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Report on the training in Menya 4,5 march 2005

Manal's picture

Eglug volunteers who participated in the event:

  1. Manal
  2. Alaa

1st day

we took the 7:15 train from Cairo and arrived in el Menya @ 10:20. we were staying at The Gam3eyet El Sa3eed hotel in Abu Qurqas, so we decided to have breakfast first in Menya then head to Abu Qurqas.

We met a fellow Linux user from Menya (Dr. Ahmed), who knew us from the photos, he invited us to breakfast and we had a small talk on how EGLUG can help in doing a seminar about FOSS in the Menya university, which Dr. Ahmed and his collegues will try to organize.

we then went to our hotel, to get some rest before the training with the teachers.

we arrived at 14:30pm, this time the training was in Adeeb Wahba prep school (for boys and girls).

all participants where present except one teacher due to a death in the family.

a teacher from outside the project joined us.

One teacher downloaded and printed some Arabic documentation she found through a webforum, this was a very positive step.

as usual we began by going through what we covered last time:

  • configure your computer
  • partitions
  • hardware
  • /home
  • Desktop settings
  • swap
  • locale

then we asked if they had any questions, only 2 teachers had questions and appeared to have played with GNU/Linux in the past two weeks.

the labs are badly configured after all the messing around we did in the course so next time we hope to fix it a bit and maybe the teachers can learn from the experience.


the questions where mostly about partitioning and filesystems, most of them due to lack of understanding of the basic concepts (not practical questions), Alaa did a quick explanation of what filesystems are and what kind of filesystems are supported under windows and GNU/Linux and why one should care about the choice of filesystem (most users shouldn't).

some practical questions about how to deal with a mixed windows and GNU/Linux environment, we used the opportunity to give practical examples of using skills they learned the past two visits to automate tedious tasks (using symlinks to simplify access to windows files).

the idea was to give insight into how one uses the various tools provided by the OS to build efficient and customized use policies.

after the questions we went back to covering basic administration tasks through the mandrake control center. this time the teachers showed more enthusiasm but we where moving too slowly and covered a few topics only.

we could not cover networking at all since it turned out they knew nothing about basic networking concepts (TCP/IP, IPs, netmasks, switches, routers, gateways etc.), We think they need a day or two about that and that alone, no idea if this can fit with the projects tight schedule, We are hoping to find local volunteers who can help.

Mandrake Control Center:


  • Firewalls - just concepts due to lack of networking knowledge
  • levels and checks - security policies, how to customize them and how the system can do periodic audits and inspections
  • we delayed user access and permissions policy till after the GNU/Linux security model was explained


  • Menus
  • Display manager (graphical login, local and remote)
  • services: (we covered the concept of services, how to control services and a quick overview of basic services)
    • alsa - sound support
    • acon - Arabic Console
    • atd - AT daemon, executes command at a specific time
    • bluetooth
    • crond - executes commands on a periodic fashion
    • dm - display manger for graphical login screen
    • fam - monitor file changes and report to desktop
    • keytable - for loading different keyboard layouts
    • netfs - prepares the shares and network file systems
    • netplug - hot plug for network interfaces
    • network
    • numlock
    • partmon - monitor partitions and warn before they're full
    • rsync - server for syncing files between different machines
    • sound - sound mixer settings
    • syslog - a log of everything that happens in the system
    • udev - for peripherals (usb memories, cameras, usb printers, etc.)
    • xfs - font server
    • xinitd - listens and starts services when requested

after that we took a break, went through the resources we provided them so far and used the break to fix configs in some of the machines.

resources we provided:

  • Mandrake 10.1 2cds eglug edition
  • OpenCD (windows versions of FOSS desktop software, translated by EGLUG) + 3 mandrake manuals + 1 RUTE manual + 1 Arabic manual (at a pc in Adeeb Wahba school)

we only brought one copy of the Open CD for each school, the next day one teacher made copies to all participants on his own initiative.

we promised to bring them more Arabic resources (we know of a couple of books in the market).

back to basic administration tasks, we tackled fonts, the most important part is how to import windows fonts to be able to share documents with windows comfortably. importing windows fonts is an example of a task that is better done through the command line, we used this opportunity to introduce the command line (we are not about to teach it, but they need to know it exists).

we explained how advanced tasks may require the command line, or may be more easily done through it, and how sometimes it is easier to explain command line solutions when helping someone remotely (imagine writing an email full of prose describing details of mouse, menu, button, icon interaction, and oppose this with a simple line that can be copied and pasted).

the feeling of power derived from using the command line (we showed them the one command that can completely destroy the system :-) made a deep impression on them, one teacher's interest in the whole thing grew and she even asked us to teach them how to use the command line for everything (not possible probably, but we told them they can start teaching themselves using the manuals and we'll be glad to answer any questions).

command line:

  • command prompt
  • ls (example of a simple command)
  • command line is case sensitive
  • switch to root(administrator) user - su (notice how the command prompt changes)
  • dangers of running unknown commands as root (rm -rf /)
  • auto importing windows fonts using fontdrake

back to the Mandrake Control Center:

  • system logs and events:
    • filtering logs by event type and time

we explained the importance of keeping logs, Alaa always tries to borrow language from them, partly because our technical arabic is not great and partly to ensure they participate in discussions, while grasping for an explanation of logs one of them said its like the black box in an airplane, that was the perfect way to describe it.

2nd day

we started early morning with a little trip to Bani Hassan, we wanted to see it so much and one of the teachers is from Bani Hassan, Sherif proposed we turn this into a social event for the whole group but at the last minute all the women canceled :-(

the trip was short but nice, we became friends (EGLUG volunteers, Sherif, a couple of teachers and the local mowageh).

went back at 12, had a little rest then went to the school at 12:45, we where supposed to work with 10 students for an hour, and we asked to be there 15 minutes early to prepare Arabic interfaces.

at 12:45 the kids where already there for half an hour (about an hour early), eagerly playing with the computers and waiting for us, we couldn't configure anything but we noticed they where using English windows so we asked them to choose whether they wanted to use GNU/Linux in Arabic or English, only 1 asked for arabic (he was the least comfortable with computers) but as we progressed all ended up switching to Arabic except 3 kids.

we started with 3 girls and 7 boys, then 3 more girls joined against our protests, but in the end we had to agree.

all where from 2nd and 3rd preparatory, no difference at all between the girls and boys not in enthusiasm, tendency to explore and experiment or previous knowledge and skills, the girls took more time to warm to us and to the system, but the difference was only in few minutes.

we used the same routine of quickly introducing ourselves and saying that GNU/Linux is an operating system among many operating systems and that we are showing them an alternative so they can learn more. then we told them our task is to find out if GNU/Linux is difficult, and to see if it is different from windows, each person will tell us of a task they know how to do in windows and together we'll try to do it in GNU/Linux.

things went smoothly, exactly like last time, no problems, no confusion, no complaints, we had to talk about language differences sometimes, it was a bit difficult explaining why changing the system clock required administrator password and to answer the where is "My Computer" question.

this time they guessed that Home is equivalent to My Documents, and they played a bit with programs and not just the desktop. we changed the approach a bit and introduced new features to them, for instance while looking for a way to change system date they stumbled upon an organizer application with integrated alarms, todo, events etc, so we explained what this is and how one can use it to organize her work specially among groups.


  • changing background
  • drawing (we had no simple paint programs installed, but we encouraged them to try the advanced gimp and the girls found OpenOffice Draw program by themselves)
  • word (OOwriter)
  • create new folder
  • MyComputer or MyDocuments (Home)
  • Screensaver
  • how to record sounds (we mentioned the possibility of using Audacity to do sound engineering, like adding noise to make recordings sound like old records, add echo etc, no mics or speakers in the lab so we can't actually do that but we thought they'll enjoy connecting TV and cinema sound effects with everyday computers)
  • file operations (copy, move, etc.)
  • changing date and time

a girl asked: we know that who made Linux is a Finnish university student, but what is his name?? one of the teachers (we don't know who) told them that, we explained that while Linus began work on the core of the operating system he did not work alone and that tens of thousands of programmers from all over the world including Egypt (and including the very people who are now talking to them) help by adding small parts or modifying them.

that was it, we had no time for more reflection and discussion, but we had great fun.

back to the teachers, same teacher was absent, we started @ 14:15

what we did last time:

  • security
  • linking to MyDocuments from the windows
  • services
  • fonts
  • command line

they forgot the part about system logs, which was a bit disappointing since we played with it for a while and made a big fuss about it.

this time we started with the GNU/Linux security model, this was covered in a very broad sense on the 2nd visit, but this time we got the details and did practical experiments.

we explained users, groups of users, file and process ownership then we experimented with permissions on files and directories (read, write, execute, enter, delete). finally we explained how the security model applies for device access and network connections, in GNU/Linux everything is abstracted to a file, there is a special file for each device, for example the mouse file or the cdrom file etc.

we got back to the command line, learned how to inspect the contents of a file (we used this as an opportunity to demonstrate how all configuration is ultimately just modifying simple text files, and linked a certain file with the graphical configuration wizards we've been using). After learning how to inspect the contents of regular file, we asked them to inspect the contents of the mouse file. nothing happens until they start moving the mouse, then each movement prints a character on the screen.

the same permissions that control files can control devices because of this method of representing devices. we also explained that devices as files is useful for other tasks, for instance full harddisk images (complex tasks requiring extra software on windows) is a matter of copying the harddisk device file on GNU/Linux.

Mandrake Control Center:

System (continue):

  • Users and Groups
    • add/edit user accounts and groups
    • system internal users (each service and software is owned by a user, system services and processes run under special unprivileged accounts, this makes a virus meaningless in GNU/Linux as opposed to windows where every thing is a privileged process).
    • change root password
    • Permissions
      • owner/group/others
      • read/write/execute for folders and files (practical)
      • sticky for folders (only owner can rename and delete folder content)
      • apply changes to all subfolders
  • Everything is a FILE
    • command (cat /etc/fstab)
    • cat /dev/mouse
  • backups

Software Mangement:

  • Install
    • dependency (in GNU/Linux developers cooperate, the result is complex interdependency between their works, the user is not supposed to deal with this complexity at all, a special program called the package manager does this, the system has a database of packages available to install, one just picks a package and the rest is done automatically)
    • search (in names, description)
    • different ways of viewing packages
    • updating media
  • Remove
  • updates
  • media manager
    • enabling/removing media
    • adding media (from harddisk, internet servers, removable media, update media)

no one is optimistic about cross discipline cooperation or the possibilities of using computers as learning aids, but we thought they deserve to know the potential of the technology and of their jobs, we then moved on to demonstrating multimedia software that can actually be covered in 2nd stage training with the kids.

thats it, we reached the end of the training, we thanked them and asked to do a quick evaluation then move on to discuss the work with the students and future plans.



  • some of the teachers did not participate in the trip
  • arabization problems (mostly in setup and configuration, we had a quick discussion on whether we should use Arabic or English interfaces with the students, but there were no definitive answers)
  • hardware problems (graphics 3d acceleration prevents many of the games and graphics software from working properly)


  • OpenCD and manuals
  • Bani Hassan trip
  • the participants did a search on the internet and found and shared resources
  • group participation and easy informal attitude
  • el mowagehin where very cooperative
  • the fetir was great
  • the fact that they learned new things

finally we got to the part where we agreed on plans for the students training. we agreed that we need to focus on basics and cover these basics with all the children, afterwards there is a possibility of forming groups with the most interested/promising students and study more advanced stuff.

most of the discussion was on defining the basics that everyone should learn, a little bit was imagining how the special groups work would look like.

plan of working with the student:

  1. cover the GNU/Linux Desktop (anything they know how to do in windows, they should learn how to do in GNU/Linux), we all agreed this part is easy and requires little time.
  2. Office software (start with same goal as above, they're not sure how long this will take, they need to explore OpenOffice more and learn more about its differences) we noticed that in the work they already started with the kids they're trying to teach them more than just the basic features in Microsoft Office, we encouraged them to try and do that using OpenOffice from time to time.
  3. Exploring new programs - finally we agreed that it might be a good idea to have some free exploration time, where the teachers guide the kids to some interesting software and leave them to explore how it works without giving any instructions.

the first 2 parts are clearly planned, they'll sit together with the mowagehin and make a detailed plan with times and all (they probably need to experiment a bit with OpenOffice first). the 3rd part mostly relies on EGLUG volunteers suggesting software and maybe demonstrating how they can approach guiding the students.

starting from next week they should be teaching FOSS desktop for two days every week (the computer club is a 3 times a week), Sherif is supposed to follow up on that and track it.

the special groups is not a coherent idea yet, we just told them what EGLUG is willing to help with

Specialized groups:

  • exploring advanced office functions
  • advanced/administration operating system
  • basic graphics
  • web design
  • programming basics

We left @ 18:00, this time we weren't able to have dinner before the train, so Sherif asked the hotel to pack it for us so that we can eat it on the train.

We arrived at the train station 5 minutes before our 19:00 train...back to Cairo

Dr. Radut | book