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Microsoft, Katrina, and more on American Red Cross asks for tech-help

Previous Politech message:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] American Red Cross asks for tech help after 
Hurricane Katrina [econ]
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005 16:51:18 -0400
From: Stephen Cobb, CISSP <scobb@cobb.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
References: <432327AC.2040007@well.com>

I am sure there will be many Politech readers who want to help and some who
have already tried. Prospective volunteers wanting to get an idea of what
to expect might want to read the following account:


"...Finally, I gave up trying to make the machines work perfectly, and
turned my attention to a family that had been patiently waiting to use a
computer...We spent an hour going over their on-line application for FEMA
assistance, which worked fairly well except when I tried to revise some
data that I had already entered. Then, we tried to find temporary housing
for them in Dallas on http://www.hurricanehousing.org. A friend of theirs
from New Orleans stopped by and wanted to know why they weren't looking in
Mesquite. I tried to explain that the web site didn't let me narrow my
search for housing by zip code, only "100 miles" from Dallas or "350
miles," but I wasn't sure they understood. I doubted they had ever owned a
computer, let alone conducted complex search queries on a regular basis.
The mother in the family had a hard time simply grasping all the
information FEMA wanted her to record: username, password, registration
number, and Personal Identification Number, which was actually made up only
of letters, and delivered by e-mail, even though this family definitely did
not have an e-mail address. Meanwhile, there were still no FEMA workers,
nor printers with which we could print this information, anywhere in
Reunion Arena. By the time I was finished helping the family, whose last
remaining possession appeared to be their son's cell phone, the
reinstallation of Windows XP was 33% complete on the computer next to us.
No one had been able to use either of the other two desktops for anything
productive all day."


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] American Red Cross asks for tech help after 
Hurricane Katrina [econ]
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005 21:48:00 +0100
From: M.Blackmore <mblackmore@oxlug.org>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
References: <432327AC.2040007@well.com>

Now perhaps not the time to carp. But ... lots of Microsoft OS and
applications? HOW much is the Red Cross spending good dosh on licences
(to be fair, MS might be donating. Are they?) for this stuff when it
could be using the resources for other things. Like food and clothing?

Wouldn't a unix type operating system be more flexible for spatchcocking
networks together out of bits and pieces than MS products? But perhaps
the skills base isn't there in sufficient quantity. Or perhaps it is,
personality-wise (yuck a 'orrible yankism..) Open Sourcies tend to be
nice people and would lend a hand if called upon (collectively). Perhaps
someone can write an install from CD/DVD complete "emergency management,
logistics, people management, and communications suite" of software that
will run on almost any bit of hardware people can get their hands on ..
Macs, PCs, anything.

Where could this sort of thing about costs (and more constructively
specialist software for emergency use?) be raised with the bean counters
and the apparatchiks, where could one get to the trustees about saving
donated money for more useful things?

I used to work in "third world development" (another yuck term but we
didn't know better back in the 70s and early 80s >;) so am touchy about
this sort of thing of wasted money!

Excellent article on Futurework list about the pivotal role of New
Orleans as a bulk transport hub to the water transport system that the
US economy depends upon, penetrating into the interior - and the world
economy to some extent. And likening the dispersal and loss of the
populace to the same as a nuclear bombardment. A lot of the port
facilities are manageably repairable. But where are the workers to work
the port system? Gone. And unless somewhere to live and functioning
infrastructure of services and supplies to keep them, won't be coming
back soon. So NO will just have to be rebuilt, as nothing else nowhere
else can supply this port need and its location is locked by the
geophysical characteristics of the Missippi river system. That's why its
where it was. How it is rebuilt is another question... a rational
planner could think about a real city in the sky, everything 20metre up
on stilts and a canal system below ... if there is anywhere that such a
Corbussian future is necessary it might be there. But America ...
planning ... rational? Hmmm.

If you haven't seen it I'll pass it on. The most intelligent bit of
writing I've seen so far on the whole thing. Which is a bit depressing
come to think of it.

(happily ensconced on top of a 250 ft hill in the Cotswolds, which will
become an island in the Cotswold Archipelago if the worst comes to the
worst. Only problem is going to be keeping 7 million Londoners, 6
million Brummies, plus the population of the entire northern Thames
Valley off our little group of islands if they don't drown abruptly
first... hmmm.

Wonderful fishing in the channels and sheltered shallow bays and
wetlands between them, once the ecology has settled down...).

Anyway, keep up the good work on Politech. A bit American biased ( a
BIT??!!) but still a daily read for me to see what new has been posted.
Much appreciated!
TTFN :-)

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Sep 13, 2005 in category economics

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