Arjun found the pi to be working fine but the dongle had stopped functioning. So he bought a new dongle and upgraded the software of the Cowmesh based on later developments he had made in the cowmeshes he has set up subsequently in Uttarakhand and tested it out and found the set up was working well again. He then couriered the set up back to Indore and now it has been installed again at Kakrana and is working fine after a hiatus of about a month.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this. The first is the unreliability of these Chinese dongles. All dongles available in the market are from Chinese manufacturer or other and invariably then go kaput in about a year or so. But in the present case the dongle had lasted just three months. The reason is that the dongle had been working 24 x 7 in Kakrana and that had heated it up continuously leading to its precipitate decay. The second is the difficulty of setting up and running Cowmeshes in remote areas, where there are very few technically competent people, given that the software is newly developed and open source. Remote online solution to the problem was not possible and so the pi and the dongle had to be sent to Arjun by courier. Luckily he was in Delhi at the time and so the set up got repaired quickly.
Seeing that constant running of the dongle greatly reduces its life, arrangements have now been made to regulate its use. The internet is turned on only for four hours in the early morning and five hours in the evening and night. This is done automatically with the use of a timer which can be programmed to turn the internet on and off at fixed times as shown below. Arjun is also now writing an operation and repair manual so that in future any problem can be set right in Kakrana and Indore instead of having to courier the system to him.
While we were setting up the timer and internet in Kakrana it came to our notice that the printer was being operated on the solar power system. Initially this did not strike us much as the printer took out a few photocopies easily. However, when we wanted to test the internet and timer we found that the batteries had discharged due to the heavy drawal of power by the printer. The staff at the school had put the printer on the solar power system because of the low voltage of grid power. There is a voltage stabiliser on the mains for the internet and so it steps up the low voltage but even so some power is drawn from the batteries to run the printer. Earlier the printer used to be run on a diesel generator but since this is costly the staff began using the solar power system which has a maximum capacity of 1000 watts while the printer has a rating of 800 watts. So when other appliances and devices and the internet runs together on the solar system, the printer drains the batteries. The printer had to be taken off the solar system and now another separate voltage stabiliser is being sourced for it. The government does not provide proper internet connectivity and proper power in remote rural areas nor does it support citizen's efforts to set up their own internet and power systems and yet it expects the whole country to go digital and cashless!!