Saturday, 25 October 2003

Middle of Nowhere

The most memorable because of its location.

Initially the plan was to camp in Woomera, but the team changed their mind and decided to camp on the side of the road where the car stopped. Fortunately it was flat, as far as the eye could see.

By this stage the team was experienced and most of the work was completed with little effort on my part. Tuning was simple and we were on-line within an hour of arrival. The German Team also camped at the same location and shared our on-line experience.

Frances took a photo that made it to the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Friday, 24 October 2003

Coober Pedy

Living underground is interesting, but it makes for exciting conversations on your mobile phone.

Our worst race fears all happened together. First of all, we setup away from the road in a nice quiet corner of the motel. There were no obstacles, but there was a power line overhead. After trying to tune for an hour, we moved the dish and found a signal straight away. Turns out that power lines are not good for satellite signals.

So, then we were tuned and switching on the modem gave us similar symptoms to those seen in Crossing Falls and an urgent call was made to the BOC.

Seeing as I had received email every night without notification of any updates, I didn't expect that again Optus had made a change without a notification. (Not even to the BOC apparently.)

So, with me inside on the computer, an Ethernet cable running 50 meters to the dish and one of the Sungroper Team members standing outside on the mobile, relaying information, and remembering to disconnect the dish from the modem, we again re-programmed the modem to a new set of frequencies.

After 45 minutes we were up and running and all was forgiven.

The location was on the side of a hill, so I decided that some chains and pegs were in order. The next day I learnt that you do need to use a van to pull pegs from the ground and that if you do, some pins bend 90°'s before coming out of what I can only suspect was sand-stone. Suffice to say that the dish didn't move...

Thursday, 23 October 2003

Stuart's Well

The home of the singing dingo.

Arriving in the late afternoon we were assisted in setting up by a skinny Spaniard who had cycled across the continent, taken a boat to Perth, where he cycled to Alice, he was on his way to New Zealand. We fed him.

Connecting wasn't anything spectacular and was basically limited to updating the Sungroper web site and sending out some email updates.

Wednesday, 22 October 2003

Aileron Roadhouse

In the middle of Australia we felt the need to do something special.

So we did.

Setup of the dish was again on the travel mount, which we used for the rest of the race. In addition to the dish, we also had some astronomers with us who pulled out their telescopes. I took the opportunity to setup an out-door cinema with a DVD player and a data-projector displaying onto a sheet hung from the back doors of the van.

In the middle of Australia we watched the stars, connected to the 'net and watched the only appropriate movie for the occasion, "The Dish".

Apart from the rather obnoxious behaviour from the proprietor, we had a great time.

Tuesday, 21 October 2003

Tennant Creek

We again used the travel mount setup and again it worked without any issues. We had the journalists from the Puerto Rican Team visit us and ask how they could connect using our stuff. I answered that all they needed to do was to plug in their lap tops.

Suffice to say that we made it to the front-page on their newspaper in Puerto Rico. They were completely blown away that this guy could rock up, unpack a dish and they could have broadband connectivity in the middle of the bush.

Their satellite phone apparently never did allow them to connect to the 'net.

Monday, 20 October 2003


Experimentation continued. We came up with the travel mount which was a great success. Instead of building a complete H, we just made a tri-pod out of the post and three legs. I was a little concerned about stability, but it was lower to the ground and there wasn't much in the way of wind.

Setup was very simple and it was the night that we had the most visitors to the Sungroper Internet Cafe.

In the morning I noticed a Direct-Way dish on the top of the road house, but none of the staff actually knew anything about it, so I don't know how fast it was, if it was two-way, Telstra and how much it cost.

Sunday, 19 October 2003


I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the effort required to build the base, so Katherine marked the starting point of some experimentation in this area.

Our initial experiment - don't try this at home - was a flop. I had purchased some channel from Bunnings and had it constructed in a way that it would slide into the tow-ball attachment on the back of the van. The idea was to then attach the vertical post to that and support it from below. In an attempt to make it more stable, we attached a side leg to the mount, which did help somewhat, but by this time it was dark and nothing much constructive was really achieved.

While it worked, stable is not a word I'd use to describe this contraption. I was surprised that we did in fact achieve connectivity, which says more about Gilat than it says about this experiment.

We actually camped on a campsite we'd visited before and some of the locals were very interested in all this fan-dangled stuff, so some of the more adventurous offered to assist in the process. It didn't help too much that they were more than slightly inebriated, but eventually we got it all running.

Thursday, 16 October 2003

Hidden Valley

Arriving in Darwin was interesting. The humidity was quite high, but having been in the Kimberly for some months it didn't hit us as hard as it did our friends from Perth. Setting up in the blazing sun was an interesting experience, one which I don't recommend. After all the pain in Crossing Falls, setup was a doddle.

I'd just had an article about our project hit the front-page on, so I was approached by several geeks at the race-way asking if I was that guy. We had several journalists visit us to take photos and the team did their bit to spice up the Sungroper Internet Cafe.

One journalist asked us if we could just pick-up the dish and move it to the front of the complex so she could take a photo there. She was a little taken aback that the whole thing weighs about 600kg and that moving it would require us to dismantle it, stow it, move and reverse the process. She finally gave up on the idea and took a nice shot that made it to the NT News on the inside-cover - I think that's where they traditionally have the pin-ups :-)

This was the first location we used a generator to power the dish and it made no difference whatsoever.