Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Internet Is Not Simple

I had little to do with setting up the Internet during last year’s deployment because of my lack of technical skills. This year, we are down nine people so we can’t be as picky about how we work on the internet. We’ve been working at the winter camp on fixing the Internet at Driehoek and Mmaweshi (we haven’t been to Katane yet, but their Internet is also broken).

Mmaweshi’s Internet runs off of an MTN (an African phone and Internet provider) card. It is basically a sim card with a set amount of megabytes worth of Internet that is connected by a USB. We connect the MTN card into the server and distribute the connection through a router, which the XOs connect to. Unfortunately none of this is working correctly. The MTN card works in a normal laptop, but our server will not register the card. Our only current solution is to use one of the awesome servers that OLPC provided us and start from the beginning with a completely new server and set-up. This weekend will be spent experimenting with the MTN card and the new server to see if we can get wireless Internet.

Driehoek’s Internet is a completely different story. Four weeks ago we were able to go to the school and connect directly into the Ethernet, and it worked. For no apparent reason, this stopped working. We have been waiting for our routers to arrive in the mail since we got back from Kigali, and they finally came today. We thought this would fix our Internet problems. Before we could even try working the Internet we had to make sure the server worked…it didn’t. All of us tried (with our extremely limited knowledge of computer programming) to connect the XOs to the server, but we all failed. After calling our tech-person we were told that we would have to go through a new set-up for the server before we could even consider using the Internet. We gave up on our original idea and decided to use one of our laptops to fix the Internet. Using the laptop as a base, we connected our new router into the Ethernet which connects to a signal receiver on top of the school and nothing happened. We then messed with all of the cords, changing them out and verifying the connection, then checked the electricity connection and everything seemed to be working. We narrowed down the list of causes of the problem but still had no answer. Finally we got a hold of our Internet provider who asked us to find a black box about the size of a shoe box. We found no such box. He reacted by yelling repeatedly about how the box was supposed to be there and never should have been removed. So after a few hours of messing with the Internet, we found out that this black box cleaned the generator electricity and without it, the electricity had blown. Now we’re on our way to Tzaneen to get new black boxes so that our Internet will work at least one school.

NOTE* since this was written, we have figured out the internet at Katane, but we had to have our provider come out and fix it.

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