Monday, February 02, 2009

Belize Mission Trip: Christ the King

Tuesday morning I was dropped off at Christ the King Parish School in Dangriga. I had been given three laptop computers to deliver to the school. Apparently last year the team had installed an entire lab full of computers, but a few weeks later, there had been a break-in at the school, and most of them were stolen. The laptops were therefore a better option because the staff could bring them home at night. The school is surrounded by parks, a football field, basketball courts, a market, the Social Security office, and the beach. This means that there isn't likely to be anyone around late at night, and someone can pull up a vehicle, break into a building and load up what they want without being observed. The laptops were easy enough to set up. There was a network switch and plenty of Ethernet cable going to each student station. I also found that a couple of the boxes laying around in the corner actually worked, and so I set them up and got them running. The tech guy asked me to install XP on an old laptop that was running Mandriva Linux. I tried to install it using the XP CD that I had burned myself, as well as the one that Fr. Peter had given me to use at St. Matthew's (since I was bringing down hard drives, I made sure that I was able to install an OS on them). None of the keys on the Windows stickers on any of the computers in the lab worked with my CD (even though they were the right OS: Windows XP Pro), and the CD drive on the laptop kept getting read errors with Fr. Peter's. The laptop was old enough that it had no Ethernet drive, and I needed to get the OS installed before setting up the PCMCIA Ethernet adapter that was in the lab, so I ended up using floppy disks to transport the files that Windows Setup couldn't read from the internal CD-ROM drive from one of the other computers in the lab. In the end, though, I coulnd't get it to work. The principal had asked me to get a couple of the printers working, and I installed the appropriate driver for one of the printers. The other printers were in pretty bad shape. I did get another one installed, but it was out of ink. Along with the computers, the DSL modem had also been taken, so I tried to get it working with a modem that I found packed in a suitcase, but this modem, while it worked just fine as a DHCP server, jammed the phone line. I reported my progress to the principal, and she asked me to take a look at the computer in the office to see if I could get it to shut down properly. She also said it ran slow. I could see why it was slow: it was old, and that was the speed that it was supposed to run, but I didn't see anything in the system error logs from bad shutdowns, so my advice was to keep shutting the power off manually, and possibly to swap that computer with one of the newer laptops that I had brought. We weren't able to get the Internet working while I was there. The phone company provides free Internet access to schools. Once we discovered that the modem was broken, and that the DSL account was still active and should be working, the principal asked the phone company to install a new modem. Their response was that they would need to see a police report showing that the modem was stolen in order to install a replacement. The modem wasn't on the original police report from when the lab was broken in to, so the police report had to be amended, and then that needed to be shown to the phone company. I'm not sure exactly where they were in this process when we left at the, but I did all that I could, and left instructions as to what works, what doesn't, and what needed to be done.

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