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Sungroper Internet Cafe

When you absolutely positively need to read Slashdot, there is one place you can go for your solar powered Internet fix. Located somewhere on a highway most probably nowhere even remotely near you is the one place where sun meets sand, dust meets desert and hot meets humid.

Using one of the most isolated parts of the globe along the Stuart Highway between Darwin and Adelaide as a backdrop, for a limited time, you too can surf the net in style.

Your challenge: Find the cafe, bring your mug and chair, surf the 'net.


Middle of Nowhere SA - October 26
Latitude 31°32'13.8"S Longitude 137°07'40.4" E Altitude 192m

Coober Pedy SA - October 25
Latitude 29°00'09.5"S Longitude 134°45'36.4" E Altitude 225m

Stuarts Well NT - October 23
Latitude 24°20'21.9"S Longitude 133°27'33.3" E Altitude 473m

Aileron NT - October 22
Latitude 22°38'35.4"S Longitude 133°20'42.7" E Altitude 677m

Tennant Creek NT - October 21
Latitude 19°38'45.9"S Longitude 134°12'01.7" E Altitude 214m

Dunmarra NT - October 20
Latitude 16°40'49.4"S Longitude 133°24'49.0" E Altitude 243m

Katherine NT - October 19
Latitude 14°29'21.2"S Longitude 132°14'52.4" E Altitude 115m

Hidden Valley Raceway NT - October 15-18
Latitude 12°26'58.1"S Longitude 130°54'27.7" E Altitude 11m


At these locations the cafe was installed and photos were taken. During each location visitors were asked to sign a visitor book and could use the Internet to send and receive their email and update their web-sites.

Some visitors - also competitors in the World Solar Challenge - used the Internet connection to check the weather forecast and rain radar available on the Bureau of Meteorology website here in Australia.

Our visitors enjoyed beer or plunger coffee - depending on the outside temperature - and came from all corners of the globe. We had visitors from several USA states, Puerto Rico, Germany and others.

The Western Australian solar car team Sungroper used the Internet Cafe to update its website and as a result of the nightly updates the website became the defacto reference for the solar race - often having data and images up long before any official sites.

There was no charge to use the Sungroper Internet Cafe, though donations in the form of superb Puerto Rican pasta and cool drinks were gladly accepted as thanks from the more grateful users of the facilities.

The Sungroper Internet Cafe was built on a wooden trestle table around a 2m satellite dish powered by any available power-source, including generator, batteries and borrowed (with permission) camping site poles.

Users generally provided their own computer, though the gateway workstation were made available for web mail as well as SMTP services for those users without.

Our busiest night was in Dunmarra, our coldest in the middle of nowhere, and the most central in Australia at the Aileron Roadhouse. We also used our time to setup an outdoor cinema and outdoor observatory.

The dish uses an offset focus. If you compare this mount with the one used at Hidden Valley you'll note that it's been simplified somewhat.
The coaxial cables are removed from the receiver and transmitter.
Meanwhile the locking bolts are loosened off,
The focus head is removed..
and carefully packed away into its case.
Better make sure the case is properly closed. That head is one pricey piece of hardware.
Of course there's a bunch of ancillary network kit to be bundled away.
But there's an awful lot of trickery that stays attached to the dish in these two red boxes. The left one contains all the power supplies while the comms gear is in the right hand one. Note the stonkin' great heatsinks attached to try to keep things cool.
The stabilizer supports for the focus head are removed.
The secondary support is undone (two bolts)
You'll see that the industrious guys in the background are making short work of packing the table away.
Nearly there
it's free
All hands to the dish
which must be lifted straight up about 250mm - that's 10 inches in old-speak
then set on to the ground in front of the mount
You'll see there's a convenient metal support available. This is what the secondary support arm is attached to.
The dish is turned on the spot
so that it faces the other way
then its lifted from the bottom
the horizontal position. The dish assembly weighs about 130kg
carry the dish to the van
The dish measures 2.0m x 1.8m - the width of the door opening is somewhat less.
So how do we get it in there? Perhaps we can just give it a shove?
The dish is lifted high on one side
and it ju-u-ust fits in on the diagonal
It can be a bit of a fiddle, but once you've done it a couple of times it becomes easy
The elevated side is lowered carefully - mostly so as not to crush Onno's feet
So now it's flat in the back of the van. Onno climbs up into the rafters so the dish can be pushed all the way in.
Then he clambers across the dish
and out of the van
The mount still needs to be broken up. Get a bunch of guys to remove the leveling screws
Colin starts to remove the legs
Bernd gets to the ones on the other side
There's one leg free
They're all done
The bottom bracket is removed from the pier.
All the steel for the mount is stored underneath the shelf that the dish occupies
A helping boot assists Colin in removing the last bolt
Shay packs away the levelling plates
The last piece is loaded in
and finessed into place.


Conditions apply: The cafe is operated during the 2003 World Solar Challenge between October 18 and 28 by the Sungroper team. The cafe is open at Sungroper stops between Darwin and Adelaide along the Stuart Highway. Opening times are at the end of the day. Locations are not published, times are not available, there is no seating or crockery available, you must bring your own computer with either RJ45 or 802.11, bandwidth is shared and Sungroper updates have a priority. Neither Sungroper or the bandwidth provider ITmaze accept any liability for missed connections. Donations in the form of *cold* drinks are welcome.