CHS Orchestra European Tour--July 7 to 17, 1998

 

Production Notes:

The tour is now just about half over, with the main event, the Adjudication Concert, tomorrow morning at 10. It is a good time to stop and share a few notes about how this website is being put together.

I originally hesitated to commit to doing this project because the complexity of it--and the concomitant potential for technical snafus--is rather daunting. It involves building the site on the road while traveling through four countries I have never visited before--each with different power or telephone connections. Those of you who work in website design know that even on the good days in your own office the process can be maddeningly unpredictable. But so far it seems to be working. (I've just about got a cramp from keeping my fingers crossed all the time).

All the equipment needed for this site fits into one very compact piece of carryon luggage. I use an Apple Macintosh 2300C PowerMac Duo along with the Apple MiniDock and disk drive. The idea with the disk drive was to be able to read disks that other members of the tour might keyboard into another laptop. So far I have not used it. The Duo is a wonderful machine (great design Apple! Not sure why it didn't catch on better.) It allows me to set up all connections in a hotel and then undock the laptop and "wander" with it. I don't carry it a lot during the day, but often, in the morning and evening, I want to take it to someone else so they can read my local copy of the site. At less than 4 pounds, and with a very slim form factor it is easy to schlep around.

 

I carry cases full of connectors for both phone and power. Still I needed to borrow a plug from Chaperone Jon Perkins. He comes to my room now to shave

Plug adapters, power converters, transformers. Sometimes the weight of it all pulls it right out of the wall and I have to back a chair up to it to keep it in

The Duo in its dock.

During the average day I carry only my Casio QV-11 digital camera and a Palm Pilot Professional to make notes--both quite compact. The Casio has its limits, as you can see from the site. The image files are too small, the resolution not what I would prefer; but the photos are quick and easy to handle, and I can store up to 96 before needing to download. It also lets me edit as I go to weed out the ones I know I will not use. Anyway, I designed the site from the beginning to put the Casio's images in the best light possible. I keep all the pictures the same size and fairly small. This allows me to batch download and batch process them. Since we roll into the hotel each night between 10:00 and 11:00 pm, and I am up until 2:00 or 3:00 anyway just writing text and composing pages, I don't have time to give the pictures individual attention. It just about breaks my heart because if I was back in my office and could run them all through PhotoShop they would be much improved.

To process the images I use Macromedia's wonderful new Fireworks software. Once the optimal transformation is style sheeted (done before I even left), the work becomes completely automatic. Text from the Palm Pilot can be downloaded using the standard Pilot cradle.

Pages are composed in Claris Home Page--not really my favorite web authoring software, which is Macromedia's Dreamweaver--because it is very simple and fast. A minimum number of palettes is needed onscreen at any given time, which is valuable with a laptop size screen to work with. Once the pages are all composed for the night, however, I still use Dreamweaver's excellent FTP function to send all the needed parts to my server site at Cornerstone Networks in Charlottesville, VA. The beauty of Dreamweaver's site upload system is that nothing is hidden. It shows the remote site on one side and the local site on the other so I can compare as I go. Since the connection has been a bit dicey at times, with dropped lines not uncommon, it is very reassuring to be able to easily see the status of the remote site at all times.

The last pieces of the puzzle were the actual physical connections. I have bags full of the oddest plugs for both telephone and power. To my delight the phone adapters I brought for Austria were unnecessary since they now have the RJ11 style plug we are so familiar with. Power has been more of a problem, but in each country I have found a setup that works.

Then there is the completely unexpected. In Germany I had a pulse-dial phone that my modem software was incapable of dialing directly. I am using the iPass access system which allows me to make a local-call Internet connection in each of the countries we are traveling through. But the iPass software does not have a manual dial option. I could tell that manual dialing would solve my connection problems in Germany by dialing the phone myself and listening for the connection tones. But there was no way to trick the iPass software into letting me do it. Ultimately I used my standard PPP connection and called into my server using a very expensive international call.

Once we changed hotels the iPass has worked flawlessly, and it has continued to do so, much to my delight.

JIM GIBSON

 

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