Monday, January 10, 2011

Workin', Day 1: Site visit

In case my teaser didn't give it away already, I'm back on the ground in Kenya for some follow-up to the project we started in August.  The official start of network hardening and scaling festivities is tomorrow, but I got a chance (at the cost of my pocketknife on the bus, Grr) to tag along with the team on a site visit to the pilot site and one of the early adopters' houses.  In this particular case the user we visited was three hops from the gateway, and was reporting great satisfaction with the speed and reliability (sweeeeet!), but more importantly, he had some very positive feelings about the prospects for demand (something that, honestly, I was pretty skeptical about).  He says:

"My family loves the service, it's much better (faster) than the 3G modem" and "everbody [in the neighborhood] wants wifi now.  In the last year or two everyone has gotten a laptop, and all the phones have wifi, and having the usb dongle all the time [for 3g] is too cumbersome.  If this service is stable and priced like 3G, people will pay for it"

Right on!

The team has been doing a very good job building relationships at the pilot site, and the work shows.  The hardware, however, needs some work.  The team had expected to upgrade all of the mounting you'll see below months ago, but an administrative obstruction kept the funding for new mounting materials out of reach until... wait for it...  Later this week.  Hopefully I won't have any more to say about that. EVER.

At any rate, what follows is yet another testament to the resilience of solid state electronics and the fact that well-trained installers can make even the most cobbled-together system function well.  A professional installation is an important part of a permanent system and making some serious upgrades is top on our list of January todos.  In the meantime we're all about transparency...

Here's the downlink from the gateway.  It shows some weathering, but otherwise it's totally unchanged from August.  In the coming weeks it will finally get moved across the platform to a more permanent mount.

 I'm more than a little surprised that the alpha-version Nano-loco feed mount hasn't warped or broken. 

This jauntily mounted little pico serves the users right around the Health Center, note the angle to direct the coverage circle down.  Gotta love zip-ties, btw.  

Finally, my personal favorite: the headnode.  This little linksys is the gateway to all of the pilot network. A close look will reveal some chunks of concrete in the bottom of the box.  Purpose?  Keep the router from being submerged when it rains.   {shudder}.  It does, in fact, work when it rains.  

Not shown are two other distribution hubs that consist of nano-locos zip-tied to poles and don't make for particularly interesting photos.  

Stay tuned for some before and after shots coming soon.  


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