Lenovo IdeaPad S10e reviewed

Photograph of Lenovo IdeaPad S10e netbook

As you may remember, while travelling in Tanzania for Project TOTO I used a Lenovo IdeaPad S10e netbook running Windows XP rather than my usual MacBook Pro. My review is over at Neerav Bhatt’s Rambling Thoughts Blog.

In brief, it seemed just a little too much of a step down for working on the road. Like most netbooks, it’d be fine for a traveller needing occasional access to their data. As the publicity says, “Enjoy videos, check email, connect to the internet, video message family and friends and even get a little work done.” If you need to get serious work done, though, bring a full-sized laptop.

There’s nothing really wrong with the IdeaPad S10e. Indeed, I daresay it’s a more solid option than most netbooks. But even given Lenovo’s quality brand, I’d have expected just a little more grunt for the price. Find it on special, and maybe it’s your next travelling companion.

Unreliable Tanzania 2: Nets

Photograph of a room at the Zanzibar Beach Resort, showing mosquito nets on the four-poster bed

Everywhere you go in Tanzania, there are nets. Mosquito nets. And not just here at the comfortable Zanzibar Beach Resort, where we stayed one night, but every little accommodation place we saw throughout the country. They’re serious about nets.

To be honest, at first I thought it was a just a bit of Africana for the tourists — hey, a four-poster bed certainly makes you feel like you’re somewhere different, right? But not so.

One morning in Dodoma, the ActionAid Australia campaigner travelling with me, Lena Aahlby, asked whether I’d bothered using the mosquito net. “No,” I said. “It’s dry, there weren’t any mosquitoes around, so I didn’t bother.”

Despite the scary warnings in my little travel medicine book, I hadn’t bothered with insect repellent either.

But our Tanzanian colleague Albert Jimwaga leapt in. “Oh, you’ve got to use the mosquito nets,” he said, a genuinely worried tone in his voice. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t see any mosquitoes, because they only come out late at night. You have to use the nets!”

It turns out this wasn’t just polite concern for his overseas visitors.

In Tanzania and other African nations, the threat from malaria is real.

As Abdul Kajumulo points out, malaria kills more than 100,000 infants annually, and attacks between 16 and 18 million people countrywide each year. That’s around 45% of the population. And that’s despite Tanzania having a decent anti-malaria strategy, apparently.

For my brief stay in country, spending AUD 30 for a month on gut-churning Doxycycline is a viable prevention strategy. But poor rural peasants only earn AUD 120 a year, so many malaria cases go untreated — with an obvious toll on individuals, families and the economy.

And then there’s dengue fever, for which there’s no vaccination and no cure.

I now have real respect for the humble mosquito net. I can see why, when there’s flooding or other cause for human displacement, a truckload of mosquito nets is high on the agenda.

[Disclaimer: Stilgherrian was in Tanzania as a guest of ActionAid Australia. His opinions do not necessarily represent the views of that organisation or its international affiliates.]

Breakfast over Mogadishu: fear at (almost) 36,000 feet

Photograph of a page from Stilgherrian's notebook

Saturday 27 June 2009. This isn’t exactly the world’s newest Boeing 767-300ER, and there’s slightly too much pubic hair in the toilets. Breakfast is being served, and my stupidly-expensive Moleskine notebook is filling up with notes about the Parable of the Quartered Donkey.

That’s quartered as in hanged, drawn and quartered.

I’m the donkey.

The smiling Kenya Airways staff go about their business of bread rolls and bitter coffee en route from Bangkok to Nairobi, where I’ll change for my flight to Dar es Salaam. I wake from a brief period of something vaguely approximating sleep to the realisation that Project TOTO has one significant flaw: multiple goals, with conflicting requirements.

Something deep in my gut says this is going to be a problem.

Flash forward to today. It’s only two weeks since I arrived in Tanzania and a week since I left again, but the world is eager to analyse the project’s “success” or “failure”. We already have Laurel Papworth’s Stilgherrian: Wherefor art thou, bloggers? (which has triggered some excellent discussion) and Fi Bendall’s Sharing the knowledge: How NGOs can benefit from online consumer awareness.

Both articles are well worth reading. Both highlight what I think is a serious problem: short-term thinking.

Continue reading “Breakfast over Mogadishu: fear at (almost) 36,000 feet”

Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue

Passengers walking past a light aircraft to a ZanAir Cessna 404 Titan

I’m back in Sydney. I’m almost caught up on sleep. Almost. It’s time to start writing about my Project TOTO journey to Tanzania for ActionAid Australia.

I’ll split my posts into two streams:

  1. Brief essays like my old Unreliable Bangkok series, which I’ll call Unreliable Tanzania. They’ll be personal reflections about my experiences in Tanzania, observing not just ActionAid’s work but also the people, society and country generally — as well as recording my own state of mind. They’ll be presented in rough chronological order, but will weave together thoughts from throughout the journey — much as I did in The Poverty Web.
  2. There’ll also be posts reflecting on Project TOTO itself. What worked? What didn’t? And, given that ActionAid is already looking for the next outreach blogger, how can we improve things for the next participant and generate more value for ActionAid?

In between, I’ll post my photos on the Project TOTO (ActionAid) Flickr group — but don’t rush there just yet, because currently there’s only photos from the farewell party, and that gives totally the wrong impression.

Now, having explained that framework, this very first Unreliable Tanzania will break the pattern by giving you a quick rundown of my itinerary — because things changed somewhat from the initial plan.

Continue reading “Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue”

ActionAid Tanzania blogs online!

Late yesterday afternoon Dar es Salaam time, we finally posted the first posts at the ActionAid Tanzania blog.

It’s been a long journey. On Monday we started with that most basic of questions: “What is a blog?” Then, when we spoke about people adding comments and the comment-moderation process, that inevitably led to further discussions about how the organisation should handle the inevitable problems of abusive commenters, or people who posted material which put the organisation at risk.

We were on the road Tuesday through Friday — and I’ll have plenty to tell you about that in due course — but when we returned to the task on Saturday there were further discussions before the first posts could appear.

How did the fact that two staff members were blogging reconcile with a communications policy that says only the Country Director can speak for the organisation? A disclaimer! What would our first bloggers write about? Introduce themselves! Should we have a formal welcome from the Country Director, given that Tanzania is a more formal country than Australia? Yes!

And there were many questions which regular users of online forums in the West would take for granted. What are “tags”? What’s the difference between “tag” used to describe a folksonomy and a “tag” in HTML? What is HTML anyway? Should I even mention the word “avatar”?

We never did get time to set up RSS readers. I’ll handle that via email. Small steps, and focus on what’s needed immediately.

Explaining social media from the very beginning to intelligent and well-educated people who had not yet encountered it was a brilliant learning experience for me too. I will have more to say.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the introductions from Country Director Rose Mushi, Abdul Kajumulo and Albert Jimwaga. I know they’d appreciate your comments and questions.