Tag Archives: bandwidth

Google Earth and the case for ‘clickable countries’

I have been harping on this for some time and finally decided to lay out why I think it makes some sense for Google to consider making ‘clickable countries’ an option in Google Earth.  In the world of the aid worker communications bandwidth is the single most important factor.  We pay more for bandwidth than just about anyone in the world.  In an earlier post I pointed out that SIM cards in Myanmar cost $1500.  I can tell you that from experience a VSAT installation in the tsunami ravaged region of Aceh, Indonesia costs $1700 for service equivalent to a dial-up connection from the 1990’s and 1MB of data over an INMARSAT portable satellite modem costs aywhere from $4 to 8$.  To view http://www.cnn.com just one time costs about $5.

Bandwidth is the Achille’s heal of the aid community and while things are getting easier (aircards are replacing data cables) the rates are still through the roof and the networks are dirtier a more fragile than most folks can comprehend.  The question I always ask is, “Do you know how many syringes I can buy for $5?”

That being the case it would save all of us a tremendous amount of money if the folks over at Google took it upon themselves to implement for Google Earth what I have long referred to as ‘clickable countries’.  The idea is to give the user the ability to turn off the image layers for any country, continent or body of water.  If I am working in Myanmar all I really need to see imagery for is Myanmar and Thailand.  I don’t need North America, South America, the Pacific Ocean, etc.  The bandwidth savings, if we were able to drop out all unnecessary imagery, would be tremendous and that translates into money saved which is money that can be used to buy more syringes, medecines and medical equipment.

I am not sure how easy it would be to accomplish this from a technical standpoint but the benefit to the humanitarian aid community would be tremendous.  I have heard time and time again from various aid workers that while they love Google Earth there is really no way they can you use it in the field because of the slow speed and high cost of bandwidth.  Implementing ‘clickable countries’ in the Layers section would make a somewhat inaccessible tool readily available to the people who desperately need it – aid workers in the field – and Google could take full credit for the countless lives they would save by doing so.  Not only would such an action benefit humanitarian aid workers, it would also benefit the communities they serve.  They communities we work in around the world all suffer from the same low bandwidth fate as we do yet they do not have the same cash resources to resolve the problem.  Google Earth’s market penetration could be significantly increased were they to implement the ‘clickable countries’ solution.

I have a heard a number of times that caching imagery is a viable solution to the bandwidth problem but the reality is that most folks have no idea how to cache imagery and when the fabled ‘DVD full of imagery that gets shipped to the field’ solution comes up it takes about 30 seconds to convince the other person that it is really just a nice idea that has little basis in reality.  The tech community needs to learn the rules we play by and we need to learn the same about the challenges they face.

I am hopeful that somewhere down the road Google will implement the ‘clickable countries’ solution but if I have learned anything during my foray into the world of technology it is patience.

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MozyPro Update

I pitched MozyPro a few posts back as a viable back-up tool for field workers.  Everything was running smoothly until I closed the account it was charging to and opened a new one.  That is when the trouble began.  Every time I called the (877)MozyPro I actually received an “All circuits are busy” recording.  (I don’t think I have heard that recording in quite a while.)  Rather than flip me into a loop they just stopped me cold.  I finally wrote tech support and a very nice guy named Josh called back.  However, he could not help me with billing as he was on the wrong side of the office…

To make a long story short MozyPro fails on the customer service side and if you are stuck in the bush making satellite phone calls to a overloaded number you are going to lose patience a lot faster than I did.  Great software, lousy execution.

UPDATE: Mozy got back to me with an apology.  Take a look at the comments.

The ‘Dark Hours’

Earth At Night

“One thing that most people don’t think about are the ‘dark hours‘ when VSAT have minimal load. These are usually the hours from 6pm-8am. The only thing updating are the machines that are left one and only if there is city power available since no one leaves a generator running when no one is there to use it. Plus, the neighbors hate it. This creates a secondary problem which is that almost every Windows machine automatically updates when the power is switched on and the networks comes back up at 8am. This includes anit-virus, anti-spyware, and every other application under the sun. Of course these problems can be fixed but for the most part they are just ignored and by 8:30am the network has all but stopped. I think it is critical that you keep these dark hours in mind when thinking about people in the field since there is a tremendous amount of bandwidth that just sits there every night not being used. If we could work through the night we would. Unfortunately, security and common sense don’t always allow to do so.”