Archive for the 'Technology' Category


Monday, December 4th, 2006

23c3 The 23rd chaos communication congress will take place from the 27th until 30st of december 2006 in Berlin. This years congress stands under the “23” and keeps the nice title: “Who can you trust?”. Because the Malawi project fits nice together with this title, I’ll hava a talk myself at the third congress day about Malawi.

official handover

Monday, December 4th, 2006

shirt Today in the afternoon the official handover of the thinclients is going to take place. The principal Dr. Charles Mataya and the librarian Mr. Martin Thawani are going to present the donated thin clients of the University of applied sciences and arts Zurich to the media and are going to talk about the influence of free Software in Malawi.

See the pictures of the t-shirts that we printed for this event. “Anthu Ozindikira amagwirisa ntchito GNU/Linux Software” means “thinking human beeings are using GNU/Linux Software”. 🙂

Wood carving

Friday, November 24th, 2006

carving1 The CD-Duplicatemachine from Andrew Msiska is close to be finished. The woodbox is now full of african carvings. The eagle stands for Andrews Artist Company, the chamäleons are dedicated to Alex, the dicdics to Ramon and the monkey to me. What about the Gnu? The Gnu is dedicated to all Gnu Friends.

carving2 Iwould like to add, that the computernerds from here, when they come into the office and see this beautifull box, they get little stars in their eyes. One Student likes it so much, that he would like to build one also for his computer.

More detail pictures will follow next week. The low Internet bandwidth at the Polytechnic don’t allow large image uploads.

Thinclient Network finished

Friday, November 24th, 2006

thin1 thin2 thin3

The 2 Thinclient Networks are now properly setup with squid as proxy service and work perfectly. The research and article of Ramon Cahenzli was pretty helpful for the setup, because doing research on the internet in the Polytechnic is very frustrating because of low bandwidth.

The past days we did some stress tests and fine tuning of ltsp, dhcp and squid. The system is pretty fast compared to the old crappy computers of the Polytechnic. We’re now waiting for an order of about 12 TFT screens from South-Africa to be installed with the thinclients. The handover will probably take place next week.

GNU stamp

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006


After Andrew has produced some stamps for his artists company I also wanted to produce some stamps for myself. One of the samples was the “Heckert GNU”.


Monday, November 13th, 2006

neo1(This image shows the american moonlander, that stands in the entrance of the Polytechnic)

When I was looking for the title for my Malawi project I’ve chosen a cite from the book of Joseph Conrads “heart of darkness”: “Exterminate all the brutes” describes the character of the classical imperialist, the insulanian, who came to impose his way of living, his moral and religion onto another world.

Some of us might believe, that this a view from the old colonialstic times. Malawi is just a free country for 40 years now and the western companies have found new ways to put african countries in their dependency.

I would like to remind of the “memorandum of understanding”, that Microsoft tried to do with the education Minister in Malawi about a year ago, so that the Microsoft operating system has to be used in Malawian schools only.

That time some students and systemadministrators of the University of Malawi have prevented this “pact with the devil” by writing an open letter. Even Bill Gates himself seems to have understood, that the fight on the operating systems is already lost for him. Why else should he quit Microsoft and do more engagement for his “Bill & Melinda Gates Foudation”? The Gates are wageing a neoimperialist crusade with the spreading of genetically manipulated seeds and american pharmaproducts. It’s also grotesk to read the following statement on the Gates Foundation Website: “And because information can change lives, we support public access to computing in libraries worldwide.”
Bill Gates didn’t support in his past the standardisation of formats (e.g. Open Document Format) but supports the introduction of softwarepatents in the european government.

But Bill Gates and Microsoft are only two examples out of the large comples image of africa. Many other western companies and single person own big parts of the local economies. The Tea plantations that go from the south of Blantyre down until Moçambique are almost all into the hands of white Landlords. While the malawian workers are employed for a very poor salery.
The seeds, that are sold to the Malawians in the shops are sold as “newest technology” and contain genetically manipulated sterile seeds, that can not be used after growing for producing seeds again, but has to be bought every year because of the sterile seed.

This principle describes the same way, that DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) works. Music, that is digitally DRM tagged, can only be listened to for a restricted time and cannot be used any more afterwards. This method of selfdestruction is imposed after an american model to other cultures and leads to the destruction of culture and culture-goods.

neo3 neo4 neoo1

Today the “American Corner Blanytre” was opened. An extension of the Library of the Polytechnic, that should be accessible to the public and not only to the students of the University. Under the argument to provide Malawi a plattform for knowledge and education, the american government evangelises and propagates its own country ind Malawi.

neo6In this way a lot of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisation) are doing propaganda for western products. The strategy to sell african citizens anti-AIDS vaccine emerges to be a marketingstrategy much more than development aid. The moneys, that flow through the NGOs into such projects are flowing directly back into the western worlds pharma industies. Meanwhile the africans remain with their role of a guinea pig.

Also Madonna would better give away her music to the world using the creative commons license, than to go on a shoppingtour to Malawi to buy a new kid like a new handbag.

The spriral of neoimperialism makes it hard for african countries to stand on their own feet.

Server and thinclient warmup

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

The last 3 days I worked with 4 students of the IT dept. on the setup of the servers for the thinclient Network, that will be installed at the library. The students first installed the motherboards, I’ve brought from Switzerland into the ATX cases. Then I needed 2 days, to download the newest Edubuntu 6.10 CD from the Internet. The post of Ramon as well, as the short Edubuntu Documentation are very helpful for the students. It’s the first time for them to configure an LTSP Server.
The next days the students will work out a presentation for the upcoming official handover of the system, so that they will be prepared to demonstrate it to the public.

warmup1 warmup2 warmup3 warmup4

Case modding

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

My friend Andrew Msiska is a music producer here in Malawi of local musicians. Every day, he’s running around in town to produce some CDs or music cassettes. Producing music in Malawi is a pain, because the only guys, who own Cassette or CD duplicators in Malawi are richt Indians, who exploit the local musicians and generate lots of moneys for themselves only. (An analogy to the Music Industry and DRM?)
That’s why, I brought the controller of CD duplicator and gave it to Andrew. After that he bought a couple of CD-RWs and went to the local carpenter whot produced a case for the duplicator. In the next weeks he’ll go to find some artists who will design some african carving for the box.

case1 case2 case3

case1 case2 case3

Setting up a server for your thin client network using Edubuntu

Monday, October 30th, 2006

ltsp-library-server-preview.pngI am amazed by how easy it has become to set up a server for an entire network of thin clients, provided that you use Edubuntu. Before the LTSP project (and its incorporation into the Edubuntu GNU/Linux distribution), it used to be very hard to set up a network for thin clients. I personally sweated bullets trying to get myriad flimsy network settings right, debugging problems with the TFTP server and battling countless other horrors before successfully booting my first thin client.

Today, all you need is one Edubuntu CD. Finished.

The standard installation of Edubuntu includes a fully working LTSP-based terminal server for thin clients, and it’s already set up and enabled by default. All you need to take care of is that your network has the address, i.e. your clients will receive addresses starting with 192.168.0 from your Edubuntu server, which is expected to be If your network situation is different, simply edit /etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf so that the DHCP server supplies addresses that match your setup. The IP address of the server may also have to be changed in this step. Also, depending on your net, you may want to add a second network card to your server and set it all up for forwarding. With forwarding, all thin clients on your network can access the Internet. You can then go on to more advanced setups, such as limiting the Internet access of thin clients to certain times of day, blocking certain bandwidth-heavy sites or installing the Squid caching proxy to speed up access to frequently used websites while lowering the impact on your Internet connection.

But all in all it’s breathtakingly simple!

I’ve tested this setup using both types of Fujitsu-Siemens thin clients that Alex took with him to Malawi (Futro S300 and Futro B220), and both worked. You can even have multiple users logged into a single thin client at the same time 🙂 I will do some more testing when I find the time (a scarce resource), so that I can give Alex hints in case we discover a few stumbling blocks.

This is fun! I hope you can replicate this setup at The Polytechnic and profit from the experience.

A note about the different models of thin clients

With this setup, I recommend using the S300 thin clients Alex brought. They boot faster and the display driver has hardware-acceleration — all in all everything feels much more fluid! Don’t be alarmed if your screen goes black in the beginning of the boot process. For some reason, the client switches into a strange video mode that some monitors don’t like. After a while, the Edubuntu login screen will come up after all.

The older B220 clients boot slower, have no video acceleration and seem to be having problems displaying certain icons. I’m quite sure it’s a problem with the video driver there. I might investigate that, but because Alex brought mostly brand new S300 clients, I think this will be less of an issue for you. Just use the S300 where it really matters (on student workplaces) and stick to the B220 where the speed and accuracy of the display is not that important, for example at the library administrator’s workstation. The display works well enough to set up users and accounts and to run a shell 🙂

By the way, the illustration you see next to this text is my attempt to draw a diagram of how a terminal server roughly works. You can download the original OpenDocument version or a PDF, too. Feel free to share and edit them, they are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license which gives you that freedom.