Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mini-PCs to surve as low-cost Turnkey Mapping, Text-ing, and Interactive Voice Servers

The image on the left is a low hardware configuration PC (personal computer). It is capable of functioning in the capacity of a Server serving 2-5 simultaneous users. This is not a restriction on the number users on an application, rather it is a restriction on the number of web sessions such as more than 5 administrators accessing Freedom Fone to configure it. The box comes in two flavours: Windows and Linux.

We have tested it to serve as a FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, and Freedom Fone host. A dongle or mobile phone can be connected to one of the USB ports to get FrontlineSMS activated. A mobigator modem or Freedom Fone recommended dongles can be connected to the USB to get the interactive voice solution activated. Ushahidi can be installed with a Static IP (e.g. for anyone to access within a LAN by connecting through Mini-PCs WiFi. The box does have a RJ45 port to connect to a WAN or the Internet to function outside the local area.

  • The beauty of it is that one can install FrontlineSMS for text-ing, Ushahidi for mapping, and Freedom Fone for interactive voice solutions, configure it, plug it in and let it run.
  • It is small enough to squeeze inside a table drawer and lock it away; while it runs.
  • The device has an area the same or less than the face area of a 10" tablet PC but about 5 times thicker than a tablet PC; nevertheless fits in the palm; like a think notebook. 
  • It is cheap; a high end configuration would cost less than US$ 130.00 and a low-end configuration would cost around US$ 80.00.
  • Unlike a laptop or notebook it does carry an expensive LCD screen because the screen is unnecessary for a server. 
  • If the data storage needs to be expanded, the best option is attaching a 1-TB external hard drive(~US$80).
  • Administrators or implementers can access the applications through the Wi-Fi (or a cross cable connected to the RJ45 socket) using tools such as "remote desktop", "team-viewer", SSH, so on and so forth; that is not hard. 
  • A laptop consumes approximate 35-40W of energy and a desktop PC about the same; while the Mini-PC consumes 15-20W; making it relatively greener.
 We intend to use it in our Rapid Prototyping exercises; the steps are --
  1. We would have a couple of these units pre-installed and configured; possibly a windows box for FrontlineSMS and  a Linux box for Freedom Fone; while Ushahidi could work on either one of them or both
  2. At the onset of the meeting with the community, in a remote location, we can quickly initiate an instance or the 3 applications, by simply powering it up; then connecting to is through our laptops.
  3. Then while interacting with the community determining their communication needs, implement those requirements to test it with them
  4. Finally, leave the unit with them for several weeks for them to test their implementation; i.e. play with it.

1 comment:

  1. What are the processor, RAM and hard drive specs on these units?