A few days ago I mentioned that all my good intentions in the computer lab here on campus were turning up with a rather lemony smell. Three machines that I had fixed came back to life in a hideous near-monochrome palette that could only mean I had done something wrong. After sweating that a bit and taking a break from helping cause more headaches I learned from my counterpart that there was a CD floating around the lab somewhere which might fix the problem. Sure enough, my job was saved when the drivers for the ancient on-board video cards worked to bring back millions of colors on the screen instead of the 16 that I was staring at.
That meant we were back to having good times in the lab.
As of late I have been trying to add another operating system to the computers. This may get more geeky then you are comfortable so be sure to skip ahead to the end where I say things worked out. Ubuntu is a freely distributed OS (operating system) based on the Linux standard. You grab the installation files from a web site with the latest stable version of the OS and go copy those to a CD. From there you visit all the machines and repeat a seven step process to install Ubuntu.
I had mentioned that another volunteer and I went to visit a volunteer teaching in Mampong. This was the very same volunteer who has spear-headed the mission of getting students familiar with Ubuntu so that they have a stable, free, and current OS to learn on. Right now most machines in the country will be running Windows XP which is considerably dated and extremely prone to incurring viruses, trojans, and malware of every stripe and variety. It will be nice to have the more secure Ubuntu running right next to the XP installation and allow us to possibly fix the bad things that happen to the Windows partition. I have not played with the OS before so today I had a bit of time to dabble with it.
The next step will be to get the machines linked up to the net so that we can grab free software for it. That is typically harder to come by with the Windows world. I have to thank my fellow volunteer Scott for helping me get through a few hiccups during a first try or two at getting things right. If you are still running Windows and would like to try it I would say go for it and see what stability and a nice interface look like. Or buy a Mac, but that is just my bias speaking.
So in conclusion: things worked out. I didn't destroy computers like I thought I did, and I hope to open up a few doors to students when they get into the lab next month.