Posts tagged ‘internet’

I only visit 4 websites…

I’ve noticed this for some time now, but a quick ctrl-h confirmed it for me…. basically I don’t actually visit very many websites through my browser (desktop or mobile) anymore. My web history for the last month shows that I’ve regularly visited only about 4 sites:

Obviously that’s not to say I don’t use the internet, I certainly do, through using email (thunderbird on my laptop and K9 for mobile email), twitter app on my mobile (ok, I don’t post to twitter that much, but I do follow and read what others have to say), github, my RSS reader (using TT-RSS running on my laptop), youtube (either via youtube android app or through my media server), and various work-related sites/apps (usually that I’ve developed myself), but I find it interesting that there are very few websites I now access directly via my desktop web browser.

I now assume that most people reading this will be doing so either via an RSS reader, or a link from twitter or facebook.

Is this just me, or is it a general trend for everyone?


More expensive beer and slower internet…

Last weekend I arrived back in Mekelle after our training week in Addis. Only a few differences to note since I’ve been back, the new road (I’ve been watching League of Gentlemen again) still isn’t finished, a couple of new restaurants have opened and a few have closed. The price capping that was introduced a couple of months ago has affected the availability of some goods quite a lot. For example in one restaurant, because bottled soft drinks are price capped, they now only sell canned soft drinks. St Georges and Dashen beers are capped, but Castell isn’t, so some places now only sell Castell as they can charge what they like for it.

The thin client computer labs are returning to being open. The lab for Technology Institute has been closed since the break in a few weeks ago and has only just this week been passed back to Technology from Security. Some new lab attendants have started this week, so the labs should be running again properly next week. We also hope to get a second lab open and running before the end of next week, but just need to keep our fingers crossed that the switches needed will arrive in the next few days.

The internet connection, both the fiber access at the uni and the CDMA, have been very slow. Generally they are on, but almost so slow as to be unusable. Many people seem to think the change in management of Ethiopia Telecom means staff are uncertain about their jobs so the network isn’t well maintained. An alternative explanation is that they’ve sold too many CDMA sim cards and increased the bandwidth they claim to deliver far above the actual capacity of the network. Either way, it’s disappointing that the connections are now worse than they were less than a year ago.

During my week in Addis I met several people form IT companies who are interested in providing thin client support services, so it’s interesting to see the types of projects they’ve been working on and that cheaper, more reliable computing infrastructure is now becoming more widespread. There is also talk of some thin client devices being assembled here in Ethiopia – actually the device I’ve seen would run either standalone or as a thin client. This would make the thin clients more mainstream, much cheaper and as they could be paid for in local currency, buyers would be supporting the local economy.

This week we continue our elearning training at Mekelle University, we have the final workshops for two training programme we started in October and hope to start a new advanced group. Hoping that everyone is as active and engaged as the participants were in Addis last week.

Course content management and synchronisation in Moodle

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on writing some more courses in Moodle for use in Mekelle Uni, other parts of Ethiopia and hopefully further afield. There are a couple of us working on writing these courses, which we’re currently working on using the Moodle installation on my ISP (at: Given that we’ve both got reliable and fast internet this isn’t a problem.

However at some point we need to export course to install on the servers in MU, and possibly other places where they don’t have a quick reliable internet connection and won’t be able to rely on connecting to my website (for example, MU recently had hardware issues with their core switch, which messed up their internet access for several days).

If we have the course completely finalised and polished, we can use Moodle backup and restore to move the course around. But (and this is possibly very likely) if we need to update the course, perhaps we need to restructure the content or activities, or even make small edits, we’re in the position where we need to either:

1) manually make the changes on both sites to keep them in synch (my Moodle would be the ‘master’ copy); or
2) overwrite the copy in MU and risk losing the user data.

I’ve not tested this all thoroughly, but my impression at the moment is that if you restore a revised course over the top of an existing one, you could lose some or all the user data (forum postings, submitted assignments etc). I’m grateful for any information that says otherwise. I know we could back up the original course to keep the user data, but would it still be accessible in the revised course?

Making changes manually on one or two copies of the course isn’t a big deal, but it will become a problem if we want to host the course on several more Moodle installations. The courses will quickly become out of synch.

Has anyone else had to deal with this type of problem and if so, how did you deal with it? I know the OU stores it’s courses in it’s own XML format for republishing or updating a course with edits, but they’ve had to write a stack of code to enable this – not the route I’d like to go down.

What would be ideal for us would be for courses to automatically synchronise themselves from a master copy when their internet connection allows. Maybe this is too much of an obscure use-case for anyone to have dealt with before? I realise there could a be a stack of synchronisation issues to deal with.

This also ties up with my previous post about the cost of internet access (and data limits), if I could work offline at home on the course, then just go online to synchronise, this would save a lot of hassle backing up and restoring courses, with the risk of overwriting someone else’s edits.

I’ve seen some of the mobile Moodle applications, so students can work offline on their mobiles and then synchronise when online again, so this could be an extension of the same principle, but probably more complex.

One of the themes at next years eLearning Africa conference is how to deal with bandwidth/connection limitations, so maybe if I get chance to go, I’ll get some ideas from there.

Mobile Internet in Ethiopia with CDMA on Ubuntu

Ethiopian Telecoms Company (ETC) started to provide a pre-paid mobile internet service several months ago, though as I (usually) have a good connection at work, I’ve never really considered purchasing a dongle and setting up an account for myself. However, my housemate Martin, with not having a computer, let alone internet connection through work, recently set himself up with CDMA.

The dongle comes with a driver/installation CD for Windows, so this morning I thought I’d have a go getting it set up on my laptop running Ubuntu 9.04. Getting it all set up proved to be much more straightforward than I had anticipated. Here’s what I needed to do:

1. Install wvdial (I have Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook remix, so if you have the normal desktop version this step may not be necessary): sudo apt-get install wvdial

2. Plug the CDMA dongle into a USB port

3. At the terminal enter: sudo wvdialconf

4. Then enter: sudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf

5. In the text editor change the block that reads:

; Phone =
; Password =
; Username =

to be:

Phone = #777
Password = etc
Username = etc

Then save and close the editor. Note that the username and password should be in lower case.

6. At the terminal enter: sudo wvdial

7. Without closing the terminal open the browser and you should be connected.

Now that it’s working I have the opportunity to spend huge amounts of money using the internet whilst at home. I’m not sure of the exact tariff, but given our usage so far it seems to be around 0.5 birr per minute (approx 2p).

Internet Penetration in Ethiopia

Have been connection-less for the last few days as the PCs we’d been using at the Red Cross Centre have been taken away and have then been finding my feet in Mekelle, so I’m making a few posts all in one go…

(22nd Sept)
Got my hands on a copy of ICT Monthly – which is the main (only?) IT magazine in Ethiopia, and its got some info on the internet penetration in Ethiopia (0.2%), which is extremely low, in Africa only Liberia is lower, even Somalia is higher (at 0.8%). More stats are available at (though not had chance to have a look myself).

Not sure exactly what is meant by ‘penetration’, but *think* it’s related to the number of accounts with ISP relative to the total population. Also the reasons as to why Ethiopia should be so much lower than other neighbouring countries (Sudan – 8%) are unclear.

We’ve spent the last couple of days in a IT workshop wich some of the other VSO volunteers who’ve been here for the last year or so. Has been excellent hearing about their experiences, but also some horrendous stories about wasted money, lack of planning, poor connections. Just one example is that fact that they’re building 12 new universities in Ethiopia – all to the same design – but they haven’t made any provision for IT installation, which means the nice new buildings will now need to have holes cut through walls and all the cabling installed for any form of network or computer room to be installed. I’m guessing that this isn’t the last of these sort of stories that I’ll be hearing over the coming months!