2011: Getting ready for Fiji – the laptops

The laptops were our next priority. We opted for laptops because they do not need a permanent room in a school. They are also lighter – therefore transportation costs are lower. Our strategy here was to secure a class set of 12 secondhand laptops. For a while, we did not know where these laptops were going to come from. The support of the my colleagues at the university was crucial in making this happen. Eventually, I ended up with 12 laptops.  But most of these laptops did not have an operating systems in them –  so that was my next challenge.  To buy a brand-new  Windows XP system would have set me back a few hundred dollars for each laptop. Engineers without Borders (EWB) at our University which is run by a group of engineering students came to my rescue.  Through their efforts  we were able to install  the operating systems at a relatively low-cost. Once the operating systems were in place,  the next challenge followed.  Finding the drivers for the computers wasn’t the easiest task.  Almost all the laptops with different –  therefore we had to hunt for the drivers.

Some of the digital equipment

Once the systems and drivers were installed we had to find suitable software.  The logic here was  to ensure that the computers were usable even if the school did not have access to the Internet. We found a range of applications. Libre  Open office was a great application for a range of activities including word processing.  Other applications  which we installed included –  Photo Story 3 which is a free download from Microsoft,  Audacity, Google SketchUp, Jing,  Freemind,  TuxPaint, TuxMath, Scratch and  SAM.  Getting some of these to download  and work after installation was also challenging. To download these applications we had to be connected to the Internet – luckily once the drivers were installed, we were able to wireless connect to the Internet.   We also explored ways to ensure that Internet could be wirelessly picked up by the laptops in Fiji. This was based on the assumption that the school had an Internet connection. A wireless router was the best option to do this. We also manage to get a second-hand data projector, digital camera and some brand new external hard drives. Packaging these was the next challenge.  But like the books it all worked out and we were able to get it to the freight forwarding company  with all the necessary documentation a week before our departure.

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