Jan 28

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Wireless Networking in the Developing World

I was delighted to get the following email this morning from Danish hacker activist Tomas Krag:

"For the past 4 months I've been working to get a book out on wireless networking. Together with some of the smartest, most passionate people i've ever had the pleasure to work with, and lead by experienced technical book author and editor Rob Flickenger, we've completed the book. It's called "Wireless Networking in the Developing World", and it is a free book released under a Creative Commons license.
I've long been a supporter of getting books to developing countries, mainly working through donations to the Network Startup Resource Center, and I actually held a Geek Activism Summit at Oscon 2003 to discuss how better to facilitate this process. One of the ideas was to develop electronic, freely distributable books, so we didn't have to go to the expense of shipping donated books overseas.

I had hoped to get a couple of geek volunteers to take on the job of "remixing" content from existing O'Reilly books into some books specifically targeted to developing countries. Releasing some of these books as free in their entirety would potentially kill sales of the existing printed books, but it seemed to me that as long as the free online copy and the existing print book(s) for sale in Western markets weren't identical, we'd have lots of room. (We've long followed this strategy for Perl, with the Perl man page and the book Programming Perl sharing lots of content.) Now that we have SafariU as a content remix engine (albeit one currently targeted to the academic market), this kind of project becomes even easier.

I was a little disappointed that Tomas and Rob didn't take me up on this offer. But heck, however their book happened, this is great news for people around the world, and a great service. From the press release:

Imagine trying to piece together a wireless network with no manuals, sporadic and slow access to the Internet, inadequate tools, a shortage of supplies, and in the most inclement weather. The authors of a recently published book, "Wireless Networking in the Developing World" don't need to imagine. They have been doing so for years.

In almost every village, town, or city in the developing world, there are people who can build just about anything. With the right know-how, this can include wireless networks that connect their community to the Internet. The book addresses what Rob Flickenger, the book's editor and lead author, calls a chicken-and-egg problem: "While much information about building wireless networks can be found on-line, that presents a problem for people in areas with little or no connectivity", said Flickenger from his workshop in Seattle. The book covers topics from basic radio physics and network design to equipment and troubleshooting. It is intended to be a comprehensive resource for technologists in the developing world, providing the critical information that they need to build networks. This includes specific examples, diagrams and calculations, which are intended to help building wireless networks without requiring access to the Internet.

Let me know if you are working on other similar projects that could benefit from existing O'Reilly content.

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Comments: 3

  Chris Eveleigh [02.09.06 10:04 AM]

Hi Tim. The link to this thread was passed on to me by one of our techs. Check out our website (linked to my name below). We've actually got about 3 million digitized documents on a 250 GB hard drive that we ship to institutions in the developing world who have limited, expensive, or no Internet connectivity. Plus, we've got a built-in proxy server, so the thing looks, acts and smells just like the Internet--only at speeds typically 5,000 times faster than the typical developing country Internet connection (a generality based on data from our bandwidth testing engine). I'm biased, but pretty cool IMHO. Let me know if you're interested in donating some content, as we (and more specifically our 'patrons') would certainly benefit.

  Sai [07.17.06 01:02 AM]

Thanx for your work. keep it up...!!!

  Teresa Crawford [01.31.07 09:41 AM]

Is this offer of remixing content to provide free eBooks still open? I did some work last year with Aspiration and actually tried to create an eBook from your content but we ran into all sorts of roadblocks...what counted as substantially different from the books vailable for purchase, what books we could take content from etc. And now it seems the folks we worked with last year are gone.

I am still working in the field, have a ton of non profit techies I work with in developing countries who would be thrilled for up to date, relevant content to help them in their work.

So if the offer still stands please get in touch.

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