Keepod: Wasting $40,000 to Reinvent Linux on a Stick

Published on: May 14 2014 by Mike Dawson

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There’s been a lot of news outlets covering Keepod, which claims to “overcome most of the traditional constraints that are preventing personal computing for many.” Their video asserts Keepod represents a revolutionary new paradigm shift to separate the operating system from the computer to a USB stick.

This has in fact been done for many years using the LiveUSB technologies. In fact, you can do it right now in three easy steps on Ubuntu.com or there’s a kid version called Sugar on a stick.

The central claim that Keepod is “the first standardised version of a bootable OS” is demonstrably untrue.

Keepod doesn’t solve any problems

The idea that it’s a $7 computer is also untrue; it’s just a normal USB storage stick, with a customized version of Ubuntu/Mint/Android/something according to their website. You still need a computer. So you’re not enabling billions to have a computer, you’re enabling billions to boot from a USB stick and save their own desktop settings versus using a shared computer and just saving files to/from the USB stick (if they had a computer), which they could already do before with a bootable USB Ubuntu/Android/whatever.

That computer requirement is the problem. Refurbished computers, potentially the cheapest option, are not free; refurbishment and shipping costs money. So we still need to pay for the computer somehow. Then there are the issues of power, maintenance, training and theft prevention. These are probably much bigger problems than saving your own personal desktop versus having a USB stick of your own and using it with shared computers running a ‘normal’ installed operating system.

In my 7 years of experience in working with people who underprivileged and new to using computers (in Afghanistan and Africa) I find unsurprisingly they are rather less likely to be users of online banking (likely also not even having a bank account) or other high security demand applications. They likely do not have a trove of sensitive digital documents. Often passwords were kept written down on paper and kept in a diary book.

Keepod creates unneeded problems

Keepod is making inflated and misleading claims that are to the detriment of those involved in better thought out plans. On their website, they say that Keepod is “$7 computer access for anyone,” but what will happen when people realize the pilot has a cost of $800 per computer ($40,000 / 50 computers)? They aren’t any closer to connecting the next 5 billion, and by making light of the real cost of computing in underserved communities, they may be prejudicing donors from listening to the next, better developed plan.

Worst of all, if you read Keepod’s Indegogo page, you might think that Keepods alone will “create new economic opportunities that will in turn allow the people [Mathare slum, Nairobi, Kenya] to solve other problems”. As if waving a few LiveUSB sticks over the populace will automagically erase land rights issues, low education levels, discrimination, pollution, and sanitation problems.

Please repeat yet again, “technology is not a silver bullet,” and remember it’s a supporting actor to human intention and capacity for change.

Let’s use existing personal computing infrastructure

If we are to solve the issues of those who are digitally disadvantaged, we need to use the personal computer people are buying in droves: mobile phones. Even $35 feature phones have similar capacity to 1997 computers, and those were good enough to do audio/video eLearning, check out webpages, and communicate. That they are suggesting users should pay them for a USB stick (and shipping, and customs, taxes, etc) instead of downloading it does not indicate a well thought out approach.

Keeping your own personal desktop settings across shared computers and using industrial strength encryption to protect the first files people are making, like their CV, is not a priority. Even if it were, it is already possible with existing technology. This project is, as far as I can see, misleading people into donating based on a false premise.

Rather, we need to look to economic development so people can afford computers, we need to look to infrastructure so they can use them, and we need to look at training and capacity to maintain computers regardless of OS or USB. Best of all, we should leverage existing computing power that will always outnumber Keepods: mobile phones.



Mike Dawson is the CEO of Ustad Mobile Ltd, which is Mobilizing Education for All
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57 Comments to “Keepod: Wasting $40,000 to Reinvent Linux on a Stick”

  1. Juan Paco says:

    You are right about Keepod, it´s not a solution, perhaps my only difference of opinion is that I do not believe that mobile phones are the main solution. From our experience (www.gtr.telecom.pucp.edu.pe) there are still many places, mainly in rural areas, which have no mobile infrastructure, in addition, at least in rural areas of Peru, many adults users (say, over 30) who have many problems using internet applications from their mobile phones, which are still seen it as equipment for voice communications. While indeed is necessary training, depoyment of infrastructure and economic development, I think desktop PCs, although its requirements (maintenance, energy, etc..) are still the best tool (with a greater degree of usability) for initiate the “not connected” in the process of digital literacy. Should be evaluated in each context, which is the most appropriate alternative from all aspects (economic, cultural, sustainability, etc.).

    • Sarah Bird says:

      Thank you for your blog post.

      I don’t know whether it’ll give you solice or more frustration, but others have been inclined to make similar claims in other sectors:
      - the peepoo bag was launched under the slogan “2.6 billion people just got their own toilet” (http://www.solutionsforwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Brochure-Peepoo-project.pdf)
      - michael pritchard announced his new water filter at TED with the claim that with $20bn everyone on the planet can have safe drinking water (http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_pritchard_invents_a_water_filter)

      I think engineers have a tendency to conflate technology challenges and implementation challenges, I know as a bright-eyed graduate I did the same.

      Hopefully keepod are working on a more holistic and sustainable delivery model, that they just haven’t told us about yet.

      • Michael Downey says:

        “I think engineers have a tendency to conflate technology challenges and implementation challenges, I know as a bright-eyed graduate I did the same.”

        This. A thousand times this.

        And it’s as easy as putting real needs ahead of perceived needs, and listening to “users” before listening to engineers.

    • Peter Garner says:

      “Keepod, it´s not a solution”

      Maybe I can correct you slightly there Juan: that should read “Keepod is not *THE* solution, but surely it is *A* solution”?

      Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with Keepod except for buying the product.

      Although I didn’t contribute to the original Indiegogo appeal I’ve just bought a Keepod (1+1) for my Mother-in-Law who lives in London. While she’s definitely not a slum-dweller, she’s a would-be Silver Surfer with an old, and frankly unsupportable laptop running XP at home. In addition, her local Adult-Education centre that would teach her how to use a computer effectively is massively over-subscribed. However, as she still has a computer at home she’ll be able to plug in her Keepod and start using it.

      Then, when the time comes to go to Adult Education she can simply unplug the Keepod, put it in her bag and use it there as well. She doesn’t have to worry about lugging a heavy old laptop through the London Streets where she’d undoubtedly get mugged for it, and she’ll have continuity of the “computing experience”.

      To stay with the Adult Education theme again, despite the propaganda that the UK Government churns out, most Centres are underfunded, and if Keepod can provide a way of providing accessible computing through the use of cheaper, allegedly end-of-life computers, then so much the better.

      Finally, I’m really surprised by all the negative comments aroudn the ‘Net about this project. Sure, they may not have handled it in the “best” way, but at least they got out there and actually did something! Sure, there are “lots of other (Linux) distros that could have been used for nothing”, but did any of them come forward and set up a scheme like this?

      • Michael Downey says:

        Make sure she attends the “how to use a mobile phone” class and not the regular computer course. Keepod now runs Android, so it will be nothing like a “traditional” computer system.

        Far easier to teach older folks how to use a web browser and Google Docs then they don’t even have to worry about learning about files, media, etc.

        • John says:

          Unless I missed something… my Linux boot mem stick is great for what it is BUT it doesn’t save anything. That can be good, and I like it. … the ability to carry a profile with you has to be great !!! Especially for non technical folk; to plug in anywhere and see what you had somewhere else without hassle or input?? If it works it’s fantastic, and I’ll be buying one for the kids. Why risk all the internet viral risks if a simple USB stick protects you??? This is a no brainer to me, though there are folk out there that think everyones granny is super-human and can simply reload Linux when it corrupts. I’m in; for a family safe solution to random browsing at a cheap cost! .

      • Wayan Vota says:

        Keepod did something all right, and guess what, good intentions are not enough. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

        The people behind other Linux distors did not go off claiming they were saving the world. They did a great job focusing on the tech, their knowledge area. Others, will skill sets in development, worked with communities to find the right way to introduce Linux distros so they’d have the greatest impact.

        Keepod did a bit of this by partnering with the local group in Kenya. Too bad Keepod focused on themselves as the solution in their Indegogo campaign.

  2. Daniel says:

    Great article you read my mind when I first found out about this I was shocked that it was getting so much traction.

    I was much more excited when I saw the Ubuntu for Android – http://www.ubuntu.com/phone/ubuntu-for-android. Yes you still need a monitor/keyboard and connector but hell at least it’s not an entire computer.

  3. Michael Downey says:

    In other news, I’ve just invented something that changes electricity into light using a small wire in a vacuum-sealed glass pod. I will call it a Lightpod®.

    But seriously, who needs a “personal desktop” anymore, anyway? What is this, 1995? People want computers so they can get on the Internet, and their stuff is saved online. This is why the $200 Chromebook is revolutionary. Enough with the hardware (and cost) overkill for what people really need/want.

    This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem, so the designers take just enough data to be dangerous and move forward without really understanding the context of what they’re proposing. Classic, epic, fail.

  4. Daniel says:

    Michael, i agree the chromebook is awesome but for rural Africa they’re aren’t going to work until the infrastructure is there(power/connectivity)..

    It is improving but still a long way off.

  5. Juan Paco says:

    Michael, at first, I was not referring to a desktop PC as previously existed, but terminal with certain processing capabilities / resolution, etc.. and the comparison with mobile phones (whose low-end terminals do not have those features) was on the topic of digital literacy. We may differ in opinion, even so, I think your comment has been a bit sarcastic.

  6. Jon says:

    Bootable alternate operating systems are great, and very useful in many situations, but hardly new. I build custom bootable CDs for an ICT4Edu project back in 2002 to distribute an offline but fully functional version of the ministry of education’s website (with interactive database searching and curricula look-up) to schools with slow or no Internet connectivity.

    So, I’m a huge fan of creative live-OS systems, but they’re not at all new.

  7. Michael Downey says:

    Daniel: Chromebooks can work offline with HTML5 local storage-based apps as long as they’re provisioned online. They can also run Ubuntu or other Linux distributions, yet cost a fraction of the price of “traditional” laptops.

    Juan Paco: My earlier comments weren’t directed to you, but toward the article, and the Keepod team.

  8. Mike Dawson says:

    On the mobiles vs. desktop debate; I’m not implying that normal computers are not useful (and what employers want people to be able to use for typing real documents etc). I think that often ignore the computer power inside feature phones in particular.

    There are many ways to try and bring down barriers to access – Chromebooks with some offline functionality, the new raspberry pi screen would plug the gap that prevents it’s use now for providing computing access at a lower cost.

    The idea on their website that “other OSes are not designed to run from USB and are not reliable enough” is total technical nonsense – it works and the idea that Keepod can do better than Ubuntu, Debian and over 10 years of refinement by the open source community on things like drivers is ridiculous.

    My point in the article, that I think everyone got and has not yet been faulted, is that Keepod did not make any new contribution and get $40,000 of other people’s money potentially detracting from those doing something useful.

  9. Mike Dawson says:

    Also if anyone from Keepod would like to comment – I’d be more than happy to hear their take on it.

  10. Tony Roberts says:

    Cut the guys some slack! So they are not the first but that doesn’t mean they won’t make new headway. So they may fail in some respects but I thought we were embracing failures? I have blogged some more constructive criticism here http://appropriatingtechnology.org/?q=node/180

  11. Eduardo Jezierski says:

    It is part of an even deeper, more fundamental issue indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms are facing: campaigns where the contributor is not beneficiary and cannot even assess the value of an idea and has no ultimate feedback loop (as opposed to crowdfunding for art, new gadgets, local initiatives, helping concrete individuals/groups through struggles & opportunities).
    I recommend all folks going on crowdfunding to ask “what’s my feedback loop to tell if this was a scam or not” ( even well intentioned scams are scams if due diligence can prevent the loss).
    I bet that between the social media acumen of all of those present on this comment thread we could design fake Indiegogo campaign that plays on all the common stereotypes and misunderstandings of countries in need & people in poverty and raise money for an illusory project, but then really use that money to help educate crowdfunding platforms about how to better protect their users from that risk.

    • Wayan Vota says:

      I LOVE this idea. I even proposed a fake NGO idea back for DevCliches and it had all the right things – children, puppies & kittens, and even Madonna!

  12. Eduardo Jezierski says:

    I did want to mention however that I do respect people’s liberty and intelligence. so if someone thinks a bootable USB stick is the right thing to contribute to, and they decide they don’t need additional feedback loops then I totally support them doing it.
    A marketplace that can foster 100 bad ideas is the only place where a disruptive good idea can emerge. Try to have too much up front judging and you close the door to disruption.

  13. Nissan says:

    Hi Guys, I’m Nissan from the Keepod project.

    I was asked to comment this by Mike. Apologies for the poor english which is not my native language.

    We encourage critical thinking, it’s in the very basics of our activity. But someone should really understand something or at least look into it before he can criticise it. I think that Mr. Dawson don’t really understand what we do or is driven by other motives.

    Digital Divide is a well known problem addressed by numerous organisations around the world. Nevertheless, the available initiatives and solutions don’t make a dent in the demand. It’s a fact.
    We believe that this situation will not change and the divide will only grow if we will continue approach personal computing as we did so far.

    OS on a stick has been used by geeks for a long time now and any Linux distribution and even Windows have a USB version. If someone think that the buzz is about that he is wrong.
    But Linux on a stick was not made to be used as the primary system of the user and has serious limitations so you can immagine that the development power we had to put around this is significant.

    Btw, we also decided, after years of working with Linux, that we are going with Android. We sow that on the field, Linux didn’t deliver – We want to provide a first class OS with access to first class applications. It’s need to be simple, intuitive and powerful.

    We work with organisations that actually know how to refurbish computers at 0 cost. This might take out of business some of our critics but that is a fact.
    If you want to join, we will be happy to explain how to do that.

    We think that providing a PC for each person is impossible. It’s not sustainable and not scalable.
    We say that if you take an unused PC, remove the hard-drive and put it in a place where people can share it using Keepod it will live longer then any computer traditionally installed with Linux/Win and that people will actually use their on private, fully features, OS and applications instead of a shared (an often limited and unattractive) OS.
    The cost of maintenance is dramatically reduces (no broken hard drives, no miss-configurations or corruption of the host, no reinstall and recovery of the systems), privacy is kept and people can do it everywhere. They will connect their cheap USB flash drive to any PC in any location and will get PERSONAL computing.

    Everyone know how inefficient are shared computers in field projects… Anyone who is involved in projects where computers are donated has experienced coming back after a period to see how things go to find that PC has stopped or died and need to be reinstalled. We change that.

    We think that trying to make cheap PCs and tablets is crazy. Waste of money and harming the environment.
    In a world where 85,000 PCs are thrown away each day only in the united states, not finding a simple solution to reuse them is just stupid.
    And tablets? Really? Try go around Mathare with a Tablet in you hands. Guys, wake up!

    We think that anyone can move his ass and be part of this. Without the fancy budgets and endless discussions. And you know what? It’s actually happening. in the last week we enabled more the 50 projects and registered more the 100 Keepod Points around the globe. Yes, with no money.

    I will not go into all items. Give us the credit that we have prepared ourself properly and built solutions for all items mentioned. We are a team of people that come from vast experience and decided to put principles ahead of profits. We’ve been working on this day and night for a long time now.

    We can continue on an on , talk about the sustainability model we developed, how we know to create out of this an economic opportunity for the target markets (“technology is not a silver bullet”… thanks Mike, yes, we are that stupid), about grassroots, about the technology, about connectivity, about content, about security, about training, etc etc – but let me comment on one claim that is not going to be passed just as stupidity:
    $40,000 are used to buy 1500 USB devices (the OS is free, btw), to build a a hub in Mathare (that will provide classroom, trainers, public computer access and space to develop ideas), connectivity, maintenance, fix 50 PCs, to pay a staff of local contributors that will help support the hub, for security, for electricity, for logistics, and much more. This investment allows us to scale up the project significantly to more users. Seams like a pretty good deal for 40K.

    Indiegogo was created to support only the Mathare project. Funds are not used for developing Keepod, to accommodate other projects or to reinvent linux on a stick.

    Shame on you for using such a misleading and harmful title for your text. That is just disrespect for us and for the 713 people that contributed and gave honest smiles to the people of Mathare – You are a douchebag.

    Now, I actually contacted one of Mikes friends that was bombing Tweets with Mike on how bad we are and I offered to explain better the project but he commented in a rude way on Twitter instead of opening his mind. Then after a few hours this text was online…
    Mike, you could have easily reached us, at least to get an idea of what we do. Saying that – all critics are most welcome.

    We share Mikes footnote (dropping a couple of words): “..we need to look to economic development so people can afford computers, we need to look to infrastructure so they can use them, and we need to look at training and capacity to maintain computers regardless of OS or USB. Best of all, we should leverage existing computing power..” – This is what we actually do in the Keepod project which is much much wider the an OS on a stick.

    I’m nor capable of following in real time comments here so please feel free to contact me and the team at unite@keepod.com

    If you would like to join us and actively see how a Keepod project is deployed, contact us!

    Keep the positivity flowing, Rastafari

    Nissan

    • Michael Downey says:

      Wow! I felt moved to respond to a bit of misinformation (propaganda?) by the Keepod folks. It seems really obvious now that they’re out of their league. I’m sure their intentions are good, but the execution here is both disappointing and saddening. (Not to mention how the money donated could have been better spent.)

      “OS on a stick has been used by geeks for a long time now and any Linux distribution and even Windows have a USB version.”

      … Yes, a very long time, in fact, it was started before Internet access was nearly as wide-spread as today. Back in those days, people used desktop applications and had a need to store data locally. This is rarely the case today, especially with mobile data access becoming rapidly available.

      “We work with organisations that actually know how to refurbish computers at 0 cost. This might take out of business some of our critics but that is a fact.”

      … I guess the old adage “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” doesn’t exist anymore. How can anything be done for zero cost, let alone things that require labor and equipment?

      “We think that providing a PC for each person is impossible. It’s not sustainable and not scalable.”

      … On this, I agree. Providing an additional physical device (including USB devices) for individuals is wasteful, not sustainable, not scalable, and not useful.

      We say that if you take an unused PC, remove the hard-drive and put it in a place where people can share it using Keepod it will live longer then any computer traditionally installed with Linux/Win and that people will actually use their on private, fully features, OS and applications instead of a shared (an often limited and unattractive) OS.

      “The cost of maintenance is dramatically reduces (no broken hard drives, no miss-configurations or corruption of the host, no reinstall and recovery of the systems), privacy is kept and people can do it everywhere.”

      … You’re only shifting the maintenance to the USB devices in this model. And USB media doesn’t last nearly as long as traditional PC hard disks or SSD’s.

      “They will connect their cheap USB flash drive to any PC in any location and will get PERSONAL computing.”

      … This is already possible using the Web. A USB flash drive is not required. What other types of personalization are people ACTUALLY demanding?

      “Everyone know how inefficient are shared computers in field projects… Anyone who is involved in projects where computers are donated has experienced coming back after a period to see how things go to find that PC has stopped or died and need to be reinstalled. We change that.”

      … The same people could also install tools like Deep Freeze or other configuration management tools to make sure shared systems are not “corrupted”. Doing so doesn’t require additional hardware, additional waste, or additional cost.

      “We think that trying to make cheap PCs and tablets is crazy. Waste of money and harming the environment.
      In a world where 85,000 PCs are thrown away each day only in the united states, not finding a simple solution to reuse them is just stupid.”

      … I agree. Once again, making thousands of extra devices of any kind, including USB flash drives, is irresponsible.

      “And tablets? Really? Try go around Mathare with a Tablet in you hands. Guys, wake up!”

      … Agreed. Fortunately most people have one (or more!) mobile phones and as smartphone costs quickly drop, won’t need tablets or any other extra device.

      “We think that anyone can move his ass and be part of this. Without the fancy budgets and endless discussions. And you know what? It’s actually happening. in the last week we enabled more the 50 projects and registered more the 100 Keepod Points around the globe. Yes, with no money.”

      … Again, I’m not sure how you’re manufacturing and distributing your product with no money involved, but feel free to share.

      (Ego trip removed out of kindness.)

      “$40,000 are used to buy 1500 USB devices (the OS is free, btw), to build a a hub in Mathare (that will provide classroom, trainers, public computer access and space to develop ideas), connectivity, maintenance, fix 50 PCs, to pay a staff of local contributors that will help support the hub, for security, for electricity, for logistics, and much more. This investment allows us to scale up the project significantly to more users. Seams like a pretty good deal for 40K.”

      … This is great, although I’ll argue once again that the money for the USB devices was a waste because they’re fundamentally unnecessary for what users actually want/do.

      “(The author is) a douchebag.”

      … This comment (and others) pretty much showed your hand to the world. Sad.

      • Nissan says:

        I’m still around so touching some points.
        Removing aside all personal notes which, under the title of this article seam to be all legitimate, no rules whatsoever – I’m think that you are following old paradigms that once removed can really increase efforts that are being made today.

        We vote for the USB solution as we assume that the devices might get lost, stolen, damaged and eventually die. It must be a cheap and available solution. And the USB kater better the user need and easily replaceable then any other legacy alternative.

        We don’t consider online solution as we have many projects where online is not available. The solution needs to be usable offline and online according to the specific project.
        The actual project delivery is not made by us but by organisations or individuals that know the target community. We don’t pretend to understand the needs of someone in Mathare, Delhi, or London. We so provide to the project leaders the tools to shape the use experience specifically to the target user.

        Mobile is great.
        But it’s not a complete solution.
        We think that next to real-time mobility devices that are already available and getting more and more accessible the PC is still needed. That actually provide a perfect balance – real time mobility for chat, short messages, apps, etc. When needed, a PC for education, work, presentations, documents, content and so on.

        As you see an comment, no PR and allot of ingenuity.
        We have a good project, its actually making a change and that no one can claim different (you are invited to join us next time in Mathare, or Kibera). Time will tell if we are in the right direction and if we are not we will not insist. There is no competition about doing good and opening your mind to something new is OK to do even if you don’t agree all the way.

        I don’t see a reply to the main problem of this article, the use of a misleading and harming title. Sorry for that.

        And Michael, if your best peak of my answer is that I said “Douchebag” you are joining the polemic group, not the constructive one. I hope I’m wrong.

        Cheers

        Nissan

      • John says:

        I can’t believe you are so negative and so naïve to assume that everyone will have access to the ‘web’. Who says they will? So assuming you’re making dumb assumptions, and that some folk will be moving around with a key that has connection to the web in some locations and not in others… what is so wrong with their aim to allow folk access to simple computing and then connecting said files to the Internet later. I just can’t get over your negativity.

        YES we can all boot Linux or Windows (should have a paid licence and its not cheap) but that’s not the point.. Linux is a pain to load apps… so an Android app based gizmo has to be a good thing. I’ll gladly waste my money trying it; I waste plenty every day on some gadget that’s meant to ease my work. My last headphones cost a lot more but nobody is whining that I was robbed or that a $2 solution has been available for ten years.! Quit your whining mummys boy !!!

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Nissan, where do I start? How about this:

      I was the one you emailed and I refused to have this debate in private. You published the Indegogo campaign publicly, so you should defend it publicly.

      Next, I’ve been installing computer labs in rural Africa for a decade, and have been debating the right way to do them with my learned peers for about as long. We are the ones open to criticism, not you.

      Finally, your rant reveals just how clueless you are. Not only are you ignoring the mobile device revolution, you seem to think that Africans shouldn’t participate in it, but take hand-me-down desktops to assuage Western wastefulness.

      There is a place for desktop computer labs, some of which can be recycled computers (Computer Aid does this well), and there is a place for LiveUSB technology. Sadly, you don’t seem to be open to taking the time to find out where. You’ve got a hammer and are seeing everything as a nail.

  14. Jasmine says:

    GO Keepod!!!!!

  15. Mike Dawson says:

    Dear Nissan,

    Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately it still does not address the main points:

    1. You provided misleading information, as far as I can see even in violation of Advertising Standards Agency UK guidelines. You claimed you had the “worlds first standardized bootable OS” when there are many others, usable with a few clicks. You claim a $7 computer access which is in fact $7 + a computer + energy + maintenance to use it with. On basis of this misleading information members of the public contributed to funding you. How can you defend this?

    2. The paradigm you are advocating as new and disruptive is in fact already widely available. This in my opinion likely influenced the people who provided you the funds,

    Finally, nevermind your personal insults, on a professional level I spent over 6 years in Afghanistan (including visiting slums); so I’m considerably more experienced in these environments. Please answer point 1 and 2.

  16. Nissan says:

    Hello Mike,

    I think that i have written allot so far.

    I will be happy to answer your points after you will address my answer and help me remove some doubts regarding the integrity of your actions in the last days.

    You have accused us in a very polemic title that we have used $40K to put Linux on a stick. Now that you know what the money is used for you are requested to apologies and/or remove the misleading and defamatory title and text according to your goodwill.

    I would like an answer regarding the fact that you have not even tried to contacted us to understand what we are about before going out with pretty strong accusations. I’ve been talking with many reporters and bloggers in the last days, all of them do a good research before they publish something.

    We are also working in Afghanistan, a few projects actually.
    I don’t think that we are competing in doing something good. So let’s avoid “more” or “less” please :)

    Cheers

    Nissan

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Your Indegogo wasn’t about Mathare, it was about Keepod.

      You mention Mathare 22 times but you mention 44 times. You talk about the Mathare computer center in only one paragraph yet you go into great detail about Keepod.

      If you are serious about helping the people of Mathare, then talk about them and their needs. Amplify their voices, not your own.

  17. Mike Dawson says:

    Hi Nissan,

    If the crowdfunding can be done in public I do not understand why the debate cannot be done in public. I believe the title of my article is a valid opinion. As an experienced software developer and practitioner in developing countries I understand exactly what is being offered here.

    You claimed something new and revolutionary in your marketing. You should remove such misleading claims. You are using $40K to repackage/rebrand what bootable Linux based OSes are can already do with minor changes and putting out (another) technology center with no sustainability in sight. Your project does not make access to computing itself any cheaper or more accessible than it would be using existing software, perhaps will improve performance if users absolutely require personal desktop settings. They probably need first the computer, the power, and the skills to maintain it.

    This is in contrast to a factual assertion on your IndieGoGo page to have created the first standardized bootable OS.

    I will contact Keepod formally with details and suggested remedies to misleading claims. If they are not addressed I will refer complaints to relevant agencies; as far I can see certain claims are clearly against UK Advertising Standards Agency guidelines that prohibit misleading claims likely to be taken seriously by prospective consumers in advertising.

    If by project you mean someone contacted you on the website, I think we have a different understanding of a project. Lets see how many centers open, and if any, how many stay open.

    I believe your motivations are sincere but you have made misleading claims, you should remove them.

    • John says:

      I don’t care what they do with the 40k. If their project allows me to hand my kids a simple memory stick with the ability to save their junk, and failed virus/malware AND leaves their PC free from risk I’m IN. Haleluja. I had Linux on their PCs they hated it; I’ve got Win8 and they love it but the odd dodgy link is a risk.

      I’m a hanger-on. The project sounds positive to me, and also looks like a future solution to me for my needs. I’ll take a chance on it and hope it benefits poorer folk too. Maybe the high and mighty could get off their ass and assist instead of complaining about a few dollars! 40,000 dollars is nothing these days… get a grip on reality. Anything positive for 40,000 dollars is a great thing.

  18. Nissan says:

    Mike, Wayan

    OK, I just realised whats going on here.
    With your permission I will discuss your actions with Kristin Peterson.
    I suggest you will drop the defamatory messages on Twitter or anywhere else.
    You are kindly requested to remove this defamatory article and publicly apologies.

    As part of http://www.inveneo.org you should try to open your mind to new ideas that can support your effort.
    You can agree or not with our idea or even, god forbid, suggest how to improve it.
    If you can’t do that you should at least stop acting like you have a monopoly on doing good…

    If you are a developer, you know what LiveLinux is and what it is used for. It’s hardly a standard product and it’s used to preview the OS (in order to install it) or for restore damaged systems. Some forks are also used for other reasons. But, the core problem of a LiveLinux solution is that is just like any other OS. It is an ISO of an OS that was ment to be installed on a device and designed accordingly.

    Aside the fact that we are not using Linux – What we had to do in Keepod is to create an OS that actually was designed to jump between one PC to another. This requires redesign of system logics and creation of modules that will allow getting stable and standard results (and not minor modifications as you claim).

    We are not “Advertising” anything.
    Indiegogo was about bringing Keepod to Mathare. We have an amazing project there and the people who helped us are very proud of what they did.
    Any other way to try and twist it is just sad.

    Cheers for the last time.

    • Wayan says:

      Hahaha! Please do tell Kristen. She isn’t at Inveneo any more nor am I, though together we wrote these guides, which you should read http://www.inveneo.org/tag/guide/

      • Nissan says:

        Hahah! Not funny! I will anyway. You made me sad.

        But, that’s actually the first useful things that come out of this patatrak. We have seen some ideas and solutions including some cool concept all-in-one unit tested in some african countries which is refined right now for version 2.

        I will review this.

        • Wayan Vota says:

          Nissan,

          I can tell you are feel like we are singling you out and subjecting you to undue criticism, when actually we are still playing nice. Just ask OLPC.

          We see waves of people like you, well meaning if a bit misguided techies thinking they have am easy solution to deep intrinsic problems. You claim we should accept you just because you mean well, yet we see your litter across Africa: failed computer labs abandoned the day after the funding runs out.

          In fact, Inveneo was started to find a solution to the dead recycled computer lab issue. And I started ICTworks to critique all of our work – Inveneo’s as much as yours – to make sure we are doing development right.

          The people who are commenting on this post collectively have decades of experience deploying computer labs across the world. We do not have a monopoly on development. We do welcome you and anyone else who wants to help.

          We only ask that you read the manual first. Otherwise, we will be adamant critics of your work.

          I feel its our personally moral duty to point out when the king has no clothes.

          • Nissan says:

            Wayan,

            I truly appreciate what you are doing and will take advise with my both hands.
            We have much in common here and we are looking at many of the mistakes you are pointing out the same way.

            Keepod will follow the manual and will suggest alternatives if they are needed. Critical thinking is in our core.

            But, guys, with all the respect, fulfil you duty being fair.
            Going down on Keepod without knowing anything about what we do is not acceptable. And I can assure you that we’ve been building here something smart (and I’m not referring to the OS and no, hubs are not our mission as well).

            You have canceled us as professionals and as individuals. What was done on Twitter and here is bullism. I worked in the worst corporate environments that you can imagine, real shitty people, but was never attacked like this. I know that US is very litigious business environment, and I really don’y care about that, but any other company would have taken legal actions here in 5 seconds. Not based and nor responsible claims – and not because you guys don’t know development and are not real authority in the field , just because you don’t have any idea about what we do. You just assumed (and maybe still doing that) that we are following a wrong path.

            So next time, maybe applying a more human approach and trying to understand better the other side will be smarter. Because now, Instead of making people like us intreated in your activity and seek for you advise (which I’m sure we will appreciate on many aspects), you are driving us away.

            Thanks

            Nissan

  19. Mike Dawson says:

    Nissan,

    As a developer and systems integrator I have used Linux from a USB stick. For normal web,email, word processing usage it was totally adequate. I used Lubuntu with old some very old systems and it worked pretty nicely. I also made custom Ubuntu installers for projects that were 100% automated so that on sites where there was only low skill support machines could be easily re-installed. Please also know that if you are using Android (Android X86 or any other), you are using Linux.

    My central point is you made misleading claims on your crowdfunding campaign. That point stands. I am proud that I am the one who cried out “Hey; actually there’s nothing new here and these people just raised $40,000″. You advertised a radically new paradigm to connect the next 5 billion people. You are making minor adjustments to already made usable open source solutions that solve the problem (which anyway is way behind the computer itself, power, maintenance, etc). You exactly wrote on your IndieGoGo campaign site that you had created the world’s first standardized bootable OS. That is not true.

    Yes there is competition to raise public money for public good. If you were doing this with your own money that’d be fine, but that’s not the case. You put a slick video on IndieGoGo and on that basis $40,000 was contributed to your UK limited company.

    My comments are reasonable, justifiable, and above all in the public interest.

    I request that Keepod, as UK Limited Company, review it’s compliance with the UK Advertising Standards Agency guidelines. You should be honest with your claims to potential donors.

    I will shortly suggest steps that you could take to move towards compliance with the advertising guidelines communicated both via official channels on your website and publicly.

    • Nissan says:

      Dude,

      ” As a developer and systems integrator I have used Linux from a USB stick. For normal web,email, word processing usage it was totally adequate. I used Lubuntu with old some very old systems and it worked pretty nicely. I also made custom Ubuntu installers for projects that were 100% automated so that on sites where there was only low skill support machines could be easily re-installed. Please also know that if you are using Android (Android X86 or any other), you are using Linux. ”

      How about 3 year of R&D with top developers for what we have done so far.
      If you can do it so easily please come work with us. But please don’t underestimate what we did, you never used or even sow Keepod. We come from a 15 years experience in IT specialised in Security and OpenSource. Certifications, pen-testes, an all the rest included so please… Some credit.

      “My central point is you made misleading claims on your crowdfunding campaign. That point stands. I am proud that I am the one who cried out “Hey; actually there’s nothing new here and these people just raised $40,000″. You advertised a radically new paradigm to connect the next 5 billion people. You are making minor adjustments to already made usable open source solutions that solve the problem (which anyway is way behind the computer itself, power, maintenance, etc). You exactly wrote on your IndieGoGo campaign site that you had created the world’s first standardized bootable OS. That is not true.”

      We don’t adv new paradigms. We encourage braking old paradigms and stand strongly behind that.
      You might think that the way Digital Divide is addressed today is OK but we totally disagree.
      The only thing that I take from this critic is the “first”. We should use a “A” because we have no real data if we are the first or not and sincerely, that is absolutely not the focus of our project…

      “Yes there is competition to raise public money for public good. If you were doing this with your own money that’d be fine, but that’s not the case. You put a slick video on IndieGoGo and on that basis $40,000 was contributed to your UK limited company.”

      Are you for real? You don’t know anything about us.
      First of all dear, we are doing this with our own money. The entire team is working with no remuneration for a long time now.
      We have invested any aspect of this project from our own pocket.
      We have decided to discontinue our normal and profitable business in the enterprise world to leverage our skills and experience to do an impact project. And, I’m sorry but I don’t agree and that is just sad. We don’t see competition in doing what we do.

      So you know better – every project that we do is managed as an isolated budget and organisation.
      When an NGO approach us and we build the project we create also a budget frame. Then we look how to sustain it.
      Budgets are not moved whatsoever from one project to another and used only inside the project.
      In this case, the NGO that works with us, LiveInSlums, didn’t had any source of funds to do the project. So we hosted the campaign in order to raise the money with a very detailed plan how it is invested. Also here, any cost of actually doing the campaign was from our pocket (and I don’t know if you ever did one but it was a big cost for our standards).

      So again, please use the rope that I’m giving you to come down from the tree you climbed on.
      You are picking on the wrong guys. You didn’t unmask anything and it’s just twisting reality.
      We don’t have marketing teams, and PR and all that. We did a nice campaign and a very good realisation of it. Thats it.
      We are not your enemy, we are actually OK people.
      The worst thing is that you are just trashing a hard work and good intentions with no responsibility.

      Nissan

      • Michael Downey says:

        My only question is:
        Why do people want a Keepod® and how do you know?

        • Daniel says:

          and what’s the business plan for making this a viable sustainable business (the ict centre i’m referring to – not keepod).

        • Nissan says:

          We see that we hit a nerve with Keepod.

          The situation is bad. We go to places where there is nothing.
          And people are not isolated. Any kid in the WhyNot academy know that there is Facebook and Apple and Galaxy S5, they know because TV works perfectly in Mathare, and when you get outside, the road is covered with Apple advertisement that you get confused thinking that you are walking in Santa Monica.
          We approach this in a very low tech, down to earth, get by with what you can, way. And somehow it actually work. Watch the video from Mathare, the kids, the staff, the community leaders, everyone was making something out of this.

          We also allow anyone to get involved. Anyone can do something. With limited or big effort. And it’s not about money.

          We don’t know. But we feel. I’ve been reading about 900 emails this week. People from everywhere, but really everywhere, set down and reached out.

          • Michael Downey says:

            When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

            It’s not much to say you sent a bunch of toys and people played with them. That’d happen anywhere. But things usually soon change when people realize they have no real need for this toy, and it doesn’t do anything at all to make their life better.

            Keepod is a perfect example of this, based upon my experience.

            You could have tried doing user research. You know, actually talk to people and ask people what their problems are before designing a solution for them. You seem to have done it the other way around, unless there’s a key piece in your design process that you haven’t stated. I can assure you that people living in Mathare and Kibera MANY far more serious issues than “needing a personal desktop for a shared computer”. If you’ve spent “3 years” doing R&D, I’d assumed you had.

            People in Africa don’t want the rest of the world’s trash. They need broken PC’s like they need your used shoes or clothing. (That is, they don’t.) There are countless studies on this. It’s sad that the Keepod team either didn’t bother to look, or ignored the lessons of those who came before.

            In reality, this looks like the classic case of the muzugu coming to the Nairobi slums, spending a few days/hours/whatever there, and suddenly realizing the people there “need” his/her idea to save their lives. They go back to their privileged homes and spend their time figuring out how to make lots of money as quick as they can as thump their chests as big as they can.

            Sadly, it happens every day and the slums of Nigeira. Exploitation of the poor is nothing new. Meanwhile, the people who are TRULY making lives better there are usually the ones you will never hear about in the news.

      • Mike Dawson says:

        You may have good intentions, but I don’t think you have till now worked responsibly in so far as you have made some very misleading claims. In your IndieGoGo Video, Starting at 00:31 seconds you say:

        “The Keepod unite project implements a new sustainable and scalable model which Confronts outdated computing paradigms by separating hardware from software and moving the operating system to a USB device keepod eliminates the dependency on one physical computer per user.”

        That’s misleading – it’s not a new model at all – it’s the same model used by LiveUSB technology right now; and is capable already of removing the dependency on one physical computer per user. You also claim in the video that Keepod is already developed.

        To start with I suggest you remove claims that imply Keepod is something radically new (change first/new to ‘A’). Please do not claim it’s a $7 computer access; it’s not. You still need a computer, power, maintenance, etc. That means the computer access costs more than $7. It’s $7 + $0.x per hour of usage of a shared computer.

        If you are doing this with your own money, then what was the IndieGoGo crowdfunder raising $40,000 for? I see no detailed budget (common issue with many crowdfunders). I see mentions of 50 computers and 1,500 Keepod devices. You say you have a way to find refurbished computers for free. $7x 1,500 USB sticks w/Keepod = $10,500 USD. That leaves $29,500 to be detailed. Overall we are still talking about $800 per computer. Does not seem significantly more sustainable than anything else to me.

        With the energy that you and your team have there could be impact if this were better directed.

        • Nissan says:

          Did you read my reply? I’m not sure if you wrote this before as I’m addressing these questions.

          And I would like to see you also making an effort.
          Or you are still so convinced that your article is not misleading?

          Yes, it is $7 dollars.
          Want to fight me over my business plan also or can I go back to do something productive for a change?

          And in the indiegogo which is the focus of your claims, read the perks content. No one was ordering Keepod for $7… Man… really…?

          $800??? No. Sorry. Not in our world.
          We actually budgeted $125 per PC when we made the plan for the indiegogo based on the offers we had but with finding PCs for free we invested in better connectivity, better hub, local staff, unpredicted costs (like energy, that was not specified as a need by the NGO). Need invoices?

      • Wayan Vota says:

        You say “we are doing this with our own money” but actually you are not. You are working with $40K raised from 700+ donors. This is our central issue.

        You have told them that you are solving the key development challenges in Kenya with a LiveUSB. You are not.

        You are installing a computer lab. You are handing out 1500 LiveUSBs. That’s nice, but its not a) revolutionary in any way, nor b) going to solve any development issues.

        You may have an incrementally better approach, and you may give incrementally better access to some people. That the truth may not have attracted $40K makes me sad too, but its no reason to lie. Honesty does get funded when it delivers results.

  20. Jon says:

    I’d be interested in seeing Keepod in action. It looks like there used to be an ISO to download, but now only USB sticks to purchase. Can you help me find the free operating system you refer to, so I can load it in a VM and see what all the fuss is about?

    As someone who’s made a full switch (at work and at home) to Linux, and as someone who was making super-customized LiveCDs 12 years ago, I find your usability claims … lacking. Particularly as an owner of an android tablet that never can quite do everything I want it to.

    While I share Wayan and Mike’s overall concerns (what this world needs is not yet another reason to send broken computers to countries with even less regulations for responsible recycling of them), I am interested in a desktop-like Android-on-a-stick.

  21. Mike Dawson says:

    Linux has come a long long long way over the years in terms of usability. The Desktop version of Android for a stick or installation on a normal (x86) computer is here:

    http://www.android-x86.org/

    Though the Keepod IndieGoGo page actually said Ubuntu/Debian/Mint. So what Keepod is claiming is a moving target.

    In the video they claim they have a completely new revolutionary paradigm and keepod is the world’s first bootable OS, I doubt they would raise $40K saying “We will make Android X86 perform a little better when booting from USB”

    • John says:

      Come-on …. get real and stop comparing apples with cheese.

      Quote from the site…
      The tests are done by the project members and others from android-porting group.
      •ASUS Eee PCs/Laptops
      •Viewsonic Viewpad 10
      •Dell Inspiron Mini Duo
      •Samsung Q1U
      •Viliv S5
      •Lenovo ThinkPad x61 Tablet

      Most of the models can run the native resolutions via i915 driver. Thanks to the kernel mode setting (kms) feature introduced since kernel 2.6.29.
      ++++++++++++++++++

      This in no way even comes close to the keepod claims of complete hardware separation… Oh how I hope it’s true.

      Can we pleas keep the discussion to reality and ease of use?

  22. Wayan Vota says:

    Tony Roberts has his own critique of Keepod: Keepod: a positive critique, which I think you need to read, Nissan.

    Tony ran Computer Aid for many years, and it was one of the largest, and certainly the most ethical, donated computer organizations in the world. He’s forgotten more about sustainability that any of us could learn.

  23. Sujan Shrestha says:

    I come from a developing country and absolutely admire technological interventions including OLPC for raising the very complicated technical, infrastructural, economical, social, cultural, political, educational and many more challenges of a developing country. Thanks to these ambitious projects, many that just fails eventually, still give us inspiration to do a bit better.

    It is important that we feel strongly about the work we do and speak but with open eyes and ears. We know how complicated it is to work in any ICT4D context. Therefore, as we try to realise our vision, it’s our duty to listen to the constructive criticism from all the possible perspectives.

  24. Adebayo says:

    I understand everything going on here.
    Mike and co, you see keepod as nothing new and it shouldn’t be addressed as a change.
    well, you may be right, but that is because you are not here in Africa. you do not know what it feels like to see people around you with no knowledge about computer. believe keepod might not be the final solution we are looking for, but it is surely a way forward. Many schools have computers, but few of those computers are in good shape. If there had been other programs like keepod before, why were they not made available like keepod?
    All other platforms you mentioned were not made available as cheap as keepod is. No mater what your opinion is, keepod has a way of making computer education move forward in Africa!
    #teamkeepod

  25. Mike Dawson says:

    Adebayo: Read the sentence about my background (or Google Me) “In my 7 years of experience in working with people who underprivileged and new to using computers (in Afghanistan and Africa)”.

    Other programs mentioned are available for download and you can buy USB sticks; and companies would be free to distribute via their website if they so feel like.

    The programs I have mentioned are cheaper than Keepod; in fact; the software is free and you can use any USB stick.

    Keepod has nothing new to bring to making computer education move forward; it does not solve power, maintenance, cost, or any other actual barrier to computers in education or beyond.

  26. Steve says:

    I believe that the KEEPOD initiative is very interesting and any debate that moves this 21st century inequality forward and levels the playing field for all is very interesting.

    I believe it could also be a solution for the DEVELOPED world as well, there are many in highly developed countries that are still across the digital divide and see putting a meal on the table more of a necessity than broadband connectivity, this said I fully appreciate that FREE wifi everywhere is not a reality and could so easily be made possible via all the rich telco’s out there i.e. Why not, you can have free wifi, but at slow speed !

    Allowing us to use the same technologies that are on our phones on computers is very interesting, will the technologies converge and Android and IOS migrate to the desktop / laptop or will desktops and laptops disappear in favour of tablets and all they bring to the mix, especially when connected to the cloud.

    Anyway, I digress ! I downloaded Android 4.4 and 4.3 from the Android-x86.org website and found them incredibly interesting, but cannot get them to run instantly on all the computers I have sitting around the house from a USB stick, I am able to do this with LINUX, but generally also need to install a USB wifi dongle as it doesn’t always see the inbuilt wifi card in the machine, but LINUX is not as intuitive as the apps that I use on my phone every day !

    I find the potential of a USB stick with all my personal stuff on it that I can use anywhere very appealing and believe that KEEPOD are missing an opportunity by not opening up they’re technology to the community and allowing the community to contribute to the bigger picture, but hey it’s there baby and there choice, but digital inclusion / empowerment for all ISN”T !

  27. Hello Everyone,

    This is a very interesting discussion, apart from the personal insults…

    I too am trying to assist Kenyans gain access to IT. (I arrived here from Algeria (and previously Sierra Leone) in 1976).

    I admire Keepod for trying to do SOMETHING, rather than sticking their head in the sand like most. There are many options available to make progress, each option having it’s benefits and limitations. I was in Mathare on Monday to assist a charity there with tech issues, mostly around power and security. Yesterday I was in Huruma overseeing the construction of a solar PC lab (using Aleutia T1s). Last month I was in both Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps building solar IT labs, again with the T1s (and light gauge steel technology for the building itself). I believe there is no single solution as each place has different problems to be overcome. ANY attempt to bring fresh ideas is welcome. The main things to always consider and try to balance in each situation are cost and performance. The All-in-One solution I provide is not cheap but it is very good regarding hardiness, energy efficiency and scalability. I think as things are at the moment to get a good AND cheap complete solution is impossible.

    One thing though is I don’t agree with the promotion of recycled/refurbed computers. The Kenyan government agrees with me which is why they slap such a high import duty on them.

    Keepod should press on with what they are trying to do, as should every other person scratching their heads while attempting to improve the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.

  28. gaspare says:

    who pays you

  29. Mag Simms says:

    OK, so here’s my problem: I help crowdsource this idea on the basis that it might work. I like to support charitable causes and I’m passionate about access to IT.
    Nearly two months after payment, I still have no Keepods. I have an email saying my order has been despatched, and another saying the order is complete.
    I’m not in a position to comment on whether the Keepod works or not or whether it’s a viable solution to anything as I am simply $29.95 the poorer.
    And I’m curious to know if anyone else is strangely lacking in goods, and if so, what’s going on?

  30. Mike Dawson says:

    Mag – this is interesitng- but not surprising because Keepod deliberately misled people and knowingly made false claims like having the first standardized bootable OS and before declaring it to be Android on their IndieGoGo page they said it was going to be Debian/Ubuntu/Mint (so they obviously aren’t that professional; and it’s anyway overdue to ship).

    To those who are saying “oh yes it’s good their doing something” – this is a point; but I think they should not mislead and trick people with false claims into giving money out as I outlined in this article. If they want to try anything out with their own money no problem. But they misled people into providing the funds (and when I posted a reply on their facebook page to someone who was saying it was android all along with a screenshot it mysteriously got deleted).

    What is also not impressive is the fact that they do not provide any ready to use download, so it’s pretty difficult to check out what their claiming (and it’s all built on open source stuff – yet insisting I should pay to obtain physical USB sticks).

  31. Mag Simms says:

    Yay folks! My Keepod arrived yesterday! How utterly thrilling to wait two months and spend thirty dollars, for an empty 2Gb pendrive with ‘Keypod’ emblazoned on the side!

    I can see now that this will completely solve the digital divide.

    Not.

    Am I missing something Nissan?

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