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Another weekend, another field… with a hedge

It’s Friday lunchtime and the Bristol Wireless/Psand cybertent at the Ragged Hedge Fair at Abbey Farm near Cirencester has running for about 2 hours now; the suite and the site wireless access (which I’m using) are all running off wind and solar power kindly provided by Magrec Ltd., next to whom we’re pitched.

The advance crew – Mike, Lloyd, Bails, Rich, John the Cook and your correspondent – all arrived on site yesterday evening: the tent was up in an hour, followed by Lloyd and Mike setting up the satellite dish (after chocking the van) in the gathering gloom. Mike tells me we’re pointed at the Hellas Sat 2 satellite and we’ve confused dear old Google again, which still thinks we’re in Germany; our wrongfooting as regards location does have some advantages – it confuses the hell out of targeted advertising. 😀

The remaining work of getting the tent set up – laying out laptops, chairs, signs, literature and our advocacy boards – passed pleasantly and well-fuelled by a steady supply of caffeine, so we ended up meeting our projected 12-noon opening time.

We’re still in the process of finding out how much current we’re pulling. The editorial laptop draws about 70 W when charging and 30 W when charged. All the LTSP laptops are all running on a 12-volt supply. Clive Magrec is currently investigating a conundrum with the inverter; this is an interesting position after the luxury of unlimited generator power at Cullompton last weekend (news passim).

We’re still awaiting the final crew arrivals before the full cybertent complement is on site, but we have enough crew to cope for the moment, although tomorrow will be busier.

More news tomorrow.

Crystal Balls – the ref’s match report

This was supposed to be the last post from Bristol Wireless’ latest away fixture – a game of more than two halves – but is being written a couple of days later back in Bristol.

The entire tournament was characterised by fair play all round. Marks (out of 10): 10

The whole team acted as goalies at times, fielding the whole site’s IT questions. However, special mention must go to Lloyd, who managed to recover a whole SD card’s worth of deleted pictures for ICE Neckarstrasse.

Regarding LLoyd’s efforts, Ute Schiess of ICE Neckarstrasse writes:

Hi guys,

Back at home, I’m looking for a program to open the pictures Lloyd saved for me. Irfan view – it should work.

Thanx a lot for your support, the cider, the Radio Vague shirt and the great time we had together!!!!

See you, hear or read from you – and if anyone of your crew comes over to Stuttgart / southern Germany, please send an e-mail that we can meet!

Thanx – thanx – thanx for your brilliant job and the nice time we had in Cullompton.

Ute + ICE Neckarstrasse / Stuttgart

A special mention ought to go to Sean for doing most of the work on keeping the live stats up to date (He did have expert knowledge of how to do them, being a lifelong Tottenham supporter – Ed.).

Mike and Lloyd (again!) took several hours getting things right for our transmission of Match of the Day on Saturday Night.

Marks (out of 10): 10

Man/woman of match: everyone!

Unusual donations: 40 Marlboro (anyone out there smoke ’em? Ed.).

Thanks to Easton Cowboys for putting the tournament together and also to Cullompton Rangers for their hospitality.

Tomorrow sees us starting to set up in a Gloucestershire field for this coming weekend’s Ragged Hedge Fair, a propos of which Mike Harris writes…

After the diesel fuelled joy of the Alternative World Cup last weekend we’re back to the peace and tranquillity of solar and wind and teaming up with Clive Magrec and crew again for power, who we did the BGG with.

Anyways, hope to see you there. The festi is 30 quid (yes, just 30 quid) for three days.

The beautiful game goes on

The third day has now started at the Cowboys‘ Crystal Balls tournament in Cullompton with classical music playing in the cybertent. Breakfast has been consumed and the suite has just opened for business, whilst football and cricket swing into action on a fine, sunny morning.

Tonight's star attractionLast night Mike and Lloyd rigged up a second satellite dish, consulted the BBC website and then hooked up to a satellite in plenty of time to show Auntie’s Match of the Day. Believe it or not, we had a full tent intently watching despite the rival attractions of ‘Shame Academy’ (loosely based on a similar-sounding TV programme – Ed.) in the main marquee, with surreal German tableaux, various Easton Cowboys mutating into the Wurzels and a monkey-wielding ventriloquist from Knowle West; all wonderful fun. Shame Academy’s outright winners were Highland Republica Internationale of Leeds with their Spanish Inquisition for referees, with Easton Cowboys as runner-up.

Sean has been doing a sterling job, keeping the live stats on the web up to date. The fixtures will all be completed today and he can then relax and let his hair down.

At the moment the tent is full of kids playing online games. Later on, we’re expecting heavy traffic as the players and teams from all over Europe email home or blog their experiences.

Anyway, keep following the tournament from far away via the Crystal Balls page.

Another look in the crystal ball

DSCN0132Day 2 has now dawned on the Easton Cowboys’ tournament down in Cullompton, Devon (news passim).

Today’s football has started, with the mens’ and womens’ tournaments running, from which Sean has just returned with a result sheet to update the live stats.

The Bristol Wireless cybertent is again well occupied, whilst the BW crew’s breakfast is rolling off the barbecue.

It already seems that the championship bloggers will be the boys of Lithuania’s FC Vova, who’ve already filed 2 posts from the field; many thanks to them for giving Linux a mention.

Lloyd’s now trying to get some sound going here in the tent, so we can have some audio wallpaper, aka tunes from the editorial laptop.

Anyway keep following the tournament. Your scribe has put some images up on Flickr and will try and add some more when time permits.

What’s happening? Read your crystal balls!

Our correspondent in a field in Cullompton writes:

Bristol Wireless’ old friends, the Easton Cowboys, have all deserted their usual Bristol haunts (including the Plough and other watering holes, green flat places suited to the beautiful game and the like) and toddled to Cullompton, where they’re camping and playing football on the edge of the town. This bank holiday event is being held as the 15th anniversary of the Easton Cowboys Tournament (it’s been going so long they now have an Easton Cowboys Old Guard team in the tournament).

Bristol Wireless’ advance guard of Mike of Psand, plus Lloyd, Bails, Matt and Rich were down here on Wednesday doing the initial setup ready for the camp’s opening on Thursday, with Rich and Bails staying overnight. The BW crew was swollen on Thursday by a few more volunteers and a couple more are due in later today, including the return of Mike and Lloyd, now refreshed and recovered after their dash and camping out at Heathrow doing the Climate Camp Indymedia tent last week and before.

I’m currently sitting drafting this at one of the four evo thin clients running off the LTSP laptop, which is also powering 12 x 12 years old Toshiba laptops in a nice airy tent. From the keyboard the keystrokes composing your email or sending your IRC witticisms from site are travelling 36,000 through the satellite dish to a bird out in space before landing back on earth somewhere near Dortmund, according to DNS Stuff.

It’s nearly noon and the cybertent is doing steady business, with people using gaim for instant messenging, checking their emails and so on…

The first match results have now arrived and Sean has swung into action and updated the tournament spreadsheet on Google documents, whilst your correspondent plugged the match reports into the Crystal Balls chat channel (see below). The draw for the mens’ footie was taken last night by tequila-assisted apple dunking (a bit different from the FA Cup draw. Ed.)

Even if you cannot make it to Devon, you can keep up to date via Crystal Balls’ own dedicated web page and chat channel. More experienced chat users may just like to fire up their preferred client, setting the server to and the channel to #crystalballs

LTSP = Linux Terminal Schools Project?

In June Bristol Wireless were approached by Eddie Smith, Chair of Governors at St Werburghs Primary School to demonstrate our Linux thin client technology. On Monday 2nd July 2007 Bristol Wireless took the 12 volt LTSP suite plus three desktop thin clients to the classroom for two weeks since the school wanted to investigate the potential of using Linux for learning.

Tunnel of LTSPWe went into the school and set up 12 x 12 volt PI vintage laptops long past their sell-by date and 3 standalone Compaq desktops with two CRT monitors and a flat screen monitor. The latter served as examples of what faster client could do when connected to the new Dell dual core processor laptop with 2 GB of RAM that acted as the LTSP server. Understandably, they preferred the Compaq machines to the PIs; the screens had a better resolution and users felt that they responded faster. On day two, when the server had been locked away overnight, it failed to pick up an internet connection when the server was restarted. The problem? We’d forgotten to enter the IP in the resolv.conf file (doh!). That fixed, the rest of the two weeks went without a hitch. We were expecting a few support phone calls over the 2 weeks, but there were none! In the absence of the school ringing us, we rang them to find out how it was going and they told us fine. 🙂 Indeed, it went so well that when we collected the kit from the school the kids expressed a wish to keep it.

Bristol Wireless will be talking to St Werburghs Primary again in September for some more formal feedback but it all sounds positive so far. One issue that did come up was that the small children didn’t have much to do on the suite, even though we had loaded gcompris. Ideally, we should have given all the staff a run through of and let them become familiar with the huge range of educational software available for Linux (e.g. KDE Education Pack, TuxPaint).

Eddie Smith, the Chair of the school’s governors, declared: “I’m impressed by the extraordinary possibilities offered by LTSP for increasing use and availability of IT and saving money at the same time. However, I am disappointed that e-learning credits cannot be used for non-commercial software solutions”. In addition, Eddie saw a further drawback in the conservatism of the teaching profession: teachers might not want to venture outside their software comfort zone.

One of the most surprising outcomes of the whole venture was the response of Scott, the school’s IT technician, whose attitude changed from “I know about Linux and it’s not for me or the school” to “this is great, let me show it to everyone I know”. He is now rumoured to be running Ubuntu at home…

What we did at the Big Green Gathering

Our annual jaunt to the BGG geared up in July. We had plenty of volunteers and despite several weeks of unremitting rain, we were confident that the weather would be fine and that we would be having a wonderful bus persons holiday.

Mike from Psand was on site several days (weeks?) before the rest of us as he had been contracted by the BGG administrative team to provide connectivity and other IT services (incredibly cheaply I might add!). The advance guard of the rest of the crew arrived over the preceding weekend only to find Mike had the tent up, satellite communications ready and the cider on tap (um, why were we here again?).

And so on Wednesday morning before the gates even opened we were up and running and ready to serve peoples’ internet needs for the next 5 days. After an initial slow start (people had to put up their tents I suppose!), we were pretty packed out the whole time. Despite producing lots of information boards and leaflets our volunteers were still inundated with IT queries and problems, and when not showing Hare Krishna monks where to find the Iceweasel browser or strong arming wifi freeloaders into Norm’s cafe next door, were busy buttonholing the curious and the accidental visitors, advocating away on behalf of open source and Linux. Meanwhile in the back of the crew area, Mike experimented with cocktails, while Matt did mysterious things with extra long VGA cables and satellite TV.

The one disappointment of the week was the failure to launch of our workshop program; we now realise that the idea of “turning up and see what happens” probably isn’t the right approach. After an hour struggling with an old laptop, projector and lack of ideas we abandoned it. It was more than made up for by Ben, Hamish and Mike presenting a riveting talk and discussion on copyleft in the Green forums tent, which will be online shortly, and our screening of corporate copyright breaking Sicko (dir. Michael Moore) in our impromptu cinema. Starting a 3 hour movie at midnight after an evening of drinking cider might make us rethink our scheduling next year. Despite that, all the seats were taken, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the end.

Most of the crew had to leave on Sunday at the end for mundane “jobs” back in Bristol on Monday morning, but the takedown crew was even able to offer a limited service for donations throughout Monday for stragglers and site crew to arrange transport home, while a small group of us staged an impromptu ceremony for our fallen comrade Woody.

We raised over £700 after covering our costs and the sun shone all week (except for one morning when the tent nearly fell down due to the weight of the water, resulting in an emergency tent surgery class) and we’re all looking forward to going back next year and doing it again, bigger, better and with properly planned workshops.

Thanks to Di, Hilary, Llanos, Andy, Ben, Toffee, Bails, Jim, Rich, Mike, Matt, Ryan, Rachel, Neave, Josh, Reuben & and anybody else who helped out and bought the cider. 🙂