Uganda UBC visit & Diary
Leave for the airport; flight leaves at 6:13 so naturally I need to leaver for the airport at 3:00 pm so as to not make Jeri nervous.. They enormous Denali SUV pulls around to the end of our driveway at 10 minutes to 3, which is 10 minutes early. So I forgot a couple of last minute things, like putting lotion on my face and hands. It worked out since we had to stop at the ATM on N. Campus so I would have enough USD to buy my Uganda VISA and still have some $$$ to change for local currency if I can not use a card to buy a SIM and/or phone, depending on whether Lester’s (very old) Chinese Samsung 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-ion area. I was the only one there, and there was only one woman behind the counter. On m way out I asked fi twins possible to use this place again, and she smiled and said “Well, keep it quiet and probably yes.”. Probably, my ass! Now that I know I’m going to try it every time!
On the flight I sat next to a forgettable woman on her way to Stockholm in seat 10J. We were in the front row of steerage so had to put everything overhead. Very annoying. And had a pull out-and-up video screen that would not get straight and kept slipping down. It was fine as I tried to nap as much as possible, with only middling success.
2:20 layover at Schipol, which was about right. I was able to spend some quality time in the privy, then find my gate and have a yogurt and granola breakfast. Our “morning snack” on the flight was only good for the Tilamook cheese and a small yogurt so at least I felt I had something close to oatmeal.
I hope to high heaven 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 biomes machines they were there to install, repair and train the Rwandans to use. All of us, about half the flight, that are continuing to Entebbe airport in Uganda are staying on the plane for the 1 hour layover here. Which is when I am now starting this diary. I left my young Aggie friend with the admonition to “Have fun, Pay attention, and review rules 1 & 2. And also go save lives and change the world!”.
That’s it for now. Just chilling and writing and waiting for our new fellow travelers to board and get on our way to Uganda!
Man, 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 foe her youngest son’s High School /graduation. They had lived there for some time and both her son and older daughter stayed on. All we got was a Dutch cookie with caramel/fudge inside and then we were landing.
Took FOREVER to get my SIM card at the airpot. I also changed $60 and got back $250,000 Uganda shillings (UGX)! This place is like Turkey! Anyway, but the3 time I got through the everyone else had gone through customs so there was no one, Burt of course they had to unpack my suitcase. No idea what they thought they saw on the X-ray. When I finally got outside to meet the person with the sign with my name on it, the3y had almost given up on me thinking I had missed the flight, since everyone else had come out and left. Glad they waited. Apparently the Hotel pays them for the3 ride, but I tipped them. 100,000 UGX, as it was the smallest bill I had. I think that was about $25. I tipped the bellhop the same, but told him he had to take extra special care of me all week for that.
Hope to be able to upgrade to use the Samsung phone to call the US tomorrow, but just called Jeri using WhatsApp on wifi. The Samsung will be quite useful just locally in any case. Unpacking and off to bed now. 12:35 AM Monday morning. Up and to breakfast by 8 am, meeting Derek here at 9 am and off to the UBC.
Monday June 5, UBC
Arrived and spent the morning in the company of Marcello & Jacob, both Librarians. They have the impossible task go trying to organizer 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/.
They are enduring a legacy of THOSE IN CHARGE not wanting to comment any reasonable effort to doing anything but this legacy of radio and TV broadcast recordings . I stead they want these two to spend their time fixing network and compute problems (there is an IT department that is trying to work under similar lack of resources and any plan of any kind) and helping their bosses look good by writing their reports for them. African bureaucracy at its best.
I fully admit that I do not have all the details and nuances of the situation, but what I see makes me very sad. The bosses keep holding out for some angle that will personally enrich them rather than ensure that the legacy of their country, however hard it may be to see, is preserved and available.
This is the land of Idi Amin, one of the most despicable and ruthless dictators to ever raise t power, /they are correct that there is some value to be had by the State from this archive. They are wrong that there is way for the to personally profit before it all turns to dust. Tick fucking tock.
We go to room after room of badly stored U-Matic and other tapes, mostly Betacam and (shudder!) various formats of DV. They had e been ‘archiving things to home burned DVD discs. There is no in house means of taking digital files and storing them on s central serve4r that is backed up somewhere. It is worse than random hard drives on someone’s desk. Most of the p people in ‘charge’ of the various rooms have no idea what is in there or what to do with it. They just show up for work.
And the best of the worst was this: Hundreds 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, Doug. Astonishingly, there was no smell of vinegar. There was, however, a canister labeled “Scooby Doo”. The universe has a wonderful sense of humor, doesn’t it?
They have no machines of any kind 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 desk, only one of which is said to be in working order. It may be, but the tape path and back panel are so dirty and dirty that I would need to spend at least an hour cleaning them to get them ready to test.
They have no cleaning supplies, no head demagnetizer and no alignment tapes. I am shocked to find out that there is gambling going on in this establishment.
Over lunch int he canteen, we discussed a possible new way to approach TIC (Those in Charge) with a plan that may a) make it impossible for them to hold out for a way to blatantly skim money from the project and b) keep a constant chain of custody of the tapes. It seems that this has always ben the sliding point: whoever wants to do this for free (French and German TV) want to keep copies of the digitized material for their use.
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 ti differently. tIC do seem to understand that the best/on 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
I don’t remember anything that happened, other than Derek & I had Indian food at the hotel restaurant for dinner. I’m sure we did some good work, though.
Wednesday June 7, UBC
Went to see the Engineering crew and the PPU (Presidential Press Unit) people. The PPU is about to get funding for their own version of the same kind of archive project but doesn't talk to our guys to share any ideas. And of course any shared resources are out of the question. What a world.
Turns out the Engineers have at least one fully functional Studer audio tape deck. Which is good because neither of the ones in the Library are working.
So I talked to the real IT guy in charge, and after getting s series of wrong answers finally got the right answer 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. No problem. The chief IT guy said that as soon as the cable he needed had bee requisitioned and delivered (a long process...) he could easily run the wire from the Media server room to the room where the Library folks would be working on the archive.
Derek & I met with the Asst. Managing Director who was very receptive to our plan moving forward. We meet with the MD tomorrow. His wife just delivered a baby boy and he has been out a lot.
Began sorting with Raymond, the first intern. He and Derek worked in the Room of Doomed UMatics while I worked with Jacob on the Database. We added some fields and renamed some and began making the controlled vocabulary.
Thursday June 8, UBC
Had 3 interns that really dug in to the stack of red-dusty UMatic tapes. 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.
I met with the Managing Director with only Malachi as Derek was at a meeting that went longer than anticipated. 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 how UM would be very happy to partner with the UBC to seek funding from the NEH or a similar organization. I emphasize that they would insist on researcher access and talked about how that could be made available in a number of secure ways, from only allowing access to the catalog to allowing internet viewing of degraded versions of the actual clips.
Derek showed up after we had pretty much gone over everything. The MD was very happy and helped to reiterate the points that 1) the catalog work needed to proceed with all haste, and that they needed a laptop to do it and 2) we would send a short summary of our mutual understanding about moving forward and then follow up with a longer detailed plan of what we propose.
Both UBC employees and theinterns 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, and 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, I left with Allan as my tour guide, We found an ATM so I could pay for our bodaboda rides and then to get into the Kaddaffi mosque. The view from the minaret was spectacular! 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.
Came back to hotel for me to dump my bag and get on a dry shirt (the pack on my back turns the back of my shirt into a wet rag) and then ended up just eating pizza at the Speke Hotel restaurant. Not bad, but how ordinary for my last dinner in Kampala.
I don’t feel too bad as we have been eating at the UBC commissary every day for lunch and 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. He want's become an academic and a teacher.
Leaving at 6:00 am tomorrow for Fort Portal, where Derek has been doing his paper district archives work. I will help them get the DROBO set up and working and get a chance to see more of Uganda before I leave on Saturday.
Januario Mubangire is the driver, who arrives at 6 am.
Friday June 9, Fort Portal
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 w going on, it was so hot I almost dropped it!
But the strangest thing is that when I popped out one of the drives to see if it would rethink what w going on, it was so hot I almost dropped it!
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.
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 about the scale for over a minute. I was just getting my phone 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.
Saturday June 10, Fort portal and then home
After waiting on hold with Drobo for 1 hour 50 minutes, I ran out of time on my Samsung MTN 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 I saw a Sunbird and a Bulbul in the trees in from to f 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 and was just passing through, I think a male chasing a female.
Now waiting for Derek to return with the Drobo boxes and we are off to return to Kampala.
Just stopped in Wribare to fix a flat tire. It was quite the adventure. January 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 handle retaining the frame holding the spare. That bolt has tone turned - quite a lot, as it turned out - In order to get the clearance needed to separate the pieces holding up the spare. The did not figure out that the handle for canning up the jack double as a wrench for doing this, so he found a pair f piers 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 together 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 Turing 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 and finally it all are free.
While they were then changing the tire I took a spare piece of the pars that assembled to create the turning crank for the lift and tried to fit it onto that square bole that had been turned buy the pliers. It just seemed to me that this was a really stupid system if it was not self-contained. 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 out wider than they were supposed to be.n. Taking out my trusty Leatherman, I filed down the edges until they were smooth and voila - it fit! So putting the flat back into place only took about 30 seconds. And now Januario knows how the system works. Back on our way now.
A quick side-of-the-road pee-pee stop, and eventually back in Kampala.
Flight back was uneventful, but the trip to the airport was amazing. There is a new highway soon to open between Kampala and Entebbe, where the airport is located. But if you know the way, and pay a small sum to the people 'guarding' these secret entry ways, you can get on it and use most of it.
See UBC 4 for photos and video links.
See UBC 4 for photos and video links.
I found out back in the US that I could have literally fried an egg on those drives: they were running at 145˚ F, and an egg fries at 144˚. I called tech support for HGST, the drive manufacturer, and the guy who answered was also shocked. 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 do nothing about it.
And when I finally got someone on the phone at DROBO, they too said noting was wrong. Two days after I cobbled together my solution (see UBC 3) 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. It is still sitting in my office in Ann Arbor, waiting. Just in case.