Monday, September 17, 2012

On the Wings of a Mosquito and Other Scientific Discoveries

For the past week, we’ve had a significant internet outage here in Ukarumpa, which has brought all my ability to post my insightful and entertaining blogs to a grinding halt (as I'm sure you have already surmised). Never fear! My digimodem is now working again, and so, I will mimic my village email here in Ukarumpa... and while you wait for us to get back online, enjoy my internet escapades while in Saidor!


0.79, 8.22, 4.5, 3.6, 0.00, 0.00.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead and kept staring intently at the screen.

5.66, 1.9, 10.42, 2.16, 2.67, 0.00... “Come on, come on, you can do it...” I muttered, “just a little bit more, baby. Come on!”

The numbers flicked past at Matrix speed as the orange graph lines shot up and down, like a heartbeat monitor.

 1.44, 0.89, 0.22, 0.7, 5.72, 4.02, 32.7.

“YES!” I shot my fist into the area! “That’s right! There you go! It got through!” Skreek! A flock of birds chattered disapprovingly in the mango tree across the road at my outburst. Hmph. I tipped my chin. They obviously don’t understand the importance of this moment.

Victory achieved, I closed my laptop and began strolling across the soccer field, back to my room, grinning smugly to myself. I doubt nuclear reactor operators watching pressurized dials or pilots landing on slippery aircraft carriers or even top secret scientists measuring the distance of a killer comet to the earth would have felt such excitement as I did at the passing of numbers.

Of course, their numbers weren’t measuring kilobytes per second for upload/download speed of email on a portable modem... and 32.7 was a lightning fast connection!

I was on staff at a literacy course in Saidor, a tiny town in Madang province... and we were attempting email through our Digicel phone connection. In our desperate quest to receive information from the outside world, we discovered several important factors that your average computer geek probably is unaware of. Lest you belittle our scientific findings, let me assure you that the following have been field-tested extensively by yours truly and my fellow intrepid explorers, Mavis and Mark.

1)    The number of mosquitoes in the air is directly proportional to your internet connection. Why? The vibrating air caused by the wings of mosquitoes allows the digicel signal to travel more swiftly. Thus, more mosquitoes =better connection. As a result, email only works in early morning or late evening.

The early morning stroll. Put on your mosquito repellant!

2)    In order to collect all the available Digicel signal it is important to slowly move your computer, allowing the air (which holds the signal) to pass into your computer. Thus, stationary computers do not receive nearly as good a signal and instead use up all the little Digicel bits in that one patch.

Notice her expert technique in slowly shifting the computer. She's smiling! Just think about how much fun this is!

3)    The time that your connection is so slow that it will take half an hour to receive several text-only emails is the time when Gmail’s system will for some reason decide to resend all your emails from the last three months... which numbers in the many many hundreds!

Writing emails...reading emails... news from the outside world!

“It looks like she’s paying homage to the Digicel god,” remarked one of my companions dryly. “All she needs is a ceremonial headdress.”

“Well, it could be worse.” Barbara tilted her head philosophically. “When I do radio email, sometimes it slows to 5 bytes per second and then one email takes all night!”

Yes, 32.7 kbps really is something to celebrate about.. and I might even say thank you to the mosquitoes. :)

Fist pump to celebrate--the email went through!!