Sept. 1, 11pm
Last evening Albin and I met with Mtituh. He is an experienced network technician here in Dar es Salaam and was telling me about various Internet possibilities in Tanzania (CDMA, GSM, EDGE, HSDPA, GPRS, EVDO) "Albin are you understanding this?" "No." Am I? Somewhat. It's not the first time I've heard these acronyms but this is where the Carry On part of my "Be Calm and Carry On" strategy is put it play :) Zain, Zantel, TTCL, Sastel, Vodacom...OK....Carry On....
After two hours of discussing options, he called a colleague, a former employee of TTCL, who confirmed that TTCL (Tanzanian Telephone Company Limited) had a high speed modem (EVDO) which would give us speeds of 512kbps in Karatu which is much faster than what we will be getting with the satellite dish (128kbps). "This is worth checking out," I said to myself. "This would be a MUCH better solution....faster and less expensive than the satellite connection."
So as he suggested, I went to the TTCL office in the Sayansi area. Spoke to an account executive who talked to two different TTCL engineers and she confirmed for me that Yes the EVDO modem did work with the Linux operating system, which is what we have at Banjika, but that No we wouldn't get speeds of 512kbps. Hmmm.....conflicting information...who to trust??? The great dilemma of life.
Technology is an exciting field to be in (at least that is one way of thinking about it) because things are always changing. What was true last week may not be true next week. What was applicable yesterday may not be viable tomorrow.
The only way to know for sure is to test it yourself. "I'm going to buy the modem and test it out." I had a Linux netbook so I asked if I could test the modem before buying it. "No." then "Just wait here for a moment."
At this point, I've been in the TTCL office for 2 hours ...an exercise in patience. The final word was No I couldn't test it before I bought it and if I bought it and it didn't work, MAYBE I could return it. OK...I bought it.. $66.
"It's easy...it is plug and play." Well I plugged it in and it didn't play...surprise surprise. After another hour with Mr. Elaise trying to get it to work and three phone calls with Abdul, another TTCL engineer...I was requested to bring my netbook and the modem to the TTCL CITY office where Abdul was so he could fix it hands-on. OK. If you like traffic jams you'll LOVE Dar es Salaam. It's now 4pm and I knew the traffic going into the city wouldn't be bad so I take a Bajaj (mini-taxi) down to the city centre. I find the TTCL office and then Abdul. Guess what...he couldn't get it to work either. I've now spent four hours on this project. "OK...I'll just take my money back." "Hamnashida (no problem) but you have to go back to the Sayansi office to get your money back...our office here is already closed." Then it dawned on me that I now needed to head OUT of the city during the height of rush hour.
How have I lasted 23 years in the technology business??? This story is about the frustrations of technology...not necessarily about the frustrations of technology in Tanzania although here there is an added spice :) but everyone has been more than willing to help me find practical solutions.
I am still going to follow every lead in the hope of finding a faster, less expensive alternative to satellite for Internet access in the rural areas. Am I tilting at windmills?