Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:26:18

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Container House living

Container House living

Zaara – Kitchen counter with stove 1
On the counter:
dust bunny – kettle
Above the counter:
PLAAKA TenementKitchen Cupboad
On the cupboard:
Funky*Junk* Potted Fern Plant
*Funky*Junk* Potted Rubber Plant
Unkindness – Country Kitchen Cabinet Teal
On the cabinet:
what next Vermont Hot Chocolate Tray (Deer)
Reid parkin – Hanging Fern – Long

Sway’s [Ihina] chest of drawers . tall
On the chest:
Zaara [home] : 15 Jali lamps
KOPI – succulent_bucket A
Kaerri – Multi Stripe Cactus 1

[Toiz] – table
On this table:
8f8 – 08. Our Secret Hideout – Butterly Light (Hanging)
oyasumi – turkish coffee
+Half-Deer+ Organic Computer
Zigana – With love pile
On the wall:
Zaara [home] -16 Kathputli puppets
Zaara [home] – 17 Patchwork tapestry

Posted by Sheila Yoshikawa on 2016-06-06 21:23:59

Tagged: , SEcond Life , Sheila Yoshikawa , Since 1975 , June , 2016 , Container House , Dust Bunny , Zaara , Furniture , Summer

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:29:01

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:26:18

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:20:45

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:20:45

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:26:18

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Viva Umkhonto!

Viva Umkhonto!

The Beaten Generation

During the course of 2015 I recommissioned my 21st birthday present from my father – a Micro Seiki MB-14ST that I brought over to the UK from my mom’s place in South Africa. I’ve also been slowly bringing over my collection of vinyl albums, meticulously selected and acquired, and lovingly cared for between the early-70’s and the late-80’s. They’ve also been stashed away at my mom’s place, protected from the elements in plastic sleeves and stored in bespoke cases holding about 50 albums apiece. Over the course of the past few months I’ve been playing some of the gems in my collection, and it’s been very rewarding to reconnect with my past. Both the good and the “interesting”.

On one of our trips to Europe in the late-80’s my future wife and I made our regular pilgrimage to the music stores, including WOM (World of Music) in Germany. It was here (in which city, I don’t recall) that I bought the LP "Viva Umkhonto!" a compilation of punk and hardcore music that featured previously unreleased material by European and US bands. The record was released in April 1987 as a collaborative effort by two independent labels, namely Mordam Records (USA) and De Konkurrent (Holland), both of whom were strong backers of the struggle against Apartheid. According to a statement on the back of the sleeve, “All money raised by this record goes to Umkhonto We Sizwe. So this was a benefit album for the military wing of the ANC (African National Congress).

For context, allow me to turn to Wikipedia:

Umkhonto We Sizwe (abbreviated as MK, Zulu for "Spear of the Nation") was the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), co-founded by Nelson Mandela in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre. Its founding represented the conviction in the face of the massacre that the ANC could no longer limit itself to nonviolent protest; its mission was to fight against the South African government. After warning the South African government in June 1961 of its intent to resist further acts of terror if the government did not take steps toward constitutional reform and increase political rights, MK launched its first attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961. It was subsequently classified as a terrorist organisation by the South African government and the United States, and banned”.

The album itself was definitely banned in South Africa and so possessing it was illegal. I took it into the country through Jan Smuts Airport (subsequently known as “Johannesburg International” and now, “O.R. Tambo International”) on my return from my trip to Europe and kept it safely tucked away in the belly of the beast in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria.

On the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising, the Nationalist regime declared State of Emergency in June 1986. It forbade any action that could undermine the Apartheid state, nationwide. Also forbidden were any kind of “subversive statements”, defined as statements that promoted unlawful strikes, boycotts or civil disobedience, attacked military conscription, promoted disinvestment or sanctions, or that “aggravated feelings of racial hostility”. The penalty for engaging in these actions was a maximum of ten years imprisonment. Ouch – I definitely did not want to be caught with this album!

Of the people detained under these draconian regulations (circa-8,000 in the first couple of months) no names were published with the exception of those released at the discretion of the South African Police. Throughout the State of Emergency, newspapers had to engage in self-censorship, at the risk of being closed down by the government, and many used to print disclaimers alongside their articles that read” “This report has been restricted to comply with the Emergency Regulations”. Some newspapers and magazines were not able to appear, and no news came out of the black townships, except through the state’s Bureau of Information. At the time I stuck stickers on the front of my television screen and computer monitor that read “SABC News is Biased” just to remind myself to be vigilant about government disinformation.

The music on the compilation album is okay, but it’s the packaging and presentation that I really enjoyed as a snapshot of the times, and as an interesting piece of social history. Along with the record were included a poster and a booklet filled with newspaper clippings and ANC propaganda about the armed struggle against Apartheid. It also highlights companies that were breaking economic sanctions by continuing to do business with South Africa. The “Throw Well – Throw Shell” slogan is parody of oil the giant’s official marketing tag-line at the time, namely Go Well – Go Shell. I have uploaded a scan of this booklet to my DropBox.

I’m not going to comment on the accuracy or veracity of the information in the booklet, but in those turbulent times – under a state of emergency, with broad media censorship and where owning certain music could earn you a jail sentence – it was thrilling to see what people abroad were thinking and to read material that was not towing the official National Party line. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s fascinating to see how right Matt Johnson was back in 1989 (The TheMind Bomb). Although he wasn’t talking about South Africa, per se, when he sang that we were the “beaten generation, reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation”, he pretty much hit the nail on the head. Prejudice and misinformation were weapons in the arsenal on both sides of the struggle in South Africa. I was one of the few pale South Africans to have the privilege of being exposed to both sides of that deformed coin.

The The – "The Beat(en) Generation" – YouTube Video Clip

When you cast your eyes upon the skylines
Of this once proud nation
Can you sense the fear and the hatred
Growing in the hearts of its population
And our youth, oh youth, are being seduced
By the greedy hands of politics and half truths

The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Reared on a diet of prejudice and mis-information
The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Open your eyes, open your imagination

We’re being sedated by the gasoline fumes
And hypnotized by the satellites
Into believing what is good and what is right
You may be worshiping the temples of mammon
Or lost in the prisons of religion
But can you still walk back to happiness
When you’ve nowhere left to run?

The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Reared on a diet of prejudice and mis-information
The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Open your eyes, open your imagination

And if they send in the special police
To deliver us from liberty and keep us from peace
Then won’t the words sit ill upon their tongues
When they tell us justice is being done
And that freedom lives in the barrels of a warm gun

The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Reared on a diet of prejudice and mis-information
The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Open your eyes, open your imagination

If you’d like to take a listen to "Viva Umkhonto!" I’ve found a ripped copy of the LP available for download here.

Also take a look at my Blogger posting.

Cheers, 2016 ©

Posted by anjin-san on 2016-01-17 21:02:45

Tagged: , Record Sleeve , Album Sleeve , Album Dust Sleeve , The Beaten Generation , Viva Umkhonto! , Umkhonto , South Africa , Nelson Mandela , ANC , African National Congress , LP , Long Player , Long Playing , Long Playing Album , Album , Vinyl , 33 RPM , 33.3 RPM , Apartheid , State of Emergency , National Party , Racism , Fascism , Terrorism , Terrorist , Censorship , Armed Struggle , Pretoria , WOM , World of Music , Sharpeville , Soweto , Mordam Records , De Konkurrent , Punk , Punk Rock , Hardcore , Hardcore Music , Propoganda , Matt Johnson , The The , Mind Bomb , Music , Song , Booklet , Eighties , 2016 , 80s , 1986 , 1989

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:20:45

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016

Cuba & US 2016 – Update 21/5/16 – Trinidad Night Waits for US – Trinidad – central Cuba – town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Cuba & US 2016 - Update 21/5/16 - Trinidad Night Waits for US - Trinidad - central Cuba - town in the province of Sancti Spíritus.Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites.Founded 23/12/1514

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba

Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.

By – Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might do in Cuba that other companies could not.Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some 2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web access.I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15 to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives in Miami.
And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi card is associated with a specific person.The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels, called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares. The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks. Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011, and it existed as a "darknet" connection for two years before suddenly going online in 2013.So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political one.In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.
Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba
While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent "exhibit" called Google+Kcho.MOR was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced "KAW-cho") is the nickname of a brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico Romerillo.I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the 1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny, charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining (presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t willing to do for his cherished readers.)The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20 Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access. The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to "down with the embargo.")The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70 times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.The "exhibit" also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it. Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a Photosphere of Tokyo.During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had "been there, done that" with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with Internet connectivity.It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an "exhibit," but it’s not. In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.For the Kcho "brand," it’s a "gateway drug" to lure Cuba’s youth to the museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho. Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment for this story.)Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it could be at the Googleplex itself.Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba — in fact, the only one.As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all presented as "art" or in the promotion of art.
What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba
Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S. embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of the Jigsaw organization, a "think tank" that actually initiates programs for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as "Google Ideas."In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott Carpenter, toured Cuba together.One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and better Internet access.No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic Google Wi-Fi all over the island.The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected tech brand, will be ready.Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Posted by Boaz Guttman בועז גוטמן ГУТМАН on 2016-05-21 22:26:18

Tagged: , Cuba , US , 2016