Back in the North [2017-02-12]

It was a week full of happy reunions for us!  We headed up to northern Cebu to visit five of the Reneal schools up there.  While there’s truly never enough time, we did manage to finish our tasks and even fix an additional unexpected bug.  I think we’ve left everyone in good share hardware-wise, and they now have Neal’s new “Manage Classes” program to assist in checking their students’ outputs.  A fulfilling week!

Part of the fun was traveling with our boys, Rhog and Lloyd.  They are college seniors, nearing the end of their on-the-job training and on the brink of graduating.  They have contributed immeasurably to Reneal’s mission since they began their OJT work in June.  We have watched them gain knowledge and confidence as the months have passed.  Their mentor, IT teacher Sir Jade Reyes, was our own student many years ago, and watching Jade pass the torch to these two has been so satisfying.  We are proud of these young men and their hard work and motivation.

Along with hardware repairs and software updates, we were happy to establish our first repository of spare equipment for the schools in the north.  It is a long bus ride to get there, and we wanted a way to be more responsive when the inevitable hardware failures occur.  Sir Chester at Daanbantayan National High School graciously agreed to hold three boxes of monitors, computers, mice, and keyboards for emergency deployment.  We will establish a similar repository for the schools in our other work area (from Mandaue City to Carmen), including a spare server for emergencies.  We’ll see how this works out, but I know that I will sleep easier at night knowing that Reneal can respond immediately if there is a hardware problem.

It was a busy schedule.  Sir Ruel, the principal of Tominjao NHS, picked us up Monday morning.  The vehicle was jammed with big boxes of equipment, the green tool bag, a box of Ethernet cable, our personal gear, and the four of us.  We went directly to Daanbantayan NHS.  One of their labs has been a beta test site for Xubuntu 16.04, and Neal did some fairly major updates.  There are about 20 of their computers that are Pentium 4-era machines, and those units seemed to be struggling a bit with only 512 Mb of RAM, so the boys brought them all up to 768 Mb (thanks to World Computer Exchange,, for the extra memory!).  We also spent all day Tuesday there.  While things went pretty smoothly, we agreed that we weren’t yet in a position to upgrade all of the schools in the north to 16.04 – hopefully next year. 

Wednesday and Thursday we dedicated a half-day each to four other schools in the north: Calape, Tominjao, Medellin Science, and Kawit.  Neal had some minor software updates, including his “Manage Classes” program, and we had some hardware repair/replacement work at each school.  It was a pretty intense four days, but we left feeling that the schools are in a good state to serve the students.

Neal did a pretty amazing quick bug fix on Wednesday.  Rhog and Lloyd mentioned that some USB flash drives were not working properly in the Reneal system.  We googled it, and it looked like it might relate to the USB format.  Permissions for FAT32-formatted USB drives seemed to be fine, but NTFS-formatted USB drives were read-only.  Most USB drives come as FAT32, but any USB drives that were reformatted due to viruses were probably NTFS – and given how rampant virus problems are here, that was a reasonable fraction of drives here!  Before we left Calape on Wednesday morning, Neal had the fix done and we were able to get the system updated at all of the schools before we left for home Friday morning on the bus.

This week will bring more school visits, including a return to Jugan NHS on Thursday for teacher orientation.  Tonight I still need to prepare the boxes for the Reneal “south spares” that will be stored at Arcelo Memorial NHS where Sir Jade teaches.  Neal is upstairs right now putting the finishing touches on the spare server.  So… another busy week ahead, but it will be great to see more of our beloved IT teachers!