Saturday, February 24, 2007

Another wifi node up & running, 6km away!

Mavuno, a development non-profit, 12km away by road from fadeco, base station, has now been connected to the Internet via wireless.

People always mention that making a wifi connection is fun but i have come to discover that its sometimes so stressful most especially when you are only surrounded by very eager people only ready to use the Internet. Others are so skeptical of the whole situation, that the only sentiments you hear are all negative. Being the only one with strong faith that it will finally work make everybody happy in the end, you are forced to spend time winning over allies and thus more time as you go about tuning the connection to your liking. The situation is further made complicated as you have to drive between the two locations, climb the mast, enroll somebody without a with absolutely no idea about wifi networks to read the stats on the laptop or carefully adjust the antennas, etc.

Regardless of all the trouble involved, its the sweet victory of making yet another really long shot wifi connection that brings that winning smile on your face. You quickly forget all the trouble you went through just like a new mother quickly forgets her labour pains :D
Last week was spent this way.

Marko Faber, a volunteer at Mavuno expressed interest in having an Internet connection via wireless, installed at the training centre in Mavuno. After a couple of emails here and there, the equipment was brought in from Germany by a guest visiting their training centre.

Here with Marko on top of the roof at Mavuno, super-tuning the antenna using netstumbler.

Check me out in wifi heaven ;)
Am tuning the antenna at fadeco, to align with the one at mavuno, 6km away, direct line of sight.

Finally another anode now part of the big wifi network in Kayanga :o)

More pictures, here

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A fun filled week on using "dead" computers

Ooh, its taken my quite sometime to update you on how we spent the past week on using "dead" computers. The participants on the very first day, were interested in changing the theme of the workshop, especially on substituting "dead" with "computers without hard disks" The argument was that, the computer was not completely dead - the rest of the other parts are working (or must be) for it to be used as a client anyway! But according to Joseph, "dead" is used as a "catch word", makes the listener think a little more about the subject.

Delegates from Uganda, Tanzania, holland came in to have first hand info on setting up and using dead computers. We missed the company of colleagues who had promised to attend from both Rwanda and Burundi. Among the participants was Ahmed Ndaula of Ugabytes Initiative, based in Kampala - Uganda; Kisembo & Steven from Kasese, Uganda; staff from Kibengwe telecentre, bukoba - tanzania and representing IICD, Bernadette Huizinga.

On the first day of the workshop, Joseph (left) and Ahmed (right) giving a program layout of the week-long workshop. Participants are also introduced to the computer terms such as "thin clients" and why not "big clients"; why use a "dead" computer when you get a "living" one? ;)

The participants are introduced to the physical pieces and bits of the computer. Hands-on training different parts of the computer, troubleshooting, maintenance, etc

The new issue of the telecentre times was also introduced to the participants. The telecentre times is an east african forum where telecentre managers share experiences on challenges and successes on how they are bettering their rural telecentres. The story of the 8km link from our telecentre to a secondary school in our community, has been published in this paper as well.

The participants getting a "feel" of using dead computers. After setting up a server using suse 9.1, floppy images for the particular network cards from website, ltsp files and dhcp, the clients were ready to boot on the server. In total, we had 8 clients fully working on one server by the last day of the workshop.

A closer look at the suse clients after being setup. It was sweet reward for a long week's work. The participants were excited at having to use dead computers and most of them promised to set up a similar project at their telecentres. We all came to a conclusion, that most information telecentres do have computers that only have the hard disk as a faulty component whereas the rest is in perfect working order. These are perfect for acting as clients in a "server-client" relationship.

Having Bernadette launch and officially close our thin-client workshop on saturday, 17th feb, was great after waiting for her to come over for a couple of days. We could not cap it all without having a video & chat conference with Peter Kremer, via skype.

Pictures, always so nice at the end of workshops or meetings, and this was no different. And what best place than to have a nice picture showing exactly where the workshop was held! From (L-R): Steven Katsimbura, Kisembo John Baptist (Kasese, Uganda); Joseph Sekiku (director), and john (author).

We really had a nice time throughout the whole week, making new friends, and working so closely together but it was a time also to share skills on anything you can imagine especially when different people come together. From computers to music, scholarships, networking, etc

enjoy ;)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Announces an ICT workshop on thin clients

FADECO telecentre announces an Information Communication Technology workshop for telecentre technicians, manager, computer geeks to run from the 12th until 16th feb, 2007 in Karagwe. Everybody is invited, registration is required though!

Develop a model for rural tele-centres to deploy low-cost hardware; how to implement a thin-client network using Open source software.

The course is intended for those running/ managing information resource centres, computer labs and IT technicians.

Modus operandi:
The training will offer a hands-on experience and training on how to make the best use of your networks. The training will run from 8.30 a.m - 6.30 P.M every day for 5 days. It will cover every thing from building a computer, installing software, configuring servers, etc.

The Linux Terminal Server Project adds thin-client support to Linux servers. This is a flexible, cost effective solution that is empowering schools, businesses, and organizations all over the world to easily install and deploy desktop work-stations. Thin-clients can be used to browse the Web, send e-mail, create documents, and run other desktop applications. Linux thin-clients have proven to be extremely reliable because tampering and viruses are virtually non-existent.

Day 1: Introduction to Computers and to Open Source Software
Day 2: Technical/ Mechanical aspects of the Computer hardware: Try to put together a Computer
Day 3: Setting up LAN:
1. How to set up and manage Local |Area Networks (LANS)
2. How to set up Thin Client \networks using Dead Computers
3. Basic Computer maintenance and troubleshooting.

Day 4: How to set up a Content Server. This will help all who will be interested to implement the model, to train other people effectively because you will be having content offline and in the event of no internet, you do not get affected.
Day 5: Wireless Networks: This will be an introduction and site visit to our wireless infrastructure and link.

As I already highlighted, the idea is to have these computers work as terminals, we shall need a floppy drive working and a network card available and probably 32MB of ram.

mail me if willing to attend here

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Heard about "Project 128"?

"Project 128" - that is, 150 usb sticks and a blog,

Subnet, an organization in salzburg - Austria, has given away 150 USB sticks with a capacity of 128mb each. Whoever gets hold of a stick puts something on it they would like to share. A photo, a text, the address of a website, whatever people think the world should see.

Then it is your turn to pass the stick on, to whoever you want. The stick then travels from person to person, taking a piece of information with it each time. The holders of the stick are asked to write on this website and tell how they’ve got the stick, what they found on it, and what they are planning to do with it.

The sticks are numbered from 001 to 150 and am having a brand new naked stick number 109. A friend of mine mailed me the usb disk from salzburg. There another one circulating with a friend of mine in Kampala.

One thing am pretty sure going to put on the stick is definitely about wireless, my blog url inclusive! So be my friend so i can pass it to you...


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Jos en Lineke visiting our projects in Karagwe

After hearing so much about what is happening with FADECO, both Jos en Lineke duindam of dewelstand, set out to find out and see for themselves.
Here both of them are looking at the sand mine at the eden centre in Kyanyamisa. The stones have reached a state of softness that small blows melts them into nice construction sand, a much cheaper alternative if its done right at the construction site!

Also being great enthusiasts of wireless networks and most especially, having supported my efforts towards setting up the wireless network in Kayanga, they definitely wanted to have 1st hand info on how the wireless network at Karagwe secondary school.

Down at the antenna site at karagwe secondary, looking as far as their eyes could go, trying to notice where fadeco base station is. The antenna is mounted on top of the school's computer laboratory. Joseph taking them through the sequence of events on getting it to work.

The headteacher, joseph Kabalimu, talks about the thrill of having Karagwe secondary school connected to the Internet, plus a brief on the performance of the school.

With a satisfied smile on her face, Lineke takes a picture of one of the teachers accessing the Internet.

After spending about 2 days in Karagwe, we all drove out towards entebbe airport, Kampala on their way to Cameroun, expect them back to holland at the beginning of march.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

more time with Mark & Arjan

After spending about 2 days in Karagwe, the following day, 28th jan, we began our journey to bukoba with scheduled destinations being jatropha farmer, Jos en Lineke in Mugana & Bart's campsite in Bukoba.
This is on the way to Mugana.

At the jatropha farm in Bukoba. Notice how keen the jatropha ethusiasts just dont want miss a point in whatever the fieldman shows them!

Mark just about to take a picture of both Jos en Lineke duindam at the entrance to their guest house in Mugana, Bukoba.
Its such a spacious building able to accommodate over 12 people built in a similar way like their guest house in pingjum, holland.

We completely the evening with a beer, a lovely dinner with soup and a lot of dutch flying about with me togather with joseph, trying to recall much of the dutch words that we could master!


Mark & Arjan visiting

Just before the end of january, 26th to be exact, Mark van den Bosch and Arjan Doeswijk of yes-africa, were on a visit to East Africa. Joseph picked them up from the Akamba bus station, in Kampala - Uganda.

It was nice to share a barbecue with these guys last summer in holland and again meet them here once again. There talk is so much characterised with the energy that they hope is going to take africa out of poverty - energy from jatropha. Jatropha, is a plant commonly so popular with vanilla growers. Vanilla uses it as a support to reach sunlight, since its only a crawling plant.

Just before they arrived, a month back, they had sent it a modified generator that uses both diesel & biofuel (sun flower oil, cooking oil, jatropha oil, etc). So their visit to our centre in Karagwe, was to forge a way forward for the jatropha business & also get the generator set for power generation in the area. The generator is really heavy, weighing about 1,130 kg & capable of producing power of about 30 kilo Watts.

Mark demonstrating on how he would like to see the biofuel generator fitted onto the permanent concrete block. From left to right: Joseph sekiku, Mark, Salmon (site mason) & Arjan.

On the right, Mark & Arjan trying out jatropha in the field, down in a typical jatropha garden with Sekiku at the Eden Centre, Kyanyamisa - karagwe.

The white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe of the bio-fuel generator. This was just below we blew the pre-heating fuse on it.
It took us plenty of time to get it to start, about 2 days, giving up in the end, pretty much frustrated. The starting motor gear teeth couldnt fully engage with the teeth on the engine and therefore, the engine would not start!

Well, we had a nice time after that, among which was a visit to a vanilla/jatropha farmer in Bukoba, visit to Jos en Lineke guest house in Mugana and finally, having a pretty nice pizza at Bart's campsite at the lake victoria beach, bukoba!