Campcaster installed in Freetown

The days in Freetown were hectic, filled with lots of work combined with lots of waiting in traffic to get from one side of town to the other. Traffic was pretty bad, with a strangely functional form of chaos governing things. In the traffic, people selling random stuff – tube socks, flashlights, bathroom fixtures, and the ubiquitous mobile phone top-up cards for the 5 mobile operators in Freetown – kept walking by in a never-ending procession.
Campcaster has its first confirmed installation, at Radio Mount Aureol, a college radio station run by Fourah Bay College on a high hill overlooking the city. With myself and Campcaster developer Ferenc Gerlits watching, the Sierra e-Riders successfully set up the PC and installed Campcaster with no complications.

Because training was an important part of this visit, we were careful to make sure we weren’t just doing all the work, so the e-Riders “drove the mouse” on the vast majority of things.

Together we installed and set up the Campcaster network hub – which lets radio stations exchange program content – at the offices of the Cornet radio network. The stations are set to be linked via wi-fi in the next few days and weeks, and then Cornet will be truly on the air.

We’ve spent a lot of time testing and trying out various scenarios, but there are always things that you can’t anticipate. For us, one of the big ones was that the PC we were going to install to was full to the last gig with sound files, so we spent half a day on a trip to get a new one to add on. With the hard disk in place the install of Ubuntu and Campcaster went smooth as silk.

This was my second trip to Freetown in three months, so many things were familiar this time – the warmth, wit and resourcefulness of the people especially come to mind. My hosts and partners in Freetown – the Sierra e-Riders and the Cornet radio network – really impressed me with their persistence and ability to Get Things Done.

The grinding poverty is everywhere, and it informs almost all aspects of everyday life. With no electricity, generators are the only source of electrical power, but only for those who can afford both the generator and the gas to run one. The water only runs sporadically, so most people keep buckets next to their sinks to use as a backup.

They’re big problems, and I got no indication that they were going to be solved any time soon. But what continues to impress me is how adaptable Freetonians are to changing circumstances, and how they manage to keep things going.

Before we knew it, our time in Freetown was up, and it was time to board the helicopter that carries passengers over the large bay to the airport on the other side. The helicopter ride is a unique experience – a Soviet era Mi-8 that’s been put into use ferrying passengers instead of soldiers – and its pilots are from somewhere in the former Soviet Union (Russia? Ukraine?).

I uploaded video of the flight to YouTube, but for some reason my WordPress doesn’t like the embedded video thingy. Here’s the link.

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