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Keepod: A socially responsible, bootable OS on a USB drive

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February 7, 2014

Keepod is a portable OS

Keepod is a portable OS

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Mathare is 500,000-resident slum in Nairobi Kenya, where basic sanitation is non-existent, there’s no adequate water supply and no school system, except for so-called street schools that try to fill that gap. Only 10 percent of local youth will reach college education. Most of the locals are part of the five billion people in the world who are digitally excluded. Now, a new UK-based initiative called Keepod Unite aims to reduce the digital gap in Mathare by providing an OS that can be loaded onto a USB drive and plugged into just about any shared PC.

The team behind Keepod says it is the first standardized version of a bootable OS, which means the software is separated from the hardware. This makes computing more affordable because the USB drive can be used with any old machine. Keepod is claimed an improvement on previous, and similar, "LiveUSB" systems such as LinuxLive and WinToGo, which were more limited to providing a system preview for system testing and the installation of backup solutions.

Keepod, on the other hand, is a primary system which was developed to increase security, performance, file system reliability, and other features to make it a reliable portable computing experience. It is based on Linux and comes with a range of pre-installed apps such as web browsers, social network apps, the LibreOffice productivity suite, the VLC media player, FileZilla FTP, Steam, and several others.

The USB drive onto which Keepod is loaded would need to have at least 8 GB of available storage space. The host computer system needs to meet some basic requirements, too, including an x86 processor, 1 GB RAM, 1024 x 768 resolution display, USB 2.0 port or higher. Keepod does not officially support Mac machines.

The USB drive onto which Keepod is loaded would need to have at least 8 GB of available st...

The rationale behind developing a bootable OS instead of distributing PCs to those in need is that, according to the Keepod team, such attempts have so far not made a great difference on the ground. The system developers believe there is no need for individual PCs for personal computing, only an individual external drive with data that will be protected, and which will leave no footprint on the host computer.

From an economic point of view, it’s cheaper and easier to replace a lost USB drive than a PC, and is more suitable for places where damage is more likely to take place. The system can run on older PCs too, such as refurbished computers that otherwise would have ended up in landfills. In cases where data has not been backed up on a cloud server, the Keepod USB won't be accessible to whoever finds the drive.

Driving the technology is a socially responsible effort to help projects dealing with a wide range of pressing issues in Africa, such as HIV, education, agriculture and human rights. As part of the plan, the Keepod team intends to build local hubs to operate inside the slums where locals will access Keepod devices, public computers and connectivity services. They will train a local person to manage the hubs, which will also be spaces where people can learn about new technologies and incubate local start-ups.

The development team's ambition goes beyond the Mathare project, which is being carried out in partnership with an NGO called LiveInSlums. It is a first step towards the consolidation of Keepod Unite, which will be taken to other grassroots initiatives around the world in the wake of a successful pilot run in Mathare.

The Keepod team has launched on crowdfunding portal Indigogo to raise funds for the project. Supporters can pledge as little as US$1, but the $40 reward level offers a limited edition of the Keepod T-shirt. Funds will only be made available to the project if the campaign, which ends on March 1, reaches its $38,000 target.

The video below gives other details of the project and its goals.

Sources: Keepod, Indiegogo

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology.   All articles by Antonio Pasolini
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6 Comments

I served an LDS mission in Brazil and we used Lan Houses to send email to family once a week. Being a Linux user I wished I just had a thumb drive with everything I needed and could just use it on any PC at any Lan House. The main problem with using a public PC is they are bogged down with viruses and spy wear which just slows down computers to a crawl and the web browser constantly crashes.

That is the main problem with public computers, and I'm sure it is the same all over the world and the main reason that computers 'have so far not made a great difference on the ground', is the user experience is never optimized when the computer is slow or doesn't work properly. In lan houses, which other than schools kids in Africa probably use the PC the most, the screen could be on a timer and when the paid for time expires the screen goes off and simply by pushing the power button on the PC the OS could save the session and go into a shutdown routine and safely unmount everything.

exodous
7th February, 2014 @ 11:58 am PST

IDK, I think maybe a better idea would be a recycling program in developed countries for their old tech that still has a lot of life in them to give to people such as the ones in the slums of India. I have a Dell Streak 8 that I gave to my daughter and I now have upgraded her to my old Surface RT so the Dell is now unused.

Rann Xeroxx
7th February, 2014 @ 12:56 pm PST

Ubuntu already boots on Mac - so if these guys are saying it won't work on mac, I question their tech skills...

christopher
9th February, 2014 @ 08:40 pm PST

Donating older computers is a good thing.

But, does that computer have a value in it's new locality, sufficient to entice theft, and physical harm to it's proud new owner?

This USB drive option increases the utility of the donated machine, by:

1.Allowing more users to access it,

2.Locating the computer in a Secure, Powered location, and

3.The USB thumbdrive is more concealable & less valuable, reducing risk of theft & physical harm to it's owner.

@christopher: "Keepod does not officially "support" Mac machines."

verbatim from the article.

Helios Higgins
10th February, 2014 @ 12:30 pm PST

What could work better is a rugged PDA with a few billion of them distributed around the world, as depicted in Marc Stiegler's novel "Earthweb". Published in 1999, it depicted mass scale crowdsourcing to solve problems years before the word was coined.

VGA resolution screens are now very inexpensive, even with a touch interface. So are all the other components that would go into an inexpensive PDA. Now imagine what a purchase order for 5 billion would do to the price.

To make the things tough, fill all empty space inside with urethane resin and have no open ports by using wireless induction charging and WiFi or Bluetooth to interface with peripherals.

Give them a gig of RAM and 64gig of storage and with an efficient OS that would be plenty of space.

What I'd use for an OS is Palm OS. Why? Because there's already a huge amount of software for it, all of it written for devices with with a low amount of RAM and storage but capable of using more.

There are still a few industrial devices being made using Palm OS 5 but AFAIK since Palm themselves wouldn't license version 6 from ACCESS, nobody did. If 6 works with apps for 5, buy Palm OS 6 outright from ACCESS. They'd probably like to get some money back out of the work that went into it. If they make noises about just wanting to license it for so much a device *then* say "We could always use Linux for free."

Palm OS is designed for a small, handheld device. Linux is not, it has to be "cut to fit". Run Palm on a faster version of the CPUs it was written for and it'll be super fast.

Order a few billion and there would be no problem getting a single chip designed that has the entire system on it, CPU, video controller, RAM, storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, charge controller and everything else. Buying rights to less than bleeding edge designs would save money.

Gregg Eshelman
10th February, 2014 @ 09:11 pm PST

I wonder what planet some of you inhabit when I read the comments on here at times!

Giving everyone a nice shiny recycled computer or PDA isn't going to help them much when they have no power source to run it on or recharge it. A centralised securish location is probably the only practical solution to the power requirements and connectivity, let alone combating the threat of theft, some of these places don't have doors never mind locks!

scc970
19th February, 2014 @ 10:31 am PST
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