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Note: Microsoft no longer offers Windows MultiPoint Server. However, Windows Server now has a MultiPoint Services role that does not have the 20-user limit of MultiPoint Server.
Jim Shemaria from Grace Ministries International walked in to InterConnection in Seattle and asked for a 20-station computer lab that he could fit in his luggage and take with him on the plane to a school in Africa. Charles Brennick happened to have just the thing he needed. Jim walked out of there with four refurbished laptops preloaded with Windows MultiPoint Server and 16 NComputing thin clients and was off to Tanzania.
Grace Ministries International's Jim Shemaria picking up the Virtual Computer Package in Seattle. It all fit in one box.
I just have to say that I wish I could have gone with him. I think of Tanzania as the ultimate African country. It is a sub-Saharan country on the East coast of Africa that is about twice the size of California. It is the home of Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria. It also has the largest concentration of wildlife in Africa. It is the cradle of humanity and home to the Olduvai Gorge where the world’s earliest human remains were found. It is one of the poorest countries in the world so there are precious few computers in the schools.
Grace Ministries International has been doing interesting things to develop their school, the Tanzania Grace Bible Institute. It is located in a rural town called Mbya. Last year they built a small-scale hydroelectric generator to power the school. Computers are a centerpiece of the school, but they needed super-energy-efficient technology to conserve the scarce electricity.
Microsoft's Windows MultiPoint Server is a thin client or shared resource computing software solution that allows one computer to serve several people in a lab, library, or school at very low cost. It is also designed to be energy efficient. The laptop servers are far more energy efficient than desktop computers and each little five-watt NComputing thin client uses 90% less electricity than a laptop. Using conventional computers would have been too much of a drain on their generating capacity. A MultiPoint Server system provides an overall cost and energy savings of 66 percent compared to a traditional one-to-one computing environment.
Tanzania Grace Bible Institute teachers learning how to use the new lab.
Setting up a MultiPoint Server computer system is quite reasonable to do for non-techies – especially in the way that, TechSoup RCI partner, InterConnection preloads it. Jim Shemaria practiced doing an installation in Seattle before he left, and then they went through the setup process four times at the school in Tanzania to show the teachers how to do it. It was a little harder there. Some teachers had never seen a computer and sat in front of the keyboards and didn't know what to do. Grace Ministries has wisely arranged for computer tech-support locally in case of major technical problems.
The total cost was about $3,000. Twenty used laptops would cost about $300 each or $6000 plus shipping. Due to power constraints at the African rural school, that wouldn’t have worked anyway. Grace Ministries International purchased LCD monitors and keyboards in Africa where they cost roughly the same as in the US.
Tanzanian kids who will get to use the new lab
We hear that the new computer system is pretty popular in its new home, even without Internet. The school is putting bars in the ceiling to prevent people from breaking through the roof to get in to the new lab.
If you'd like to learn more about their virtual computing packages, I heartily recommend that you contact InterConnection. Find their newsletter article on this project here.
Image one: Interconnection
Images two, and three: Grace Ministries International
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.