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From: Brian Candler
To: email@example.com (Saul Hahn)
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997 20:05:58 -0600 (CST)
REPORT ON BELIZE SCHOOLS INTERNET WORKSHOP
March 31st-April 5th, 1997
Corozal Community College, Belize
My overall impression of the workshop was that it was very successful.
Although no formal evaluation was made at the time, informal feedback has
been very positive. The Belize Internet Task Force (BITF) plans to send out
evaluation forms which will not only provide feedback from the workshop
itself, but also determine what additional assistance schools feel they will
need to complete their Internet connections.
I was at the CCC lab from Tuesday to Thursday of the preceeding week. This
allowed us to set up the workstations for TCP/IP, set up the main Linux
gateway/mail server box, and install the PABX and telephone cables (for
which I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Anwar Charaf from BTL)
The course covered the following materials, dividing the day into four
sessions of just under 2 hours each:
Mon: Course started at 1pm with an introductory address from Mr
Kenrick Texel, director of the Belize office of the OAS
Afternoon session: introduction to Internet services (web
browsing, E-mail, ftp, telnet) using Windows 95 workstations
connected to Internet via Linux gateway
Evening: configuration of hardware
Tue: Morning: introduction to Unix, contrasting with MS-DOS.
Installation of Red Hat Linux
Afternoon: introduction to IP (datagrams, IP numbers, prefixes,
network number allocation). Initial static routing exercise
Evening: fixing hardware problems
Wed: Morning: Continuation of static routing exercise; default route.
Ethernet encapsulation, ARP
Serial links, PPP. Establishing PPP links over fixed lines.
Afternoon: complex static route exercise combining ethernet and
fixed PPP links
Evening: introduction to HTML [Jan Wilson]
Thur: Morning: Modems, modulation, Hayes commands, modem configuration.
Dial-up PPP exercise.
Afternoon: Dial-up PPP with RFC1918 and IP masquerading.
Reconfigure lab to flat network; storing IP parameters in Red Hat
TCP and UDP; the TCP/IP stack. Application protocols exercise
(SMTP and POP3). Introduction to DNS.
Fri: Morning: DNS structure and delgation. E-mail routing. UUCP
structure, configuration files. Dial-up UUCP exercise.
Afternoon: sendmail configuration.
Connecting schools to BTL.NET [Sean Fuller, BTL]
Integrating Novell into TCP/IP networks.
Sat: Morning: security overview. Host based access controls.
Firewalls, packet filters and proxy servers, packet filter
Afternoon: cryptographic methods and tools.
All sessions apart from two were run by myself. This did result in rather a
high stress level; however the assistance of Jan Wilson with the setup of
the CCC lab, and Mike Gundy and Gina Kisling with hardware setup and Linux
practical sessions, was invaluable and made the whole thing possible.
The workshop was located in the computer lab of Corozal Community College.
The room is conveniently laid out and had sufficient space, despite the
unexpectedly large number of both computers and students. It is air
conditioned, and although this resulted in a high level of noise, we were
provided with a P.A. system which helped to compensate for this.
It was envisaged that most students would be using CCC computers, with a few
bringing their own PCs to use. In the end it turned out that almost all
students brought PCs, meaning that they had to all be squeezed in where
possible. Most didn't have network cards, so the CCC computers had to be
dismantled to borrow the net cards; some needed to borrow extra RAM to bring
them up from 4MB to 8MB. This was quite a chaotic situation on the first
evening (although not the complete disaster it could have been); and
hardware problems remained for the second day, such as IRQ and base address
clashes on network cards, which was a particular problem for the four
machines which had two network cards so they could act as ethernet routers.
It wasn't until the evening of the second day that these problems were
finally ironed out. Additionally, most people did not want to erase their
hard drives to install Linux, so we ended up using FIPS in many cases to
shrink existing DOS/Windows partitions.
In retrospect, this was not a good way to run the workshop - although it did
work out OK in the end, it caused many headaches. People should only have
been allowed to bring their own machines IF:
(1) they were ready to dedicate this machine to being a Linux workstation,
(2) they had their own network card and modem.
In this case, the benefits of helping them set up their machine in its final
permanent configuration might outweigh the hassles involved in reconfiguring
their machine specially for the workshop.
As stated above, PCs were provided by participants, and network cards by
Additional equipment was supplied as follows:
- 2 extra hubs from BTL (in addition to 3 from CCC)
- 16 line PABX and cabling from BTL
- 8 modems from UCB
- 4 modems from BTL
- 2 modems from CCC
- RS232 9w-25w modem cables from BTL
- Ethernet crimp tools and testers from BTL and UCB
- I brought ethernet cables, RJ45 connectors, cable and D connectors for
making 9w-9w RS232 cables, and overhead transparancies/pens/flip chart
- Overhead projector from UCB (unfortunately arrived a day late, and the
LCD display panel did not have the correct cables to work)
- whiteboard and markers from CCC
A flip chart stand would have been a useful addition. The central NOC Linux
PC had only two modems (one for dialing to the Internet and one for
receiving incoming calls from the PABX) which meant that the dial-up
exercises went very slowly; only one student could dial in at a time. In
retrospect it would have been nice to set up a terminal server, even with
only 4 or 6 lines.
However otherwise the level of equipment was good, and I was most impressed
by the level of support from BTL, UCB and CCC in this regard.
Internet connectivity for the workshop took the form of a 28.8 dial-up link
to BTL, where we had a static IP number and a /25 network routed through to
us. This link worked well once we had a Telebit Fastblazer modem loaned from
BTL. Our previous attempts had used USR Sportster modems, and they dropped
the link after only a minute or two on line. This emphasises the importance
of high-quality modems in an developing country environment where the
telcommunications links may not be of the highest quality.
The NOC Linux PC was set up running a caching proxy web server (squid) which
gave a faster response time for web access during the Internet usage
practical on the first day.
The software platform for the workshop was Red Hat Linux 4.1 for i386. This
is a very well put together distribution of Linux; its key advantage is easy
The NOC consisted of a 486/100 PC with 16MB of RAM, acting as DNS server,
web server, web cache, FTP and NFS server, mail server, and dial-up PPP and
UUCP terminal server. It is a clear demonstration of how a fairly robust
package of Internet services can be put together using basic hardware. It
served us well for the week.
Although most participants had no experience of any flavour of Unix before
the workshop, they seemed to pick it up readily. Linux is easy to use in
comparison with other version of Unix (for example it has the 'bash' shell)
which may partially account for this; the similarities to DOS were also
stressed, to draw on students' previous experience.
Software was to be distributed to participants on CD-ROM, including Red Hat
ready to install. Discs were copied locally but unfortunately the filenames
were truncated and lowercased during the copying process, making them
useless for installing Linux. I will copy additional disks on my own system
when I return to the UK, and mail them to Belize.
I prepared documentation culled from previous workshops, and some prepared
specially for this one; photocopying was very generously provided by BTL.
Not quite enough copies were printed to go round - future workshops should
print at least 10-15 copies more than the expected number of participants.
However the documents are all on the CD-ROM.
To provide a greater depth of information, four copies of a small library of
10 key reference books have been purchased by the OAS. This will be housed
in different areas of Belize (North, Central, South and West) to be
accessible by computer teachers and students in their respective areas.
The majority of funding for the workshop was provided by the Organisation of
American States, following on from their support of the CUNET node at
UCB. I would like to thank Saul Hahn for being able to provide this level of
funding and at very short notice indeed. However it should be noted that
significant donations were also received from local companies and
individuals, and from Belizeans living abroad. The degree of support shown
was very pleasing indeed.
Budgets were set for accomodation, food, travel, and other categories.
Although a few reimbursements remain to be made, it appears that everything
has come in within budget, and including the additional donations there will
be US$1000 or more remaining which can be put towards future workshops.
A great deal of enthusiasm has been generated by this workshop, and it is
likely that future events will stem from it. A web-design workshop has
already been proposed, as there was very little time in this workshop to
cover HTML at all (only one brief evening session)
It became clear also that a key stumbling block to Internet connectivity for
many schools is the cost of the modem. Schools in Belize City will need a
modem with leased line capability; schools outside Belize City will need a
high-quality dial-up modem. The Telebit Fastblazer we used for the workshop
would suit both roles perfectly, but the cost of around US$600 is
prohibitive for most schools. It may therefore be worthwhile putting
together a project for a donor agency to provide a pool of such modems (one
for each school with a computer lab capable of being connected to Internet,
plus some spares to cater for equipment failures over time)
This, and other projects, are areas that the Belize Internet Task Force may
wish to work on over the coming months, to help maintain the momentum
created for this workshop.
9 April 1997