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Help a hack: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit?

El Reg is going walkabout to stave off deep desert XP-ocalypse, needs your help

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Keen Reg readers may remember that last year we visited the remote Aboriginal community of Willowra and its new Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre.

We went because we wanted to know how technology makes an impact in a remote community. What we found was a wonderful facility with enormous potential to help locals, but it was struggling with a slow internet connection and in urgent need of an upgrade from Windows XP.

We pointed out those issues to the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, which runs the Learning Centre, and offered to help.

They agreed, and in two weeks The Reg is going back to Willowra to address the XP situation on the centre's eight PCs.

Which is where you come in: what would YOU take to Willowra to do an XP-to-Windows 7 migration?

The Batchelor Institute IT team will provide us with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office disks. Before we go we'll get a list of the apps installed on the PCs and bring the very latest versions of those to town with us because the anaemic satellite connection means downloading patches is very undesirable. We plan to make another disk (or USB stick) full of all the software we know is already on the PCs. We imagine we'll be in sneakernet mode: walking from one PC to the next, clutching our disks and watching hourglasses tumble.

So here's what we need some tips on:

  • Tools to automate the installation of multiple applications from a USB stick or optical disk
  • Suggestions for apps that will help PCs be at their best in a very bandwidth-constrained environment
  • Software you think could assist people with low literacy levels

We need your help because this is a job worth doing.

Remote Aboriginal communities are among Australia's most impoverished. Literacy levels are low (it's a four-hour drive to the nearest High School), jobs are scarce and all manner of public services scanty. Life expectancy is low by Australian standards. Leaving town is an option, but being absent from ancestral land means spiritual poverty for many Willowrans.

The Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre is a $3m investment that tries to address those issues by giving locals a chance to acquire new skills that can lead to work in the community. The Reg hopes that by speeding up internet access just a little, we can make it possible for locals to tap into the wealth of online resources that can help them get ahead. And maybe, just maybe, one day Willowra and other remote communities will be able to find work online. Online marketplaces like the Amazon Mechanical Turk do not care where their workers are, and we figure that if we can make the internet easier to use, we can help the community get a step closer to opportunity.

Which is why we are going and why we need your help.

So here's some extra detail about the setup in Willowra.

We know there are server-based automation tools for this kind of thing, but we're not yet in the position to put servers in place, because we're not yet entirely sure what lurks within the Learning Centre's comms cabinet. That's another reason for this visit: once we know more about the Centre's networks we can plan another trip to wring every possible bit out of its satellite connection.

Batchelor Institute's IT folk want to work with us on that, too, so they can learn what it takes to provide the best possible internet experience in the other remote Learning Centres it operates.

That's for the future. For now, your tips on how to get a mighty fine Windows 7 upgrade done in about 48 hours will make a difference.

So get to it, readers: let us know how we can make this upgrade quick and easy. ®

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