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Ubuntu image fix-ups, Ashesi and USAID contacts and luggage!

On Sunday I woke up with an uncooperative stomach. Fortunately the plans for that morning was the social-networking opportunity at a Jubilee International Church and not a technical event I was strictly required to attend. Nancy writes about their experience at the church over on her blog: Sunday Worship. I spent much of the day in bed.

In the late afternoon I was feeling better enough to have a look at one of the Edubuntu laptops we brought along. The administrator who built them (and the PXE server that was sent along to re-image machines) had a vision for securing them all with a firewall and content filter, but testing stateside this past month determined that they were too restrictive. I ended up writing some instructions to remove the dansguardian and firehol packages and to specifically upgrade firefox to the latest version available in 10.04. I’ve uploaded a draft of the instructions and would like to see it simplified even further in a script using the -y flag in apt-get after I do some more testing. I’ll also be taking a look at the imaging server this week to see if we can sneak some of these changes into new systems we re-image. When everyone came back to the hotel we ended up having both Dave and Daniel test my instructions.

Testing Edubuntu fixes

This morning we met in the business center again where we had fixed the Edubuntu machines the night before to talk about the plans for the day and discuss the final draft of the Ownership Agreement sheet, which includes the stipulation that the machines donated can’t have their software replaced. It’s a nice document, may use something similar in projects in the future!

Our first real meeting was with Ayorkor Korsah, a Computer Science professor at Ashesi University College who got her graduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University. Aside from her standard faculty work at the university, she also was an adviser for the latest iSTEP 2012 program in the summer which brought student interns from Carnegie Mellon and Ashesi University together to develop water and waste tracking technology for use at Ashesi.

She had also worked with the Street Academy, the school we visited on the first day, and talked about some of the work that students now do with younger children from schools in the region around Ashesi to teach them some about computers. It was interesting to learn that ITC is actually part of the curriculum here in Ghana, so it’s on the standardized tests for students, but for many students it’s just theory since they don’t all have access to actual computers. On the topic of curriculum, she suggested we work to get ahold of the curriculum for students now to see if we can work toward crafting our own training in schools with the computers we’re bringing in to serve the same goals. Finally, we fleshed out the key topics we should be covering when we meet with new schools for their training, including strategies for making sure students have access to the computers and how to handle physical care and basic troubleshooting of problems.

We then had a lunch meeting with Fenton B. Sands, Senior Food Security Officer in the Economic Growth Office at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. He was a fascinating person to meet, full of stories about his experiences both home in the United States and in developing countries that he’s worked in. He was able to give us a great picture of how the relative political stability of Ghana over the past several years, even through leadership changes, has made Ghana a very appealing target for foreign aid and investment. Given his passion for the work, connections throughout the developing world and current position he is a great person for us to have met with.

It was then time finally pick up my luggage at the airport! I can’t begin to describe how much of a relief it is to finally have my things back and to wear my own clothes again. My suitcase had clearly been gone through somewhere in its adventure though, which I’m not thrilled about. It’s a good thing I never travel with valuables in my checked baggage.

On our way back I got a glimpse of this amusing sign:

Hey, Ubuntu Courts! Maybe if we ever need a formal, more permanent home base here…

In the evening we met with one of our contacts from Damongo, in the northern region of Ghana. Given the shifted schedule of the computer deployment due to customs issues, Beth Lynn may be the only one making it up there this trip since she’s staying an extra week. It was nice to get to meet someone from up there though, he talked some about the communities he works with and their current familiarity with Ubuntu.

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