Thursday, December 18, 2008

Terminal Settings

Exported Terminal settings:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">
<string>Window Settings</string>

Are those serialized objects storing the color info? Huh.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Launch Log 2008.12.07

The weather was nearly perfect and we launched around 20 rockets (we = Greg M, Isaac, Spencer, and me). I lost an unfinished Mighty Mouse: great launch on a C but went north and landed in the pond. The Westminster police stopped by to tell us we technically weren't supposed to be there but they weren't telling us to leave; the policy is that if someone complains they'll come tell us to leave.

We launched Isaac's Rainbow Machine and Greg launched his own Mean Machine. Both did great on D12's.

People stopped to watch and these girls came and played for quite a while. Fun to see so many people interested in rocketry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

still a fan of stack overflow podcast

Around episode 10 of the Stack Overflow podcast, Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood sync'd up and became great. I had been an occasional reader of Coding Horror and Joel on Software but never much of a fan. Around episode 20 of the Stack Overflow podcast, Joel and Jeff got too comfortable and they're risking falling apart like Carl at DNR or Scott on Hanselminutes but I'm still a fan.

It may take a major problem with the Stack Overflow site of FogBugz to get the show back to the super-interesting level. Right now, Jeff settling in to thinking that Stack Overflow is a success and he's got it all figured out and Joel is just there for the ride. They are thinking that bringing on guests will keep the show interesting but I think the attraction to the show has been that they were dealing with real technical problems and differences on how they would address them throughout the cycle of building Stack Overflow. If there aren't any major disasters with Stack Overflow or FogBugz then they should probably stop doing the podcast or start writing a new product.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Some Winter Project

Kelly J mentioned once that he was converting his mower to electric. I just mowed the lawn and got to thinking about his project. I figured it'd be pretty expensive but was curious what was involved.

Here's an interesting article about someone that did the conversion. $212 for the conversion - impressive. I get the impression that this article inspired the build-it-solar article.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Al Gore invented Global Warming

I listened to an interview about 5 years ago where Bob Metcalfe or Vint Cerf was tributing Al Gore for pushing hard on congress to fund the Information Super-highway. The direct result was increased funding, and I believe the 5 node backbone between the super-computing centers and then ultimately the Internet as we know it today. I cringe when people still joke about Al Gore saying he invented the Internet - I haven't heard his words, but it seems like he's allowed to take some significant credit.

It just struck me, as I was reading about the plastic / nanotube solar panels, that we'll probably be hearing in 5 years people saying that Al Gore invented Global Warming. It'll make me cringle but perhaps it'll have the same amount of truth: it sure seems like clean tech has boomed following his moving on the environment.

I'm no big fan of Al Gore - just had the thought...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Launch Log 2008.09.02

Chris Murdock organized a small community launch on Aug 2nd. Isaac, Spencer, and I went and enjoyed flying a bunch of rockets and watching a lot of other flights.

The Rainbow Machine had a beautiful flight on an Aerotech E15. The winds were calm so the flight was straight and the rocket landed about 10 yards from the launch pad. The Purple Rhino II had a great flight on 5 Estes A10 motors. I used flash-in-the-pan for ignition and clearly had plenty of powder in the pan!

  • Rainbow Machine (E15) - perfect flight, correct delay, landed near pad

  • Alpha III (A8) - first flight, early ejection

  • Explorer (E9) - great flight, very high, delay (6) too long, nearly landed on pad

  • Mighty Mouse III (B6) - first flight, bit of a spin, correct delay

  • Purple Rhino II (5x A10) - first flight, too much powder in pan, very straight

Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Make Me Think!

I'm not a Web designer but I decided to Don't Make Me Think! because I could just read and think about the content while traveling. I've found most of the content insightful and this particular bit gives a glimpse of why I like the book.

And the worst thing about the myth of the Average User is that it reinforces the idea that good Web design is largely a matter of figuring out what people like. It's an attractive notion: either pulldowns are good (because most people like them), or they're bad (because most people don't). You should have links to everything in the site on the Home page, or you shouldn't.

Heh - the Average User - I hate it when the Average User comes up at work because it is the same thing: it is the dev / PM / etc. claiming they know what the Average User wants so they can enforce their agenda.

The point is, it's not productive to ask questions like "Do most people like pulldown menus?" The right kind of question to ask is "Does this pulldown, with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?"

Good point - seems like that could apply to the code / end-user issues as well.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

posting family / hobby videos

We hope to be posting more videos on our blogs in the future, so we need to work out a good process and format for converting and posting the videos. Flash video files are becoming very common and are handled nicely in most browsers (pretty much everything but the iPhone as far as I can tell) so that seems like a good starting point.

The Adobe Flash movie player plugin expects SWF files but the FLV files are better for us because they can stream out to the player. The reason to point that out is that if you look at the excellent Adobe documentation for object / embed for the Flash movie player, you only see the movie parameter pointing to an SWF file. I chose a nice looking embeddable FLV player from advanced flash components to be the SWF file that streams / plays the FLV files in the blog posts.

ffmpeg or mencoder
Our camera produces HD videos at 1280x720 pixels and the files are pretty large. I tried 2 different tools to convert the large .mov file to .flv:

ffmpeg -i P1010013.MOV -acodec libmp3lame -ab 64k -f flv -b 800000 -r 30 -s 400x225 -aspect 16:9 ravioli.flv

mencoder P1010013.MOV -o ravioli.flv -of lavf -oac mp3lame -lameopts abr:br=56 -ovc lavc -lavcopts \
vcodec=flv:vbitrate=600:mbd=2:mv0:trell:v4mv:keyint=10:cbp:last_pred=3:aspect=16/9 -vf scale=400:225 -srate 22050

I've used ffmpeg more in the past so I intended to use it for this; however, the basic options above resulted in a lot of popping in the resulting .flv file. I started reading about the audio codecs and tried a few different settings but decided to try a basic config for mencoder that I was familiar with. I think that either of the above could be improved: ffmpeg could get audio fixed or mencoder could ensure that the aspect ratio gets coded into the video info.

Preview Image
In the case of the ravioli video, I didn't like the default preview image so I generated a series of jpegs and used MS Paint to scroll through the images until I found one I liked.

mplayer.exe ravioli.flv -nosound -vo jpeg

Embedding the Video
To get the video into a Web page, we just need to invoke the player and tell it what .flv file to use. We currently have the .flv files on our regular blog server; in the future, I'd like those moved to AWS or some similar content network.

object / embed:
<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000"
width="400" height="225" align="middle">
<param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" />
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" />
<param name="base" value="/" />
<param name="movie" value="/AFC_EmbedPlayer.swf" />
<param name="quality" value="high" />
<param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff" />
<param name="FlashVars"
value="flvURL=/moo/ravioli.flv&autoHideControls=true&autoStart=false&previewImageURL=/moo/ravioliPreview.jpg" />
<embed base="/" src="/AFC_EmbedPlayer.swf" quality="high" bgcolor="#ffffff"
width="400" height="225" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain"
allowFullScreen="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

where are the electric taxis now?

Cabbie Jacob German was arrested and jailed in New York City May 20, 1899, for driving his electric taxi at the "breakneck speed" of 12 mph.

- from Wired

Sheesh - more than 100 years ago, we had electric taxis racing around the cities. Where are they now?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mistaking 'Common' and 'Lowest Common'

I'm reading a great book on Ajax: Pragmatic Ajax. There is a lot of great info in the book but this particular quote is what really resonated with me.

Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t make it bad. That kind of logic is just counterintuitive enough to appeal to our old highschool self, whose fascination with The Cure and Metallica was fed by the belief that Phil Collins couldn’t possibly be any good because so darn many people listened to his music.

I don't know why particular bit jumps out at me. Good book - go get it.

One more great clip from that same section of the book:

And for crying out loud, think very, very carefully before you start shaking, puffing, and squishing elements on the screen.


MHM 2008

Northern Colorado Rocketry hosted Mile High Mayhem 2008 was this past weekend. It was a 3-day event but I only went up on Saturday because weather on Friday was horrible and Sunday was a day to stay home with the family.

Lots of cars and campers on the flight line. The second picture shows the people lines: lines were long to get out to the pads. Waiting in line to go set up was a new experience for me. There were 21 active pads (12 low power and 9 high power) but we definitely needed more pads.

There were a lot of great flights but the highlight for me was Greg's launch of his Black Brant. In the first picture you can see us setting up on Pad 4. The second picture is the launch: J350W boosting the rocket to 7012 feet above ground level. Good stuff!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great Dev Guidelines

I believe it was Scott Hanselman that referenced this post. The title is "This I believe... the developer edition" - funny, and I don't completely agree with it all but it is great to review it before each project to remind yourself to think about some important aspects of the development process.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

bummer day at the Atlas site

Northern Colorado Rocketry launches on the first Saturday of every month. In the winter and spring, we launch on the south side of the Pawnee National Grassland; in the summer and fall, we launch on the north side. The north launch site has a much better altitude waiver and very few fences, so it is the preferred site; however, when the ground is soft we risk damaging the environment: the south launch site is paved everywhere - even where we launch the rockets because it is the roof of a retired Atlas missile silo.

The March 1st launch was on a beautiful day. Greg and family went up for a day of launching and I drove up as well. Greg certified Level 1 on his PML Black Brant - a nice kit and excellently built / finished by Greg. I forgot my Tripoli papers, so I couldn't attempt to certify, but I could still fly practice flights.

I flew my Talon 2 on an H128. The Talon 2 is very light so it really popped quickly off the pad. The ideal delay, according to RockSim, would have been 8 seconds but the H128 does 6 or 10 second delays: I went with the 10 second delay so deployment was a couple seconds after apogee. Chute opened fine and the Talon 2 drifted out of site during decent because I used a larger chute than normal to ensure a soft landing. Apparently, the large chute didn't help with the landing because the rocket broke - like completely broke:

Broken Talon 2

Zoom of Talon 2 Break

Next launch in 34 days - I better get building...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Launch Logs 2008.02.02

Greg and I drove up to the Feb NCR Launch together. It was fun to have a launch buddy to chat with while assembling motors and retrieving rockets. I sim'd 10 flights and arranged for the 1 motor on the list that I didn't have to be brought by the GLR rep. I only got 3 flights in, but they were all great flights!

My first launch was my scariest of the day for me: maiden flight of my Talon 2 on a Road Runner F60. The kit was my most complex kit so far because it has 6 fins (3 lines of 2 fins) and the rear line is on the joint with the boat tail. My simulations said that I should use a 4 second delay but I only had a 7 second delay. Turned out the rocket flew straight (so the fins appear to be aligned okay) and the event was just after apogee (so the 7 second delay was nearly perfect).

At the annual meeting, I bought a Semroc Explorer kit and loved building it. I had its first flight and loved flying the Explorer almost as much as building it. The first flight was on a D12 and it also flew straight and smooth. In fact, I was really impressed with the boost it got from the D12 - I wasn't expecting much since I just wanted to verify the rocket would fly straight but it jump off the pad and went fairly high.

Finally, I launched my repaired Bullet. I cracked a fin and a fillet on my first launch of the Bullet in late 2007. I fiberglassed 2 of the fins to make sure they'd be solid. A G64 sim'd to a respectable 1100 feet so I felt like that would be gentle ride to verify the repair. My plan was to follow up the flight with either an AT H238 or CTI I205. The G64 flight went great but I cracked the fin that hadn't yet been fiberglassed.

After the Bullet flight, we decided to pack up and head home. It was disappointing to crack a fin again, but I was extremely pleased with my flights because all motors ignited properly, all rockets flew straight, and all chutes came out at or shortly after apogee. I had planned to attempt an L1 cert again and to make my first dual-deployment flight; those flights will have to wait until the March launch. I hope that the Thor will be done so I'll be flying 3 high-power kits rather than just the 2 in March.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

expanding a VHD

In the past, when my fixed disk was too small, I'd create a new fixed disk and install a fresh copy of WinXP. I'm too busy for that now, so I checked Google to see if there were any hacks to increase the size of a fixed disk. I assumed to find nothing, but I found VHD Resizer. Cool.

VHD Resizer - handy tool for people to use that need to expand a VHD.

At this point, I thought that I'd be able to use Windows tools to expand the C: drive in the VM to use all the space. I opened diskpart and it found all the space but since my partition was the boot partition I couldn't use diskpart. I had to use BootIt NG for the resizing.

BootIt NG - simple partitioning tool.

Unfortunately, BootIt NG didn't come with a standard floppy image (that I could directly capture in VPC) and I didn't know how to create a floppy image so I had to search once more. WinImage was overwhelmingly popular and I tried it - worked great.

WinImage - tool for creating disk images - I used it to create a blank floppy disk to capture in VPC.

In the VPC, I captured the blank floppy image that I created with WinImage. I then used the makedisk app in the BootIt NG download to write the BootIt NG stuff to the floppy. I rebooted the VPC and used the menus to expand the partition to consume all available space and then released the floppy image. Finally, I booted the VPC again and had all the space available as I had hoped.

Friday, January 04, 2008

any 3D movie posters in Denver?

I've not seen full-color holograms nor have I seen a hologram the size of a movie poster. There are now some full-color holographic movie posters around.

Last week, 10 U.S. theaters rolled out full-color 3-D posters with motion and photorealistic detail to promote the movie How She Move. Made by Quebecois company RabbitHoles, the advertisements feature one of the film's characters tearing up the dance floor in an eight-second clip that can be "played" in 3-D by walking from left to right of the poster. Despite the images' slightly transparent quality, what you see is pretty close to the real thing.


To produce the imagery, RabbitHoles creates a 3-D computer model of the object that will be turned into a hologram. A virtual camera takes snapshots at different angles, and a software algorithm developed by RabbitHoles calculates how light would bounce off each angle in the scene. The result is up to 1,280 different snapshots, or frames, that not only hold color, distance and angle info, but light patterns as well.

To record the actual hologram onto a sheet of film, the data is sent to a printer that divides each frame into pixels -- a poster-size print can hold up to 700,000. The company then exposes each pixel with red, green and blue pulsed lasers.

-- from New 3-D Technique in Wired

Sounds impressive, but I'd like to see one first-hand.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Starting the kids on the XO

Yesterday was the first day we let the boys play with the XO. Today, we let them play some more and they continue to explore. Isaac and Spencer both really like the video recorder but Isaac spent a surprising amount of time calculating. Blogs and news reports say the keyboard is built for tiny hands, so here is a picture in case you haven't played with one - my hand is on the right.

Luke and I played with our XO's together yesterday and learned about sharing applications and chatting. Sharing applications is very cool, but getting chatting started seemed to be non-trivial. When the applications open, they default to private but can be changed to the neighborhood. When someone in the neighborhood is sharing an application, you can see it in the neighborhood view. For example, Luke shared the word processor app and I clicked on it to join in. We each saw our cursor and the other person's cursor and could edit concurrently.

Above is the network view showing access points and mesh networks in the area - not too exciting here since this is from home. It is an interesting view and I hope to see more systems adopting something similar.

Kinda hard to tell if Spencer is having fun or working but he's doing something and seems interested to continue doing it.