This weekend was deemed the most important point in the Digital Merthyr project for the future sustainability of our community network.
To explain, we are at the point where our friendly Spanish engineers will soon leave us, having installed the foundations of our network. After weeks of observation and theory, the reality sets in that we, as residents, will be responsible for the maintaining and installing any future hardware.
No amount of grey skies or rain could stand in our way…
Project partners Creative Coop, Routek and Efrain from Guifi.net Barcelona arranged a hands-on practical training day.
In the morning we began configuring 12 pairs of nodes and routers (session pictured above) that we are going to install into resident homes ourselves over the coming days. This will take the total homes connected to 42, our target number for our experiment.
Images above: Digital Champion Tom up a ladder and ready for drilling a hole through his mum’s bedroom wall (sorry mum) to thread cable from outside into the home.
In the afternoon we divided into two teams and started to align and fix the ‘node’ devices to the outside of the houses. We also learned to 'crimp’ our own ethernet cables and connect the router inside resident homes.
In addition to the local Digital Champions, we were pleased to welcome Doug and Jo from the Hackspace in Cardiff and Damien from neighbouring Tai Calon Community Housing.
Image: Digital Champion Ian learning to 'Crimp’ Ethernet cable with Doug from Cardiff Hackspace. Crimping is basically adding plugs onto the end of the cable with a special tool. Learning to do this means we can buy cable at a cheaper price and drill small holes for threading ;-)
Doug and Jo kindly volunteered to help with the installation in exchange for learning about the project. We are hoping we can form some kind of partnership in the coming months to improve digital skills in Gellideg, grow the mesh beyond the estate and find innovative uses for the network.
As a team we decided to start by connecting two of the Digital Champion’s, Tom (below right with Jo) and Justin (above right with Doug). Justin, a local self employed roofer recently joined the team to help Ian and Tom, by climbing ladders, laying cable, drilling holes and fixing brackets.
We really have a great local team and an incredible network of support building – it was great to see everyone pulling together and after the weekend, we think our future looks rather promising.