Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holy Crap

I just discovered that my camera can take detailed photos of very small things. A few new pictures are uploaded, but Yahoo Photos is shutting down so I had to move everything to Flickr.

The address is http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimbenin/

I also uploaded some pictures from Camp GLOW.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The comments under this article about Internet connectivity in Africa were so astoundingly ignorant that I actually got angry, which is not something I normally do. But then I realized, given that so few talented Americans realize what a great opportunity there is here, I'll probably be able to make ludicrous amounts of money in some sweet job someday just by showing up.

In other news, the cell phone companies are still down, 58 new volunteers all flew into Benin on Friday, and I got my camera fixed. I plan on taking several hundred pictures of Zinvie in the near future. I also probably have giardia, which doesn't excite me as much as it used to.

Last night was our one-year anniversary in Benin! I'll be home in 14 months or so.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Like Awesome-Fi

New rumors about a national Wifi service have actually turned out to be true! The Chinese government (supposedly) bought the Beninese government’s telecommunications company a while ago and has been busily putting up towers. They just started selling desk phone units that can act as a telephone, or when plugged into a computer, a Wifi modem. It’s expensive as all get out, but it can achieve reasonably high speeds.

Cyber cafes are much cheaper as it currently stands, but it’s one of the only ways for people to get access to the Internet in their own homes. There’s a tower in Natitingou which hasn’t been turned on yet (only Cotonou has access at the moment), but if it gets activated while I’m here, Peace Corps will almost definitely get an account for the Workstation. Sweet.

No Phones

The two biggest cell phone companies in Benin got shut down a few days ago for not paying their taxes (I’d very roughly estimate that 90% of people here use one of the two companies). I can’t make any calls to anyone at the moment, though I asked some people in a taxi what they thought and they were all sure that the company I use would be back in service by Monday.


I have no idea if the World Community Grid’s efforts will lead to a cure for AIDS (or anything else), but they’re currently doing a project on it and I figure it was worth mentioning. You can read exactly what they’re doing for HIV here.

Basically, you install a program that uses your computer's idle processing time to work on chunks of very large problems. It would normally take thousands of years for one computer to do the work, but since there are thousands of users it gets cut down to a matter of months. Right now, the collective effort amounts to around 180 years of processing per day.

If you have a computer with Internet access (or an office full of them) I would urge you to consider installing the software. You shouldn’t even notice it once it’s running.