Don't Touch the Trim

December 05, 2016

If anyone gets the title reference I will both be very impressed and they will be awarded 10 bonus points.

Today was the second full day working at the school on the computer lab. The other full day was two days ago and I am hoping to be finished after 1 or 2 more days. That does not include the training of teachers, however. The first day the  village electrician came in and wired up electrical boxes which were purchased in Mandalay. The desks, which turned out to be one long table, had been built the previous day by the village carpenter. After the electrical was run it was time to set up some computers.

Before leaving Mandalay we stopped in to KMD to pick up the monitors, keyboards, mice, UPS and 3G USB router. The setting up of the hardware was very straight forward and the gentlemen from the village who are always around jumped in to help. It is great to have help, but sometimes a hands off approach is also necessary. More on that later. It is a straightforward assembly of the monitors and Raspberry Pi’s into their cases. Plug the keyboard and mouse into Pi and voila a complete computer setup. Since the Pi’s have no on/off switch there is one on the outlets that were installed. This way after the computer is properly shut down via the desktop the switch can be turned off. Now when the switch is flipped back on the Pi will boot right up. I put emphasis on properly shut down. While the electrician was running his wires I posted up in an adjacent classroom. As it was Saturday there were no students and it made for a reasonable workspace. I was working on getting the 3g router to play nicely with the Pi so that there would be internet access if needed. Then all the sudden *poof* no power. The electrician killed the power and that was the end of that operating system. Not a proper shutdown at all. Most of the time you can get away with a hard shutdown of a computer, but sometimes, sometimes you’re the bug. Luckily it is very easy to reformat the microSD card which the Pi uses for a hard drive. However, when I am not here this could lead to a problem.

More about the hands off approach. The men who are around are influential men in the village and really want to contribute. They tend to ape my actions and this leads to problems also. For instance I may flip one switch along the wall, there are 6 total, and they jump into action flipping all the other switches no matter what is connected or what the consequences are. I am certainly going to have to make signs which say don’t flip the switch. Don’t t

Back to the 3G USB router. If you want to use one with a Raspberry Pi, I can’t recommend it. At least not a Prolink. I spent many hours that day and night trying to make it work, but to no success. There are many things a Pi is good at but USB routers are not one of them. Certain printers are not one of them either. The villagers asked me if I wanted to donate a printer to the lab as well the other day. We discussed it and I agreed to set one up for them. I had an extra Pi and the bits needed to set up another workstation so I decided to set one up for the teachers. This one would be connected to the printer and everyone is happy. The only affordable printer at KMD was a Fuji Xerox laser printer. I figured I would be in for a long day trying to get it to play nicely with the Pi. For the first time in my life I was right. For future reference use an HP printer with a Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately they didn’t have any, but in the future that will be the route I will go.

The printer took up a good portion of today. The rest was spent fine tuning the operating system for the teacher computer. All of the computers, save the content server, will be running Raspbian Pixel. Raspbian is a distribution based on Debian that has been optimized fo the Raspberry Pi. It is very polished and should work excellently fo this purpose.

Well this is now nearly 750 words of rubbish so I will cut the cord. Oh yeah, before that I also went to a village where they are mining petrified wood and making necklaces from it. If anyone is interested in that let me know. Or if there is any feedback about anything I would love to hear it. Please remember that people may be working to “Don’t touch the trim!”