Nhulunbuy, webcams and beyond!

This last few days has really been amazing. I had coordinated with a few people in Brisbane and Darwin to get 5 of us over a few weeks out to Nhulunbuy, a small town fair smack in the middle of Arhnem Land, Northern Territory. The town is a mining town with a strong local and surrounding Indigenous community, and it was really a pleasure to meet some of the great people there. We set up 10 computers for the Miwatj Health Community Centre (plus a mock website for them which is coming along), 3 computers for another health centre out of town and 2 computers for a crisis clinic in the area. We used Linux on most of the machines, namely Ubuntu with an enticing set of icons, set up some useful applications for general use (note, Sokar, Jeff and I in the latter), and then watched people have fun. It turned out we could have used Linux on all the Miwatj (pronounced me-watch) machines as the single M$ application they need for the health training runs on the terminal server there and the Ubuntu terminal server client does the trick nicely. It could have been a bit better coordinated with other local groups there, however we had an alright turnout to the opening and the people there were very impressed with the end product. Also we had some guys come to the opening interested in making an Open Source event tracker for a community-run initiative to solve issues such as drug and alcohol abuse locally and in a culturally effective fashion. I will certainly be speaking to them again soon :)

All up, we spent 2 days building, hacking, and working around power outages, network outages, and dodgy hardware and a third day to show it off and talk to the local campus of the Charles Darwin Uni. We ended up with a perfectly working lab that will be more useful to the general public there as a resource, rather than just for health training. I’ll have a short video out soon, but the 3 days finished with a perfect sunset. A wonderful job by Jeff of CDU, Horatio from Brisbane, Geoffrey from Sydney, and of course Sokar. Interestingly when Jeff and I were waiting at the Nhulunbuy airport for Sokar to meet us, we both realised we had no idea what she looked like. When she came in, amongst many other people she and I recognised each other immediately. It turns out we are probably each on either side of the same mirror :) She is an amazing and driven woman who is achieving some pretty cool things. At any rate it was wonderful to meet everyone, and work with everyone, and I think we’ve done a great job that lays a foundation for many more such projects. We’ve already started planning for a few more community centres in remote and rural Australia, so if you have any communities in mind that you think need help, let me know. I believe this is one of the best contributions an Open Source advocate could make to their cause. Getting out there and getting their hands dirty, using Open Source to solve social problems and actually help people.

Rock on Nhulunbuy! A video blog soon to follow.

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