Tips and Tricks on surviving Bandwidth Hell

Tips and Tricks on surviving Bandwidth Hell

I use an Orange 3G connection here in Gaborone Botswana, paying $20/month on a prepaid basis (no contract) for 800GB with no voice airtime included.  It is not the greatest connection and often has the connectivity problem revolving circle symbol on the android phone next to the signal strength bars.  I tend to go through about 1.6GB/month, so it can cost me $40/month unless there are special offers…

I use data on the smartphone itself � a ZTE Blade San Francisco with Android 2.1 � but mainly on the PC � a Lenovo i5 Z580 � tethered to the Phone using EasyTether.

Some surprising discoveries:

1. Yahoo mail works on the PC but gmail does not � so I switched from gmail as my prime mail with yahoo forwarding into gmail to the reverse of that.  If gmail are serious about operating in the Third World they should check this out and rectify.

2.  Facebook and facebook mobile and also facebook zero (  and ) all work nicely.  Note that I set my browser to work usually without displaying images

3. I prefer chrome browser over Opera which is slower and over Internet Explorer which is slower again.  Have not tried Firefox recently.  The tortuous procedure for switching from images off to images on and vice-versa on every browser is a complete pain in the backside � it should be a single keystroke  – browser designers for the Third Wold take note!

4. Despite trying everything, cannot get twitter to work on the PC at all (except by going to cybercafe and plugging PC into their LAN) � this is a big blow, since I like twitter � a great way to practice politics and waste a lot of time agreeing with others of the same disposition as yourself without ever achieving anything…  Twitter people if you are serious about the Third World then investigate and fix…

5. WordPress only works on the smartphone � I compose on the pc, save as txt file and copy over to the phone to upload to wordpress

6. Filezilla works great on the PC for uploading

7. Free Download Manager works great on the PC for downloading

8. Pidgin instant messenger works fine on the PC when using gmail/ googletalk ID but will not
work with Yahoo ID � yahoo investigate?….

9. Skype video I would never try.  Skype keyboard chat/instant messenger I dont use because recent Skype versions seem to cause general PC problems

10. Can access  and also  on the PC as mobile webpages � but not independent or telegraph.  Might be useful for people with bandwidth worse than mine.

11. Http:// � which is meant to be a free service inside Botswana on the Orange network � doesnt work at all on the PC and takes forever to load on the smartphone � NOT impressed! – Orange and/or wikipedia must up their game!…  Incidentally, a techie at Orange told me that is hardly used in Botswana… – I am not surprised…

12. Surprisingly, works nicely on the PC without images, and rather well on the smartphone….  This is a very useful subset of wikipedia….

13. In general, it is amazing how few  sites, especially newspapers, do simple work on their  webpages to make them mobile-friendly � sometimes they do not even need a special mobile subset of their website � only to add one line in the header code.

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Botswana, Friday 16 August 2013
+26772982005  (GMT+2 hours)

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Fracking � a private profit with a concommitant public loss � a solution

Fracking � a private profit with a concommitant public loss � a solution

Fracking is actually something of great interest � relatively clean energy which seems to be available in large or moderate quantities in western countries (which are often otherwise energy deficient despiute being large energy consumers)

BUT there are serious pollution problems which often or always affect individuals and communities close to the fracking site. 

The approach so far seems to have been that the commercial outfit doing the fracking gets away scot free and the public organisations � national and local government � do little or nothing to compensate the affected populace.

There is a solution � set up a Fracking Compensation Trust Fund � which levies a fixed tax per cubic metre of fracked gas from all fracking operations, and which accepts and adjudicates all claims.  It utilizes public and/or private analytical laboratories as required.  It is empowered to currently or retroactively raise the normal fracking tax rate for cases where above-average negative impact was caused by a particular fracking operation.  It has the power to grant and to refuse all fracking licences nationally.

It will encourage all fracking companies to conduct proper impact assessments before going ahead with any fracking operation, and probably (hopefully) to avoid some sites which are too close to population centres or highly productive agricultural land.

The question of whether the underground gas should also be treated as a national asset and should therefore be taxed over and above the tax which is set aside specifically for compensation should also be considered.

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Botswana 15 August 2013

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Microdownloads � the future of downloading anything over 10 MB for the Third World

Microdownloads � the future of downloading anything over 10 MB for the Third World

Downloading even a video of 700MB is a tricky job from any third world destination.  Imagine trying to download project gutenberg or Wikipedia for Schools � plain impossible.  20 GB torrents I dont even dare to try.

Therefore the lucky among us get some friend and/or volunteer in the west to download the stuff, burn it to one or many DVDs and airmail it to us here in the back of beyond on Connectivity Hell.

The price per GB is coming down it seems in the Third World � here in Botswana Orange have reduced it effectively to $20/GB ($10/GB if you are lucky) over a 3G wireless connection.  But the ability to download large stuff is still a problem.  Of course the most economic option is usually a fixed line with ADSL and hopefully an uncapped contract.  But some of those connections are literally up and down like yo-yo’s and are very incapable of downloading anything of any size.

The solution?  There are several of course:

1. The western airmailed DVD download as per above

2. get large stuff delivered somehow and loaded onto servers in cybercafes in capital cities in the third world as single large files (e.g. 4.3GB ISO files) which can take less than 1 minute each to download from the internet cafe’s INTRANET to a USB flash drive or external HDD

3. use the features of 7zip � a free windows compression utility � to split say a 4.3 GB iso file into about 2600 chunks.  Use Free Download Manager or equivalent to download those 2600 chunks of 1.44 MB. If the website hosting those files has restrictions then rename those 2600 from .001 to etc..  rename if necessary from to .2600 and reconstitute using 7zip

All 3 solutions have mileage, depending on what you are downloading or disseminating…..

By the way, people who tell you that connectivity in the Third World is getting better and there is no need for such solutions � BS….

Alex Weir,
tel +26772092005

Gaborone, Botswana, 15 August 2013

PS � we at are issuing approximately 76GB of core content as microdownloads before 2013/10 � October 2013

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Free and instant web database systems utilizing web-mail accounts

Free and instant web database systems utilizing web-mail accounts

The creation and use of web database and other interactive web systems has great potential for the Third World, especially as MNPs (mobile network providers) reduce the cost and difficulty of using data, and low-cost handsets with internet facility (e.g. Samsung E2200 at US$ 40-00) become more common.  Also of course it is chicken and egg � without web based services which assist people, they will (correctly) see the internet as a frivolity or a luxury or a niche thing or a toy without practical application.

One of the problems with implementing a web database system is the cost, lead-time and infrastructure required before the system can even go live.  There are program generators such as codecharge and ironspeed which make this process faster, cheaper and less skill-intensive, and there are even services like Caspio Bridge (at $50+/month) which make these things much easier.

One alternative to the conventional web database model could work as follows:

1. Instead of having one centralized web database system, one has effectively many duplicated web database systems, sitting on gmail accounts (or yahoo mail accounts), and being fed data by email user group emails (i.e. yahoo groups or google groups).  The searching which is available on gmail or yahoo email accounts is reasonably powerful (and almost immediate � unlike a lot of web content, which only gets a search update every few weeks).  This will work (at the expense of the gmail or yahoo servers) for up to a few hundred users.

2. So � each user has to have a web-based email like google or yahoo, which also has a good email search facility

3. Each user has to subscribe to a googlegroups or yahoogroups or similar email broadcasting service

4. Emails ideally have to be structured according to some template or format set by the system founders or operators.  Short codes to mean certain categories may or may not be used.  Probably a cardboard sheet guide will be issued.

5. We probably envisage at least two classes of operators:

6. The main mass of users post data and (maybe) search on data.  They get queries which may be email, instant messenger, sms or phone.  They use mainly low-end mobile phones with internet facility.  If they search, they contact people again effectively manually.  They very probably have 2 or more email accounts and use a dedicated one for the web database system.  Incoming emails can even be redirected into the users main email account while leaving a copy of the original email behind in the web database account ready for searching etc..

7. Fewer users do most of the searching  – they use mostly PC’s with internet connection.  They copy and paste data from email subject lines into spreadsheets or other applications to do searching and to contact persons posting data.  They may have applications to automate or semi-automate the process of contacting people.

8. The system admin people keep an eye on how things are going (especially at the start) and try to promote use of the system by small and by large participants..

Dont forget of course that twitter can also be used as an add-and-search database, but there are no controls over who can post stuff � i.e. the sub-system of twitter could easily become full of false and crank postings; the use of a googlegroups, yahoogroups or similar with a controlled entry (and a controller-expulsion facility!) means that the user population is controlled.

Is there some similar alternative?

Let google or yahoo offer something whereby one single email account can be used by a whole group for searching � then each member can send structured emails from their own account to this email address and can search on all the emails, without being  able to add, modify or delete emails directly.  The system operator (obviously) has those controls.  This will involve a new system of email accounts with structured passwords for different user levels � it should be quite simple to implement, and could at the same time fulfill some other functions (see appendix below).  The email account should only accept incoming emails from addresses which are in the email contacts  system, or which are in a certain email user group.

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Thursday 15 August 2013
tel +267 72 98 2005


1. let someone else read your email subject lines but not write modify or delete any emails
2. let someone else read your email subject lines and the complete body text and attachments but not write modify or delete any emails
3. let someone else simply check if there are any unread emails, without even seeing who from
4. let someone write emails for you without seeing any inbox and without being able to delete anything
5.  have some sms functionality where for example item(3) above can be effected by an sms from a designated number or from any number with a PIN or TAN code. (i.e. do I need to trip to an internet connection or not?…)
5. there is a password level which permits viewing browsing and searching of all emails but with no add or delete or reply facility (but maybe a forward facility?…) – this fits in with the webmail-webdatabase concept as outlined above…

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Solutions to facilitate rapid searching of massive offline content, integrating also online and paper-based content

Solutions to facilitate rapid searching of massive offline content, integrating also online and paper-based content

Local desktop offline searching of cd3wd is now obviously becoming difficult and integrating offline and online content for searching is also problematic.  There are one or two solutions:

– for online searches, use a google or equivalent CSE search which allows a single web search to search oinly at the same time a number of websites or sub-sections of websites.  The problem has been that at one time, Google started to charge for this.  Anyone out there with more current info and advice please feed back to me –

– for offline searches, google desktop (still apparently useable and even downloadable although no longer supported by Google) is a good option I guess

– for offline searches, Copernic full version ($50 or so) is an excellent local offline search tool.  The free version can only index about 1 GB – which is very inadequate for cd3wd offline

– for offline searches, I am thinking about expanding and re-organising my TWI – third world info – project – whereby each file (pdf , avi etc) has a small matching html file with a link to the main file.  This small file has enough title, author, size, filetype, date, keyword info ideally and also has a LOCAL link and furthermore a WEB link to the document.  These small files can sit together in a single directory system and can easily be indexed by Copernic Free Version, Google Desktop etc..  The beauty of this system is that one can also make links to amazon etc for paper-only sources, and links to other organisations websites.  The small htm files can be produced automatically from a file listing using a simple desktop application which works by reading a textfile from a DIR *.* /S /O /B >outputfile.txt  command…..

Then E4C, EWB, Practical Action, UNFAO, WHO, Hesperian, Appropedia, Biovision, Village Earth etc etc can all feed listings for cd3wd to process or feed the actual html files for inclusion.  The html file collection will also be small enough for download even on a bad connection to keep everyone updated…..

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Botswana

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International remittances – ways to reduce cost

International Money Transfers / Remittances � some ideas on how to reduce the cost

1. Use mobile phone airtime as a currency across international boundaries

2. Use peer-to-peer money transfer

How would or could the above work?

Use mobile phone airtime as a currency across international boundaries

Someone can buy mobile phone airtime scratch cards say in Manila Philippines and transport them to London UK.  The buying is ideally at the usual mobile phone airtime card discount price (which is typically 10%?).  Philippinos working in London can buy these at cost or at a surplus margin (say 5%) from a physical shop or from a vendor (who may have a distinct location and time every week � e.g. speakers corner, Hyde Park, 1400-1500 Saturdays).  The buyer then scratches and sms’s or emails the pin code to the recipient in Manila or elsewhere in Philippines.  The recipient then uses that airtime and diverts the money that would have been used as airtime to food or school fees.  Any surplus can be sold to friends or unknown persons � the facility many networks have to transfer airtime can be used.

If there is trust, then the airtime scratchcards do not physically need to leave Philippines � they can be scratched locally and the pin codes emailed (using some simple but effective encryption such as 7zip AES256) to the wholesaler or retailer in London, Frankfurt, New York etc..

Obviously at some time the wholesaler or retailers in London want to get their money back to Philippines to fund the operation further � then they can do a cash transfer with someone going home or a Western Union, Moneygram or Bank Transfer.

What is the advantage to anyone?

1. Transfer can be instant
2. small amounts are better catered for (probably $30 or more is the minimum economic amount by WU)
3. If the return flow of money by western wholesaler to recipient country is economic then margins can be kept down to below WU levels

In cases where a global operator (Vodafone, Airtel, Virgin etc) is  present in both countries, then they can themselves offer scratch cards or airtime printouts for the recipient country in the sender country through their own branches, thus offering even better economies and positive image spin-off.  Also they are effectively transferring money from poor to rich country, which is what many of them are trying to achieve…

And of course, Some MNP’s (e.g. Orange) seem to be moving towards providing not only national domestic money transfer using Mobile Money, but also some international money transfer services.

Use peer-to-peer money transfer

Identify each other by using twitter � e.g. #MT_Manchester_poipet  GBP 300 tel 078234567 and #MT_poipet_manchester GBP 350  tel 7856432 (that is pretty close!…).  Or there could be a website which facilitates and bulks or aggregates such deals.  That could be funded by advertising, or a global NGO could handle that as part of their development assistance (we all know that remittances are poverty-reducing…)

The four parties agree by email, twitter and phone to be in 2 locations (shopping mall, car park, someone’s home etc) at the same international time.  One of the parties in each location opens a conference call on mobile phone with speaker.  The 4 parties are also communicating by their own phones and maybe sms or instant messenger.  Everyone verifies the money is there and correct on both sides.  All 4 agree to the deal and the monies are exchanged.  Deal done.

In fact, sometimes there may be for example one party sending money Poipet to Manchester and 3 parties sending smaller amounts the other way.  That can be done in the same way � all parties can be at the same 2 locations at the same international time.

Why is all this stuff necessary?

Because Western Union and Moneygram at the moment take for example $25 fees on a $180 transaction � which is less than the inefficient and parasitic banks, but is still too high.  They need competition and recipients in the Third World need more of that poverty-reducing cash (and the senders in the West are often themselves struggling).  Banks typically swallow $100 on a $500 international transfer.

Other ideas that would work?

Let ATM machines accept one-time TAN (transaction authorization codes) numbers which would dispense a certain amount of cash (always a round number of course).  And have a bank-operated system whereby someone in a sender country can pay cash while also designating one specific ATM machine in the recipient country (or maybe one town or city with several useable ATM machines to cope with instances of cash-outage or machine malfunction).   The security of the code transmission is up to the sender and if that number is hacked somehow the bank has no liability.  Then of course the best way is an instant transfer where the sender is on the phone or sms to the recipient who is waiting by the ATM machine.

Another Idea?

Proper international electronic bank accounts, which operate online real-time, and can handle immediate instant international transfers.  There is nothing stopping it except the inability and unwillingness of conventional banks to continue making huge profits while operating efficiently and providing services which people really want….

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Thursday 15 August 2013

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Mugabes rigged 2013 election vindicates the fraud proof voting system

Mugabe’s Rigged 2013 Election vindicates the Fraud-Proof Voting System

Q. Has Mugabe indeed rigged the 31 July 2013 Zimbabwean General Election?

A. The answer is a resounding Yes with a 99.999% probability.  But proving the scale of the rigging will be problematic.

The result will be government by a band of thugs, hoodlums, killers and robbers for whom only 20% of the voting population voted, and for whom without intimidation the percentage would have been 10% – a reversal of the improved economic, political and human rights gains during the period of coalition government in Zimbabwe 2009-2013.

The Chinese and the Israelis will be happy with this false result.

Q. Does the West care?

A. Not really � so long as they can get the minerals they need and make the profits they want, everything else is for sale � that is how they operate across and throughout Africa and beyond.  The welfare, freedom, human rights and impoverishment of Zimbabwean and other Third World populations are of no consequence to them.

Q. Why is Zimbabwe different?

A.  Zimbabwe is one of the very few and dwindling number of anti-western dictatorships (Sudan, North Korea…..).  The vast majority of African and Third World Countries are also dictatorships, but of the pro-western variety.  However you will never hear those facts, concept or ideas uttered in the Main Stream Media � AlJazeera, Press TV, CNN, BBC, Sky and all their ilk.  Nor in the Guardian, UK Independent, or New York Times � all supposedly bastions of liberal thinking and left-wing sentiment � but in fact complicit with the way things are run in our modern world.  Whether you are economically and politically oppressed by a pro-western or by an anti-western dictatorship is quite academic � the result is much the same.

Q. How was the alleged rigging possible?

A. Paper-based conventional voting with polling stations and a central manual vote aggregation system are completely wide open to rigging at all levels.  It is quite simply a nightmare to invigilate and to stop rigging using such voting systems.  Election Observers are quite honestly a complete farce, and are often used by the West to rubber-stamp fake elections.

Q.  What about electronic voting systems?

A.  They are if anything even worse than conventional paper based systems � they are also wide open to rigging.

Q. Why is your �Fraud Proof Voting� System (�)  different?

A.  It was designed not to be an electronic nor a paper-based system but to be a system which is genuinely impossible or extremely difficult to fraud.

Q.  Has it ever been used?

A.  I invented the system in 2006.  In 2007 I was making significant progress with the Electoral Commissions of Rwanda and Kenya.  But it seems that the West interfered with the project in Rwanda, and events in Kenya (the rigged election of December 2007) overtook my project. 

Q.  Do you have any testimonials or recommendations for your system?

A.  The best recommendation is that, according to Des Browne, who was UK Minister of Defence in 2006 and 2007, �there is universal opposition to your voting system throughout Whitehall�.  This opposition I conjecture was and is because my system is one which will genuinely perform under Zimbabwean or Nigerian conditions � it is not some wishy-washy academic bullshit system which occupies email user groups to no  practical effect.  My system has been analysed by International IDEA in Sweden, which is the foremost global pro-democracy organisation.  They raised a number of valid weaknesses with the original system.  After some thought I revised the system to resolve their issues.  In the end they stopped communicating, because all the issues and objections they raised had been solved.

Q.  What is your own experience which enabled you to conceive and invent such a system?

A.  I created and trained on a Software System for the Commission National Electoral in Rwanda in 2003 for USAID (through Ethan Zuckerman’s Geekcorps), and I was in charge of bringing the Voters Roll back to Iraq in 2005 and in running the IT side of the Voters’ Registration exercise � also in Baghdad in 2005 � for USAID and the Washington DC-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).  I worked as part of a UN-staffed Team for the 2006 Iraq General Election � I was in sole charge of the Voters’ Database.

Q.  Why does the West oppose your Fraud Proof Voting System?

A.  It seems they oppose not only my specific system but even the general concept.  It would not be too difficult or expensive to get a group of highly intelligent and experienced thinkers and experts from the fields of Elections, Mathematics, Cryptography etc together for some days or weeks and to hammer out at least one viable Fraud Proof Voting System.  So why doesn’t one of the prestigious organisations like IDEA or the Carter Center do this?

I think the answer is � in the words of the Palestinian London-based journalist Bari Abdel Atwan � that �The West Loves Corrupt Leaders� (on BBC World TV’s Dateline London program).

If a Fraud Proof Voting system was implemented globally, it would remove the very few Mugabe’s but also the very many pro-western dictators who assist the West in Resource Security and in financial benefit (e.g. low mining and resource royalties and taxation, removal of protection on domestic industries etc..).  Thus the benefit to the West from puppet pro-western Presidents outweighs greatly the dis-benefit of having a few Mugabe’s on the scene.  The net benefit to the West of allowing election rigging by pro-western Third World leaders is very significant.

Q.  What is the way forward?

A.  For the Zimbabwean People and the Zimbabwean Political Opposition, one feasible option � which will depend on the amount and quality of evidence available � is to insist on another General Election on or after April 2014, using the Fraud-Proof Voting System or a variation of it.  This delay is necessary because of the logistics involved.

Alternatively, they must push massively with Britain, America, EU, Japan, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, and UN in a Global Campaign to have Fraud Proof Voting implemented globally before 2018.  Such adoption will greatly assist impoverished and oppressed people in many countries throughout the world.  And it will  furthermore protect Western so-called democracies against their Governments’ current tendencies towards fascism, which may even tempt future Western Sitting Governments to themselves indulge in election rigging.

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Friday 2 August, 2013

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