Saturday, 11 June 2005

Mount Pleasant

The modem arrived and the mount got built and the modem got plugged in and it didn't work.

The old modem got plugged in and it sort of worked, but the BOC sent me logs showing lots of reboots. So limping along we're waiting for the stuff to be sorted out and the paper work to be completed and all to be resolved and life to go back to "the day before the storm hit".

Meanwhile, Google Maps released a world-wide view of their BETA service and I started playing with the software. A whole lot of hacks had appeared, almost over night, that showed off many and varied ways that Google Maps could be used on your own web-site. With a little tweaking I came up with a quick and dirty hack.

About 48 hours after I made my first hacked up version, Google announced the Google Maps API which allows you to make official Google Maps on your site. I signed up, did the work made a nice little map and have spent the past four days banging my head against a wall trying to give it the same functionality as I already had, but using the official API. This involves me relearning JavaScript, learning XML and XSLT all meaningful subjects, just not really all that exciting when all you want to do is show a map, but you get that :)

VoIP is coming, a bigger transmitter should allow for a smaller dish, the World Solar Challenge, 2005 is nearing, there's a project with one of my colleagues in Alaska in the wind, I'm writing some nifty code to sit as a pipe between irmp3 and mpg321 to make the play list on our mp3 player no-longer repeat itself ad-nauseum and I've got cattle to feed, tractors to drive, dogs to pat and fish to treat with WheatBix meal. Frances is off picking olives after her long running transcription gig for the Australians at War Film ( Archive finally got completed.

Friday, 1 April 2005

Graham's Creek

This is getting to be pretty straight forward, soon I'll be wanting to buy a smaller dish so I won't have to lug so much weight from the back of the van, but you get that.

VoIP isn't quite there yet. I've been playing with making the call settle, but at the moment it still takes around 30 seconds before both sides can hear each other and that simply just won't do. I've also been playing a little with Bluetooth and getting my Nokia 6310i to become part of my VoIP network. I can make my VoIP system detect an incoming GSM call and I can make a one-way outgoing call, eg. they can hear me, but I cannot yet hear them.

I invested in a high-gain GSM/CDMA dual band antenna because while VoIP isn't yet working we're currently on the fringes of Optus' GSM coverage. I briefly played with putting my phone in the van and talking to it over Bluetooth, but the hands-free kit doesn't like that and the phone gets completely confused.

And then the storm hit...

There was a little cold cell around Brisbane which caused hailstones to pile up to a meter high in some places. This being the (sub-)tropics and all, this was a regular occurrence - not. Two hours north of Brisbane, were we are, the hail also visited, but a larger problem was rain, lots and lots of rain in a very short time. It filled the dam, it filled the paddocks, the driveway and the electronics box. Fortunately the 240V side stayed dry, but the sensitive side, the electronics were not so lucky. It appears as if the hail damaged the water proofing, which then opened the way to allow water to drip in from the top and drip past the circuit boards to pool in the bottom. The next morning I turned on the equipment only to have the modem not respond.

Open up the box, lots of water.

After tipping out the water and drying the electronics for a few hours and warming the whole lot in the sun, I dared to switch it on. All was just fine and dandy. I hooked it all back up and proceeded to go back to work. I started composing an email to Gilat about their hardware and how it continued to amaze me that it keeps working regardless of how it gets treated, saltwater air, heat and now rain, only to find that the modem would go away for a little while every now and then. This happens on occasion when satellite operations does some work, but because of the water I figured I'd better give them a call. Suffice to say that the problem wasn't at their end.

During my call to the BOC the modem gave up. It refused to see the satellite and kept doing a self-test. After some lengthy phone calls to various departments and my insurance company - electronics insurance is worth every cent. Expensive hobby, satellite equipment.

Sunday, 9 January 2005


Unloading was never this simple.

Putting the dish together in its new home after a short drive from Moss Vale to Leeton proved to be completely trivial. The actual tuning took less than five minutes and the dish was up and running without any problems at all.

The wireless gear is acting up a little, so I'll likely spend a little time playing with that to see what is ailing it, because getting a wireless link over 20m should not pose any problem at all, seeing that we had many more metres and walls between the stations in Dunsborough, where it just worked fine.

During our stay here I also want to get the final bits of VoIP stuff working properly and get the whole thing running as our primary phone connection. If it all works as expected, I can even get a calling card and include that into the phone system and make cheap calls over the PSTN network if VoIP connectivity isn't available to that location. We'll see how it goes.