Wednesday, January 28, 2004

New Internet Connection is Operational

Yesterday, with the help of Steve Shantz our TWR Linux guru (who is in Austria these days) we reprogrammed our firewall and set the office LAN to access the Internet over our new Telbo 128k wireless modem. After a day and a half of use, it seems to be working great.

The best part is that it could cost us as little as one tenth as much per month as our old dedicated line and 64k Internet connection.

Monday, January 26, 2004

New Generator is online

The new standby generator is fully operational. The tech. wizard from the dealer in Curacao came over to Bonaire today and checked out our installation, performed the initial start up, and did the proof of performance tests.

The genset runs great and works perfectly. They ran it at normal load, full load, and overload; and it pulled like a champ.

The best news is that our UPS systems are "happy" with the quality of the power output of this genset. There was no way to be absolutely sure of this until we actually ran the unit. But after powering our critical systems for a while during the gemerator setup process, the UPSs switched off line and began recharging their batteries once the generator started supplying power.

I added a few final photos of the inside of the ATS, as well as a couple of the genset with it's covers off while it was being set up and tested. My usual comments about clicking on the pictures to see larger versions apply here.

This may be the final entry in the standby generator story, Praise the Lord.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Awana Grand Prix Action

It's Grand Prix season again. The kids love working on their little wooden cars. We had our first workshop day yesterday morning from 9 am to 11 am. It's great to interact with the kids in a different setting than the usual Awana club meeting format.

Once the kids figure out what the want for a design, they draw it out on the wood block and mark the areas that need to be cut away. Then some of the leaders do the cutting with power tools, and it's back to the kids to do the sanding and finishing. Once the cars are finished, the leaders help add lead weights to bring the cars up the 5 oz weight limit.

I've posted some pictures on our club photo site.

Friday, January 23, 2004

New Internet Access - Hooray

After about 6 months on a waiting list, we now have Internet access at home here on Bonaire. Waiting turned out to be ok because the provider has had to get numerous bugs out of their systems. We have a cable modem, always on, type connection. Unlike cable modems in the States that can sometimes reach high speeds, ours is limited to 128K, but we are glad to be connected.

We have had the same cable modem from Flamingo TV at the TWR office since last summer. It is set to provide up to 256K. We use it to download radio programs from our TWR offices and cooperating broadcasters. The ones on ftp sites are easiest to download, but we get them from http sites too. Downloading a half hour program can take as little as 16 minutes with the cable modem. It used to take at least an hour and a half with the leased line 64K connection at the office. By way of comparison, I downloaded a half hour Insight For Living program with my Dad's DSL connection in PA in about 6 minutes, and I think it takes about 3 minutes with the T1 connection at the TWR headquarters in Cary.

So we are not on the cutting edge, here on Bonaire, but we've come a long way.

Yesterday, we also got a wireless modem connection from Telbo installed at the office. It is a 128K connection, and gives us two independent paths to the internet. The good thing about this Telbo connection is that, unlike the FTV service, all the "ports" are working. FTV is trying to get the ports unblocked, but right now we can't set up a IPSEC tunnel on port 500, do Instant Messaging, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

If we can set up a secure tunnel to our TWR headquarters in Cary using the wireless modem, then we can drop our super expensive leased line internet connection. We get our email here on Bonaire from an Exchange server at the Cary office and our Accountant here on Bonaire does all of his financial work on a Citrix server in the Cary office. So when we type in stuff on our computers here on Bonaire, we are really working on computers up in North Carolina. It's pretty cool, but can be painfully slow at times on our 64K line. We are hoping to speed that up with these new internet connections.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Standby Generator Update

This morning, Rich and Udo moved the new standby generator over to roughly where it will be installed. That probably took some doing since it weighs over 1100 lbs. I often use an old skateboard to move heavy stuff around at home, including VW engines back in my dune buggy days. Something tells me that wouldn't have worked here. :)

We shut down the power to the building at noon and they did some prep work on the wiring, to get ready for installing the ATS (automatic transfer switch) and the new genset. It was a good opportunity to verfiy that our two UPS units were working ok to keep us on the air. I'm happy to report that the UPSes did fine.

Pictures of the whole standby generator project are here. You can click on the thumbnails to see bigger pictures and click on the bigger pictures to see even bigger pictures. (800x600)

New Generator Arrives

The new standby generator was delivered on Monday afternoon. It was well packaged and looks to be in good shape. The guys are figuring out exactly where to locate it in the shop, planning the wiring runs, mounting the automatic transfer switch etc.

By Friday, we plan to have it all set up and the control wiring and the power cables run. An engineer will be over from Curacao to check everything out and do the initial startup and various proof of performance tests.

Monday, January 19, 2004

airco project update

The guys have started on the second half of the studio/office air-conditioning plant rebuild. The first step is to dismantle the old equipment. Here is the old chiller barrel and here is an old condenser coil assembly.

This is a cold water system. The airco plant is in an annex and makes cold water. The cold water is piped to the studio and office buildings and is used to cool them. It is sort of like the hot water heating system my parents' house in NJ had, except that is uses cold water to cool the rooms instead of hot water to heat them. The airco plant that we are rebuilding would be like the furnace and hot water tank in my parents' house. We basically are replacing the furnace part of the system. The local radiators in the studios and offices are still ok.

We don't really use radiators, of course. Some of the offices have what are called fan-coil units. The studios use a big centralized forced air system. There is a big heat exchanger and blower in the cleverly named "blower room" that sends cold air to all the studios through a big duct works. If the ducts are designed and sized well, cold air enters the studios, but noise doesn't. This is a good thing when one is using the rooms to record audio.

The airco plant that we are rebuilding has compressors to compress the Freon, and condenser coils and evaporator valves to cool it off. There are also lots of control circuits and pipes and valves etc. The cold Freon then goes through the chiller barrels. The water in the system goes through the chiller barrels too, by means of different pipes. The cold Freon in the chiller barrels cools the water, and the water then cools the buildings.

We basically have a mirror image pair of compressors, chiller barrels, and condensers. Either of them can handle our heat load. That way we still have cooling if one of the systems needs maintenance or repairs. The first system was rebuilt last fall. Now the guys are doing the second half of the plant.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Washington Park Adventure

Having successfully found Freddie Flamingo, we decided on Saturday to enter the wilds of the Washington-Slacbai National Park and look for Barry Barracuda.

The dirt roads in the park have deteriorated during the rainy season and some of the hills were honest to goodness four wheel drive territory. Even going up in first gear, Richard had to hang onto Nancy so she wouldn't bounce right out of the car.

We checked out the snorkeling at Barcadera, but the waves were too big at the entry point. Playa Benge was ok and we saw lots of neat stuff out on the tongue and groove coral formations. Benge is cool because snorkelers can see types of coral that normally live in deeper water because of the way the coral ridges come up close to the surface. Here is a photo of Richard and Nancy in action.

We also stopped at Wajaka II, where there is a little beachlet and lots of calm shallow water to mosey around in. It's a great spot for beginning snorkelers. This is where we finally caught up with Barry Barracuda. He was about 3 to 3 and a half feet long and starting to get chunky. Unfortunately, the water was a little too murky for pictures, tho we tried. Barry was quite content to just hang there in the water posing for us. We also saw a couple flounders doing their blend in with the sand thing.

The buildings at Slac Bai looked great. They have been repaired after being heavily damaged by the swells from hurricane Lenny a few years ago. I think the official re-opening will be coming up soon.

We double checked at the gate and one can now tour the park by bicycle, without a lot of extra red tape. Previously one had to be in a group with a chase vehicle, spare wheels, etc. I'm planning to add some trips to the park to my Saturday morning long bike ride schedule.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Happy New Year

New Years Eve was great. We drugged the dogs and put them in one of the double insulated soundproof studios from 10pm to 1am. So they were blissfully unaware of the mayhem taking place all over Bonaire as the new year approached.

We shot off our meager supply of roman candles, sky rockets, and Sandra's favorites; cardboard tanks and chickens. The chickens were particularly lame this year, but Sandra still had fun burning them up with the mighty firepower of the tanks.

On Saturday, we all piled into the trusty Samurai and set off in search of Freddie Flamingo. Flamingos are notoriously shy creatures and start to move away as soon as they see you. Here is a shot of Richard and Nancy deep in the wilds of Bonaire.

Here are some of Freddies friends, and lo and behold, Freddie put in a special appearance right by the road at Goto Lake.

We then continued on to Ricon, where it really does seem that Priscas ice cream stand is no more. We settled for stewed chicken and goat from some roadside stands, with side dishes of rice, funchi, and tutu. Yum.