Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

South Africa 2012 – Heading Home

Time to head north to Joburg. Then northwest to Atlanta. Then a little further north until I find myself in Boston. I’m a bit sad to be leaving so soon.

So let’s see how I did on my goals:

Get internet access at Thalana High School

I would like to call this a success, but it’s a bit premature. Though I did everything I could, the ISP has not actually hooked up the DSL line yet. We were told at the outset it could take four weeks and it will be four weeks tomorrow. I doubt they’ll have it installed tomorrow either (or I might have delayed my trip!) but I do believe they’ll have it in the next couple weeks.

Despite the lack of internet access, we did manage to create a working LAN, complete with network printing and file sharing. We linked the computer lab to the office too, so that when the ISP does hook up the DSL they should be good to go. And we got the school to sign the contract with the ISP.

Though I’d like to be there for the ribbon cutting, I trust Lucky and Andre to see it through.

Get Hlubi School back up and running post hurricane

Nope. The new principal there doesn’t see a point in having a CAT class. Simangaliso said he’ll be lucky if he can convince them to set up a single computer for library-like use. A shame, being that they have quite a bit of decent if slightly soggy hardware. I suggested they sell them on the cheap to another school that wants them, but I think they will probably just sit in storage for now.

Get Celimpilo, a young lady I sponsor, back to university

Debt cleared! Passion re-ignited! She seemed very excited to be going back to university in July. She spent her whole life growing up in a rural area, but now that she’s spent some time in the city she finds her hometown too small for her dreams. I’m really hoping she can make it work.

Sort of related: with the help of an anonymous donor friend, I’ve picked up another four university students. Including Alan & Donna’s five, that brings the total for the program to ten.

Get the Khan Academy videos installed all over.

Success! After struggling to install the original videos – a whopping 42GB – for the first couple weeks, I realized I could re-compress them to a much more manageable 9.7GB without making them any less watchable. Once I did that I could install them in 15 minutes (instead of an hour!) and burn them to a three DVD set (instead of ten!) to hand out. The smaller size also allowed me to put them on machines with smaller hard drives, and even slower machines that couldn’t play the HD videos were able to play these new versions as well.

I’ll be putting this set up on BitTorrent when I get home in case any other people can use them. It did take a day of experimentation and another two or three days of compressing to chew through all 2000 videos.

UPDATE: the re-compressed 2011 Khan Academy videos are now available here:

You will need to download them using BitTorrent. I recommend Transmission for Mac and *nix. Not sure what’s best on Windows, but I know µTorrent is popular.

Avoid athlete’s foot this year.

I did not get athlete’s foot this year. Yay.

Bonus Round: New School!

Last year I met Nqobile, and collaborated on some music with him and his friends. This year he graduated from Ethangeni combined school and he is now working at the local market. He’s planning to go to university next January to become a teacher.

On his day off he came with me to Thalana and helped me seal the holes where our cable had gone through the walls. We mixed up epoxy and slathered it on the pipes. He seemed a bit shocked at how unruly Thalana was.

On the way home he asked why I never went to his school, Ethangeni. Truth be told it was near the town center and looked well enough I never thought they might need help. He said he thought maybe they did, and said he really liked his school and wanted me to check it out, so I agreed to talk with the principal.

Turns out they had a bunch of old but decent computers they had recently acquired and were just waiting to have set up. The principal was very excited to have my help, so I agreed to get things running. With Alan’s help I got 18 machines set up and loaded with good software – including Khan Academy, of course. I gave the teachers a presentation and they seemed very excited. We’re talking about networking them next year.

The principal also gave me some awesome schwag: a shoulder bag, folio, tee and polo shirts, and a letter of thanks.

Ladies and gentleman, it is all about the schwag.

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6 Responses to South Africa 2012 – Heading Home

  1. Acts of the twelve Apostles Ndebele :)

    Hey Jon, dnx for such a lovely time. What’s ur email address? I want to forward u dat picture. I saw the pictures u gave me, I must say I was touched to see all doz memories in colour. Thank you so much

  2. I really appreciate all you have done here with you crew Allan , Donna, Eric and everyone who have come and help SA Dundee with you computer skills. Talking from experience I am now a University Graduate in IT and my dream is to join you and do wonders and make students happy like you did to me few year when I was in school (Thalana) Thank you a million times

  3. I am posting here instead of your facebook wall to be more original and thus cooler than your other friends. Happy birfday. We’re now a decade apart in age again.

    • Thanks, man. You have left the strip mall and entered the ghetto, demonstrating your coolness. I am honored.

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