16 January 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

My post today is slightly geeky. I haven’t had enough coffee to break it down to a language that’s easier to understand. My apologies, I will caffeine-up and maybe edit it later.

Today I slept in quite late. I couldn’t sleep last night so I watched a couple of movies and crashed about 4am. Then I got up and took some photos of the area around us through the windows.

I consequently slept in and felt stupid coming in late. Ah well, it happens. So I set to work setting up the processes for sharing data between the AWS and a machine that will be located at the base. Amanda had done some great problem-solving with the logger and it’s running smoothly although we have to solve the comm port issues, but for now we have settled on using an extra computer sited at the AWS. So I twiddled with SAMBA, a networking protocol which, if you know what you are doing, lets you transparently share files between Linux and Windows machines on the same network. Unfortunately, I don’t know what I am doing, having never set up a SAMBA system before, but it wasn’t too tricky. In a couple of hours, we had a working SAMBA network and some scripts that automagically mount the logger’s shared drive on the Linux machine. Coolio. Next up, I have to meet with the network tech here about how they would like me to set up our network.

I’m just hanging out to get outside….I think I will go sit on the roof for a bit….

Brrrr….too cold outside… who would have thought… hmmm… so, I thought maybe I might explain a few little bits of what makes our days here interesting. First up has to be the ever present static. I must get about 50 static shots per day, perhaps more. The air is so dry here that static charges build up quickly. You have to be really careful with your electronics as it can fry the equipment. One of the winter crew just fried their mouse the other day. We have a copper earth wire running around the bottom edge of every desk here, and before you sit down, it’s a good idea to tag that wire with your hand. This means the charge discharges and you get a shock, but it’s better than discharging that shock on your laptop. During storms, the static build up is much worse and you can hear the cracks from several metres away when the charge discharges. If you are unlucky, the shock is actually quite painful, but if you touch a wall quickly before you touch a door handle, or if you quickly rap the earth wire on desks, the discharge normally doesn’t hurt. But at least once a day you are sure to receive quite a whack somehow, somewhere, sometime… Apparently, in winter during the big storms, you can make small arcs of continuous static discharges between your hand and the wall.

Another small interesting part of our day is the 1K internet connection. Actually its faster than this, but they throttle it, so that as much as possible is reserved for uploads by some of the science projects. Getting information can be tricky in this environment and when you don’t have access to it, one realises how much Google augments your brain. You can actually check google on 1k if you turn the image downloads off on your browser and type search queries directly into the location bar. However, the world is full of less enlightened people and I often pass offices where people are checking their email via webmail which chokes the connection… eieieiei…. Another headache is that they have just started turning the net access off during the day, allowing access only between 2100 and midnight. Great. 1K split between about 50 people for 3 hours a day… not so hot… one way we sneak around this (shhh, don’t tell anyone) is that they haven’t blocked certain protocols, and if we bend data around certain network corners and leap some gritty protocols, we can get a plain text version of what we need…

Also, we haven’t had enough water for showers and washing for almost 2 weeks… wooohooo! a small enclosed space, with 70 sweaty bods, and no clean clothes or showers… if the water situation continues, apparently we get the privilege of carrying our own toilet water… good oh…. looking forward to it.

Also, the timing of the day and ‘night’ is odd. It’s 24/7 daylight at the moment. The sun goes lower during the evening but never falls anywhere near the horizon. So you have to make up your mind when you are tired. It’s true. With 24/7 sun you can feel awake at anytime. Some strategise by pulling the blinds down in their room at about 20:00 and then they feel like it’s evening and can sleep at a reasonable hour. I just keep going till I feel tired. Last night that was 4am and even then I could have easily stayed up another hour at least.

These things don’t really bug anyone… just thought you might want some info on the bits and pieces that fill in the gaps of our days.

Just did a little more after-dinner setting-up an ssh server on the Windows machine to allow remote access. Good oh. I will next look to setting it all up in a full demo using the local network with the modems.

Here’s a shot of DJ Marlon (aka ‘the nightwatchman’ – one of the chopper crew) who did a late night mix of speed trance and jazz.

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