Off-line Updating/No Connectivity/Limited Bandwidth Situations

Works by non-governmental organizations and others can happen all across the Earth. A problem with this is the global digital divide. While Internet may be ubiquitous in the Global North, access is uneven in the Global South. Non-governmental organizations often expect teams sent into the field to be cross-trained to an extent and computer operations specialists are potentially a luxury that field teams might not have available. In light of this and the matter that most flavors of GNU/Linux expect access to the Internet, it is appropriate and necessary to look at how Ubuntu can be adapted for such sub-optimal environments.

Updating Software

A curious case arises where tools already exist to allow for non-networked machines to download software from repositories. Things like the Synaptic's ability to generate a download script as well as the apt-zip package allow packages to be downloaded. There seems to be no known tool to update in a similar fashion the package management tools knowledge of what is out there in repositories. This creates a less than optimal situation as to ensuring that security updates and patches reach field-deployed personnel.

Questions for consideration:

  • Is there a tool for updating repository lists in a fashion similar to apt-zip?
  • Is there any simplified documentation available for non-specialists in using apt-zip or the download script functionality of Synaptic?
    • Would a screencast be appropriate?
    • Would written documentation with graphics be appropriate?
  • How would repositories on disc that might be sent from a home office to the field be best handled by non-specialists?
    • Would a screencast on handling such be appropriate?
    • Would written documentation with graphics be appropriate?
    • Considering that teams in the field have to be cross-trained at times, how can this be resolved so that it does not take a computer specialist to handle this?
  • How does the Ubuntu Software Centre that is in development fit into this?
    • Can it be adapted to a delay-tolerant networking situation like this?
    • Will it require a regular connection over the course of individual transactions to be most useful?
    • Is this something to be raised with the relevant team for that product as common ground for action?


Communications comes at a premium outside the more-developed world. Even developed nations like the United States have areas with Internet access on par with the far less economically developed regions of the world. For field teams and for those in home offices, broadband may be a luxury. Adapting Ubuntu for communications in the field may require some additional actions.

There are a variety of issues on this front that need exploration first before action can take place.

Questions for consideration:

  • What sort of data service does Iridium actually offer?

    • The limited documentation notes that an Iridium hand-set offers a 10 kbps link
    • What does the link go to? Does it function like an old-style 14.4 kbps modem on the plain old telephone system did?
    • Is there any way to get this documentation released? Iridium is a little tight-fisted with such.
    • How can the various connection aids like mobile connection assistant be adjusted so as to adapt to working over Iridium?
  • Intelsat offers a variety of data services

    • Documentation is skimpy
    • What is the nature of the connectivity service they offer?
    • How can the various wizards and other setup aids be adjusted to account for connecting over Intelsat?
    • With their broadband ground access network terminals, do their terms and conditions permit using such as a shared backhaul link to the Internet for any mesh networks that might be created in the field?
  • Mesh networking
    • What design aids exist for non-specialists in setting this up?
    • What tools require specialist knowledge to establish a mesh network? How can access to them be simplified?
    • What education is necessary for end-users to understand what mesh networking is and how it can be deployed using Ubuntu?

Information Archives

Tools like Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, and others exist. They assume consistent Internet access. A concern exists as to how to implement such in the field.

  • Have librarians already solved this?
  • Offline Wikipedia
  • Offline Project Gutenberg
    • There are built images available from the project

    • As there is no universal standard of copyright law, the disc images would likely be stashed in restricted if it were executable software
  • Digital Libraries
    • Greenstone

      • System created by a research team at University of Waikato for managing scanned documents and born-digital items
      • Developed and distributed in cooperation with UNESCO & the Human Info NGO

      • Problem? It isn't packaged for any flavor of GNU/Linux yet!

      • The package is versatile as it has been gotten to run on a classic iPod

    • Koha

      • Traditional integrated library system for managing physical materials
      • Not packaged for any flavor of GNU/Linux yet!
      • Package is GPL 2
  • Moodle and other e-learning platforms

    • Are these necessary in developing regions?
    • Is there appropriate documentation on implementing these tools in sub-optimal settings?


NGO/KellatDiscussionSeptember2009 (last edited 2009-09-30 02:58:19 by cpe-76-188-226-7)