Tuesday, 8 May 2018

2018: CRLT China Event Tour of the DMC

Erping Zhu of CRLT, the Center for Reserach on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan, brought a group of 8 (6 Chinese visitors and 2 UM students, just graduated) for a short tour of the Duderstadt Center.  They are attending the CRLT program dealing with innovative pedagogy and so were very interested to learn about the very open access to our facilities.

At the end, after I showed them the Personal Studio and told them about all the Nursing students that go through there with their practice patient presentations, they wanted a group photo with me before they left.  Here it is.


Thursday, 3 May 2018

2018: A2RU Workshop on Promotion & Tenure

This is what the website said about the workshop:

I thought it sounded interesting, so I asked Deb Mexicotte (Managing Director of ArtsEngine) if I could sit in a corner and watch. She replied: "That's definitely not an option for *this* workshop - but I think you would be a great addition, so just sign up!"

I did.  Laurie Baefsky (Executive Director) later told Linda Kendall Knox that she should also attend, so we both went.  And what a time we had!

Gabe (A2RU, right) explains what to expect. 
Nina, our amazing facilitator, is to his left.
Missy Bay (U Minn.) & Linda Knox (UM) work on our first task.

The kinds of supplies we had.  We were asked to use screens only for quick lookups.
Linda's team at work.
Valerie Stanich (UM), Deb Mexicotte (UM), Keisha Love (UC), Stephen Beck (LSU).
My team. 

Add Joe Geigel (RIT, left) and Stephanie Vasko (MSU, right).

The names of the 4 games we produced.  I explain each one (badly!) with a photo.

Policy Mosaic

A card based game that helps you change policy to better support your institutional/school/unit values, and verify that they align with and support core values.

Triple the Ripple

This is a role playing approach to understanding the impact of Tenure policy on the institutional ecosystem, including Admins, Faculty, and Students.


Mentoring Portal

A web based set of tools to help groups of 1, 3, 5 and tenured faculty help each other, organized at the A2RU annual meetings.  This is meant to group faculty from different institutions with the idea that discussion would be more open.  But it would also work within a single institution.  The favorite game piece of any game is from this game:  The Discussion Spinner!  Like the spinner in a game of Twister, but it has general areas, each of which has pile of Topic Cards.

What's Next

This is a tool to help you forge a *real* plan for your research based on your Passions & Skills, the Artifacts created, and the Needs you have.  the idea is that when yo actaully see all these things laid out in front of you, it makes more sense.

At the End

All 4 of the games were really good, but at the end we all had to vote for our favorite.  Nina, our facilitator, said that usually one of the games wins by a clear margin, but our group didn't do that.  the votes were 4, 4, 5, and 5 (see photo).  Nina said that was unusual, but given the high engagement factors for each of our games she was not surprised.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

2018 Uganda: Scanning Idi Amin

Update from the 2017 trip: the video digitizing project has stalled due to financial woes at the UBC.   I'll provide updates as this changes.

Uganda 2018 - Scanning the Film Negatives of 

Idi Amin’s Official Photographer

If you have read my other blog entries, you will remember that I first visited the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) in Kampala, Uganda in June of 2017 with Dr. Derek Peterson to consult with them about their aging library of U-Matic videotapes.  It was during this trip that we found the filing cabinet contining the film negatives.

In January 2018 I went back to the UBC.  I went to set up a scanning operation with the goal of scanning the (mostly medium format) film negatives taken by ID Amin’s official photographer.  

When we first found them in a metal filing cabinet during that 2017 visit, they looked like this:

Dr. Derek Peterson investigating the negative cabinet with Jacob Noowe.
First I have to let you know who made this possible.  At the UBC there was Managing Director Winston Agaba, Administrator Madame Elizabeth Bigirimana, Records Assistant Malachi Kabaale, and Librarian Jacob Noowe. The two Makerere graduate students that will be doing the work are Jimmy Kikwata and Edmund Mulinda.  Dr. Edgar Taylor of the US is supervising the work locally as well as prioritizing the work based on his evaluation of each image's importance.  Finally, Dr. Derek Peterson acquired the funding from the UM African Studies Center African Heritage & Humanities Initiative and is generally supervising the project from the USA.

Here is a photo of the team in Uganda.

Jimmy, Edmond, Jacob, Edgar, and Malachi.  You can see our setup on the right.

Before traveling to Uganda, I had spec’ed out, purchased, tested, and labeled all the parts for this operation.  These included a new MacBook Air, an Epson V800 flatbed scanner, 2 external hard drives (one for data, one for daily backup) and various archival cotton gloves and cleaning supplies.  Derek was able to safely pack all this into his suitcases and took it to Kampala in January 2018 to await my arrival.

A quick aside:  I researched various ways to do this scanning, including using a wet scanning process.  I decided that for this project that taking care to keep the scanner and film holders clean and
making sure the negatives were clean would be the most sustainable workflow.

Getting Started - Our working space

We were expecting to be given a small desk in the room in which we found the filing cabinet (photos below).  It would have been difficult to make it work, but a space is always at a premium in institutions like the UBC in a building like this we were ready to deal with it.

Imagine my surprise when I found out we were to get an entire room - a room that we had never been in before, but that was right next door to the storage room with the negatives.  UM had provided the funding for the gear, my travel, and wages for the 2 Makerere University grad students that were to do the work, so it was great to see the UBC supporting this project so strongly.

This was the room when we first saw it.  That carpet was once red.
The problem was that it had not been used in many years, and apparently had not been cleaned much during that time.  It needed some serious work:

- The remaining gear needed to be removed
- The windows and walls needed to be cleaned and sealed
- The excess wire had to be put out of the way
- Dangerous gaps in the sections of the wall needed to be covered
- The unscreened air vents from the atrium had to be covered and made airtight
- And that all needed to happen before general cleaning of the room
- And cleaning or covering of the existing carpet

But as long as we were asking, would it be possible to also:
     - replace the carpet
     - add window blinds
     - and get one of the AC units working to protect the negatives?

And we only had 4 days before I was to leave Uganda.

While work started on that room, we set up the gear in a different room in a different building where a group of PCs recorded the UBC radio broadcasts all day.  It was air conditioned to keep the machines happy, and that worked well for our needs.  Hot & humid are the enemies of film.

Training started on Tuesday (using some film negatives I had brought from home) and would continue through Wednesday.  We had to set up in our permanent space on Thursday - no matter what shape it was in - so we could move in the negative cabinet, sort it out and start staging the real workflow, and start doing this work for real: the Makerere students had to understand how to do this work before I left at the end of the day Friday.

Let me be clear: I had very tempered expectations about what could be accomplished with regard to cleaning up this room given the time and other constraints.

           But in only three days the room was transformed! 

It was completely cleaned, had new carpet & window blinds, a working AC unit, and furniture!  All we had to do was move the negative cabinet and set up shop.

I arranged the furniture in what seemed to be a good layout, putting two corner desks side by side,  and set everything up.  We had a working area to load the scanner’s film holders, an area for the scanner, and an area for the MacBook & drives.  Other furniture and that existing shelving unit provided staging areas for sorting through negatives.  And the photos.

Did I mention the photos yet?  

Several boxes of old prints had been found just before we arrived, and they had to be sorted through to pull out any the might actually be of historical importance.  Over half were stock shots from somewhere else and of no interest, but there were plenty of local origination photos worth capturing.

Sorting and organizing the photos.

Working out the Details 

- Channeling my Inner MacGyver

Once we started trying to really work with the process we had defined, some flaws became apparent.  The most pressing of these was that it was difficult to quickly and precisely load the film holders.  

“We need a light table!” I thought, and then began figuring out how to make one.  

I finally hit on the idea of a desktop letter tray, and once I was able to convey what I was looking for, one appeared.  It was too wide to directly support the film holder, so I had to come up with a fix using what was on hand - which happened to be cardboard bank storage boxes and packing tape.  We had been using the boxes to sort various assets as needed. 

So I cut up some cardboard and taped it together to make blocks that fit into the letter tray and held up the film holders.

This shows the bottom of one of my homemade light table blocks, ready to be inserted
into the white-paper-lined letter tray in the background that I used for the light table.
The pink paper below that covered the desktop so we could keep the work area clean.
All that was needed was a light, so that night Edgar took me to one of his favorite “has everything” stores and we found 2 small rechargeable LED lights.  Perfect.  You can see both the the blocks and the light in place in the photo below.  

Note how well the LED light illuminates the white paper lining the tray!
Once the workflow was humming, I started documentation for the process so that we would be consistent, and for training future crews.  The current version is here.

The next problem was the negative cabinet itself.  The drawers are too short for the negative envelopes, so they were sort of crammed in.  Every time a drawer had been opened, the envelopes had been slightly damaged.  And several of the drawers were somewhat off their tracks and would not open or close very easily.  

Below are a couple of shots of the original state of the cabinet and negatives.

We moved the 35mm negatives from the bottom 2 drawers and put them into cardboard bank boxes, to be dealt with later.

A drawer full of 35mm negatives.
This gave us some empty drawers we could now use to alleviate the crowding.  We took out the drawers one by one, cleaned the inside of the cabinet, cleaned each drawer, and reloaded them with fewer negatives.

But before we did that, I did several things.

First, I made cardboard ramps for the back of each row in the drawers so the envelopes could be put in at a slant. yet still be fully supported. This was to avoid curling or otherwise damaging the negatives.  

My ramps at the rear, and cardboard dividers.
Then I made and inserted cardboard row separators where they were needed.  There was at least one metal divider in each drawer but more dividers were needed to help protect the negatives.  

Before and after versions of the drawers holding the negative envelopes.
Finally I unfolded some of the oversize file folders we had used to cover the desk work areas and taped them to the front edge of each drawer, like a hinge. This would prevent any more damage to the envelopes as drawers were opened or closed.

Once that was all in place, Edgar was able to go through and clean the various negative envelopes and choose which ones to start with - ones that were important in his opinion, or representative of a group.

 Edgar cleaning dirty build-up from the envelopes.
NOTE: that can of cleaner on top was only used for cleaning the cabinet!
Ultimately, all the negatives will be represented in the database, and most of them will be scanned. But it was decided to start with an iterative approach, with Edgar setting priorities.

The last problem was what to do about the photo prints that had been added to the collection.  

I first tried to use an old scanner they had at the UBC but it was not producing good results.  I asked if there was a digital camera somewhere that we could use, and Jacob said he would bring in and use his personal camera.  

Now all we needed was some kind of copy stand…..

Edgar & I figured we could use a metal shelf and some magnets to hold up the photos - if we could find a metal shelf and some magnets.  Jacob found and cleaned a small metal shelf from somewhere in the UBC (Jacob is a miracle worker!), and I managed to find some small magnets in a bookstore.

I taped a still-folded box to the wall to support the shelf’s weight, then taped the shelf to the wall so it would not fall over.  This way, all the weight was supported vertically and the tape just had to keep it from falling forward.

You can see the tape on the sides of the box and metal shelf.
I found some decorative magnets at a bookstore and, once we removed the magnets from their decorative plastic covers, we had what we needed.

I got out a small c-clamp ‘tripod’ I had with me, clamped it to a chair, and voila - instant copy stand!  

Me giving you a "users-eye view" of our copy setup.
We had great natural light from the window, but the last thing that was needed was a way to diffuse any sunbeams that might slip in through openings in the vertical window blinds.  

Again, what did we have that I could use?  Cardboard, packing tape, and - paper towels.  After a bit of "cardboard carpentry" we had a lovely diffusion screen between the photo wall and the window.

Top view of cardboard attachment showing how it was cut out and attached.
View of the finished "Diffusion Wall".
Finally everything was done. Even the power strip was labeled and secured.

The one labelled "NO" goes to another power strip.  I know, you're not supposed to do that...

We are Up and Running

This last photo is a panoramic view of the new workspace with everyone hard at work!

Clockwise from lower left: Scanner loading, Light table, Scanner, MacBook, Photocopy stand, Negative processing, Storage.

One final tweak I made to the workflow was to institute a verbal notice between the Scan Loader and the Scan Operator.  This was to minimize the downtime in case the scan operator was deep in the database and did not notice the scanner was ready.  

With a project of this scale, where a single scan takes 3 minutes, all those seconds start to add up!  We needed a good way to provide a clear "Ready!" signal.  
But just saying "Ready" seemed so...uninteresting...

So I told them what NASA does in the USA, when preparing to launch a rocket.
(the obvious go-to, right?)

The Flight Director will go around the room one last time and ask for a "Go / No-Go" from each of his unit heads. And if things were good they would say "Go Flight!"

So I asked Jimmy & Edmund to use that as a notification. They loved it, and in early April left me a voice message saying they were still using it.  You can listen to it here.

I have to say that this project really exercised my abilities.  We had no idea what resources we would find locally.  We had a starting place but the path forward was to be forged on site.  We didn’t even know what sort of space we would have before I got there.  I simply had to rely on my many years of experience - and it was really fun!  

One challenge after another came up, and we managed to find a way to make it work.  I have to thank my friends (it was great to see you again Jacob & Malachi!) and colleagues at the UBC for making it all happen so spectacularly well!  And it continues to work under the gentle guidance of Edgar.

Reports back from the field say that great progress is being made, and I would like to be able to visit again and see for myself.  No plans yet, but hope springs eternal...


Monday, 16 April 2018

2008 Conference at Rhodes University, South Africa

I presented at a conference at ILAM (International Library of African Music), housed at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.  It was titled "An Overview of the Digitizing Landscape" and it was intended to present some not difficult options for presenting "things" on a web site to make them more engaging - like 3D photos and Quicktime VR.

I recently came across these photos taken by my wife, Jeri Hollister, during that presentation.  At various points during my presentation I juggled, told jokes and had everybody wearing 3D glasses.

When I got back, a colleague said "If you'd hauled out a box of puppies you would have brought the house down."

Maybe....but it was still fun!

In the top photo below you can see Tom Bray (me, standing) on the far left, Kelly Askew (seated, far left), Director of the African Studies Center, and Lester Monts (Far right) Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Special Advisor to the President for Arts, Diversity, and Undergraduate Affairs.

The bottom photo shows the whole group.  Diane Thram, Director of ILAM, is on the far right.

Friday, 13 October 2017

2017 Uganda: UBC Diary

In June of 2017, I went to Uganda to consult with the UBC about their 3/4" U-Matic videotape library, and to discuss possible ways forward to digitize and monetize the collection.

I am also installing a DROBO drive array I brought for a district Records archiving project in the western part of Uganda.

Saturday June 3, 2017

My flight leaves at 6:13, so naturally I need to leave for the airport at 3:00 pm so as to not make my wife nervous.  An enormous Denali SUV pulls around to the end of our driveway at 10 minutes to 3, which is 10 minutes early.   It worked out since we had to stop at the ATM on North Campus so I would have enough USD to buy my Uganda VISA and still have some money left to exchange for local currency if needed to buy a SIM for Lester’s (very old) Chinese Samsung. Not sure if it will even work in Uganda.  It worked in Ghana, so I am hopeful.  Would not work in Athens, Greece last month.

First leg from Detroit to Amsterdam, about 7.5 hours.  Discovered this amazing secret room at DTW where you can go and check in and check bags and avoid the lines!  I was told that by the woman at the Sky Medallion front desk who said their system was down and that I should just go through that door - that I had never noticed before.  Apparently it is some kind of VIP check-in area.  I was the only one there, and there was only one woman behind the counter.  On my way out I asked if it was possible to use this place again, and she smiled and said “Well, keep it quiet and probably yes.”  Now that I know I’m going to try it every time!

I was in the front row of steerage, and so had to put everything overhead.  And my seat had a pull-out-and-up video screen that would not stay straight and kept slipping down.  But that was fine, as I tried to nap as much as possible.

2 hour and 20 minute layover at Schipol in Amsterdam, which was about the right amount of time.  I was able to clean up in the bathroom, find my gate, and have a yogurt and granola breakfast.  At least I felt I had something close to oatmeal. 

I really hope that the hotel breakfast includes oatmeal!

Second leg from Amsterdam to Kigali, Rwanda was also about 7 hours.  Sat in 15A next to a Bioengineering undergraduate major from Texas A&M who was on her way with a group of fellow Aggies to Rwanda to spend the first month taking classes (mostly language classes) and then some others about the bio-med machines they were there to install and/or repair, and then train the Rwandans to use.  

All of us that are continuing on to Entebbe airport in Uganda stay on the plane for the 1 hour layover here.  Which is when I am now starting this diary.  I said goodbye to my young Aggie friend with the admonition to “Go save lives and change the world!” 

(I need to get this autocorrect under control.  It had that poor girl going out to save olives!)

Last leg was a short one.  Stayed in the same seat, and this time my companion was a woman from Rwanda named Connie who was on her way to Toronto for her youngest son’s High School graduation (the flight to Amsterdam starts in Kigali).  They had lived in Toronto for some time and both her son and older daughter stayed there.  Barely enough time to distribute cookies and we were landing.

Took FOREVER to get my SIM card at the airport.  I also changed $60 and got back $250,000 Uganda shillings (UGX).  An exchange rate that far apart and it feels like you have Monopoly money.  

I was literally the last person to leave the airport from my flight, and by the time I finally got outside the person that had come to meet me had almost given up.  They were thinking maybe I had missed the flight, since everyone else had come and gone.  I was glad they had waited.  The Hotel pays them for the ride service and they did not want to have made the trip and not get paid.

My room.  Tight quarters, but nice.
Entrance to the Speke Hotel.  Only black people had to go through the metal detector.
(The entry is flat; it is distorted due to stitching)
Hope to be able to upgrade the Samsung phone to be able to call the US tomorrow, but for now I called Jeri using WhatsApp on wifi.  The Samsung will be quite useful locally in any case.  Unpacking and off to bed now at 12:35 AM on Monday morning.  I left on Saturday afternoon.

Down to breakfast by 8 am, then meeting Derek here at 9 AM, and then off to the UBC.  

They had oatmeal at breakfast!

Monday June 5, UBC

The sign at the UBC building.

The interior atrium of the UBC building.

Arrived and spent the morning in the company of Malachi & Jacob, both UBC employees.  They have the impossible task of trying to organize mountains of material - literally boxes piled on boxes, piled on shelves, filling every corner of every room that is in some way dedicated to the library.

A 360 image of Jacob's office.  It makes it look like it has more room than it really does.
This is the land of Idi Amin, one of the most ruthless dictators to ever come to power.  
They are correct that there is likely some value to be had by the State from this archive. 

This is bureaucracy at its best - or perhaps its worst.   We visit room after room of badly stored U-Matic and other video tapes, the 'other' mostly being Betacam and various formats of DV.  They had been burning some things to DVD discs, as there is no in-house means of taking digital files and storing them on a central server.  All of these assets are in an extremely vulnerable position.

Red dust accumulation all over the tapes & boxes.

Almost all the tapes have been stored horizontally, which is not good.

One of the librarians and her record collection.

And the "best of the worst" was this:  piles of films, rotting in various forms of rusting decay in metal cans stored - literally -in a disused lavatory in an unused building.  

All that was missing was a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leper”.   
 (Thanks to Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")  

Seriously: this is an unused bathroom.

The yellow film can near the top labelled "Series Scooby-Doo" is the cartoon.
They have no hardware for playing anything but 1/4” audio tape and VHS videotape.  I have not seen the alleged working VCR, but have seen 3 Studer A807 real to reel decks, only one of which is said to be in working order.  True or not, the tape path, and the deck in general, are so dirty it would take considerable effort cleaning them to get them ready to test.

One of the non-working Studer decks.

This AKAI was in one of the tape storage rooms.  The windows had been left open for years.

They realize the gear is in bad shape, but there is no money for tools, supplies, or maintenance for anything but the equipment currently being used for their broadcasts.  

As they said in Casablanca: 
"I am shocked - shocked! - to find out that there is gambling going on in this establishment."

Over lunch in the canteen, we discussed a possible new way to approach the powers that be with a plan that might allow the UBC to keep a constant chain of custody of the tapes.  It seems that this has always been the sticking point: whoever would do this for free (French and German TV) want to keep copies of the digitized material for their use.  The UBC does not want that to happen.

The "Lunch Ladies" at the UBC commissary.

This has become the great struggle between Africa and the North: ”They come and take our heritage and leave us nothing!”.  It is an understandable position after so many decades of actually being screwed.

So my idea is to frame it differently.  They do seem to understand that the best/only way to get this stuff digitized is to put it in the hands of professionals that are capable of keeping the obsolete technology in best working order to get one optimal playback from each of the tapes that the UBC wants to digitize.

The fear is loss of control over what happens if it leaves their custody, and it is not an unjust concern.

My idea is that instead of shipping tapes at great expense to somewhere out of their control to an agency with an interest in using the material, to instead send it in batches to a service bureau in the luggage of a UBC employee who will oversee the process and return with the analog materials and the digital files of those same tapes.

This does 2 things: 1) it maintains the chain of custody in the hands of the UBC and 2) it puts the work of digitizing into hands of a business whose continued existence pends on the trust of their clients.  They have no inherent interest in the material, only in getting a good recommendation from the client as to their integrity and quality of work.

Tuesday June 6, UBC

Derek & I had Indian food at the hotel restaurant for dinner.   I'm sure other things happened, but I did not make note of them.

Wednesday June 7, UBC

Went to see the Engineering crew and the Presidential Press Unit (PPU) people. The PPU is about to get funding for their own version of the same kind of archive project, but can't talk to our guys or share any ideas.  And of course sharing resources is out of the question.  What a world.

Turns out the Maintenance Engineers have at least one fully functional Studer audio tape deck.  This is good, because neither of the ones in the Library are working.

I then talked to the real IT guy in charge and, once I found the right questions to ask, got good information from him.  

Apparently there are 2 independent networks here:  the Corporate network and the Media network.  And there is no connection allowed between them.  This is for security reasons and sort of makes sense.

No problem.  The chief IT guy said that as soon as the cable he needed had been requisitioned and delivered he could easily run the wire from the Media server room to the room where the Library folks would be working on the archive - 4 or 5 months tops.  Just to get the wire.

Derek & I met with the Asst. Managing Director who was very receptive to our plan moving forward.  We meet with the Managing Director tomorrow.  His wife just delivered a baby boy and he has been out a lot.

Derek began sorting tapes with Raymond, the first intern, in the Room of Doomed UMatics.  I worked with Jacob on the Database.  We added some fields and renamed others and began building the controlled vocabulary.

Thursday June 8, UBC

Had 3 interns that really dug in to the stack of red-dusty UMatic tapes.  

The result of having open windows after the AC units failed.
The earth around Kampala is very red.

Just one of the many dusty and dark rows of shelving.

I had them move a bunch of boxes and piles of tapes that were in the way all over the floor of that room out into the hallway/common area.  People were amazed that some work was actually being done around the archives.  The interns labeled all the shelves in there with numbers according to the plan I laid out and began the task of sorting the tapes between those from an external source like the BBC and those with original UBC content.  The lighting was so bad in some areas that they had to wear my headlamp.

Labeling shelves so tapes can be located.
Between the dust masks and the headlamp, it looks like they are working in a coal mine!

As Derek was at a meeting that went longer than anticipated, I met with the Managing Director accompanied only by Malachi,.  I laid out our understanding of their concerns and our idea for a new approach and how it seemed to dovetail into their existing facilities and capabilities.  I expressed that the UM would be happy to partner with the UBC to seek funding from the NEH or similar organization.  

I emphasized that any funding organization would insist on allowing for research access and discussed several ways in which the material could be made available securely, such as only allowing outside access only to the catalog, to only allowing internet access to degraded or watermarked versions of the actual video.

Derek showed up as we were wrapping up.  The MD was very happy and Derek reiterated the points that 1) the catalog work needed to proceed with all haste and that a laptop was needed to continue, and 2) we would send a short summary of our mutual understanding about moving forward quite soon and then follow up with a longer more detailed plan of what we  were proposing.

Both UBC employees and their interns thought this experience would help them moving forward in their careers.

They are being given a unique opportunity here: they are in at the very beginning of organizing and cataloging an archive of legacy material.  This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of them, or a rare opportunity at the very least.

Around 4:30 pm, when it was clear that we were  not going to see Jacob again today and so could do no more work on the catalog, I left with Allan, an intern, as my tour guide,  We stopped at an ATM so I could pay for our boda-boda rides and the entry fee for the Kaddaffi mosque, our destination.    

          Here is a 360 video of my ride.

The front of the mosque.

About half the height of the Washington Monument and only a stairway to the top.  It was a long, but fun, climb.  I never looked up because I never wanted to know how much farther we had to go.  

Looking down the minaret's stairway.

Just a nice image of window & shadow.

The view from the top was spectacular!  

View from the top of the minaret.
That night we ended up eating pizza at the hotel for dinner.  I don’t feel too bad, as it was a treat for Allan and we had been eating at the UBC commissary every day for lunch. That is real Ugandan food.

Allan was a wonderful tour guide and we had great conversation over dinner.  I told him to make the most of this internship opportunity and also told him about UMAPS.  We’ll see if he ends up applying.  He want's become an academic and a teacher.

Leaving at 6:00 am tomorrow for Fort Portal, in the western part of Uganda, where Derek has been doing his paper district paper archives work.  I will help them get the DROBO we brought set up and working and get a chance to see more of Uganda before I leave on Saturday.

Januario Mubangire, our driver, arrives at 6 AM.

Friday June 9, Fort Portal 

Arrived at Mountains of the Moon University.

The Mountains of the Moon are nearby and separate Uganda form the Congo.

Derek has been working with colleagues there to scan and archive collections of regional government documents.
The room where the documents are scanned (scanner is covered).

The archive room , both paper & digital.

Our MMU colleagues and the DROBO to be installed on the computer in the background.
Spent the afternoon setting up the DROBO 5C on the brand new HP computer the has been purchased for the archive.  Things went well, but took longer than expected due to the slow internet connection.  The first thing the 5C does is connect to DROBO and update the firmware.

However…. At that point, while the Dashboard “Capacity” tab says I have the expected amount of about 14.5TB of space, when I go to Format the drive under the “Tools” tab it will only let me format it at 64TB.  Same thing happens if I try to format it under the Windows format option.  I even attached it to my Apple MacBook and found the same issue of Dashboard Capacity being correct, but only being able to format at 64TB.

But the strangest thing is that when I popped out one of the drives to see if it would rethink what was going on, it was so hot I almost dropped it!   Thus begins....

The Saga of the DROBO

So I waited until 7:00 PM Uganda time so it would be  8:00 AM Los Angeles time and called Drobo support.  On hold for 20 minutes but then hung up, worried about running out of minutes on my phone.  Called them again after dinner and spoke with a PERSON (!) in sales, explained my plight, gave them my case number and asked them to put it in front of a tech support person.  They promised, but I never got even an email, let alone a phone call.

Tried once again at 2:30 AM Uganda time after being woken up by an extraordinary chorus of dogs in the night.

This was an extraordinary canine chorus.  It stared with one barking, then a few more, then about a dozen in a riot of barking at something.  Then silence for a minute.  But then they started up again and went into more of a wailing chorus, actually harmonizing and sliding up and down the scale for over a minute.  I was just getting my phone out to record it when they stopped.  It was amazing.  So that’s when I called Drobo again, on hold for 30 minutes, then went back to sleep.

Back in the US

I found out, once back in the US with access to an instant-read thermometer, that I could have literally fried an egg on those drives: they were running at 145˚ F.  An egg fries at 144˚ F.

I called tech support for HGST, the drive manufacturer, and the guy who answered was also shocked at my reported temperature.  He put me on hold and went back to talk to the real tech guys.  When he returned he sheepishly told me "That's within spec" and so they would be doing nothing about it.

And when I finally got someone on the phone at DROBO, they too said nothing was wrong: the unit was operating within specifications.  I agreed that this was technically true, but pointedly asked why they would design a drive enclosure whose normal operation kept the drives inside hot enough to fry an egg. They had no comment.

Two days after I cobbled together my solution and sent the DROBO back to Africa, DROBO emailed and send that my RMA exchange had been approved and to expect a replacement in a few days.  Sheesh.....

OK, Back in Uganda now

(see my blog about how I fixed the DROBO here.)

Saturday June 10: Fort Portal, and then back home

After waiting on hold with Drobo for 1 hour 50 minutes this morning, I ran out of time on my Samsung phone.   Derek & I decided to bring the whole DROBO unit back and return it for something that has better cooling.  I am very disappointed in the whole thing, having had such good luck wth DROBO in the past, to discover that it was behaving so baldy and being their newest unit.

While waiting for Derek to return with the DROBO boxes, I saw a Sunbird and a Bulbul in the trees in from of my room.  The Sunbird is a tiny bird, larger than a hummingbird, but has a long dipping curved bill and goes around to the long orange blossoms in the tree outside, dipping in for nectar.

The Bulbul is more thrush sized, blue, and was just passing through.  

The Bulbul is the blue spot, middle right side.

Derek returns with the Drobo boxes, and we return to Kampala.

A typical termite mound.  They are everywhere.

Typical road side view as you go from country to a village. 
There are always vendors along the road side.

This video clip shows another road side view, including lots of the vans that make up the mass transit system.  Most people depend on these vans, which hold up to 11 passengers, to get to and from work everyday.  Some rides take hours.


Just stopped in Wribare to fix a flat tire.  It was quite the adventure.  

Changing the tire.

Januario knew where the jack and spare were located but, this being new vehicle for him, had never had to use them.  Turns out the spare is lowered from beneath the carriage under the rear of the van.  

There is a square bolt top visible in the door seam and that is what cranks down the bar securing the frame holding the spare.  That bolt has to be turned - quite a lot, as it turned out - in order to get the clearance needed to separate the pieces holding up the spare. 

They did not figure out that the handle for cranking up the jack doubled as the wrench for cranking the bolt, so Juanario found a pair of pliers and kept turning the bolt 1/4 turn at a time for a bit, then having a couple of strong guys that had gathered (this was, after all, a big event) pull up on the horizontal retaining frame while he tried to get the vertical piece disconnected from it.  This went back and forth, and then eventually they were banging on the top of the bolt as well as lifting.  I kept thinking that they really need to keep turning that bolt, and even said so once, but no one responded so I kept quiet.

Then Abdulah, the former Chief Engineer for the district, came over and said the same thing and proceeded to do just that with the pliers, and finally it all came free and they began the work of changing the tire.

But it just seemed to me that this was a really stupid system if it was not self-contained.  It should not require that you have a pair of pliers on hand.

So while they were changing the tire, I took an extra piece of the parts that one would assembled to create the crank for raising the lift and tried to fit it onto that square bolt that they had been turning with the pliers. 

I tried, but it did not quite fit.  I felt the edges of the square bolt head, and found that all that banging had flattened them out so the head was wider than it was supposed to be.  This made it impossible to fit the "wrench" onto it, the way it had been designed to do.

Taking out my trusty Leatherman, I filed down the edges until they were smooth, and voila! - it fit.  So putting the flat tire back in place of the spare only took about 30 seconds.  And now Januario knows how the system works.  

A quick side-of-the-road bathroom stop, and on the road again heading back to Kampala.

Some serious African sun...
The trip to the airport was amazing. There is a new highway not yet open - but soon to be - between Kampala and Entebbe, where the airport is located.  But if you know the way, and pay a small sum to the people 'guarding' the secret entry ways, you can get on it and use most of it.  We were on and off various parts of it al the way to the airport...

That's it for this trip.  Check out my 2018 Uganda entry.