Lorenzo will be using a Hughes 7101 Thuraya satellite phone to send us voice messages and SMS text messages containing GPS data during the expedition. The Thuraya system, supplied to us by G-Comm
, was judged to provide the best coverage for Nepal and Tibet.
Thuraya's geo-synchronous satellite provides border-to-border coverage to a footprint area of more than 110 nations. Its overage spans Europe, North, Central Africa and large parts of Southern Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Thuraya's services extend beyond boundaries of terrestrial networks and reach remote areas not accessible by conventional modes of mobile telecommunications.
At the KMi end, Lorenzo dials in to a dedicated phone line connected to a Creative Labs voice modem card in a PC running IVM's Answering Attendant
software. This records the incoming message as a WAVe file, which is then compressed to an MP3 file using Audio Converter command line tool from AC Productions Ltd. in a scheduled batch file, which also transfers it to the webserver. The actual audio blog web page is built on-the-fly using a PHP script which checks for the presence of sound files, and similarly-named text and image files, in a particular folder. These are listed chronologically and for each one, if they exist, a JPG image or TXT file are also displayed. These latter files are the only ones that are created by hand - the rest of the system is automatic.
For 2006, we have added additional kit to enable Lorenzo to send back photos. He has a Canon Powershot A85 digital camera (chosen because of its small size, excellent image quality and use of readily-available AA batteries). He takes the Compact Flash card from the camera and inserts it into an expansion sleeve on the back of an HP iPAQ pocket PC running Pocket Phojo software. He then picks which images he wants to send, and the software resizes and IPTC tags them, then transmits them via email using a serial link to the Thuraya handset. The data rate is only 9600bps, so we deliberately shrink the images to websized before transmissiosn. We don't expect he will be able to use the PDA beyond ABC since its quite fiddly to use the stylus.
(Thuraya footprint image by kind permission of Thuraya)