My First Book Published on Amazon

After a lot of editing my first book, Understanding Computer Troubleshooting and Maintenance, is finally available for download from Amazon in eReader format for reading on your mobile devices!

Cover

Here is the introduction to the first edition:

 This book was originally written as a supplement for a seminar course of mine while I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa, from 2010 to 2012.

 I joined the Peace Corps in 2010 after receiving my degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. In Cameroon I served as an Education Volunteer teaching Computer Science. This book is the result of my work at the Cameroonian Delegation of Secondary Education where I was assigned there as a teacher trainer, working with secondary school teachers for the relatively new computer science program introduced to schools across the country. My “students” were mostly experienced middle aged teachers and supervisors who were experienced teachers but had little training in computer skills.

 This book was created from my various notes and lesson plans for the seminars I gave for these teachers. The goal of the seminar was to help these dedicated teachers understand more about how their computers worked and how to keep them in working condition in the field. Cameroonian schools are often very short staffed and the computer science teacher serves as an educator, a technician, and tech support for the whole school. The better educated these teachers were, the better they could maintain their aging computer labs, and the more time students could spend using computers.

Seeing that my notes were filling an essential need for a practical guide for basic computer troubleshooting and maintenance, I compiled them into this short book.

Unfortunately Amazon Publishing doesn’t seem to allow listing books for free, so my book is available at the minimum listing price of $0.99. You can get the kindle version from the Amazon link below.

Amazon Store 

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COS Trip

On my way home from Cameroon I traveled for three weeks with friends in North Africa and Europe.

Directly from Cameroon I flew to Egypt along with two other Peace Corps friends, Allison and Jenny. We stayed in downtown Cairo where we saw museums, the pyramids, and walked around the city enjoying everything. I really liked the excellent street food (falafel, baba ghanoush, and fool) along with fresh fruit juice and hibiscus tea. Later that week we visited Alexandria for a couple days before heading our separate ways.

From Egypt I traveled to France, where I explored Paris on my own for a few days. From there I met a family friend Lionel in Strasbourg which is on the border of Germany. I was able to get a lot of French practice with Lionel and his wife Michele while I was staying with them. I explored Strasbourg and the surrounding country with Lionel, and I traveled one day on my own to Basel, Switzerland which was only a short train ride away.

After saying goodbye to Lionel I traveled to Brussels, Belgium to meet up with another Peace Corps friend, Jared. We stayed in a hostel in the very center of the city and enjoyed exploring the place. We ate lots of fries, waffles, and drank really good beer. Then we traveled to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Amsterdam is a very beautiful city filled with canals and with bicycles everywhere. We mostly enjoyed the scenic waterways and we saw the sites of the town.

From Amsterdam I traveled back to Paris to take my flight home to the US, which was my first time home in over 27 months!

Leaving Cameroon

After two years and three months my Peace Corps service is finally at its end. My last few weeks in Cameroon were very hectic – I was selling my furniture and packing my belongings while saying goodbye to colleagues, students, and other volunteers.

I made time to say good bye to so many people who were kind to me, helped me in my work, or were just there for me when I needed them. I snapped a few photos with some of these people as I was saying goodbye.

There were many ups and downs during my time in Cameroon, but overall it has been a very rewarding experience that has taught me so much. I am very glad I was lucky enough to have had this opportunity.

Bamenda University of Science and Technology

I’ve been working with Bamenda University of Science and Technology (BUST) for over a year now. BUST has been responsible for some of the most fulfilling work I have had the pleasure to do in Cameroon.

I first learned about BUST through a colleague of mine, Chi David, who was acting as a lecturer there. I went to sit in on his classes and I was immediately impressed by the school. BUST is a small private university located right outside of Bamenda, with an enrollment of around 600 students. Because of its small size and excellent private management, the school has been able to sidestep many of the bureaucratic hurdles plaguing their public counterparts.

The administration is very open to new ideas and innovative thinking; They practice a hands on approach and encourage entrepreneurship in their students. They wisely attempt to focus the education system for the environment of Cameroon.

At BUST I lectured a course on Computer Networking (TCP/IP), with a focus on CISCO equipment. I attempted to stress practical skills, and my students were expected to apply theory learned in my class in practical exercises.

Aside from lecturing, I advised the university in the design of a new computer laboratory for technical students through making professional recommendations for the type and number of computers needed, networking equipment required, and calculating the electrical requirements for the new lab. The administration was very receptive and moved quickly to purchase the necessary equipment. My students and I helped install the laboratory and a functional computer network throughout the school, as a practical and constructive exercise.

In the past few months I have been helping in the design and implementation of the new department of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Working with other staff members I helped devise a three year sample curriculum for the new program. I also gave my recommendations for the technical equipment required for the electrical engineering section of this program.

I enjoyed working with BUST and I have high hopes for this school and wish it great success in the future!

Cyber Café

For the past few months I have been working with a local Cyber Café located in my neighbourhood. The owner, Elvis, has been very open to innovative solutions for his business. In Cameroon where internet connectivity is very expensive if even available and where there are few personal computers, Cyber Cafés provide a much needed service.

Bandwidth is very expensive even in cities. For example, the best connection available in Bamenda is rated at 256Kbps, (about 4.5x the speed of dial up, far slower than broadband in America) and costs about $60 US dollars a month. In a country so poor, this is an outlandish price.

To meet the needs of his Cyber Café, Elvis purchased several (6) internet connections. His problem was correctly load balancing the connections across the network, while maintaining a common Cyber Café billing and management system. This is where I came in to help.

Together we were able to build a Linux based a load balancing system, giving equal bandwidth to each computer in the network while maintaining a single management server. This has been working flawlessly over the past three months.

Overall, I was very impressed with the sophistication of the network and facility compared to others, and the desire to innovate in what is a relatively stagnant field here in Cameroon.

Parent’s Visit

In March my parents came to visit me in Cameroon. I was glad to have visitors and I feel it was an eye opening experience for my parents.

I picked up my mother and father at the airport in the capital city, Yaounde, located in the French speaking majority of the country. There I showed them what I perceived were  the western luxuries of the capital, though for someone coming from the US I saw what I saw to be luxurious really wasn’t. We saw the neighbourhoods I most often frequent while in Yaounde, my favourite bakeries, restaurants, walks, and sites. I arranged transport for us to travel to a primate reserve outside of the capital which was a very interesting experience. Although primates live in Cameroon, I had never seen a live one before due to excessive hunting.

After Yaounde we travelled to my post the capital city of Bamenda, which is located in the English speaking North West Region. Travel took about 7 hours by bus. This was a great part of the trip because my parents were able to meet my friends, neighbours, and colleagues without needing me as an interpreter. I saw able to show my parents the Teacher Resource Centre, the two vocational schools, and the university where I teach. In addition, my parents were able to sit in on one of  my university courses at Bamenda University of Science and Technology. Some of my university students and several professors treated us to lunch at a restaurant owned by student of mine, where my parents were able to try some of my favourite traditional foods.

We also took a trip to a small village named Ewoh about an hour outside of Bamenda, to show my parents a less developed and more representative view of Cameroon than the two cities. Travelling to Ewoh requires taking a “bush taxi,” a sedan with 7 passengers and a driver, and then a motorcycle for the last stretch. The motorcycle taxi rides were a very  big change for my parents. We met my friend and fellow PCV Josh in his small village of about 500 people where he showed us his high school and where we drank palm wine, a traditional alcoholic beverage. This gave my parents a very good representation of village life in Cameroon, and the stark contrast between urban and rural poverty.

The last part of our trip we travelled to Limbe, a beach town in the South West Region. This required another 8 hour bus trip. Here we stayed in a wonderful secluded and quiet hotel about 30 minutes outside of town. Limbe is striking for its volcanic black beaches and looming mountains. We had a great time just relaxing on the beach, taking hikes, and enjoying wonderful seafood. We met several other ex pats who were willing to talk about their experiences in Cameroon with my parents as well.

Finally one last bush taxi ride brought us to Douala, the largest city in Cameroon, where we said good bye at the air port. Overall it was wonderful seeing my family again and sharing my experiences with them, who now have a much better picture of my time in Cameroon.

Teacher Training

I spent the last week in Kumbo, a city in the North West Region of Cameroon, providing a seminar for teachers. Computer Science teachers from all over the division were present. The course took place at the Government Bilingual High School Kumbo (GBHS Kumbo), which had better than average facilities for the seminar.

Over the week we covered many topics from computer hardware and software maintenance, to network configuration and management, and even C++ programming. The students were tested through practical lessons throughout the course, starting with a hardware troubleshooting obstacle course, moving on to network cable crimping and network configuration, and on to writing simple code.

I feel the seminar was very well received and helped increase the skills of the teachers. The most challenging subject for most of the participants was  the C++ programming section,  but by the end of the course each of the students had created a functional calculator program. There is a serious need in Cameroon for more of these trainings to take place in order to improve the performance of untrained teachers.

Each of the students received several DVDs of software and training materials for the laboratories for aiding in the teaching of computer science.

I received a lot of help from my friends Andrew and Christian, who helped me by taking on a few lessons and helping out with practicals. Below are some pictures of the seminar, my students, the school, and Kumbo.