Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bo town

Date: Tuesday June 23rd 2009

Venue: David’s house, Bo

Took the 6 AM bus from Freetown to Bo this morning. With our 100 XOs and bulky luggage, I am sure we made a lot of passengers unhappy today but we had little choice: all other means of transporting the XOs were proving too costly. The bus finally left at 6:40 and we left the bustling Freetown for the calm of what the Leoneans call the upline(Ishmael Beah thinks that term is pejorative but people still use it anyway). The journey was surprisingly smooth. Apparently the road between Bo and Freetown has been newly constructed and it was not nearly as bumpy as Mathias has described his journey in 2007 to be. It was otherwise uneventful except that we bought our first pineapple in Sierra Leone on the way and a man who claimed to be a qualified doctor, made a long speech on the bus in order to sell traditional medicine imported from China.
Bo is beautifully chilled out. The general consensus in the group is that we love Bo much more than Freetown. David’s mother place, where we are crashing for the night has an orchard full of all kinds of trees: mango, guava, coconut- you name it. It’s a great break from Freetown’s crazy hustle.

Since it also has relatively stable electricity, I finally got to check the routers Sam got for us. They are beautiful beings(yes, routers too can be beautiful) We got five WRT300Ns, v 1.1. That’s an overkill, as Sam aptly pointed out, but since we got them refurbished from not-a-very-reputable source(, we thought we should get one extra to hedge it. Also, we found them pretty cheap(40$ apiece if I remember correct). The v 1.1 have 8 mb of memory and the best thing is that flashing them with dd-wrt works like a charm(a custom version for the specific model is available at; just check the wiki for the article on wrt300n). DD-WRT is a linux-based firmware for routers that you can flash your routers with for added flexibility(you can increase the throughput, make a hotspot, use WDS etc.). Since your router is basically a mini computer, this nifty piece of software replaces your manufacturer’s firmware to give you full control of the hardware you own. Do however check out the wiki pages for entries on your model if you decide to use this, because it has been known to ‘brick’ routers.

Also talked to Zain(the major cellphone company here) about internet availability. Sahn doesn’t have very good coverage so we’re going to have a trial run there with a modem a guy at the Zain office in Bo lent us. I also took a picture of a map at the office that showed where all their towers are on the map so that when we use an antenna to try and extend the range, we know where to point it. To avoid any complicated hacking, we are going to try and use a standard TV antenna for extending the range of the EDGE modem. I am not sure how the physics of it work out, but I hope that we’ll get enough gain to up the signal by a couple of bars, which should be enough for getting a good EDGE connection going. Will upload details on the deployment once we get it done.
I am off to bed now- must try and digest that scrumptious meal David’s mom fixed us.

Until later,


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