Friday, August 27, 2010

Recording of my talk at escuelab [video]

On Wednesday evening I gave a talk in Lima's escuelab called "One Laptop per Child: Una perspectiva europea" (slides of the presentation). While the audience in the room - 4 people - was the smallest I ever spoke for we also had a handful of people watching the presentation via a video-stream. The talk itself wasn't that different from the one I gave in Montevideo at the end of July however the audience discussion that followed it was one of the best ones I've ever experienced. People who watched the stream submitted a handful of great questions via the chat and one person even called in to make some comments and ask something. In combination with having a teacher in the room who just received his OLPC XO laptop 2 weeks ago this made for excellent and very enjoyable audience participation. If you're interested (and speak Spanish) you can watch the whole 2h session in the embedded video below:

Learning to Change - Changing to Learn [video]

Can't remember who facebook'd or tweeted this video (it might have been Sascha Pallenberg) but I found it to be quite inspiring and well done:

My favorite quote is definitely:

"It's the death of education, it's the dawn of learning."

Sharing photos from Peru in 2000, 2005 and 2010

While wandering around around Trujillo earlier this week I stumbled across the store where I had some photos developed during the 11 months when I lived in the city. This made me think about how the act of sharing photos from my stays in Peru has changed over the past 10 years.

It was the year 2000 and digital cameras - let alone mobile phones with digital cameras – were still unheard of. In order to be able to give my family in Austria a better idea of how the environment I was living in looked at I took photos of my room, my house, my host-family, my school, the city center, etc. I then went to the store mentioned earlier, handed in my film-roll and then came back a day later to pick up the photos. I then wrote a short explanatory sentence on each photo and went to the post-office sending the letter off to Europe. I think it took two or three weeks before the letter arrived and another few days before I saw the e-mail from my mother saying that so.

Fast forward to 2005 when I went back to South America to travel through Peru and Bolivia for five weeks. By that time (and after weeks of research!) I was the very proud owner of a Kodak DX7590 digital camera and two 256MB SD cards. Being trigger-happy I filled up the cards within a few days and for a moment I was at a loss about what to do next. Luckily I wasn’t the first traveler in that situation so Internet cafés had started offering burning photos from memory cards to CD for a little fee. Being worried about losing my photos in case my back bag was stolen I actually got two CDs with copies of each SD card. I ended up carrying one set of CDs on me at all times with the second set being stored at the hostels I was staying in. As I was keen to share the photos with family and friends I spent more than one afternoon sitting in an Internet café, complaining about the upload speed (or lack thereof) and hoping that my e-mails with the photos attached would actually make it across the Internet.

Now in 2010 things have again changed. Instead of my Kodak DX7590 (which unfortunately has shown considerable signs of age after having been a trusted travel companion across Taiwan, China, Mongolia, Russia, USA, Nepal and Europe) I relied on a Canon IXUS 100 IS. In some ways that move meant giving up flexibility in terms of being able to adjust photo settings. On the other hand it gives me more flexibility due to the fact that the camera is so small that I have it on me at all times. And as the saying goes: the best camera is the one you have on you. Equipped with multiple 8GB SD cards and my laptop storage wasn’t going to be a problem either.

In terms of photo sharing I started using Flickr two or three years ago and have been quite happy with it. In particular it has helped me keep up some discipline when it comes to going through my photos, finding the “best of” from each series and also keeping track of what each photo shows since 100_7704.JPG isn’t a particularly useful photo title. I subsequently also mention photo uploads on Twitter and highlight some of them here on the blog.

For my current OLPC News South America Road Trip our publisher Wayan also hooked up the @olpcnews twitter-feed to my Flickr account. This means that every upload photo that I tag with olpc is automatically mentioned on the @olpcnews feed and subsequently also re-tweeted on Wayan’s twitter feed. As a result many of my photos tagged with olpc receive upwards of 150 views with some of them even getting more than 300 views.

What a difference 10 years make, right?

I can only imagine what things will be like the next time I’m back in Peru (hopefully in less than 5 years). Already this time ‘round I could have done the whole geo-tagged, real-time upload thing if my mobile phone wasn’t three years old.

One thing I expect to see in the future are mash-ups that can automatically superimpose relevant information on the photos (e.g. details about the city a photo was taken in) or put photos in useful correlation (e.g. showing photos of the same square or church which I or others took five years earlier).

Oh, and of course the cameras / phones / retinal implants these photos will be taken with will all have >25 MegaPixels, yet still come with crappy lenses and optics…. ;-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Illustration and Visualization

Thanks to a tweet by @dchris I found this truly awesome “illustrated guide to a Ph.D.” by a Matt Might - Assistant Professor at School of Computing, University of Utah - which I’d really recommend you to take a look at.

(Even more so because it’s done with a particularly strong sense of purpose - scroll down to where it says “why genetics research?” to find out what I’m talking about.)



To me this is a perfect example of just how powerful illustrations and visualizations can be. I should really spend some time learning more about these crafts because I think my studies, work and writing could really benefit from knowing better how and when to apply illustrations and visualizations to communicate something.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More photos from Peru

Thanks to the relatively good Internet connectivity at my friend’s house here in Chiclayo I was finally able to upload several dozen photos that I took in Peru over the past week or so. You can see some of my favorites below and find the whole Peru album here.



IMG_1191 Playing soccer with a view


Using Record to take photos is very popular


Typical street vendor in Huaraz

IMG_1494 /me, my XO and a llama

Friday, August 20, 2010

Upcoming talks in Lima and D.C.

One of the side-effects of my involvement with the One Laptop per Child project has been that it has given me a chance to regularly speak about and present the project. The audiences I’ve presented for in the past 3 years range from visitors of 26C3 and students at various Austrian universities to OLPC aficionados in Washington, D.C. back in December 2007.

Now the main focus of my current OLPC News South America road trip was to listen and talk with – rather than for – people involved in the South American OLPC / Sugar projects. However I’m happy that I’m also getting a chance to speak about my experiences a couple of time.

The miniJAM! artistico on my last day in Montevideo was a great start that also allowed me to practice presenting in Spanish (which I did for the first time since I finished school). I mainly talked about the activities of the OLPC / Sugar communities in Europe as well as contrasting my experiences in Uruguay with the ones I made volunteering with OLE Nepal in 2009.

Now last week the details for two upcoming talks were finalized:

Wednesday, August 25: 7:30PMEscuelab, Lima: One Laptop per Child: Una perspectiva europea

Monday, August 30: 12:30PM – World Bank, Washington, D.C.: One Laptop Per Child in South America: Reports from on-the-ground

If you happen to live in these cities and/or know people there who might be interested in learning more about OLPC and Sugar Labs in general and my views of the status quo of the projects in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru in particular then please spread the word and stop by at the talks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First photos from Peru

Due to the lackluster Internet connection in my current hostel in Huaraz I hadn’t really had a chance to upload photos from my first week here in Peru. But tonight - with a couple of hours to spare between an early dinner and going out for drinks - I sat down and started the process. Of course this is turning out to be even slower than I had expected (current upload speed is 9.2KB/s) so let’s see just how far I get before I run out of patience…

For now I’ll leave you with this photo with a view of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range:


Update: Yippie, 100% complete! Head over to the Peru album on Flickr for some impressions of Lima and Huaraz.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Photos from Paraguay

I’m making use of the surprisingly fast Internet access in my hostel here in Lima to finally upload some photos from the past two weeks which I spent in Paraguay.

To say that I had a great time there would be quite the understatement. With outstanding company, a very dynamic olpc project run by ParaguayEduca, multiple interesting school-visits, a long-awaited hands-on with OLPC’s XO-1.5 HS laptop, and an amazing weekend trip to the waterfalls at Iguazu and the Itaipu dam my time in Paraguay was packed with awesome experiences.

From a touristic point of view the Iguazu and Itaipu trip will very likely be the highlight of this year’s travels. As always the photos can’t do these places justice and it’s also hard to describe them in words. The one thing I can say is that the waterfalls at Iguazu are one of the most impressive natural sights I’ve ever seen (right up there with the Gobi desert!). The massive human artifact that is the Itaipu dam on the other hand also left quite an impression on me.

IMG_0796_stitch Iguazu waterfalls

IMG_0673_stitch Itaipu dam

Apart from that weekend I spent most of my time at ParaguayEduca’s office, talking to people there and working on olpcnews articles. Additionally I went to Caacupé a couple of times to visit some of the schools there which are part of ParaguayEduca’s 4000 XO pilot project. Needless to say I had a great time observing how the teachers and students use their XOs, especially when they were as much into it as this pupil:

IMG_0934 Hard at work

Click on the links for more photos from Paraguay and the Iguazu / Itaipu trip.