Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Computer Cup Runneth Over

With just a few days left before classes resume the computer lab looks like, well, a computer lab. Not only are there many machines displayed on the desks for all to see, but now they actually work. There was supreme satisfaction on Wednesday when the folks who had the equipment showed up at the front gate of the campus asking if they could come in and replace all the broken parts. Finally, a way for the students to learn on their own computer during our lectures.

Of the twenty brand-new machines that we received at the outset of the semester, only four worked at semester's end. Each one would have a fault with the power supply inside the computer case and our friends at the manufacturers would not replace the unit - the inconsistent power in Ghana meant that they would not cover its replacement. They even had the gumption to tell us to check the current in the building to see if that was the culprit. The nerve.

Except that when the people came to repair the lab the electricians came and checked the power to the it. It was actually under by about 70 volts which is low for the machines and that might actually make a difference to the power supplies here. Instead of being at 220 to 240, our lab was running at 170 volts. I didn't know, and I was not about to lick my fingers and touch bare wires to figure out if we had just the right current or not. That was fixed up, and then the new power supply units arrived this past week and we were back in business. To date, none of the computers have exploded or failed to come on.

Aside from a few extra computers being crammed onto the desks, the lab looks pretty much the way I wanted it to look. Before there were two columns of desks that sat too close together. I could walk between them when there were just empty chairs pushed in, but when students arrived the space behind the chairs was too narrow for me to easily get by, thereby preventing me from walking the length of the desk to see a student's screen and answer their question. I made sure that each desk was an equal distance from its neighbor and aligned them correctly before putting out any computers. I cleaned the dickens out of everything with all my free time. A toothbrush and a paintbrush became my friends as dust disappeared from all of the equipment (I even dusted in those hard-to-reach places on the ends of cables and plugs), and arranged the units in a staggered pattern; new machine, old machine, new machine, old machine, ad infinitum. Best of all, each of the old machines (there are twenty of these as well) has a new wireless card installed so that we do not have to run ethernet cables everywhere on the floor.

It was all so rejuvenating. A phoenix out of the fire if you will (forgive the hyperbole please).

Which means that the students can now sit at forty different machines and access the world wide web simultaneously, over a connection that at maximum offers a download speed of 60 kilobytes per second. For the record, that isn't very fast and that is on a very good day does one see that speed. I shudder to think of all the students simultaneously opening up Yahoo Mail and seeing nothing but spinning icons and blank screens. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Right now things are looking pretty. Best of all, the sports week has come to a close so I will be able to sleep soundly at night again. What a week here.

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