Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Steep learning curve

It’s been a real process trying to figure out the whole internet thing for the island. You see, the plan is to start spending more time over there but to do that I would need to start working remotely. For this to happen we need a computer … and broadband internet access.
Over time we had started researching the options for getting broadband. There is no existing phone on the section although it looks as though there may be cables running close by to hook up to. Even if we did get a phone line in to the section we are still limited to dial-up internet as broadband is only available through Claris and more recently Tryphena, but not up our way. It seemed to us that our only option was going to be internet via satellite.
I did a little bit of research to find some providers in NZ and see what sort of reviews people gave them. In an effort to get more opinions I left a couple of messages on internet forums – the replies to the messages on both forums were not particularly useful on the satellite front although one response gave me information on booster aerials for cell-phones (we ended up getting one that has proved successful)
As much as I searched the internet for information it seemed that we were going to have to go one step further and contact a satellite internet provider. This was a bit of a leap as I really had no idea what to ask!! Well, first of all we needed to know if there was coverage for GBI… there’s the first question. Hmmm and given the limited power resources, did the satellite set-up require and if so how much? Also given that installation for the bach would only be until we have built so could a satellite be transferred to the main building at a later date? I sent off these initial questions to a company that I had seen good reports of and by the end of the day I had a response. This was promising and a flurry of emails ensued with more detailed info on the power setup and narrowing down what angle of view of the sky we needed to have to ensure connection.
It seemed that every time we had a response answering our questions it prompted even more questions…. The more we found out the more we realized we needed to find out!
Just as it seemed we were beginning to understand things I mentioned it to our IT man at work. He started talking about lag and latency and how this could potentially be a problem with working on the remote desktop…. Oh no!! More stuff to try and understand!
Back to the Satellite people I went asking about the lag issues, trying to seem as though I knew what I was talking about despite, at this stage, only having a very basic understanding… this however proved to be too difficult for them to answer simply for me. In fact I almost felt as if I was being fobbed off… certainly not comforting given the equipment alone was going to cost around $2,500…. It was a lot of money to be shelling out on a system that no-one could guarantee would work for me.
We came to a bit of a standstill until Tom spent some time on the island working (October 07) and got talking to some of the locals who gave him advice on what they were using and most importantly told us who on the island did installations! Tom came home and got in contact with Orcon, based on the info he’d gleaned and the recommendation of the chap who does the installations. We negotiated buying the equipment only from them on the understanding we would have the installation done and would be using their service once it was all up and running…. We placed the order!
The gear arrived and we had it freighted over to the island just before Christmas. By the time we arrived out on the island for a holiday on December 31st the dish was installed!! Wow!
All that remained before I could test it out was to install an inverter to convert power to 240V so that I could plug the laptop in. The boys spent a morning getting the 2 extra batteries hooked up to the solar panels and then it was all go… at least it was once I worked out how to install the wireless router that we’d taken over… Woohoo! We had internet! And now the moment of truth… could I connect to work via remote desktop? Oh yes I could!! Woohoo (again)!!! I was able to answer a few queries via email on jobs that I’d left with other people to do while I was on holiday… excellent!! Not only that but we were also now able to look up the latest tide and weather info when we wanted to go fishing!!
Later in January I went over for the long weekend (Auckland Anniversary) but went a day earlier with the intention of working on Friday to make sure that all the usage over the internet to work was functioning properly. This was crucial as if this worked it would mean that I can start spending more time over there and work remotely … and it doesn’t get much more remote the Great Barrier!! I had figured that if the experiment failed it would only be one day out of my holidays but, thankfully, everything went smoothly and I was able to work as if I was still in the office… Fantastic!

So now the transition to the island can truly begin!

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