Human donkey

As I posted earlier, I'm doing a video diary for BBC Countryfile, and as I've also posted the Moors For The Future project is also airlifting several thousand bags of heather onto Bleaklow as part of the effort to repair the damage to the peat, so it seemed an obvious thing to do to try to combine the two and get some footage of the helicopter. I was going to film last Thursday, but as I've already said we were fogged in. MFTF were flying again yesterday, so I thought I'd do a normal patrol and walk over to the drop site to do some filming. I popped in to Windy Harbour to find out from the MFTF team where they were going to be before heading off to the briefing centre. They were going to be working around Wain Stones and Hern Stones so Bob and I drove up to Snake summit to walk across.

It was looking a bit murky as we drove up to Snake and just as we got togged up and ready to go Fiona radioed us to say that due to low cloud they'd moved the drop site to Lawrence Edge on the opposite side of the Bleaklow plateau. We got back in the car and drove round to Woodhead dam and parked up. We could see the helicopter as we walked up Bradwell Sitch, and as we got to the bottom of Lawrence Edge I heard over the radio that the helicopter was going to refuel. The weather was looking a bit dodgy on the north side of Bleaklow as well, so I staggered up Lawrence Edge as fast as I could, weighted down by the camera, tripod, batteries etc.

I got to the top edge and spotted the ground teams just as I heard the helicopter coming back. As it appeared through the murk I saw that it didn't have a load on, which was a bad sign. Sure enough it landed and the team nearest the edge piled in and it took off and dissapeared. Bugger! Having hauled all the kit the 800 feet up from Woodhead dam in double-quick time I was less than thrilled to see them being taking off the hill.

I mooched over to the second team to share my woes. They were hoping for the helicopter to come back to pick them up, but then the weather dropped right in so we all sat there while they waited for radio confirmation of whether they needed to walk off or not. 20 minutes or so later we heard the helicopter off in the distance - the weather hadn't perceptibly changed, so it didn't seem like there was any way he could get in. A message came over the radio asking the team to get as close as possible to Lawrence Edge, and as they were moving the rotor disk of the helicopter appeared up through the murk from under the edge of the crag, smack bang where he'd picked the first team up. The wind was blowing along the valley, so he came up from below the edge and across the moor sideways to the landing site and everyone piled in whilst I tried to get some footage on the camera. Once everyone was aboard he took off and crabbed sideways across to the edge again, about 20 feet above the ground before dropping back down below and very quickly out of sight into the clag. I was chatting to Fiona later on and it appears that the cloud base was a few tens of feet below the edge of the plateau, and he'd flown along the valley edge below the cloud level before popping sideways up the face to pick them up - a very slick piece of flying. It would have been impressive enough if the pilot had done this as part of a rescue, but was really staggering was that he was so matter-of-fact about it - he even offered to come back to pick myself and Bob up! The helicopter firm are based in Scotland so I suppose they are used to these sort of conditions, but still - way to go, PDG Helicopters!

Bob and hung around for a bit and had our lunch in case the weather lifted and they could resume the lift, but when I checked with Fiona they'd scrubbed for the rest of the day. Bob and I did some shots of the peat erosion and the steps being taken to try to stabilise it by the MFTF folks before carrying along to Wildboar Clough and off down White Mare where I managed to get some more shots of hares, although they were being distinctly uncooperative and kept running away before I got close enough to get a really good shot - most thoughtless of them ;-) We dropped down onto the Longdendale trail just above Torside car park before heading back to the car at Woodhead dam, taking a few last shots along the valley before we headed back to the briefing centre and then home.

SSH on the Nokia 6820

I was reading a review of the Nokia 6820 over at The Register and I was intrigued to see that Idokorro had written a Java app for it that would give you SSH and telnet access. A bit more digging revealed that there was a free alternative in the form of MidpSSH. The idea of being able to log in to my server from my phone appealed to the inner geek, so I downloaded both to have a play. There are several variants available for the MidpSSH client, for the Nokia 6820 you need the "SSH2 Lite Build (SSH1, SSH2, reduced functionality)" for MIDP 1.0 - the phone only supports MIDP 1.0, and it won't accept applications bigger than 64K. The first problem I had was getting either of them to connect over GPRS - they both just hung when trying to connect. An email conversation with Idokorro tech support ensued, and that helped me get thinking along the right lines to solve the connection problem. The default GPRS profile that's supplied by Vodafone for the phone ("Vodafone GPRS") is set up for WAP access - it uses the wap.vodafone.net GPRS access point (APN) and uses a proxy between you and the outside. I figured that this was probably the problem, either the APN and/or the proxy wasn't passing the SSH traffic on port 22 through. I set up an alternate GPRS profile and everything started working. Here's what you need to do - note that these instructions will only work for Vodafone, you'll need to google for the correct settings if you use another service provider.

1. Go to Menu -> Services -> Settings -> Connection settings -> Active service settings and pick an empty service settings slot.

2. Choose "Edit active service settings" then edit as follows:
Setting's Name: I called mine "Vodafone GPRS Direct"
Homepage: I set mine to http://www.google.com/wml which gets you the Google WML search page, specially designed for phone use.
Proxies: Disable
Data bearer: GPRS

3. Choose "Bearer settings, then configure as follows:
GPRS access point: Internet
Authentication type: Normal
Login type: Automatic
User name: leave blank
Password: leave blank
Note: Some websites recommend you use "web" as the username/password, but it doesn't seem to be needed.

4. Now exit the configuration screens, select "Services -> Home" and the phone should create a GPRS connection and display the Google homepage. Press cancel until you get to the default phone screen.

5. Menu -> Applications -> Collection -> Select Application
and select the SSH application you wish to configure, then "Options" and configure as follows:
Web access: Allowed
Connect via -> Internet
then select "Vodafone GPRS Direct" or whatever you called your new connection profile in step 2 above.

6. Press "Back" until you get to the "Collection" selection screen, fire it up and you should be able to open a SSH connection to the machine of your choice.

Both clients are hampered somewhat by the small screen size on the phone, but the Idokorro one seems to cope with the limitations of the platform best - inputting text in MidpSSH was kinda clunky, but then for $45 (which seems a little steep) I'd expect the Idokorro client to be better. I don't have an immediate need for SSH access from my phone, but it was kinda cool to see it working all the same.

There's one other major advantage of setting up your own direct GPRS profile that I haven't mentioned yet - it apparently bypasses the abysmal Vodafone proxy and content management mess - Vodafone have decided it's their job to reformat and censor the internet, but unfortunately they've done an appalling job of it. Pictures that the phone can display just fine are removed, it's as slow as hell and it decided at one point that Ikea are providers of porn rather than of furniture. It even decided that this site contained adult content at one point, which offended me greatly - I've been accused of many things, but being an adult isn't one of them.

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Categories : Tech