18 January 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Yesterday we got the delivery of some new material for the radio. We had one hour’s notice that a plane would be leaving from Cape Town for Troll (the Norwegian base about 1 hour away from here by chopper). Tom called Siphiwe and Siphiwe ran around Cape Town getting the CDs that had been delivered for the station but which  had missed the first flight on the 12th of this month. So a crew flew to Troll (for other business) and Tom was on the chopper and was able to pick up the CDs for the station. Hurrah! So we have the additional material now:

Story Salon
LA Podcasters
Sundown Lounge
The Jazz Diaries
Handwritten Theatre
Three Jackasses in a Garage
People by the Fringe

A total of 13 extra CDs. Now playing on the radio is the entire CD of ‘Story Salon’…coolio! Many thanks to all those that sent this material. Today we have a great schedule on the radio:

1400 - 1500 : Story Salon
1500 - 1600 : Documentary on Moscow
1600 - 1900 : The Gravy Train with DJ TK
1900 - 2000 : DJ Zamii's HF Radar
2100 - 2200 : The Night Watchman
2200 - 2330 : DJ Danny

In the meantime today we tested the High Frequency Radio Modems over a distance of about 7km. We wanted to test the antenna as the discussion has now shifted to putting the AWS unit at Gronehogna (approx 40km away) and a repeater at Lorentzenpiggen. This is because we had an unsuccessful test yesterday transmitting from Gunehogna to SANAE. So today we tested a link between Lorentzenpiggen with an omni directional antenna at that site, and a directional antenna at the base. We got a good connection and tested browsing a webserver, ftp, and IRC (these services were running on my laptop at SANAE). Most exciting for me is the use of VOIP. We made an excellent connection via Asterisk and two softphones over this distance and could chat with no problems at all.

We tried to get a repeater in the network too but we couldn’t make the connections. I went to bed feeling good about the Asterisk tests but frustrated by the failure of the repeater config so I got up again and have just worked it out (I hope). Seems to work.

Tomorrow Tom and I go via chopper to Grunehogna and First Born will go to Lorentzenpiggen. This is to test:
* – Grunehogna (directional antenna) to Lorentzenpiggen (omni directional antenna) link.
* – the repeater set-up : Grunehogna -> Lorentzenpiggen -> SANAE

If the first test works, then we can set the unit up at Grunehogna (hence it’s the most critical test). If the second one works, then we are really on our way.

So cross ya fingers for us.

Here’s the proof of a nice fat VOIP connection made over UHF modems in Antarctica (for those that like to pin such things to their wall):


07 January 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Nada much to report. Did a short comms test to another site. It was 18km away as the snow petrel flies. I set up an IRC (chat) server and we happily chatted away over the radio link. Next, I would like to try some VOIP (voice chat) tests over the same link. It would also be good to send live video. For those that know the technology, I would like to set up Asterisk and run two software telephones (we will probably use x-lite as there is a version for Linux, OSX, and Windows – although on my machine i will use the nifty Linphone as its light and just works).

Not much to report on really. Marko has got the stuff we require and with luck it will be on the plane on the 11th of this month. I-TASC seems to be getting the thumbs up here. I think they originally wondered what artists were and possibly imagined we were lazy bohemians. I think we have proven we work hard and also proven we know a little bit about what we are doing. We often don’t know what we are doing also, of course, and need help but, additionally, we have helped some of the scientists out with our knowledge of audio, internet tech etc. Surprisingly the radio has been much more of a hit that I imagined. Its really amazing how fast radio adds to a sense of community, if it is a small radio-less community (more receivers coming with Marko’s shipment). People here are so into it and quite amazed we managed to set it up so fast and also amazed that we did it for them in the first place. The video projector has also gained us some good points as there are many people here that have never seen a movie on a data projector. it also helps relieve the boredom of course. So I think the scientists and crew here are beginning to understand why it’s interesting to have artists around.

Additionally, I think some are starting to see that they could learn something from us while we are here, which feels great as I felt a little like it was a one-way street. I have learnt lots from the generous minds of the scientists and thought it would be good to be able to return the favour. Thankfully, some of them were very impressed with the data link and IRCtests we did today. I thought it was the least we could do, really, as it took about 20 minutes to set up, but I’m very glad they think it’s interesting and they want to know more about how its done. It seems what we have learnt along the way as artists has some utility. According to Franz, it’s the first long distance remote tests of this type (IP) done here. Its quite motivating to hear that. I’m keen to try the voice chat and streaming tests as this will show the bandwidth capabilities and latency effects more clearly.

First Born is doing the rounds with interviews. The guy is a natural talent. He sticks a microphone in their face and they laugh and chat away merrily. Not many people can have that effect. He’s also doing great work with the mastering of the audio and very open to direct feedback which makes getting the job done much easier and faster. No need to tiptoe round him too much and if I go too far he laughs at me which softly puts me in my place. I like working with him a lot. We are collaborating on the audio slideshows and will put them on the web when we have enough. Its a good format (1 min audio with 10 images) for uploading as it’s quite light on bandwidth so I think it’s an interesting remote ‘documentary’ format. I think we will also put them online on the local network so people here can see another output from us.

Other than that, it was just another day in the long day of an Antarctic summer.