Why I dig My Job

Why I dig my job.

Turning absolutely useless and archaic technology BACK into production. This requires inspiration, creativity, and a willingness to look totally stupid. Wow I just described myself.

Problem: We needed to convert RJ45 ethernet to Fibre (multimode ST) and then go 100 meters then convert it back.

We had a box full of media converters that did just this, however some of them are labelled "may be bad" or "we think it's failing". And we couldn't get any 2 pair to work without extensive testing. Finally we made a pair work, but it meant we lost all of our spares, which in a place with bad power like this, we couldn't afford.

So we went digging through a box of old parts. I saw two technicians grab and toss these little thinnet to fibre converters. It was old, and useless and why haven't we thrown them away yet?

And I had this thought "why are we discarding these, we might be able to use them."

So I connected two together. On one end Fibre, thinnet male/female in the middle, and rj45 on the other end.

WOW, it's a really crazy piece of equipment. And I made 2 of them.. one for each end.

AND... because it's old junk, we've got a ton of it, which means plenty of spares, which means we don't have to buy more, which means we save money.

that's completely and totally nuts from a geek point of view, and I love it.

Sadly, some testing proved that these little units eventually gave us some data corruption, but it was really fun laughing while we were doing this. I'm glad we didn't put it into production, there is a certain level of professionalism I wish to maintain.


Valiant Foe

alternate title "So Long, Gofair."

We are battling mice in our house. We have battled rats, and roaches, and now are on the battlefront of mice vs men.

I earned the name "deadeye" when sitting at the table, I flicked my shoe into my hand and shot it across the room to slay my first victim.

"Aw, he's kind of cute?" says my wife. "it's a shame we had to kill him."

Not long after, while we sat talking, another mouse would come running out. I didn't lift a finger to harm him. Finally my wife says

"Honey, you should really do something about that mouse."
"Are ya sure? You seemed so saddened that I killed the last one."
"no, I won't be sad, what makes me upset is the thought that that little guy could crawl across my feet."

So I slayed the next one with a mouse trap.

Then they got smarter. One attacked my daughter by climbing up the drain in the tub while she was filling the bath. We caught that one. Accidentally let it go while showing it to a friend. That's when I learned two valuable lessons:

1 - mice can Jump up to 5 feet.
2 - don't show your friend a mouse who can jump five feet in a crowded meeting hall.

After the panic settled and we were back home. Soon another mouse came, and this one was smarter than the trap. He'd get the bait and run.

So we introduced "glue traps" in 1 night I caught 2 mice. Who knew we had 2?

And then, just as I thought all was silent... "Honey, there's a mouse trapped in our bedroom."

And sure enough, the battle continues. Only this one was the papa of all the other mice because he was smarter, faster, bigger. Like all good sequels should be.

He was locked in our bedroom and had begun gnawing a hole in the wall to get out. I deployed the glue trap, but it was partially used as one of our friends accidentally stepped in it.
Here is my journal

Day 1 - the mouse appears in the kitchen, ignores the trap

Day 2 - the mouse appears in the hallway, no success

Day 3 - the mouse went into the bedroom and startled my wife, she trapped him in there, I am surprised he can't find a way out. I saw him, bold little guy, tossed a Nike at him, he's fast too. I must remember this encounter

Day 4 - Deploying the glue trap last night was no help, perhaps he smells the stench of death from his comrades. I will attempt a vigil.

Day 5 - I'm sitting waiting for him, it's been nearly 30 minutes, Nike in hand. There he is........... He climbed UP the power cord to my reading light, onto my nightstand, ran across my pillow, to my wife's (thank goodness she didn't see this) leapt to the curtain, swung across into the window sill and got stuck by the screen. I moved quickly, swatting smacking and closing the window to lock him in. Failure. I am convinced his only reason for climbing the drapes was to meet me eye to eye. Oh he is a worthy foe. I am deploying my last new glue trap.

Day 6 - it's 3am. I hear a squeak. Alas, he has been captured. But he does not leave us silently. He strikes one last blow. In order to remove him I have to turn on the light, which will wake my wife. Oh he is clever. I am all too sorry that at this hour I am unable to think clearly and I have fallen for his trap.

Day 6 - 7am. The mouse was taken alive and moved to a holding cell. The threat is over. I'm still apologizing to my wife for waking her. This mouse was good. I give him a hero's death and let him fall on his own sword. I provide a deli sandwiche toothpick for him, and leave him with a salute.


What did I do today?

Gonna get geeky here.
Before I do. A truck from about 5 hours away came in, full of heavy steel and such for us to install our new satellite dish!!! It took 6 men to unload all of the items together.

Okay geekiness.
What you see above is (from left to right) an ibook g3 installing Ubuntu 9.04 linux, an XO running OLPC (ubuntu linux) and an ACER aspire one netbook running Ubunto 9.4

One of the things we are doing here is trying to get our applications to run on linux on a low power type of laptop.

The ibook is an old one and I'm jsut messing around with that.
The XO is for a translator, and while slow, these are low power and as indestructible as a laptop that size can get. And the Netbook was jsut because Windows XP ran WAY to slow on the ATOM processor.

Today I've been formatting, unlocking, file copying, and pretty much hacking away at linux distributions to get them on all these three machines.

The end result?
2 little SDHC cards that fit in your pocket, handed to a translator who can use them to boot his little XO in the village running off of a car battery.

THAT is amazing to me. A tiny little SD card (the memory inside your digital camera) has the power to turn that little green and white thing, into a tool used to translate the Bible.

sometimes, technology can be really really cool, and at the same time, really practical.

I can assure you, if you've ever asked yourself "but why? Why do these things?" Out here, there are practical applications, because power is hard to come by out in the bush.


Technology in the 3rd World

this pic should give you an idea.

Today We Pour

We have been anticipating a new 3.7 meter satellite dish for our center. This will enable us to have utilize the C band instead of our current KU band internet connection.

Currently our internet connection is 2mb dl 512mb up KU which is blocked by rain and clouds and VERY costly. When it rains hard (every other day or so) we lose internet for a few minutes... downloads drop, etc. Having a download manager and uninterruptible power supply (UPS)is essential.

The concrete pad for the new dish pours today. Which means, I'll have fibre to run, and routing to configure, but once it is done, our network will be more reliable and eventually more affordable!

Technology is an interesting thing when applying it in this context. Maybe I'll blog soon about how low power computing is revolutionizing the way we do things.

This pic I took is of a neighboring dish that we used to get ideas from how to run conduit.

In preparation for this new dish we had to cut down 2 trees, both of which were about to fall over on a building anyway.

It is amazing to me that 2 years ago, this place had no internet connection faster than dial up. And now we will have 2 dishes.

We recently spoke to one of the cell phone providers in the country who is interested in mounting a Tower near here AND providing GPRS/EDGE technology (at about 80cents p/mb). If their business base for GPRS gets high enough they will consider going 3g after their initial equipment purchase is paid off. So we might see 3g cell technology in the next 3-5 years!

What this means is that our translators can stop carrying around radios and modems and heavy, costly equipment and start using netbooks, XO's and cellular modems.

It really is exciting to be a geek sometimes.

Anyway.. so while we were on our way to check out this new dish, we were alerted that there was some tribal fighting on the way. I was driving. Sure enough we see a bunch of men huddled on the road ahead. I stopped, prepared to drive backwards, but they were jsut guys helping another person out of the mud. Although each of them had either a bow and arrow or a machete, none of them were fighting at the time.

After 2 years of living here, seeing a man walking with a bow and arrow, or a bush knife (machete), doesn't strike me as unusual. I wonder if it'll be odd to see people walking around WITHOUT knives in the U.S. (-;



Turning 8 requires:
inviting all 15 boys from your 2nd grade class for a water birthday party
15 boys
100 water balloons
24 hotdogs
24 home made hot dog buns
15 water guns or ketchup bottles
8 different water games
1 ice cream cake
1 pinata made from an Oats container

2 hours of fun.

It was enjoyable, even though work, to get this party to go well. Kendal and I are a good party team, and today, Sydney joined the ranks with helping out as well. It was a blast.

It was a fun ending to a tough week. Kendal's back is hurting again, news is she compacted one of her vertebrae, so she'll go in cycles as it expands again. Hurting bad, then not hurting, then hurting bad, for a while until it is completely healed.

Email servers were giving us a LOT of problems this week, and I worked several long nights and early mornings and even weekend days along with others trying to get things back online.

But now, the party is over,cleaned up and we are relaxing.

This picture above is Calvin using a soaker gun I got in the U.S. over 5 years ago and brought with us here for some silly reason. He couldn't find his and I had mine loaded and waiting in the wings... he REALLY enjoyed making this photo.