I’ve been told about this interesting open source project (article in Spanish) with the Fonera. It consists of an alarm that is activated via an RF emitter (of the kind that are used to open garage doors) and sends an SMS to a mobile number of your choice.

It can be useful for elderly people in need of assistance or shop owners who want to alert someone of a robbery.

The only equipment needed is an RF emitter, a receiver and a Fonera with the OpenWrt firmware.

Jordi from Fon alerted me to this project. As a sailor with an equal passion for alternative energies I loved it.

The Zero CO2 project‘s objective is to sail around the Mediterranean using clean energy. The yacht is powered by an electric motor driven by a hydrogen fuel cell. It also uses renewable energies (solar, wind and hydro) for on-board power.

The boat is equipped with a fully integrated laboratory and will capture important scientific data on man-made pollution throughout the 10 month expedition. It will travel around the Mediterranean coast as far as Turkey on a journey that will commence in March, 2010.

American politics is at its worst when it is mixed with God and/or Sex. Here´s a new scandal that combines both (plus my native Argentina). America, please grow up.

As a congressman, Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, citing the need for “moral legitimacy.”


Looking for new apps to include the Fonera and testing Pando and Dropbox I found Files Over Miles and it seems great (thanks Raul Chevalier). The key about the new Fonera, the Fon WiFi router that allows you to offer a little extra bandwidth to others and in exchange getting paid and roaming the world for free is that it also manages your file transfers. That´s why we call it the Fonera 2.0, because it manages your relationship with the Web 2.0 namely uploading and downloading content. For Fon this ability to allow people to upload and download while they leave home with their laptops has been a big plus. People are eager to let their Fonera routers connected to their hard drives do the TEDIOUS Internet work such as uploading your videos to YouTube, pictures to Flickr, or downloading their torrents. As a result of this new development at Fon we have been able to stop subsidizing the growth of our network and are reaching profitability earlier than expected. Probably this summer or fall.

But now that the selections of the obvious apps are ready, I was looking for other killer ones – apps to sync folders or send large files from computer. Point here is that instead of being glued to your computer as the huge files are sent, say when you use Pando, your router does the job sending that family video in HD while you are away from home. Moreover you can then access your Fonera from the office say to see how your downloads, uploads, torrents and file transfers are going. But while Pando is great and so is Dropbox, FilesOverMiles is the piece of cake type of app that could be a killer in the Fonera 2.0. It just sends files from browser to browser.

Now we have to see if it´s Open Source and if we can include it in the Fonera. But try it. It is a brutally simple way of sending files from your browser to somebody else´s. Pity it seems to be capped at 1GB and that it only works if you open ports which is not something everyone knows how to do. Other than that you can also get lucky as FilesOverMiles tries to pierce your ISP´s firewall and sometimes succeeds.

Btw we are launching the Fonera 2.0 in USA and UK in September. Sorry that it is so far only available in Continental Europe and Japan.

The Menorca TechTalk 09 has just finished. This is the third time Nina and I have hosted the TechTalk, an event attended by about 80 entrepreneurs from all around the world to spend four days at our farm in Menorca. This year we had participants from every major world region: Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, North America, the Far East and, if we include the sailboat crew, the South Pacific. The goal of the Menorca TechTalk is twofold. First, it aims to offer a relaxed atmosphere in which the entrepreneurs can get to know each other and establish business networks and friendships. Secondly, the event provides the people of Menorca with a technology forum since it is open to the public for one of the days. This post will grow as I continue to read articles and receive pictures about the event.

Here is one article from Barak Kassar to begin with.

The following two are in Spanish: One by Mariano Amartino and another one by Santiago Bilinkis, co-founder of Officenet in Argentina, a great e-tailer that was sold to Staples.

These are some great pictures from Rodrigo Sepulveda. And here are some others from Eduardo Arcos and Alec Oxenford.

eRepublik Labs announced that it has raised €2 million in a series A round from AGF Private Equity, after a seed round of €200,000 in 2007 and an angel round of €550,000 in 2008. The money will be spent in the next 12 to 18 months to develop more features in the game and new products based on the eRepublik platform.
eRepublik is a strategy Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) with a social component. Alexis Bonte, co-founder and CEO of eRepublik, described it as a “mix between Civilization and Facebook”. It is set in a mirror version of the real world in which players can participate in all kinds of activities, from the mundane day to day tasks (buying food, working, traveling) to national politics, setting economic policy and war waging between countries.

eRepublik is special in that it has been created openly and interactively from a very early stage. The founders began with a live prototype that they improved based on user input. This, combined with its heavy emphasis on user generated content, has allowed eRepublik to quickly and cost effectively grow into a rich gaming experience.

While I am not an investor in eRepublik I am a friend of Alexis Bonte and it is great to see your friends doing very well in tough markets. Alexis was a the Menorca TechTalk.

It is unacceptable to go on sending planes over the ocean without position trackers, real time weather information, ground based support and no satellite phones. It is wrong that in emergency situations pilots can only communicate with, say, Cape Verde control and not with their own airline, or even plane makers such as Boeing or Airbus. It is absurd that we don’t know where planes are when they fly over the ocean and even when they are on the ground we only know it within a few miles range but not exactly where they are because radars are so inaccurate.

Aircraft in transoceanic flights should send location, heading, speed and other relevant data by satellite; automatically and every few seconds. They should be capable of downloading real time weather data to increase the efficiency and safety of flights and pilot autonomy. Weather radar is a very primitive way to fly, especially without ground support. Weather radars from the plane should be contrasted with satellite info received in the aircraft. There should also be a secondary means for voice communication, also by satellite to be able to quickly contact an airliner crossing the ocean. Furthermore, making these flights safer should impact insurance costs, and increases in operational efficiency would lower fuel consumption.

In this post I present a few possible solutions to these problems. Of course, this is only one of many series of measures that can be taken to make these flights safer.

Voice communication and transmission of important flight data

The Guardian Skytrax 3Xi is a device that transmits GPS location, altitude, bearing, wheels up-wheels down, time and velocity information over the web, where it is accessible through a secure internet connection using IE or Firefox. A transoceanic airliner requires the 3Xi model, which works with external antennas and costs $2395. It can be configured for a message frequency of your choice (eg. one message per minute). The messages are $0.06 each, and there is a one-time activation fee of $110.

This device comes with the Maptrac system for tracking and reports, which costs $39.95 per month. Maptrac is a web-based mapping tool requiring no server, software, data purchase or IT investment. It allows airlines to see all their aircraft simultaneously, whether it be their active or historical tracks. There is a screenshot of Maptrac in action below. Guardian Mobility, the makers of the Skytrax, also have a Google based mapping system called Rimtax which can be used on iPhones and Blackberrys.gview1

The Skytrax is offered standalone and in a package including a satellite phone. This package, including the additional antenna, goes up to about $4000 plus installation.

The cost for installation and certification of this equipment on an aircraft like the A330 is about $8000. The certification required is called a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) and only needs to be done once for each aircraft model. After that, the cost of installation would approximate $2000.

It is also possible to send location, speed, etc. via Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) messages. ACARS is a protocol in aviation communications for the transmission of short messages between aircraft and ground stations via Very High Frequency (VHF) radio or SatCom (Satellite Communications). This can be done for about $0.15/message. At one update per minute it would amount to $108 for a 12 hour flight.

Most planes on transoceanic routes are equipped to transmit ACARS via satellite, so this option involves no certification or hardware upgrades. It is still however more expensive than the Skytrax solution. Assuming two flights per day, one message per minute and the aforementioned prices you would save around $3900 a month by using the Skytrax 3i instead of ACARS. According to this, the Skytrax system is the better choice.

Receiving real time weather data

Real time weather data would require about 512kbit/s. The commonplace SatCom equipment in transoceanic flights uses a band of the electromagnetic spectrum named “L band“. Bandwidth here is too low and expensive to handle the data rates required for this application.

The “Ku-band” is another band that has been used to provide passengers with broadband connectivity aboard commercial flights in the past. It isn’t certified for flight critical functions but it is ten times cheaper at about $0.5/mbit of transmitted data. The intention here is not to replace primary, safety critical systems; but to complement them. Hence, Ku-band could be a suitable type of connection to download real time weather data.

The problem here is that although most of the aircraft that fly over the ocean are equipped with L-band avionics, very few are equipped with the systems required to connect to Ku-band signals. And they are expensive: About $0.25M each. However, this cost can be recouped by selling broadband to passengers, generating ad revenues from adverts placed for the passengers, more efficient flight routes and the lower insurance costs that should be associated with safer flying.

united states holocaust memorial museum
Image by DJ Curly via Flickr

I used to think that fanaticism and hatred tempered with age. I was wrong. The murderer is 88.

WASHINGTON — An elderly gunman, said by authorities to have a violent and virulently anti-Semitic past, stepped inside the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, opened fire with a rifle and fatally wounded a security guard before being shot by other officers.

Image via Wikipedia

No, this is not an invitation to the Menorca TechTalk. Those went out already. Nina and I are looking forward to seeing our friends next week. This post instead is about an idea to radically improve the economy of the island of Minorca converting it not into a tax haven but into a wedding heaven.

If you are American you probably don´t know that in Europe, it is very complex to get married. In the USA, where Nina Wiegand my fiancee and I, will get married in December, you just show your ID, sign an affidavit in which you swear that you are fit to be married and you get married. In Europe there are waiting lists to get married and even in places where there aren´t, it is unbelievably bureaucratic to get married. Moreover getting married itself is a rigidly structured event with little opportunity to make it your own as people do in the States. And if the bride and groom come from two different European nationalities, something that is more and more common every year since in the EU, as opposed to NAFTA, citizens can freely migrate from country to country, the request for translated paperwork can be endless.

So my proposal is to combine the beauty of the island of Menorca with a new regime that would be unique in Europe and that would make it very easy, and truly special, for people to get married in this beautiful island. A set of rules about marriage similar to those that exist in USA.

First of all, for this new regime there is already the advantage that Spain allows Gay marriage. That in itself should be of help to attract more tourists who want to get married there. But what Menorca should do is to make it easy and fun to get married there. It should make it very simple to get married through affidavit and not this absurd certificates in which people must prove that they are single as if they had to prove they don´t have a “lien” on them. It should also make it simple for anyone, after a day course, to be allowed to officiate weddings – so Menorca would be the only place in Europe where people can get married by their friends. Getting married by your peer is what the Facebook generation wants. Menorca can change the rules to allow that. This is also important because getting married is a very cultural experience and people prefer to get married by somebody akin to them or close to them.

If Minorca created this new “wedding friendly regime” it would do something similar yet distant to what other islands do. The Canary Islands for example have created a tax haven regime. So have Bermuda and many other fiscal havens. But I find an island of florists, bakers and musician somehow nicer than an island of dodgy bankers. If Menorca did become the marriage capital of Europe – celebrating say 1000 weddings a week – the island´s GDP could grow by half a billion euros per year, something huge in an island of only 60,000 people. Let French Polynesia and Maldives do the honeymoons. Menorca should do the weddings!

And the slogan would of course be “Come to Menorca and live happily ever after.” But as it is right now, so beaurocratic and complicated, Nina and I will marry on another island, Manhattan, away from dodgy bankers, and enjoying the close company of our friends and family.

Wireless Router: La Fonera
Image via Wikipedia

At Fon we are Fonwifi in Twitter. But it so happens that naturally FonWiFi is evolving from being us telling news about Fon to quickly becoming a first help site for customer care. We were not prepared for this but as thousands of Fonera 2.0 get shipped around the world we are doing what we can to answer. So long as people understand that it is not meant to be our customer care we are cool with it.

As far as the Fonera is concerned yes, we admit it, we can´t get the Bittorrent to work well. Megaupload works fine, and so does Rapidshare. You can also download by cutting and pasting links. You can even download when away from home by entering your fonera using DynDNS. You can also upload HD videos to Youtube, pictures to Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, convert 3G to WiFi, connect printers and webcams to it. But we do apologize about Bittorrent. It´s not that it does not work. Bittorrent is like loading 3 people on a donkey. Sometimes it moves…but sometimes it just crashes. Everything else requires less resources.

In any case the Fonera is open source and we welcome all help to fix that app as you enjoy the others which is still not bad for 49 euros plus shipping.

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