Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Hope Blogging

This week, I'm going to concentrate on stories having to do with improving communication.

Treehugger discusses a new company called Inveneo, which has set up a free VoIP system for villagers in rural Uganda, where communication between villages normally requires a walk of several miles.

Each village in the Bukuuku program has a custom-built computer with a 2-GB microdrive, to eliminate moving parts, along with 256 MB of RAM and a 533-MHz processor. The computer is wired to a regular analog telephone set and a directional Wi-Fi antenna, which transmits the internet signal to a central hub at one of the villages.

Complete with 70-watt solar panels and a bicycle generator -- which can provide power in the event of no sunlight -- each installation costs only $1,800, including the outdoor Wi-Fi 802.11b antenna.
Apparently, the co-founders of Inveneo are currently in Louisiana and Mississippi, setting up wireless relay stations between shelters. Their homepage has details on their efforts.

Worldchanging has a fascinating story on a new biomimicry database. For those who don't know, biomimicry involves problem-solving design based on naturally evolved forms and processes, with - in the most laudable cases - an emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency. (I previously discussed one interesting example here.)
[T]he [database] concept is a tool to pull knowledge across discipline boundaries, in order to facilitate the design of biomimetic buildings and products. The database will be a place where designers, architects, and engineers can find biological information, biomimetic design and engineering information, chemical and materials information, and experts. It will also be a place where researchers from diverse fields can collaborate despite being in far-removed institutions or disciplines. It will be a moderated wiki, and will have collaboration features, to leverage the expertise of its users.
In another triumph for open communication, a federal judge has delivered another crippling blow to the Patriot Act's ability to limit free speech:
The decision marks the second time a federal court has dealt a blow to the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal records such as the identity of a person who has checked out books from a library or engaged in anonymous speech on the Internet. The first ruling, which also came in a case brought by the ACLU, found that the entire NSL provision was unconstitutional.
Last, on a somewhat more frivolous note, I'd like to point out that the second album by Dengue Fever is really, really good.

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