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The Final Trip and New Computer Lab!

Prepared with seven computers, two beautifully decorated desks, mice, keyboards, homemade cables, a WordPress tutorial, resource guide and female jacks, we traveled to East St. Louis Friday morning excited to see Essie and get our new lab in place. A representative from Charter, the new ISP for Opal’s House, was scheduled to arrive between one and three, so we arrived a little after one. After unloading the computers and desks, we prepared the space for the Charter rep.’s arrival and investigated the network wiring situation. Our first mission was to install the female jacks and outlets, but before that could start we had to consolidate the cables into the spot where the outlet would go.  Martin sawed a small hole in the ceiling, and with teamwork, long arms, and a coat hanger we were able to gather together cables and attach the female jacks. Once the female jacks were attached, we plugged in the cables to the outlet, and screwed the outlet into the ceiling. The next step was to identify and label the cables and test their connectivity. We found that weak connections were easily fixed by re-clamping the female jacks. By the end of the day, the Charter rep. announced that Opal’s House was connected to the Internet, and we had just enough time to set up half of the computers. We left Opal’s House knowing that we’d return in the morning to an Internet connection and working cables. Yet the lighting and look of the space still concerned us; one of our design goals had been to improve the lighting and decor. That night we discussed buying mousepads, lights, and picture hooks and made up a shopping list.

Essie greeted us at nine the next morning and we went immediately to work setting up the final computers. We all juggled various roles, though Katrina quickly earned the name “Susie Spotless” because she tirelessly cleaned and organized the space and computers throughout the day. While we were able to successfully set up the computers and connect to the Internet, two computer issues emerged during the day: 1) installing VPN software on Essie’s new office and intake computers so that she could access Infonets, an online collection system for victim service providers, and 2) hooking the printer up to the network. The VPN software did not seem to be compatible with Windows XP and Service Pack 3 on both computers, though we were eventually able to install the software on Essie’s office computer. DoMonique and Emily worked hard to fix the printer, which wasn’t working due to a “ink jet error.” Based on some online research, they even cleaned the finicky printer with bottled water and coffee filters, but the printer still refused to work. We concluded that buying a new printhead was the most likely solution.

Although the VPN software and printer issues were frustrating, one of the highlights of the day was the WordPress tutorial with Essie. After setting up a new organizational email address through Gmail and learning about some of the WordPress basics, Essie enthusiastically set to work on a new post. By the end of the day, she’d already updated the site with news from her newsletter!

We were also able to improve the look of the space with new mousepads, picture hooks and track lighting for the client computers and art space. Martin purchased the items and showed us how to attach the track lighting, and George, Essie’s husband, was even inspired to help us drill holes for the picture hooks!  By the end of the day, the only remaining issues were the installation of the VPN software on the intake computer (upstairs) and the printer, which can’t join the network until the printhead is replaced. Other than those remaining issues, we said goodbye to Essie satisfied with the lab and feeling like we’d met the priorities of Opal’s House.

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