November 3 -- rolls

I'm much better this morning, though my stomach is still distressed.
Honorine makes me a good breakfast of omelet and yogurt -- she has
started putting hot water only out, knowing that I never use the
offered teabag.  I take my malaria pill with breakfast, and hope for
the best, as I've been told it might be the cause of some of my upset
stomach or other symptoms.

I pack my TP, and then in a moment of weird worry, I think, "what if
today is a two roll day?"  Even 1.1 rolls is a horrible thought.  .95
rolls is great, .99 rolls is fine, but 1.0001 rolls is KILLER.  I
smash another TP roll flat and toss it in my bag.  Plenty of space,
now, as I'm leaving the computer at home because there is now a Linux
machine at SALFA, and I can transport work (photos and text) via a USB
flash stick or even on my 512MB IPOD shuffle.

(I was given the IPOD shuffle by John Shave at Globalcom for five
years of service, and it remains one of the best little things any
employer ever gave me.  Thanks again, John!)

But while SALFA now has a Linux box and a toilet with a plastic seat
(there's a second, but it's just ceramic with the broken stub of a
seat) there still ain't no toilet paper unless I ask for it at the
front desk when I need it, and that takes precious time when I am in
an absurd rush.  So my bag overfloweth.  Unfortunately the same can be
said of other parts of me.

Rivo arrives just on time, and he, Pat Benson and I got a-walking.
Since Pat is with us, we take different route, one which goes by the
market area for Tana.  It's right on the way, but it's in the low area
so we go down off the hill to the lake with the statue, then forward
toward the palace (and SALFA) and around the market building.  Pat
usually starts at the end and works her way towards home, so as not to
carry purchased stuff forward.  She'll fill the tiny backpack she has
on backwards, covering her chest, and then make the easy walk home,
because the compound is on a lowish hill, and she only needs to rise
up about 25 feet to get to the right altitude for home.

We are not so lucky.  First, the palace was placed on the highest
ground around, and SALFA is right near it and only a smidgen lower.
Second we're now right near it, too, but way far down.  Any way we get
there will be mostly UP.  "There are three ways there," Pat
explains. "You want the easiest or the hardest?  The easiest is
longest, and the hardest the most direct." Pat asks me.  I, in a
moment of adventuresome stupidity, for which my knee hurts even as I
type this, say "Hardest!"

"That's the easiest one," Pat informs me as we pass it, still on our
way to the far side of the market.  Its just a hole in-between two
buildings with a little path visible behind it.  "And that's the
second."  She pipes up again.  "You go into where that school is and
then keep going."  I am now expecting the third to be marked
with a heavy iron gate, complete with spikes on top exhibiting impaled
human heads.

But it's not.  Pat points it out.  "It's deceptively easy looking.  It
gets harder, though."  And indeed it does look easy.  Rivo and I start
up, and I am sure this is no problem.  And then Rivo tells me that
there are 480 stairs on this path.  No.  I say that that's impossible,
and think he's making a Malagasy to English translation mistake.  438,
he says.  "Cat Twa Wet" he clarifies, though I'm sure he spells the
French words correctly in his mind, whereas I cannot bring myself to.

Nah!  Impossible!  I start counting.  

My friends, there is nothing so sweaty and out of shape as a sweaty
and out of shape white man, especially when he has the bad sense to be
standing, for comparison, with a younger man who plays soccer.  Plays
it well, by the way -- Rivo is a star on the SALFA soccer team.  And
I'm sure he also gets exercise chasing his two cute little girls

Panting and disrobing, I have to stop several times on the way.
...For photos, I say.

When we finally get to the top, I find, lo and behold, the church a
half block from SALFA.  I'm amazed and pleased.  This is an AWFUL
climb, and I aim to do it again, once my knee recovers.

Task One: Get a printer working under Linux.
Task Two: Caching proxy server.

Task one is a nightmare, and since I want them to be able to replicate
everything, I simply don't do it.  The printer they have chosen is a
LaserJet 1020, which, get this, REQUIRES THE PC DRIVER TO SEND IT
FIRMWARE ON STARTUP.  Yes, other than firmware transfer listener, this
machine's got nothing.  Nothing.  It cannot print text without being
sent some software.  Linux supports it, ultimately, but there are bugs
to solve and complications, so I put my foot down and suggest they
swap this with another printer.  There is, however, nothing else to

They're using inkjets a lot, here.  The price per page of lasers
versus inkjets is different -- inkjets are much pricier.  I'd like to
see them with a bunch of old HP LaserJets (real ones, not this piece
of junk) with refillable cartridges.  But Doug has said that laser
printers just don't survive shipping.  Sending them older stuff simply
won't work.

Task two (a caching proxy server) takes five minutes tops.  Two
minutes, really, but we make some changes after it is running, like
changing the error messages to French and moving the cache files to
the big disk.  The difference it makes is phenomenal.  If the line to
France weren't so DAMNED SLOW, it would be even more noticeable.
Proxies cover limited bandwidth, but they suffer as much as anyone
where lag is concerned.  After all the proxy still has to connect to
the far machine for each page, but it doesn't pull the page, only the
date of change, then substitutes the saved one if that's appropriate.
Big images and long pages are winners on proxies.  Slow, laggy
connections for even tiny date transfers obscure the benefit of the
server.  But even so, takes more than fifteen seconds to
load without the proxy, and more like five seconds with it.

We even get a user, who happens to be re-setting-up his computer, to
use DHCP, the new router, the internal name server, and the proxy.
He'll be able to surf without impacting the connection much whereas
before, he had only email and even that went up and down.  It was
all trivial to set up for him -- It Just Works.

Rivo, Anatole and I talk about the network.  The network, my friends,
is a mess.  It's straight out of the late pre-renaissance.  A backbone
of coax thinnet links a bunch of 10Mb hubs.  The hubs are designed for
this, with one coax connection and eight 10Base-T.  All the coax
connectors are frayed and bent, and the forty or so users on the
network are complaining about speed.

Coax damage is bad because the capacitance of the line changes and
packet are lost.  Retries take almost forever in networking speeds --
a good fraction of a second each time.

Meanwhile the network has no switches, no routers, etc.  Its flat in
every sense of the word.  All the machines use the whole network
whenever they do anything.  It's like a party line in an old farm
community, but with way too many people.

The obvious thing is to rip the entire thing out and replace every
card, every hub and every wire.  I could do it in a three days with a
budget of $2000.

But that's a king's ransom, here.  I wonder "What can we accomplish
with $200?", and I set about designing a better LAN -- not a good one,
just better.  We bounce the ideas off Lanto [in the middle of the
meeting, they all wait while I make a bathroom run, TP roll bulging
out my pocket] and resolve to check prices later.

And at the end of the day, Lo, we do go on a pricing run.  A
meandering series of stops and errands on the way home includes a trip
to Hi Tech City -- a shiny shopping mall of computers and cameras and
mp3 players and the ilk.  And it turns out that the crappy
Chinese-made switches here cost what they do in the States.  I'm
discouraged.  It's within budget, but I was hoping for a lower price.
There has to be a better design for the network.

Today was a 1.2 roll day, but I brought two rolls, so I am doing well.