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Driver drama delays deep desert XP upgrade

Windows silliness puts our man at risk of CAMEL COLLISION

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Divine inspiration

Enter EJ, in possession of a warning letter from the Electoral Commission alleging he hadn't voted in Australia's last election. Voting is compulsory in Australia**, so the Commission was about to fine him $20 for failing to exercise his franchise. EJ wasn't having a bar of that and, with my help, penned a letter explaining where he is enrolled, where he voted and finishing with his vow that the highest authority in this or any other land could attest to the honesty of his declaration.

It may surprise some to know that EJ and many other Australian aboriginals in remote communities are Christians, but the missionaries got here early and their word stuck. Christianity even means the feral donkeys that roam Australia's desert are revered, because of both their role in Christ's life and the cross-shaped markings on their backs at the intersection spine and shoulders. Donkeys wander around Willowra with impunity, unless they're taken down by packs of semi-wild dogs looking for a meal.

Perhaps that brief connection with the divine cleared my mind: I looked at Device Manager on one of the machines still running XP and noticed the driver for the WiFi card was from RealTek, not the card's manufacturer Edimax. Might the cards want the chipset driver instead of the vendor's?

Search, click, click, download. Transfer from connected XP machine to crippled W7. Still no luck. But what was that? Why had I installed a USB driver? That wasn't my plan!

Aha! RealTek's product page linked to a download page with drivers for dozens of products. I'd downloaded the first one on the list but the one I really want is … all the way down there! More clicking, downloading and transferring later and … SUCCESS! The PCs would be on the network and the expedition would be a success!

At this point the process became repetitive, but also reminded me this is just the first step for the learning centre because by the time I had three machines all trying to do an anti-virus update at the same time the network slowed to a silly speed.

That slow network means the Learning Centre's mission is compromised: how can people learn from the wealth of resources on the net if they can't get online?

And the learning going on is worthwhile.

During day one of the upgrade I shared the space with women learning how to make lino cuts, print them onto cloth and make cloth books for small kids. Women looked up images online to inspire their designs. Sia, the resident vocational education teacher and I struck up a conversation about how they could be sold at online craft bazaar Etsy or the designs uploaded to CafePress where customers can put them onto clothes, mugs and all manner of other tat.

I raised this possibility with Sia, and it's been on her mind too.

So our planned second expedition to take squeeze very last bit out of the network looks like it remains a worthwhile followup. The folks at Batchelor Institute like the idea we've hatched to address the situation.

But before we get to that I need to finish up … and after today's driver dramas, who knows whether I'll make it on time?

Here are the stakes. If I can leave Willowra by about 2:30, I'll be able to get to Alice Springs in daylight. Any later and things get hairy on the road. Plenty of cattle are black. So is the road, which means driving at night is not recommended. It's also damn spooky. During our World Solar Challenge journey last year we were forced to spend one evening on the road. Doing so in an area where there is nothing around was very unsettling.

If I can't leave town by 2:30 I'll need to head out at about 6:00 AM the next day, which poses its own perils, like this feral camel I snapped on the outskirts of town around dusk last night.

Feral camel

A feral camel. You don't want to hit these.

Will Windows throw another curveball at me and put me in camel peril?

I'll let you know tomorrow. If I can. ®

*He's asked me not to use his real name.

** Yes, compulsory voting is an oddity. Let's move on, shall we?

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