But For Now It's Strictly Non-Commercial

louis martin
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Fort Bragg, Mendocino County--

Things must be changing in the North Coast town with the second largest saw mill in the world and 13 redneck bars that keep local police hopping. Later this week-- assuming a "glitch" in a router is worked out--an Internet node will be up and running. It won't spew smoke into the sky like the three steam generators at the mill do--beauty to some old-timers--but it will spit data into class rooms at Fort Bragg High School, stoking the minds of brighter students.

Last year, according to Sarah Daniel, Technology Coordinator for the project, some teachers at Fort Bragg High got dial-up accounts to the Internet node in Mendocino. "That was really nice," said Daniel. "But we realized that we were really too big a group to depend on them; that we would not only overload their system, but that, really, we would like to put in our own and be self-sufficient."

A $115,000 grant from the State Department of Education has made the Fort Bragg node possible. Four labs at the High School will be connected first.

One of the labs is a model marine lab. "Students are doing marine-based research," said Daniel, "and they need access to scientists all over the world to go forward with that."

Student research will be published on the Net, and some projects, involving forestry and urchin diving, should help the local economy, according to Daniel.

The system includes two Silicon Graphics servers, CISCO System routers, and a frame relay with an ISDN connection. The school district already owned the frame relay.

Setting up an Internet node is a notoriously difficult project. Daniel had a consultant to help set up the servers. "That was a good thing; this is very complicated," said Daniel. No consultant was hired to help set up the routers, however. "They are not self-explanatory," said Daniel. "They are good routers, but if you can afford to have someone come out and just do it--and don't let them leave until it works--that would be well worth it."

Daniel, who is from Humbolt county, graduated from UC Davis and ran the computer system for the Environmental Design Department there for a few years after graduating. The installation has taken most of her summer.

Assuming the router problem is solved, the system should be up and running later this week. Students are generating a World Wide Web page that should be up in a couple of weeks. The address will be:

Unlike the Mendocino node, the fort bragg node will only serve the school system. But that could change in the future, according to Daniel. The Mendocino node, known as the Mendocino Community Network, offers dial-in services to some 200 subscribers from Westport to Gualala, generating considerable revenues for the Mendocino school district.


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