbooks written in spanish.

      I've visited Ecuador several times. Once I was helping some women at a library set up a VCR and TV that was recently donated by some wealthy Ecuadorians (I was a friend of the donors). The women working in the library were nicely dressed and educated pretty well from what I could tell with my limited spanish. They were the Ecuador equivalent to minimum-wage office workers in America.

      When it came time to put the batteries in the remote control, I realized the value I was bringing to the VCR-TV-setup project. These women had never held a remote control. They needed some batteries (2 X AA), which they also had no experience with. I gave them a dead AA from my walkman so they could take it to the local shop and make sure they were buying the right size (with money provided by the donors). When they returned with the batteries, I had to explain the pictures inside the battery compartment so they'd understand how to install the batteries in the future.

      I guess I am relating this anecdote so people can better understand the technological chasm that seperates people around the world. Sure, booklearning is a key part of a third-world country's development. At the same time, these free computers are going to help as well.

    • As the article says, this is what the Ecuadorians asked for.
  • They're getting free computers and wireless networks, while I'm still studying my calendar and wondering when I'll be able to afford to pay the still-exorbitant-for-me prices for a few wireless NICs and switches !
  • I read it as "Us Greeks Recycle GNU/Linux Boxes for Ecuador", and I thought it was something to do with sending them away because they had games installed on them.
  • by unicron ( 20286 ) <unicron@LIONthcnet.net minus cat> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:35PM (#4320520) Homepage
    How about we sell our boxes on ebay, and then send the money to make sure some kids down there eat tonight? I'm aware that these boxes aren't meant to be some poor child charity but this is easily the stupidest shit I've ever heard regarding acts of kindness.

    And another thing, semi off-topic, regarding charity. Why is it that people ooh and aww and feel their heart sink when Sally Struthers shows them pictures of starving orphans in some god-forsaken place, but then the next day can be found in a Dillards parking lot mortified that a homeless kid almost touched their Lexus?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > Why is it that people ooh and aww and feel their heart sink when Sally Struthers shows them pictures of starving orphans in some god-forsaken place, but then the next day can be found in a Dillards parking lot mortified that a homeless kid almost touched their Lexus?

      Because you just don't fuck with another man's automobile!
  • Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:37PM (#4320537)
    There are already a couple of posts here with people griping about how "all this effort" is mis-directed and should be spent on "domestic" kids.

    Its never ceases to amaze me how quick so many people are to critique an act of charity.

    Somehow kids are more deserving because they happen to be closer geographically/politically/culturally?

    Some guys at some location which happens to be in our country have for some reason chosen to help some kids at some other location which is not within out political boundaries. Should they be slighted because they haven't first helped everyone in their neighborhood/city/state/country?

    If you think there's someone out there who needs help who isn't getting any try this... help them. That's what these folks here did.
    • Their problem, I think, is a frequent but misguided idea that one's countrymen are better than those who happen to live elsewhere.

      While there are those who slip through the cracks, America's kids aren't in that bad a shape. Even if they don't eat much at home, every public school I ever went to had free lunch and often breakfast if you were below a certain income level. If every kid didn't have a computer of his own, they did at least have a chance to use them on a semi-regular basis. American children are considered entitled to an education, including college.

      Many other places, these things are not true.

      Now, this project? Not aimed at helping starving six-year-olds in Bolivia. While I happen to think their aims are laudable--unlike those posters who still seem to be stuck in the cold war--the fact does remain that these computers are being sent elsewhere for a reason. Not because a small area is in need, but because those /countries/ are at a disadvantage, economically.

      If anyone wants to say that America is a disadvantaged nation, as far as the world goes... they deserve to get beat over the head with a clue-by-four.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by liquidsin ( 398151 )
      I'm all for any kind of charitable act, but there is a point here. We really *should* be taking care of our own first. I don't want to criticize anyone who's spending their own time and money to help someone less fortunate, but take a look around your home. It's the same way I feel about governments sending millions in "aid" money to foreign country when there are people literally starving in our streets. I'm sure there are schools in the U.S. who could use this donation just as much as people in another country. But kudos for doing it in the first place.

      • when there are people literally starving in our streets.

        Although I agree with your overall point to some extent, I don't think exaggeration like this is needed. There is NOBODY "literally" starving in our streets. The US has the richest poor people in the world. In fact, it's actually amazing how fat the people are in poor neighborhoods (at least in my neck of the woods).

        This is not to say that there aren't children who go hungry on occasion when their parents spend food money on crack, or otherwise need our help, by the way.

  • As someone who has traveled throughout almost all of Ecuador, I can most emphatically say that in 85% of the country, these pcs are mostly useless without uninterruptible power supplies. Power regularly goes out for minutes and even hours at a time. Besides that, the voltage is anything but regular. Power spikes and dips are constant. Every PC at the mission in Macas had a ups on it. While it is great that this program exists, I hope that they send all the necessary components to make these machines useful.
    • Yeah we have tried to include UPS's but the problem is that by the time they get donated they are often bad. We don't want to send down a UPS which will break and then we leave people with a toxic waste problem they can't deal with cleanly. Unfortunately we were able only to send a few UPS's in the container.
      • I am accepting your premise that the UPS would be dead before these folks get the machines, but it is not my experience. You are obviously more versed on this aspect of the discussion at hand than I am.

        So, it sounds like there is no point in sending computers setup like this in the first place. That strengthens the arguement of folks that support sending used computers to impoverished people that have an infrastructure that can actually support computer use, like any-city USA or western europe, etc.

        Is there some objection if laptops are sent but may be disposed of in a way thay you do not approve of when their batteries die?

        ONE solution, posed by someone else on this thread, is to load an OS with a journaling file system on each machine. Short of that, this seems to be just a publicity stunt, just like mainstream media and just like the "globalists" these guys claim to resist.
    • Hmm I was in Ecuador for a month earlier this year (mostly working at a school in Quito but also traveling around in the Andes region to Riobamba) and I don't think I ever saw a power outage! I don't think most of the PCs at the school had UPSes and we never had trouble.

      I *have* seen that in other countries -- Honduras has HORRIBLE power, even the big cities. But I haven't been there since 1994, so maybe things have improved.
  • [zipping on flame-proof suit]

    Indymedia is not the kind of organization I would want to associate myself with, or support even indirectly. Just go to their front page and read about the kind of annoying, wrongheaded activism they seem to support. They are not so much a news organization as a clearing house for far left activist information. These are people that talk about "global justice" when they really mean justice for their particular downtrodden group of the day. On their front page and links off of it, I find evidence of seriously anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic and anti-American sentiment.

    While this does sound like a noble project, there are other organizations [freegeek.org] (as was pointed out by another poster) with similar projects that you might support if you find Indymedia's politics so far left that they're about to fall off the table.

    It is certainly also true that there are people located domestically in the US we should consider helping get access to computers and technology training, though I don't think that should preclude helping those in South America by any means, unlike some of the other posters in this thread.

    Just a thought.

    • I don't think you can place a clear label on Indymedia, link you can't place a clear label on all open software users. We aren't all commies, and we know that.

      Indymedia is so heterogenous, that you need to judge individual projects, like this one, if you want to decide to support them or not. They don't have leaders that make up big plans, they are more like lots of local groups that do what they think is good.

      And maybe you haven't read the other comments, but Free Geek is supporting [freegeek.org] this action - so helping them could also mean helping this project ;)
    • "anti-Semitic sentiment"

      Be careful. If you paint everybody who critizes israel as anti semitic you are buying into the "zionism is racism argument". In other words if critizing israel (zionism) is the exact same thing as critizising the jewish people then there is no difference between zionism and racism.

      Besides both palestenians and israelis are semitic people so you cant play the race card in this case anyway.
      • I didn't say that, now you are putting words in my mouth. I didn't say that everybody has to be a card-carrying member of the Ariel Sharon fan club. Disagreeing with the policies of the current Israeli government is one thing. These guys are of a different ilk. They seem to support ostracizing Ehud Barak, the most pro-peace Israeli PM ever (found a piece on this linked off their main page). They seem to conveniently avoid discussing the fact that Palestinians commit murderous terrorist acts against the Israeli state and people, killing people without ANY regard to whether they are combatants or civilians.

        That's not reporting. That's Palestinian propaganda. Most of the far left wing seems to buy into this crap. I consider this antisemitic (which according to Webster's and Merriam Webster's has come to mean discriminatory against or hating of Jews, not all Semitic peoples, despite the word's structure and appearance).

        It is fundamentally antisemitic to start out with a prima facie assumption that Palestinians have a right to a homeland that legitimizes their violence, but that Jews do not have the same right to a homeland that allows for violent response. The leftists generally legitimize this by sympathetic portrayal of the "struggle of the oppressed" which they apply to one side and "vicious domination" which they apply to the other. These portrayals are fictions, and deny the depth or complexity of the topic. Furthermore, they assert in blanket fashion that the Palestinians are victims of oppression, when they have historically been the instigators of violence in the holy land early in the 20th century (don't bother attacking me on this, go do some research on the history of the Palestinian protectorate during the first half of the century first, then we can discuss details if you want).

        • Oh where to start.

          "It is fundamentally antisemitic to start out with a prima facie assumption that Palestinians have a right to a homeland that legitimizes their violence, but that Jews do not have the same right to a homeland that allows for violent response."

          No it's not. Those are political issues and not racial ones. Choosing one side of a political debate is not racism and you should not invoke the race card when people disagree with you.

          "Furthermore, they assert in blanket fashion that the Palestinians are victims of oppression"

          I don't think this is under dispute is it?

          The palestenians have no state.
          They are occupied by the israeli army.
          They are routinely put under curfew by the israeli army.
          they don't have the rights to move around freely.
          They are routinely killed by the israeli army.
          They are routinely arrested without charges and access to lawyers.
          They are routinely tortured.
          They are suffering from starvation and malnutrition.
          They are being denied water by the israeli govt.
          They are being deported and otherwise expelled.

          Sorry but all of these are undisputed facts. You say that historically they have been violent people and perhaps that justifes putting 800,000 people under curfew for a couple of months to you but not for me. To the uncritical supporters of israel every action they do is somehow justified in the past or in the bible or something. If any other country did what they are doing I bet you would be against it.

          For me there is no justification for torture, no justification for ethnic cleansing, no justification for apartheid, no justification for starving women and children, no justification for destroying other peoples property because a relative committed murder, no justification for forced expulsion, no justfication for taking peoples land and setting up settlements on it.

          Israel can't have it both ways. Either it won the war, took the land fair and square and is occuying it legaly or it's in a state of war with palestenians.

          If it won the war it needs to do what conqering countries do. Make those people citizens and try to fold them into your culture.

          If it's in a state of war then obey the geneva conventions and get the job over with. The palestenians are no match for the most powerful military in the world (the israeli army is the most powerful because it is actually the combined US and the israeli army). Kill them and get it over with slowly torturing them is not making you look good.

          Otherwise what you have left is apartheid. It works for a while but eventually it will be lifted, history shows that.

  • more info (Score:3, Informative)

    by akb ( 39826 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:51PM (#4320639)
    Also check out this video interview [indymedia.org] with one of the organizers.
  • Spare me the drama (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrPerfekt ( 414248 )
    Ugh, more reason why I hate to read the comments anymore.

    Why is it people relate IndyMedia to terrorism? Perhaps some of the journalists related to it have slanted views and it reflects that in their stories but how is this different than mainstream media?

    Isn't the basis of IndyMedia freedom of speech? Would you rather only have mainstream media owned by 3 gigantic companies?

    Now I understand this article is primarily about the charity aspect which *surprise* everybody seems to have a problem with. But the same people critisizing the charity, are the same people that probably have never donated to anything in their lives.

    Moral of the story: quit the "Do as I say, Not as I Do" routine.. it's tired.
    • Why is it people relate IndyMedia to terrorism? Perhaps some of the journalists related to it have slanted views and it reflects that in their stories but how is this different than mainstream media? [...] Isn't the basis of IndyMedia freedom of speech?

      Just because everyone has freedom of speech doesn't mean all speech has the same value.

      Not everyone who is a member of PETA is an anti-human idiot. But I would still treat anyone associated with the organization with deep, deep suspicion and would never, ever give them money. Like it or not, you will be judged based on who you associate with.

  • by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <z_gringo@hotmai l . com> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @01:53PM (#4320651)
    From the article,
    Anti-globalization activists in Oakland, Calif., are recycling old machines, loading them with free software and shipping them off to Ecuador.

    Doesnt something seem wrong with that sentence? How do they "ship them off" without support companies like UPS, FEDEX, DHL or whatever. Dont they all hate those companies?

    Also, why are they against free trade? Its hard to get a feel for what these people stand for, and why. They say they are defending poor people, but how? Wont the isolation they seem to want, keep the poor people poor?

    That being said, I think that more computers in south america is great. I dont know how this particular group came upon this idea however. Also, the article is a bit short on details, as to where the computers will be housed, and maintained etc.. It also goes on to explain that some will form a wireless network in Quito, but the rest will go to small towns.. How are those computers going to be useful?

    It all sounds like a great idea, but I really dont understand these people.. I think they do more harm than good to the very people that they say they want to help..

    • Also, why are they against free trade?

      Anti-Globalization != Anti-Free-Trade

      Of course, that's assuming by "free trade" you really mean, "fair and mutually beneficial commercial relations that do not result in the exploitation of one party by another," and not "corporate imporialism/hegemony."

      People who oppose "globalization" are generally greatly in favor of international dialogue and cultural exchange, but oppose commercial and cultural dominance/exploitation.

      Incidentally, sending computers and other communications equipment to a needy country, if done correctly and followed through on, is actually a far better initiative in terms of improving local conditions than sending the same dollar amount of food. There's a general tendency in foreign aid and foreign charity to create a state of dependence rather than foster indigenous production, commerce and enterprise. Give a man a fish vs. Teach a man to fish, etc etc etc. That's what communications and technology can do.

      The bottom line is that "These People" don't trust extra-national corportate interests to improve the conditions of third world countries and seek to improve the conditions there by fostering more robust local economic conditions rather than a state of international dependence.

      • Of course, that's assuming by "free trade" you really mean, "fair and mutually beneficial commercial relations that do not result in the exploitation of one party by another," and not "corporate imporialism/hegemony."

        When rational arguments fail, there's always over-hyped meaningless buzzwords, right?
        • When rational arguments fail, there's always over-hyped meaningless buzzwords, right?

          On both sides of the argument, you're correct.

          However, I don't think that "fair and mutually beneficial commercial relations that do not result in the exploitation of one party by another" is a collection of over-hyped and meaningless buzzwords. The concept of Corportate Hegemony sadly gets a lot more airtime, which is a big problem with the left: it's basically a dissident or anti-movement, a collection of arguments against the way things are going rather than for a rational alternative.

          I for one don't think this is due to a lack of rational alternatives. Hence "fair and mutually beneficial commercial relations that do not result in the exploitation of one party by another".

  • You guys are all missing the point. The donation from Indymedia is to support free speach, not to give kids in Ecuador a free computer. With these computers, Ecuadorian people will be able to show the outer world life within Ecuador through the use of the internet. This all leads to globalization, not anti-globalization as quite a few posters labled Indymedia.

    Indymedia is only moderately left wing. They're about trying to show world views of current global/local problems. The only reason many people view them as extremely left wing is because they talk about issues such as animal rights, womens' rights, environmental issues, violence/war, and governmental issues. Frankly, if you see these issues as left wing, that's pretty sad. These are issues everyone should be concerned with...and most of the world outside of the US speaks about openly. Indymedia about the closest thing we have to unbiased news in the US. Think about that next time you turn on Fox News and watch your daily dose of sensationalism

  • Three Points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @02:03PM (#4320727) Homepage Journal
    Point 1: These computers are not going to poor underpriveleged kids, these are a bit off-the-edge activists with some fringe anti-American tendencies.

    Point 2: No matter who they're going to, 300 computers is insignificant. Many medium-sized businesses are getting rid of old computers in these numbers. And since these computers aren't going to help poor kids in schools learn technology, it has no effect. Not newsworthy. I've personally disposed of hundreds of computers, and I'd always put a nice package of freeware on the hard drive before sending it away.

    Point 3: The only reason this is happening, is to get some good press. This isn't a "helping a child" story, or a "rejuvenating a country" story, or anything like that, but that's how it is being reported. I'd like to see how many millions of dollars of financial support our government spends in the same country, yet totally goes unreported and uncredited.
    • Point 1 - True, but a lot of these are going to the Indymedia news folks. They may be clueless about economics, but anybody who can't tell that the International Monetary Fund aren't clueless corrupt government-funded supporters of corrupt governments hasn't been paying attention. Their news may be biased, but it has a much wider range of biases than the Capitalist Broadcasting System, and especially in the third world, it's important to have news sources that are independent of the government news channels.

      Point 2 - 300 computers to a news-gathering organization can be amazingly significant; 300 computers to schools would be a drop in the bucket, though the long-term payback would still be worthwhile. Sure, most of these machines are Offical Doorstops today, which means that they can run Microsoft Office version N, N-1, or N-2 at reasonable speed, and can't play recent video games, but people running news-gathering organizations need text-handling, email, and simple databases can do amazing things with 486s. A 14.4kbps modem is about 200 times faster than most people type. (And 486s could run Doom, which was really amazing in its day.)

      Point 3 - Hey, Indymedia are a press organization - of course they're going to give good press to things that help them get press :-) If your government is the US government, they do spend many millions of dollars in most Latin American countries - most of it given to the local militaries to buy US-made military equipment, and most of the rest of it to run wars against their populations in the name of drug eradication (remember, if you're not smoking US-grown marijuana, you're supporting terrorism!). Some of the money does go to agricultural research, though most of that benefits large-scale agribusiness rather than decentralized small farming, and very little of it has unfortunately been done in ways that protects the environment and gives small farmers a better choice than either the traditional slash-and-burn methods (massively ecologically destructive) or dependence on industry-produced chemicals (produces economic dependence as well as pesticide damage.)

  • by electroniceric ( 468976 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @02:10PM (#4320793)
    I am profoundly glad to see the merging of techies with global development.

    As a note of caution:
    My own experience doing this (built a computer lab in Nicaragua) sort of thing suggests that these folks will run into many political and economic complexities in the places they go to install computers e.g.:
    • Computers tend to end up in homes and offices of well-connected people who tend have electricity and a place to put a computer
    • Often they molder away unused for lack of some kind of hardware or software fix
    • When you start asking how to robustly improve the welfare of a lot of citizens, it becomes a lot less clear whether donations simply improve the lot of a couple people, or are a band-aid, or really do something. No matter what, changing the fabric of a society takes years and years, a kind of progress us internet-speed twenty year-olds don't have much experiencew with.

    In any event, I hope everyone involved will learn a lot from the process and it will motivate more geeks to get involved with those who have much less than themselves (not the least of the reasons being that it makes you happier).
  • by ChronoZ ( 561096 )
    From the article:

    ..300 computers that are being shipped to Ecuador will stay there; some will be used in Quito, the capital city, where activists will also set up a citywide wireless network, but many will be sent to various towns and villages all over the region. "It's interesting because on some level you might say these people don't need computers -- they need clean water, housing and some sort of economic base that's not exploited," Henshaw-Plath says. "But we're saying that giving computers to the right people, that's the tool to get that social change."

    I can tell you for a fact (I come from Ecuador) that the people there DO need clean water and housing, along with EDUCATION in order to actually USE these computers and the wireless network.
    Without this knowledge, the people who they'd like to help won't know and eventually won't CARE about the computers.

    I'm sorry but I really believe that these people are out of touch with the common person in Ecuador..
  • Sheesh, people need to grab a bit of perspective here. They're talking about doing a bit of work to help out the needy in a poor country. From the response you'd think they were throwing Molotov Cocktails on the White House lawn.

    People need to go have a walk and clear the dogma from their heads if they really think this is somehow an evil conspiracy.

    • A. It's not just a man helping someone; it's an organization of activists that has some rather extreme viewpoints, that some of us don't trust. They're asking for our money, so we would do well to examine them carefully.

      B. The "needy" in this case can be defined as "friends of Indymedia in another country". We're not helping some starving kid here. I wouldn't give the editors of Indymedia a computer if they wanted one. Why would I want to help them give one to their friends?

      C. The feasibility of the project needs to be looked at as well. Does this project make any sense considering the country's electrical grid, laws, politics, and Internet connectivity, or is it just a political gesture? I suspect it's the latter.

      Dogma, BTW, is an established viewpoint created to be repeated without scrutiny. What you're seeing here on Slashdot is "skepticism", which is a whole different animal.

  • While I normally try to convince anti-globlization activists of the merits of globalization whenever I can, this time I will hold my tongue. How can plugging a third world country into the internet be seen as anything else but furthering globalization?

    If there are group like this in New York City, I would love to volunteer my spare parts and time, all the while chuckling to myself about how it furthers my agenda and not theirs.

    Besides, if developing countries end up with an entrenched linux market share, MS will be pressured to build a compelling Switch campaign, a la Apple. The ensuing competition benefits the whole world.
    • While I normally try to convince anti-globlization activists of the merits of globalization whenever I can, this time I will hold my tongue. How can plugging a third world country into the internet be seen as anything else but furthering globalization?

      I think you're confused.

      'Anti-globalization' activists aren't against greater communication and information exchange. Indeed, many are anarchists that would like to see all borders fall and all imposed limits between various peoples disappear.

      They are, however, generally against the consolidation of global economic power among a power elite who socialize costs while privatizing benefits. At the moment, globalization seems to be more about extending Western economic power and authority than really improving the lives and freedom of all people.
      • It sounds like these computers will be used for producing additional anti-growth propoganda, and thus will actually work to keep people in poverty rather than fixing up the economically ignorant governments of the developing world.

        I've got news for anti-globalists - there has been zero growth averaged across developing countries over the last ten years. And as a result, there is still massive poverty. Despite increasing levels of direct investment, developing country governments have been running massive deficits and allowing inflation to rule. Actually, direct investment in the poorest countries is decreasing, it is only the somewhat-with-it governments of Latin America that can keep investment coming in.

        Of course, this is due in part because of the IMF and WB dumping dollars into developing governments without gettign any kind of "adjustments" in policy...so they are half-right to want to axe them.

        If you axe the WB and IMF, we will stop supporting corrupt developing governments, and they will have to take drastic efforts to increase GDP growth lest they not get their pay...
      • Many of them *are* against greater communication and information exchange. That's especially true if the communication includes container ships as well as just verbal communications, because the low cost of shipping goods makes it easy for people to trade with each other, and they also oppose communications about things that people want to buy and sell, as opposed to just cultural exchanges, and they oppose cultural exchange as well, at least the direction of it that involves Corporatist Homogenized Culture. Most of the anti-globalists I've talked to are clueless about economics, and unwilling to face free speech that has a scope broad enough to include Disney as well as including interesting speech or drivelling leftybabble.

        Having said that, though, the protests themselves mainly occur at meetings of Western and other big governments, which generally *are* focused more on extending their power and authority and supporting their big political constituents than on genuine free trade. A Libertarian version of NAFTA wouldn't have been 1600 pages of protectionist rulemaking that shifts the details of who gets protected; it would have been a paragraph or so with a lot of room for signatures at the bottom. The IMF Austerity Rules that get imposed on any government that wants to borrow more money are generally pretty rational, if painful, because they have to get the target country on a revenue-positive economic track so they can get their earlier debts paid back. Unfortunately, however, both the old debts that are being paid back and the new money they're lending tend to be for projects that weren't economically viable, centralize power in the hands of the governments and usually the ruling elites, and if they aren't spent on the military, they tend to be spent on big development projects that are environmentally destructive or at best on Bread&Circuses. And many of these countries either have government-controlled broadcasting systems, or if they do have privatized media, it's still controlled by the Usual Suspects, so having an Indymedia type thing around to provide some alternative to the major media is really valuable.

  • Eddie Nix, of course if I were him I would change my name to Eddie *nix.
  • There are two problems with giving people computers: Either they dont have electricity, and cant afford it, so the computers are useless, or they have electricity, in which case these arent the people who need our help the most. Why dont you give them something that will allow them to feed their families, send their children to school, pay for health care and raise them up out of poverty in a sustainable manner? Visit www.heifer.org [heifer.org] and find out more about giving the gift of sustainable development. For as little as a one time payment of $20 you can lift a family out of poverty and starvation permanently.
  • Perhaps a bit off-topic, I know, but I was wondering if anyone knew of any companies that actually crush and re-smelt old CRTs, instead of just shipping them off to China?
  • I've laughed a bit as I've read some of the trolls on here, and shaken my head at the more serious comments that suggest decent people that have a very misconstrued concept of what IMC is about.

    The people that I know in my local Indymedia [indymedia.org] are all very much in favor of democritizing things. This includes government, media, and trade. (Lately I've been thinking that democracy is a more radical concept than most realize...)

    Indymedia was founded around the time of the 1999 WTO protests, which were pro-democratic as much as ore more than they were anti-capitalist. (FTAA and NAFTA are rather the opposite, anti-democratic, pro-capitalist.)

    Just so you get a feel of what's actually on an IMC, here's some of what was on madison.indymedia.org today:

    - Madison City Council Considering Section 8 Housing Ordinance Tonight
    - Digital Rights Management Begins Creeping Into Windows Software, Audio CDs (my article; summary of Slashdot, the Register, eWeek, other sources)
    - UW Madison Students Defeat Attempt To Oust Progressive Campus Leaders
    - My Summer Vacation as a Delegate at the AFL-CIO Convention

    The stories such as these that get featured in the center column are usually of relatively high quality, of local interest, and linked to a longer article. Since joining the Madison IMC I've become one of the center column editors, although I never edit any articles that people have submitted. That goes against our ethics.

    We strive for accuracy, passion, and truth. Not ratings or advertising dollars.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.