Brian Candler’s Letter

Brian Candler’s Letter

Note: This is the letter from Brian Candler that we sent to Belize schools as part of the BITF Newsletter in March 1997. It was to invite them to the Linux workshop that was held at Corozal Community College, in Corozal Town, Belize. It is amazing how much hardware minimums have changed since 1997 .

31 Mar to 5 Apr 1997 . by Brian Candler

As many of you will have seen in the previous newsletter, the Belize Internet Task Force is organising an Internet workshop for computer teachers. The workshop aims to show how schools in Belize can link their computer labs to the Internet at low cost, taking advantage of the free Internet connections offered to schools by BTL. In this article I will be giving some more details about the workshop, to try to give you a better idea of what it is all about.

Although the Internet has been in Belize for over a year now, not everybody has had the chance to use it yet. So the very first topic we will cover, on the afternoon of Monday 31st March, is a “user’s guide” to the Internet. The computer lab at Corozal Community College will be Internet-linked and you will have the opportunity to discover, using Windows 95 software, what the Internet is all about, and to learn the basic terminology. Those who know this already can arrive on Monday evening, when we will be preparing hardware ready for the next day.

The goal of the rest of the workshop is to enable you to provide this same level of access in your own school. Hopefully by the end of the week we will have come "full circle", except as the computer teacher in your school, you will be running the connection, not just using it.

The core technology we will be using during the rest of the workshop (Tuesday to Saturday) is "Linux", a free clone of the Unix operating system. One of the reasons that most schools have not taken advantage of BTL’s offer of free connections is that they are concerned about the costs involved.

However using Linux and a normal PC and modem, you can set up an Internet connection with no special or expensive hardware. Unix (or Linux) is the ideal platform for Internet connectivity because the Internet Protocol is completely integral to its design.

All participants in the workshop will receive a copy of Linux on CD-ROM, and are encouraged to bring a PC with them to install it onto, ready to use when they return home. If you can’t bring a PC, you can bring a hard disk drive to install the software on; and if you can’t bring that, don’t worry because you will be able to share a PC with someone else (we plan to have one PC between two students).

Ideally this PC will be dedicated to running Linux, so that it is always available for people on your network to send and read E-mail (which can take place even if you are not connected to the Internet at the time). However if your resources are limited, you can set up a PC so that it can boot into either Linux or DOS/Windows as required.

The minimum specification PC you need to run Linux is as follows:

  • 386SX
  • 4MB RAM (preferably 8MB or more)
  • 150MB of hard drive space

In addition you will need a modem to dial up to the Internet, and a network card to link to the other computers in your lab. If you can spare a 486 with 16MB or more of RAM, you will be able to run the X­Window System for graphics; but even the minimal system described above makes a perfectly functional Internet router.

As well as learning how to install and administer a Linux system, you will learn about the operation of the Internet Protocol, and how routers on the Internet perform their task of forwarding data between networks. We will look at how IP works over ethernets, dial-up modems, and leased-line connections, all with practical exercises. We will take a detailled look at the connectivity options available to you. For example, schools in Belize City can opt for a leased-line connection from BTL, which requires a more expensive modem but gives you uninterrupted 24-hour Internet access, and lets your school have a true presence on the Internet.

E-mail is still the most important Internet service, and we will cover in detail how the same Linux PC can also act as an E-mail server. By running your own server you will be able to create separate E-mail accounts for all your staff and students. Finally, we will cover the essentials of Internet security.

There is flexibility in the timetable, and if there are topics which are of special interest to participants (such as how to integrate Internet access into a Novell network) we will cover them either in the main body of the course, or in optional evening sessions. The course is being run for you, so it is up to you to make your wishes known!

It should be clear from the above that this is a course with a very strong "hands-on" bias. It’s intended for people who work day-to-day with computers, and who understand DOS and computer hardware. However you won’t be expected to have any prior knowledge of either Internet or Unix. A mailing list will be set up so that, after the workshop, all the participants can stay in touch and sort out any problems which may arise.

I hope that as many of Belize’s computer teachers as possible will be able to spare the time to attend; going by past experience, it should be a highly enjoyable and stimulating workshop. On a personal note, I am very much looking forward to coming back to Belize, and I find it exciting to think that schools across the country may very soon become part of the Internet community. I hope you find this idea as exciting as I do, and that this workshop will help you turn it into reality.

With very best wishes,

Brian Candler.


Brian Candler lives in London, graduated from Cambridge University, and is a specialist in programming and electronic design. He worked at UCB for two and a half years as a VSO volunteer, during which time he set up Belize’s first public-access Internet E-mail system. He has since taught and organised Internet training workshops in Montreal, St. Petersburg and Accra, on behalf of the Internet Society, the American Physical Society, and the United Nations Development Programme.


Printed from — Brian Candler’s Letter.