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Monday, January 05, 2009

Fuego!

Box contains both fire and theft.

Posted by eclipse on 01/05 at 02:07 PM
In WTF • (1) CommentsPermalink

Monday, January 05, 2009

School House Rock

happy new year if you’re not chinese

Well for the first time since mid October, I have to go to work today.

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Posted by eclipse on 01/05 at 02:59 PM
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Friday, January 09, 2009

Training Daze

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Posted by eclipse on 01/09 at 03:29 AM
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Monday, January 19, 2009

ATR Electrics

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Posted by eclipse on 01/19 at 04:12 AM
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moving Soon!

Since Alison took the new job at the DFW Grand Hyatt at the airport, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to stay in our current apartment.  It’s about 25 min away from the airport in good conditions, and if there is any kind of traffic it can easily take over an hour.  To get to work we often have to leave way before work starts, and it’s expensive to commute.  We have been looking at new apartments closer to the airport, and found one called Norstar at Bear Creek.  It’s a nice area with a lot of apartments, and a little cheaper than what we are paying now.  It’s right next to the Bear Creek parks, so we can take our bikes out often, and close enough to the airport that we don’t have to take any highways.  It’s a nice place on the third floor and in the corner of the building so it should be quiet too.  We’re pretty excited about moving although it’s a pretty busy time for us with my training so moving is a little stressful.  Right after my airplane training I should have a good chance to move everything to the new place and it should work out nicely.

New Location:


View Larger Map

Posted by eclipse on 01/31 at 07:30 PM
In Life • (1) CommentsPermalink

Friday, February 20, 2009

After Landing Checklist Please!

So right now I feel like Luke Skywalker just after blowing up the death star. 

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Posted by eclipse on 02/20 at 08:41 PM
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All This Has Happened Before And Will Happen Again

Is history doomed to repeat itself forever?

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Posted by eclipse on 03/25 at 11:11 PM
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Apartment!

Well as mentioned earlier, in the beginning of the month Alison and I moved to our new apartment in Euless, Tx.  The reason for our move was to both lower costs and increase quality of life.  Since Alison transferred to the Grand Hyatt at the airport, we both were commuting to pretty much the same area and the 25-35 min commute really takes it out of you when you have to do it every day.  At our new place we pay about 200/month less and there are many other savings that go along with living much closer to the airport.  For example, less time commuting is less fuel and maintenance costs.  Since my car isn’t dodging idiots on the highways anymore, I altered my insurance and save $400 a year.  We pay less for electricity here, canceled our cable, and downgraded our internet to a $20 a month plan :-\  So while it did cost a little bit to move, we will break even in about 6 months and we actually are finding that we like the new apartment more than the old one in many ways.  The new apt. is on the third floor so no more banging on the ceilings from people above us (used to make everything in the old place shake when they were home), has high ceilings, a much bigger kitchen, and about 175 sq. feet more area.  Airplane noise is there but you don’t notice it after a while.  Car alarms seem to be the biggest noise issue, when the neighbors aren’t fighting… 

Anyways, on with the pics, right?!

Standing at the doorway Living room from behind
Bookcase and aviation shrine Our bigger and better kitchen
My Desk Alison’s Desk
Bedroom and porch Quick pic taken when we first got the keys

In other news, Eagle just put 75 pilots on the street so my sense of foreboding is keen, Adam :D

Posted by eclipse on 03/31 at 04:03 AM
In Life • (1) CommentsPermalink

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Microsoft Ads Attacking Apple?

I made an animated gif file that more accurately portrays the latest microsoft anti-apple ad:

I don’t understand why Microsoft is making these advertisements.  Do they feel threatened by Apple?  They honestly feel that Apple is stealing significant marketshare away from them?  But if you’re going to start an advertising arms race, at least do it right.  The only thing this ad managed to say is that Apples are “sexy” even though they are expensive.  We all know the argument by now: Why buy a Lexus when a Ford Pinto is cheaper? 

Some people are hailing these ads as if Apple will respond by lowering their prices, but we should all know by now the most we’ll get is another tacky Mac vs. PC ad.  Apple is selling computers.  If they were too expensive, they wouldn’t sell.  So as long as they are selling, Apple won’t change anything.  See ya next time, folks!

UPDATE:

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Posted by eclipse on 04/05 at 12:30 AM
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Friends Page Architect

The friends page I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by one monumental issue. The inevitability of it is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every friends page, where I am forced to constrain other people’s web posts into a more limited format in my friends page. In the new 4.0 site, images wider than 700 pixels had a tendency to break the tables. After waiting 6 months for Swiftwulf to make an update and get rid that Obama picture that was too big, I started editing my friends script to detect images in the RSS feed and resize them.  But the [img] tag is too complex, even after spending hours researching Regex.  I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection. Thus, the answer was stumbled upon by another, an intuitive person named Bobomega.  And the problem was solved with CSS by adding the following line to my CSS page:

img {max-width: 680px;}

A whole day wasted!  You can see the beautiful results at: http://www.darkmercury.net/site/friends/ and scroll down to Swiftwulf’s Obama pic. 

Posted by eclipse on 05/21 at 08:18 PM
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Week in the Life

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Posted by eclipse on 05/21 at 09:52 PM
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Friday, June 05, 2009

The Apple TV Experiment

A few days ago I picked up a used 40gb Apple TV off craigslist for $150 (retail price $230+tax).  I talked to the seller for a few minutes as we did the transaction, I looked it over and he counted the moneys.  He said it was a good device but he just found himself never using it.  He didn’t have a lot invested in iTunes and he just preferred using his computer to use Hulu and view his divx files.  I neglected to mention the hacks available for the apple TV, but he owns a PS3 and so I told him to look up Tversity as a way to view his divx videos on his TV.  So is the Apple TV a good enough product to stay in my living room, or will I follow in this seller’s footsteps and put it right back on craigslist?

First of all, let’s take a look at my TV setup.  It’s pretty simple, just a 40” Samsung LN40A550 HDTV and a Playstation 3.  The PS3 takes care of DVD, Bluray, games, and can even stream media served by the Tversity service running on my computer.  It looks neat, has a nice bluetooth remote, and is pretty good at being an all-in-one device.  However, the user interface takes some time to get used to, it can’t access iTunes content (which is most of my good music), and most importantly: it’s loud!  We have it in a TV stand with closing doors and the PS3 will heat up quickly and start blasting fans to cool itself.  This interrupts a lot when trying to watch a movie, especially quiet ones.  And while Tversity is a great product, it does have some downfalls.

Tversity is a service that will re-encode your divx/xvid/whatever files on your computer into a DLNA-compatible format, which is what the PS3, Xbox360, and others look for in a media server.  It’s nice because you can have a file in almost any format and not have to convert them all into another format to view them.  But it’s not perfect.  While I can use it to play about 95% of the files I have, there are videos that don’t work.  The files have to be indexed similar to iTunes, which means folders have to be scanned and this pwns my computer when the process begins.  So basically, keeping the service running on my computer is a hassle. 

The Apple TV in its original state, is self-admittingly, a “pet-project” of Apple.  It’s designed to be an iPod for your TV.  It syncs the same, holds your music and movies on the internal hard drive, and with the 2.0 software, you can download and rent movies right from the box itself without a computer.  The 1.0 software was better at this concept, and was very similar to Frontrow on the mac.  With the “Take Two” (2.0) software, the focus is more on buying shit from iTunes.  For example, in the Movies menu, “Top Movies”, “Genres”, “All HD”, “Search”, and “Trailers” all refer to online streaming movies and your actual content is all the way at the bottom.  It makes for extra scrolling and makes the menus annoying.  It’s the same in the Music, TV shows, and all the rest.  It’s kind of neat to have the Apple Movie Trailers at your disposal any time you want, but I haven’t tried the movie rentals or purchasing content from it yet. 

Streaming content looks really good over the Apple TV.  It has good vertical sync and high detail even on low resolution shows.  It can do up to 720p.  It will choke on 1080p.  Maybe if a new version which can handle 1080p is released I will update to that.  The Apple TV’s best feature is that it’s whisper quiet.  It is always on and always warm, but it never gets hot and we can keep the TV stand doors closed while using it.

What I don’t like about Apple TV is, of course, that little tiny remote.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of the Samsung and PS3 remotes and not only is this another one to keep track of, but it’s tiny.  I’ve gotten used to the bluetooth remote of the PS3, and the Apple TV being infrared is like a step backwards.  The display when playing music is annoying to me as well.  In an effort to avoid screen-burn, the display flips the cover art from the right side to the left and back every 30 seconds or so.  The screensaver does this too.  I find it highly annoying and even unnecessary with modern TVs.  Since the Apple TV doesn’t even work with non-HDTV sets, this is a feature I hate.

So the Apple TV is great if you have a lot invested in iTunes.  I keep my music organized with iTunes so it works with my iPhone, but my movies and TV shows are in xvid format stored in a directory format.  To play these, the Apple TV must be hacked.  Hacking the Apple TV is pretty easy these days.  You simply create a “Patchstick” USB drive using a simple program and restart the Apple TV.  It boots into Linux and writes over some files and installs others.  About 300 megabytes of downloading later, you have the XBMC Media Center and Boxee.  XBMC was originally created to turn the first Xbox into a media center similar to the 360, and now the project is open source and cross-platform.  It allows you to play media of almost any format (xvid included) and does NOT require the Tversity software.  It uses plain and simple Windows Samba service, which is great because my computer no longer has to re-encode video on the fly.  Boxee builds on this by adding social networking to the software.  You can see what your friends are watching and view recommendations.  Previously, hulu.com content was available but that has been taken off due to legal requests.

Boxee’s problem is that it’s too intense for the Apple TV’s 1.0GHz processor to handle it.  It’s too slow on the Apple TV and so I find myself using XBMC to watch divx video on the TV.  XBMC is also better than the Tversity/PS3 combo I was using before on the PS3.  It plays anything that’s shared on samba, including DVD iso’s.  So now I can play video without having to worry about opening the TV stand doors and everything I have can be played.  And since it’s not being re-encoded, it looks even sharper.  With a little bit more time, I can probably get a bittorrent script working to download in its idle time. 

There’s still room for a lot more hacking and messing around with the Apple TV.  I need to get SSH working and it would be pretty cool to get a complete installation of OS X installed on it.  I think it would be neat to have the 40” TV as another PC in the living room.  I don’t think it will run very fast though, after looking at Boxee.  Still would be fun to try it though, and there’s enough functionality with XBMC to justify keeping it around.  I don’t think there is a perfect Home Theater PC setup without a lot of cash.  The PS3 had a nice remote and features at the expense of the user interface and noise.  A HTPC is usually similarly loud, and expensive.  The Apple TV is cheap, quiet, and has enough features to justify its cost.  After it’s hacked, of course…

Posted by eclipse on 06/05 at 02:18 AM
In TechAppleShowAds • (2) CommentsPermalink

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The San Francisco Treat

This is an overdue post, but I wanted to write about it while it’s still semi-fresh in my mind.  Between June 18-21, Alison and I went to San Francisco to celebrate 5 years together.  It was a trip just for us, no responsibility to see family or anything and it was great.  Similar to the LA Trip, we used my flight benefits and Alison’s hotel benefits to basically travel for free.  We also had to fly in the coach section on the way down there, the humanity!  But at least we got exit row seats..  Again, we didn’t go with many plans made in advance, but we wanted to see the city and Alcatraz. 

The flight out was pretty smooth but early.  We are both used to the late shift, since Alison works nights at the hotel.  We were able to get from the SFO airport to the hotel via train and checked in without problems.  Out to see the city!  Despite tiredness, we started walking down the pier, hearing rumor of excellent clam chowder and sourdough bread.  Starting at Pier 1, we walked across the shoreline for about a mile or so until we got to Pier 39, where all the action is.  We looked out into the bay.  Alcatraz island was partially hidden behind some sea fog, looking ominous in the distance.  There was also a surprising amount of sea lions around the buildings.  A plaque described how they all of a sudden showed up a few years ago and just never felt like leaving.  We moved on into the shops!  Lots of good looking food and deserts.  We stopped at a little place and Alison got the clam chowder and I got a seafood basket.  Both were pretty good.  Then we hit up the chocolate store, and Alison got some gigantic strawberries from another shop.  Continuing our touristy adventure, we passed an aquarium and decided to stop in.  It wasn’t that big, but had some neat things.  Weird looking crabs, jellyfish, sharks, and an octopus.  We walked around a little more and got tired, and decided to head back to the hotel and think about dinner.  We jumped on a trolley car which took us almost right next to the Hyatt Regency.  I have to give a shoutout to the iPhone’s Google maps application.  The public transit directions it gave were almost flawless (except for one time) and helped out a lot in a new place.  Saved a lot of time.  We rested a little and then went looking for a place to have dinner.  After a lot of searching we found a steakhouse but I can’t remember the name.  It was Perry’s or something.  Anyways, Alison chose it because she liked the tablecloth of all things, but it turned out to be an awesome restaurant.  I had a fillet with mac and cheese (always an awesome combo), and she had some sort of dinner salad.  Both were great.  Exhausted from the long and early day, we walked back to the hyatt to end the night.

For the next day, the 19th, we decided to go hit the Golden Gate park.  It’s a long way away from the Hyatt where we were staying.  Thanks to google maps public transportation, we were able to jump on a bus out there pretty easily.  Some guy on the bus asked us where we were going and we told him.  Turns out there’s a lot of pot being sold there.  Declined his offer, as we looked at each other in apprehension.  Sure enough, about 5 minutes into our morning walk, someone asked us again if we wanted to buy some “nuggets”.. uhh no!  The park was a strange mix of stuff like that, but also little kids on field trips, tennis courts, homeless people walking about, museums, busy streets etc..  We settled on looking around the japanese tea gardens.  We had to pay $5 each to get in, but oh well.  There were some neat things in there like a giant arched bridge and huge stairs, but we decided to leave the park and hit up Chinatown.  Rode the bus some more and ended up in a Chinese looking area.  We walked back and forth but there weren’t a lot of shops for tourists - mostly food shops, and they didn’t look too sanitary.  Little did we know, we were in the more residential area of Chinatown, about a block away from touristy-chinatown.  We headed towards the Trans-America building and went back to the Hyatt for some rest and a quick bite to eat before we went to the Giants-Rangers baseball game.  I had been wanting to go to a baseball game for a while so we went and it was fun.  Cold, but fun.  The fact that they were playing the Dallas team was a coincidence, but the Giants won anyways.  Had hotdogs and pretzels and stuff.

Our last day, the 20th, was our Alcatraz day.  Turns out, they only allow one company to take people over to island.  Hello monopoly!  And since the pride rally was coming up that week, everything was sold out far in advance.  A little bummed out, we went out exploring again, starting the day out with a ride up Nob hill on the old fashioned cable car.  Pretty neat ride, but the driver was a bit of an ass.  We got off at the top and walked our way down, finding the Grace Cathedral and the “real” Chinatown.  At least the one for the tourists.  I picked up something for my dad for father’s day, and Alison got a chinese fan.  Then we headed up to Pier 39 again and booked a boat ride that takes you out to the Golden Gate Bridge and around the island of Alcatraz.  Our tickets were good all day, so we went up to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream and chocolate.  I had a brownie sundae and Alison got a caramel sundae.  Pro-tip: Get the brownie sundae when you go.  Alison’s was sugar overload and mine was awesome.  We shared a lot, so it’s all good.  Headed back down to the Pier and got on the boat.  It was a fun ride, very cold as we went into the wind and very pleasant when we turned around towards Alcatraz.  Got some good pics, got to see the monstrous bridge and got to see the island pretty close.  Next time we’ll be smarter and book our tour in advance.  The day ended with a nice dinner at a more fancy place that I also can’t remember the name.  I was trying to decide between a new york steak and bacon-wrapped pork chops..  Alison was sweet enough to order the pork chops and I got the steak.  They were good but the portions were small.  More Money = Less Food yay.  Oh well it tasted good and we had some dessert.  Headed back to the Hyatt to get some sleep for the early flight next morning.

As the trip ended, we met the SuperShuttle around 4am on the 21st and headed out to the airport.  We both got first class on the way home, but our seats weren’t together :(  I spent most of the flight sleeping anyways though.  All in all we both had a lot of fun and maybe we’ll go there again some day.

Check out all the pics in my gallery at http://www.darkmercury.net/gallery2/v/sanfran/

Posted by eclipse on 07/04 at 01:31 AM
In Life • (3) CommentsPermalink

Monday, July 13, 2009

The AppleTV Experiment Continued

It’s no secret that the AppleTV, just a pet project by Apple, has some drawbacks.  It’s got some pretty unimpressive hardware specs, it’s not compatible with a lot of file formats, and the little remote can be a pain to use.  Fortunately, I’ve spent the last few weeks tweaking and hacking the system to make it quite usable and powerful.  The Playstation 3 is still around obviously for games, bluray, and DVD discs, but in every other area, we’ve switched over to the AppleTV and it’s been great.  I bought the AppleTV because I knew it had potential, and it was pretty cheap.  Sure, a mac mini can do anything the AppleTV can do without much of the hacking, but it still doesn’t play Bluray and it costs at least twice as much.  So how did I overcome the AppleTV’s shortcomings and just how awesome is it?

The first step in the AppleTV’s new life was to create the USB Patchstick and boot the AppleTV up with it.  This installs several useful tools, such as XBox Media Center, Boxee, and SSH (dropbear).  I already went over XBMC and Boxee in the last post, but it was extremely helpful for the patchstick to install SSH for me, as being able to access the AppleTV’s command line paved the way for the rest of the “upgrades”.

With XMBC, I could now play all the video files on my computer like I did before with the PS3.  But I figured I have 40gb of wasted space sitting here on the AppleTV if all I’m going to do is stream video.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have some TV eps or movies available to be played without having my desktop powered on all the time?  Sure, at this point is was possible to copy files to the AppleTV’s hard drive with the scp or ftp command, but that’s not exactly user-friendly, or fast.  I should install Samba service!  There is a nice walkthrough here, which is pretty much what I did.  It still needed some work with the config file but after a night of messing with it I was able to finally connect to the AppleTV’s hard drive, easily drag and drop a file into its Movies folder, and watch it without needing my desktop anymore.  It’s pretty cool to have it just working by itself now…

But it didn’t stay that way for long.  Now, the AppleTV isn’t really like a desktop computer that gets turned off or put to sleep when you’re done.  It’s more like a server, which stays on all the time.  The only way to turn it off (other than the console), is to unplug it.  If this thing is going to be on all the time, eating my power, shouldn’t it be doing something?  Enter rtorrent.  rtorrent is an awesome unix torrent downloading program that uses little system resources and is really simple to use.  You set it up to monitor a folder, and whenever it sees a new torrent file there it will start to download.  When it’s done it will delete the torrent file and move the downloaded video to your Movies directory for you.  This way it just downloads for me all the time until shows are ready and they just pop up ready and waiting for me when they complete.  And with the easy-to-use samba service, Alison or I can just drop a torrent file into the AppleTV’s folder and forget about it until it’s ready.

And for a few days the AppleTV was set in its ways, but isn’t it so much work to download and look for torrent files yourself?  Why do all that when the computer can do it for you!  I knew I was so close now to having a Tivo-like setup.  How nice would it be to come home after work and find new episodes of your shows waiting for you?  Ludicrous, I know!  For this I turned to rssdler.  Rssdler can scan an rss feed and look for whatever Regular Expression guidelines you give it.  It’s a pretty nifty thing, but it’s a python script and so I had to figure out how to install python first.  Getting rssdler to work took the longest time of anything I did to the AppleTV, about an entire week of messing with it.  Python didn’t give me too much trouble, but the rssdler wouldn’t work and I still don’t remember exactly why, but it was essentially due to a space character in one of the files.  Grrrr unix…  Also had lots of permission issues and it sure doesn’t like to be run as root.  Rssdler works when it wants to.  I still have to check up on it a lot these days..

One of the biggest gripes I had with the new system was that damn little white remote.  It doesn’t have a lot of features, and I lose it all the time.  I carry it around the apartment for no reason and forget where I leave it.  Then it’s hard to find because it’s so small.  Plus, 3 remotes now for the system?  I stumbled upon a solution in the MacRumors forums.  A universal remote by Logitech, the Harmony 550.  Unlike most shitty universal remotes where one or two buttons might work, this remote plugs into your computer and downloads all the instructions off the internets from Logitech.  The remote actually does change the way you watch your TV.  I can press the LCD Button “Watch TV” and it’ll turn on the TV and the stereo, set the stereo to Aux, switch to the right TV inputs, and even go to your favorite channel.  Press “AppleTV” and it’ll do the same, switching to the AppleTV input.  It even turns off unnecessary equipment.  Now we are back to one remote and it’s even easier than before to use.  The harmony retails around $90-120, but I got it refurbished off Amazon for $55.  I totally recommend the Harmony series universal remote to anyone.

Now the AppleTV is great at downloading shows and stuff for me, but all these videos are taking up room on the puny 40gb internal hard drive!  It would be great to just be able to plug an external drive into the USB port on the AppleTV, but since that would actually be useful, Apple says no.  But I got another idea.  My Airport Extreme wireless base station has a USB port for sharing printers and external hard drives over the network.  Acting as a little NAS server, it was fairly simple to plug in an external USB SATA drive into the wireless station.  I got a 1.5 TB Hard Disk from Fry’s and started moving all the video over to it.  It’s great because now all the files are available to all computers on the network, including the TV without my computer needing to be on.  View the TV network diagram.

With the Harmony remote making the experience so much easier, the external drive storing everything and anything, and rssdler turning the AppleTV into a Tivo, I am definately happy I got it.  It’s a lot easier to use than the PS3, much quieter, and more flexible.  But I’m still not done yet!  What’s on the horizon for the little overworked, underpaid 1GHz HTPC?  Well since it’s always on, I’ve written a little cron job (and installed cron) that updates my site with my home ip address.  With this I will be able to log in remotely (say during an overnight at a hotel) and maybe start a download, get around crappy hotel wireless plans by tunneling through SSH, remote start my desktop, etc…who knows..  Also planning on trying wtorrent, which gives a web client to rtorrent which would make it easier to see the status of current downloads.  And lastly, it would be nice to have the option to download straight to the external hard drive for some of those larger files.  I’m always thinking of more I can do with it, which is awesome.  I knew it had lots of potential!

Posted by eclipse on 07/13 at 02:08 AM
In TechAppleShowAds • (1) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quakecon ‘09

I was very lucky to get the time off for Quakecon 09 this year, and it was a good thing because this was a good one.  Dan came down with the normal group of Tim, Adam, March, Matt and Steve.  Also there were Brian and Joe.  As usual, they drove down, which took about 19 hours.  They somehow get faster at it each year.  Unfortunately I wasn’t at home when this happened because I was working, but a few hours later I got home to find about 15 more computers in my apartment than normal.  It was pretty funny to see all the laptops everywhere and I wish I got a picture of it.  People slept on our sofa bed, on our air mattress, on heavy comforters, and even on our footrest thing.  By the time I woke up the next day, most everyone was gone already. 

I had a slightly different strategy for the line this year.  Instead of waiting all day to be at the front of the line, I wanted to wait until it started to move before heading down to the Gaylord.  With Tim and Adam and the group volunteering, they would get in first and let us know when to come down.  Typically we’d arrive at the line around 2pm and wait 9-10 hours for registration to start.  On top of that, I had a new motherboard/CPU/RAM combo in the mail from Newegg.  My desktop is intel based for the first time ever, a Core 2 Duo 2.93 Ghz, Asus motherboard, and 4GB of RAM.  Woot!  It arrived mid-afternoon and I spent about an hour or two rebuilding my computer right before quakecon.  It would give me some problems later, but nothing that ruined the experience.  After I finished rebuilding my computer, Dan and I decided to head down and get in line anyways.  I was pretty lucky to get a shirt right away as they were thrown to the crowd.  I don’t hoard shirts anymore, but I like to get one per year.  We waited for about 4 hours in total, which wasn’t too bad.  Had I waited another hour after Tim texted us we might have been able to cut that down to 3 hours, but there were plenty of people who showed up after we did, so I don’t think it’s possible to entirely skip the line.  That night you basically set your computer down on the table where you choose, and walk out.  We had a good spot near the tech desk and the NOC, but next year we need to sit on opposite sides of the aisle, instead of around the table.  If someone is on the other side of the table, you basically don’t see them the whole event.

This was the first year I woke up early enough to get down to the event when it actually started, 9am on Thursday.  After dropping Alison off at the airport to go home for the weekend, Dan and I went to iHop for breakfast and then to the Gaylord.  The layout was similar to the 2005 layout when it was at the Gaylord before.  The vendors were straight ahead through the door with the BYOC to the right.  I always like the sponsors that let you use their products while playing a game, like when Razer had the copperhead display.  There didn’t seem to be much of that this year.  There were some laptops like that, and some consoles and intel systems, but I could pretty much get the same experience at my own computer.  I’m looking for stuff that will make my computer better, not just the same experience somewhere else.  They did have cool stuff though, the new Wolfenstein game looks sweet, and playing Doom 2 was fun on the xboxes.  I think it really says something when your game is still fun to play like 15 years later.  These days a game leaves you bored after 4 hours.  Bawls was there selling cases and drinks and we got one.  Around the sponsors was a lounge area where you could watch the tourney matches with commentators describing the match.  That was pretty cool and fun to watch.  And there was the Quick Draw stage where they held the “how much of your humanity will you give up for something free” events and the Quick Draw Quake matches.  It would be fun to play a quick draw match, but you have to be present to win, and the odds of me getting called are so low that I don’t think it’s worth my time to hang around there.  I’ve also watched plenty of noobs play quake before, so the match itself isn’t appealing enough.  If you want to win a shirt, it’s the place to be though. 

We got to our computers and set them up.  The main game this year was Quake Live again, like last year.  They used Quakecon as an announcement for Linux and Mac support which is cool.  Quake Live is a great game, and it’s basically what Quake4 should have been.  And despite what people say, it’s NOT just Quake 3.  Should I go into it?  The weapon strengths are different which alters gameplay and it took a little while for me to get used to it.  The machinegun is weak as all hell now.  You can pump 100 rounds into someone and still not kill them, which means that getting your revenge frag is harder.  Instead of going for the quick MG frag after you die, its now a better strategy to give it up and look for a weapon.  Quake has always been a game about controlling items, and this makes it even more important.  The shotgun is stronger but spreads more, making it strong enough to kill almost anyone at really close range, but even more useless if someone is medium/far distance.  With a longer weapon switch time, it’s also harder to get the SG kill.  The Rocket Launcher is similar.  It does lots of damage when it actually hits you, and far less when you get hit by splash damage.  You can bounce around your enemy all day and hardly hurt him, while he’s probably pwning you with Lighting.  The LG seems to be the center of the QuakeLive experience, with it being found everywhere and ultra powerful, quick reload time (meaning you can switch from it quickly), and instant damage.  You can own at QL by having a LG and switching to the RL to finish the kill. It also seems easier to rail people in this game.  All in all, it’s close enough to be fun like Q3 and mastering the new skills can be fun.  QL’s web interface and stats will let you play against people with the same skill level as you so you’re not just always being pwned by one person, and that’s probably a good thing.  It’ll help people learn and like the game better so all in all QL is a win.

The events there were pretty hit or miss, like usual.  It’s never quite been the same since HardOCP left, but I had high hopes for the Nvidia event and something called the hardware event.  I heard a rumor in the forum that Nvidia was supposed to do something big so when I got the day right, Dan and I and the group headed down to it and were excited to see a big pile’o'prizes, HardOCP style.  It became clear pretty quickly though that the prizes were for the few that they brought onstage.  Not only did Nvidia have nothing to talk about, but they couldn’t even give prizes away without embarrasing themselves.  They had a mod-a-PC contest between two groups that was okay, but then they wanted to wax a guy’s chest and when it came time to start eating live crickets and fish, I had had enough.  I’m not sure but I think I was one of the first people to walk out of the mainstage.  Like I told Adam and Dan, it’s not so much that I was grossed out, it was just boring.  I’ve never been excited by people eating things on fear factor and such, and I’d just rather be in the BYOC if Nvidia has nothing to talk about.  I was surprised when the rest of the group was behind me again in about 5 minutes and we decided to hit up Logan’s for steak.  Much better use of the time, indeed.

The Hardware Workshop by PC Perspective the next day saved Quakecon events.  This was basically a return of the HardOCP workshop, and those guys did a great job of putting it together and keeping it interesting.  AMD was there showing off their overclocking tool, and it was cool to see just how far their processors could be pushed, but it could have been even better if they talked about the basics of overclocking.  What steps to take first, where to start with, etc.  Would have been very cool to learn some real stuff at a workshop like that.  They did manage to overclock a 3GHz Phenom to 5.5GHz, something like that using liquid helium.  Pretty impressive, but not practical at all.  I don’t see a lot of 3dmark2007 tournaments anywhere.  They called tickets for prizes and threw a lot to the crowd, even processors.  Dan wants me to mention nvidia douche who somehow showed up again at this event.  He was giving away prizes, but would run around screaming trying to pump people up but would rarely actually give anything away, and when he did he just gave them to people seated on the aisle.  So we learned pretty quickly to not be impressed or excited from him.  Everytime we turned around nvidia douche was there it seemed. 

I didn’t feel like going to the closing ceremony or finals, and I don’t know who won the Shelby Mustang from Ventrillo.  I still think that money would be better spent on more video cards for more people.  A lot of people worked hard just to win a 99% chance of losing that mustang.  Other than QuakeLive I played a little Quakewars, Q3…and uhhh…ok I guess I played a lot of Quake Live.  Also got some more TV shows like Seinfeld, House MD, XFiles, Stargate SG-1.  My plan to upgrade my computer right before QCon was mostly a success, although there were times when my computer threw an absolute fit.  I didnt reinstall Windows XP, just let it redetect my hardware when it rebooted and reactived windows, and I got pretty good speed out of it.  Quakewars looked great at 1920x1200, but then it would start to throw explorer crashes and firefox crashed a lot (which is not helpful when QL is launched from the web browser).  Reinstalling Firefox seriously helped it not crash all day Friday, but on Saturday it started again and early Sunday night I installed Windows 7 with Adam’s help.  It’s actually not too bad and has been completely stable, so maybe it was just WinXP and not bad hardware after all.  I should probably RMA the motherboard just to be safe, but laziness will probably prevail.

All in all, it was a great time, I’m glad everyone could come down again.  Glad Dan finally made it down after 6+ years of trying.  I tried to balance out sleeping and playing, tried to not get dragged into drama and all that that comes with less sleep.  I think this year was an overall really good year.  It was a record setting year for Quakecon in terms of attendance, it seemed well-organized this year with twitter and google calendar updates, and I hope we can do it again next year!  Thanks for coming everyone!

Check out more pics in the Quakecon ‘09 Gallery

Posted by eclipse on 08/20 at 04:51 AM
In GamingLAN Party • (0) CommentsPermalink

Monday, August 24, 2009

Like any other day…

Everything is normal as we are cleared for takeoff on Dallas/Fort Worth International’s runway 18L.

Read Full Entry (Friends Only)

Posted by eclipse on 08/24 at 03:53 AM
In WorkFlying • (2) CommentsPermalink

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Aspire to Greatness

Ultraportable laptops, or netbooks, are the fastest growing segment of the PC market right now.  My first encounter with one was through Krhainos and his Acer Aspire One.  I didn’t understand the point of it at the time.  It was slow, the screen size was tiny, the keyboard was hard to use.  It wasn’t until a few months later that I started to realize just how useful one could be.  I travel a lot for work, staying in a hotel overnight 2 days a week.  I tried to take my macbook pro around with me, but it was heavy and I even made a small dent in the side by forgetting it was there and pushing my seat back into the case.  So I tried to get by with my iPhone.  It’s nice to be able to use the internet at any time without having to carry my laptop around, but the experience isn’t quite the same.  You have to keep zooming in and out, there’s no java support, and the screen is just too small to use for more than a few minutes.  So one night a hotel, I started to think about my old Dell L400, and how it could be neat to have one again.  It was a small, thin laptop, especially for those days.  It had external drives, but that was ok because I wouldn’t need them on the road.  By today’s standards it’s pretty slow, but again I thought I could get by because I was only using it for internet browsing.  I searched but couldn’t find much right away.  The one I did find referred to it as a netbook.  I thought back to Jo’s Aspire One and realized that I could get a new netbook for about the same cost, with the same features and probably not quite as slow.  Being a little impatient, by the end of the day I had talked a craigslist seller down to $240 for his week-old Aspire One (retail $379), and the experiment began.

I like my 15” Macbook pro for its dedicated video card.  It’s great to go to LAN parties in Ohio and not have to take much more than it and a mouse.  It’s getting a little old, but still handles most things pretty well.  The new Acer is great too in that it’s super light, more durable, and cheeeaaap while still giving me good enough performance to run the latest operating systems and browsers.  It’s great to be able to use a real web browser, AIM, iTunes, etc again at the same time.  If you want to know how wide the screen is, the white part of my website just fills up the screen (1024x600).  My biggest realization was that while I enjoyed having both performance and ultra-portability, I didn’t need both at the same time.  The Acer is as small as my flight manuals and fits nicely into my kitbag at work.  Once I have the software set up just the way I like, I plan to leave it there at work for good.  I don’t need an ultra portable laptop at home, and I wouldn’t have to drag it through security each time I went to work.

The small size does have some limitations.  The keyboard is 91% full size, so it’s a little smaller and takes a little bit of use to get up to speed with.  Once I stopped trying to rest my palms on the base of the laptop I got a lot faster!  I do like that Acer didn’t make any strange alterations in key placement like the Dells.  I like the page up and page down buttons near the arrow keys, since the screen size is smaller both the arrows and page up/down get used a lot.  The touchpad also takes some getting used to, since the buttons are on the left and right sides.  It’s often hard to press the buttons.  They are in a little groove and it’s hard to tell by touch what is the groove, what is a button, and what is the touchpad.  It results in the mouse cursor getting pissed off and flying rapidly all over the screen.  I am a big keyboard command person anyways and try to use a mouse as little as possible.  Try to stick to tapping the mousepad for a click.

My Aspire One is the 160Gb Hard drive version, which means Windows XP was the default OS instead of Linpus Linux.  I like XP, it’s compatible with pretty much everything these days, but Linux has its uses too.  Like when a hotel wants you to pay for your internet and you don’t want to…  So I was interested in installing a linux build on it.  Jo had the idea of installing Moblin, short for mobile-linux.  It’s a linux build designed for netbooks.  It had some really great ideas such as a toolbar that hides to save screen space.  When you’re only dealing with 1024x600 pixels, things like the start menu just waste your precious screen space.  You want to give the web browser or whatever program as much room as you can.  It was also able to boot in about 5 seconds.  That is pretty impressive I suppose.  However, the entire setup was just far too limiting.  The OS is basically crippled, lacking almost every feature you take for granted in an OS, like samba networking and the ability to change the desktop wallpaper.  Installing everything you actually needed took a lot of time and increased that precious boot time up to all the other operating systems.  The chrome web browser it came with could be maximized, but a third party install of firefox couldn’t.  You were left with wasted screen space, the very thing moblin was designed to prevent.  The multiple desktop feature was impossible to use without a mouse, and more hassle than it was worth.  Little things in Moblin also make it aggravating to use.  After typing in a URL to the browser, it wouldn’t change focus to the actual web page.  You’d try to page up/down and the cursor would be in the URL field still.  You had to then take the mouse, and click on the page just to move it around.  Ugh.  So I ended up giving up on Moblin.  I understand it’s a beta, but it’s not ready to be used as a full time OS and so I won’t.

I do love OS X, and so with some prompting by BobOmega, I started to look into turning it into a hackintosh by installing OS X.  As I read about it, it got good reviews except for one part.  The Atheros wifi card in the laptop wouldn’t work because apple doesn’t use their cards and there were no drivers for them.  What good is a netbook without wireless internet?  However, the Aspire One uses a standard mini PCI-E wifi card, so it was just a matter of buying a compatible card (Dell/Broadcom 1490) off ebay for about $15 and opening it up to replace the card.  It arrived during Quakecon, but after a few days I finally sat down and spent about 2 hours performing the surgery.  I had read a lot about what to do, and some horror stories, but all went surprisingly well.  Removing the keyboard was the hardest part, taking about an hour itself.  I popped off the F8 key while trying to release the little tab underneath it, but fortunately it snapped back on easily when the keyboard is removed.  Afterwards, it was just a simple matter of unplugging the old card and plugging the new one in.  I attached the wires for the antenna and closed it back up.  It detected the new card right away and I was online instantly.  My “macbook mini” is complete! 

OS X has become my main OS now.  It gives me all the networking features of linux while being a good-looking and powerful OS.  With the Spaces multi-desktop program, I can have a full screen web brower up, and press Opt + left/right to get to other virtual desktops with my AIM, iTunes, whatever, using just the keyboard.  It’s easy, pretty, powerful, and user friendly.  Everything a real OS should be.  I see now why netbooks are becoming so popular.

Posted by eclipse on 08/29 at 06:40 PM
In TechApplePC • (6) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New Users Module

So far I’ve been pretty impressed with Expression Engine, the CMS software behind my current site.  It’s quite capable and has more features than I could probably ever figure out.  The core version is free for personal use, but doesn’t include many features that are found in the full edition.  One of these features is the user manager.  I’ve never been a fan of the idea of requiring my friends (or anyone) to need a login for my site and that will continue, but I think I’ve come up with a system that will work out pretty well.  Let’s face it: spam is a reality.  False comments required me to start using captcha’s to prove they were coming from real people.  But I know typing in a captcha phrase is annoying, and has led to fewer comments.  So I’ve added the ability to register yourself a username.  Having a registered username will mean no more captchas!

I also have had a few entries lately that I felt should be kept more private than usual.  This also goes against what I want my site to be about but reality is something to be dealt with, and I can’t be too careful in today’s world when writing about some things like my job.  Lacking a “Friends Only” ability on my site, I’ve made these posts on Livejournal.  The users module in Expression Engine now allows me to overcome that.  By registering as a user on this site and being approved by me, I can host all my entries on this site which I greatly prefer. 

Anonymous Level:

  • Continue filling out all the form boxes as you have been doing
  • A simple captcha text entry will be required to prove you are not spam


Member Level:

  • Fill out the membership form once and you’re done!
  • Doesn’t even require email validation (for now), instant access to advanced features
  • Simply type the comment and press “submit”, no more name/site/captcha
  • Choose or upload your own avatar to be displayed next to your comment!
  • By use of cookies, you stay logged in (depending on your browser), so it won’t be a hassle to log in every time you visit the site


Friend Level:

  • All features of the Member Level, plus access to posts marked “Friends Only”
  • Create a member profile the same way as above and wait to be approved.
  • No extra steps other than waiting/contacting me


To register on my site, use the links under the “Members” section on the right hand menu of this page, or click this link.
Any questions, just ask!

Posted by eclipse on 09/03 at 02:01 AM
In Internet • (0) CommentsPermalink

Friday, September 11, 2009

There Is No Aggro Reset

Momentarily blinded by the dust kicked up in the late afternoon wind, he let out a quiet grunt and closed his eyes, throwing his head to the side.  The sun beat down upon the desert city mercilessly, casting long eerie shadows over all he could see.  The warrior’s slow, passive walk betrayed his alert senses.  His eyes searched every corner; ears wide open at attention.  But the city was quiet, uncaring for the intruder.  He noticed the thick layer of swirling sand in the street, the open doors and broken glass in the buildings, cobblestones cracked and missing.  The loud cry of a lonely wind whipped through the walls and alleys.  This city had been dead for many years.

He could see echoes of what had been as he turned into the old beaten alley.  Backyards of families long gone; old, broken toys of children nowhere to be seen.  He made the turns through the neighborhood naturally, as if guided along.  This bothered him, although for what reason he did not know.  The increasing beat of his heart attracted his attention.  His instincts were trying to tell him something.  A wolf always trusts his instincts.  Still, the lone warrior felt a duty to continue the investigation.  He pressed forward cautiously.

Suddenly, a screeching howl erupted through the city.  He leapt to the side, taking cover behind a fence and unsheathed his weapon.  His senses kicked into overdrive.  His eyes searched but saw nothing.  His ears listened but heard, nothing.  His nose sniffed but smelled…nothing.  The sun was bright in his eyes, blurring his vision.  His heart pounded in his chest.  A mirage?  Wind?  Despite the calmness he sensed, he could not explain his anxiety.  The city remained dead. 

Curiously, he took relief from the burning sun into the remains of the house behind the fence.  He moved deliberately and cautiously as he pushed the rotting door, feeling it give way easily.  Small creatures, probably mice scurried through the halls in the distance.  He navigated through the small house with ease, taking the familiar right turn through the kitchen to a set of steep, broken stairs standing almost vertically.  Taking the staircase in a single bound, the shack shuddered as his weight hit the second floor.  A single room with what looked like the remains of a sleeping area.  A whole family probably slept here. 

The wall to the left was stained, cracked and falling apart, letting the sun light a corner of the otherwise dark, hot and musty room.  He peeked out of the hole, seeing the rest of the quiet city.  There were hundreds of abandoned houses just like this one.  A shiver went through his spine and his fur stood up straight as he thought about the possibilities.  He could search all of them and find no answers.  Why did it seem so familiar?  He thought back as far as he could.  Fighting was always a way of life.  His pack was always fighting with someone.  He hated it.  But in the end, they gave their lives to protect him.  To honor their sacrifice, he had shaped himself in their image.  He dedicated his life to achieving what they could not.  Maybe he could prevent the same from happening again. 

Frustrated, he let out a mad howl and punched the wall.  It crumbled easily from the force of impact, the orange sun flooding the dark room.  What had happened here?  Was he too late?  Could he have stopped it?  The lack of answers infuriated him.  He crouched down on the floor, glaring at the quiet sun as it neared the horizon.  The sun knew the answer.  The sun watched everything but told no secrets.  He growled loudly at it, jumping out onto the street.  He could feel the anger inside him growing as he ran down the alley towards the center of the city.  He was useless here.  Everything he had worked so hard for was of no help to these people.  He closed his eyes, putting his shoulders forward as he smashed through another broken fence with a loud cry.  The pieces flew in all directions, the warrior didn’t even slow down.

His vision was red and blurred, his head felt like thousand spikes were driving through his head.  Without remorse he let the anger take control.  Limitless power burning inside his body was allowed to surface, the anger in turn took control.  He growled and he howled!  Barking, raving, hurting, hating, destroying!  He kicked over debris, knocked over walls, smashed anything in his path.  Reaching the city wall, he charged ahead, heaving the mighty battle axe over his head.  It crashed against the heavy doors with an echo heard across the entire desert.  The doors burst open, he flew through them, intent on reaching whatever he could find.  Leaving the city as alone as he found it, his heart pounded with rage. He wouldn’t be made powerless by an enemy that couldn’t be found.  If he could find no answers there, this wolf without his pack would make his own.

image (c)
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Posted by eclipse on 09/11 at 01:55 AM
In Anime • (3) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Aspire “Two” Greatness

While I was in town for Aviation Day 2009, my dad wanted to go “netbook hunting”.  He has seen my Aspire One D150 and since they are the greatest thing ever, we headed out to best buy in CF to look.  My biggest concern was to find him something that would fit his needs more than a toy.  He is still using my Dell L400 as his primary computer at home, which is getting old and slow.  I tried to explain to him that computers themselves don’t really slow down, but he keeps trying to run newer versions of programs like AOL that eat up more and more of his little 128mb of ram. 

Best Buy had a few notebooks and I was surprised to find a whole section devoted to netbooks, but their selection was not that great.  I was able to show him some of the main differences in netbooks like screen size vs resolution, glossy vs matte, SSD vs HDD, etc but they still only had a few brands.  I also tried to show him smaller full notebooks, and explained the sacrifices made by netbooks like the CD drive.  I also showed him the low end macbook but he was pretty set on the netbooks, so we headed out to Micro Center in Lyndhurst. 

I have to say I much prefer Micro Center to Best Buy, sorry Will.  They have a better selection and the salespeople aren’t quite as obnoxiously pushy, although they are still hovering around.  Micro Center did have everything BB had and more, from a $150 Eee PC to a holy-shit Alienware mainframe replacement.  He wanted portability to take it to a class at CSU, so the main things we looked at were battery life, screen size, and we stuck with HDD versions. 

In the end we were left with two netbooks with 1024x600 10.1” screens, an MSI Wind and the Acer Aspire One D250 (the slightly bigger version of mine).  In the end, the deciding factor was the keyboard.  The Acer won out because the MSI keyboard had shrunk the comma, period, and forward slash keys, among others.  Once I pointed that out, he noticed and didn’t like that.  The computer is basically the same as mine, with the same CPU/RAM/HDD combo I have.  His screen is a little bigger at 10.1” vs my 8.9”, but uses the same resolution.  I found that while using his, I preferred the 10.1 screen to my own.  I still like the small physical dimensions of mine though, for it to fit in my flight bag.  He also had nice features like bluetooth, a 6-cell battery for 7 hours of use, and mouse buttons that are under the trackpad!  A little jealous…yeah maybe..  I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a traveling laptop.

Since we were in the area, we took it up to CSU to make sure he could connect to the university wireless and get him set up with their provided antivirus.  Getting on the network there was highly unusual, so I’m glad I could help him out there.  And it was fun throwing the help desk off when we showed up to get the antivirus CD.  They kept asking me for my ID when he was holding his, of course they assumed I was the student!  Since they only provided the software by CD, we had to use a lab computer to copy it to a flashdrive.  He seemed comfortable with the computer and I think it will work well for him.

Posted by eclipse on 09/15 at 07:00 PM
In TechPC • (0) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Aviation Day 09

Saturday was the biggest day of the year for the KSU Aeronautics Department.  The “Aviation Heritage Fair” is the new name for Aviation Day, which technically they are not allowed to call it anymore.  It’s a little airshow but has some great strengths and I try to go every year.  I worked my schedule to fly up to Ohio to help out and see friends from my old flight instructor world. 

Things sure are different now, as my former students are the ones running the show.  It’s actually very cool and fulfilling to see them stepping into the role that I was in just two years ago.  I got to see one of my private students who just got his own instructor certificate a week ago.  Flight team members who had just joined when I left are now senior members and officers of the club.  Even a good friend from Six Flags/Geauga Lake has started the program and joined the flight team.  It’s great to see them continue to build on the success that we started back in 2005. 

The weather is always a big factor in how well the airshow goes over, and the last two years have been pretty miserable.  Despite a forecast of rain early in the week, the weather was actually very nice all day.  I parked my car by Target and walked the parameter to the main entrance.  As I walked over, there was a nice rainbow over the hangar and the Cessna fleet.  The pic doesn’t do it justice.  As I got to the airport, I met Even and Myles who were putting up the signs for airplane rides.

The rides are a big operation, almost a little airline in itself.  You have the flight instructors piloting the aircraft; the new flight team members are marshaling airplanes around the ramp under the control of the airport line staff; the senior flight team members are taking reservations and money, assigning crews and passengers, and checking weight & balance under the main tent.  The Chief instructors are in charge of us all, but they are so busy throughout the day that we really end up working on our own and being responsible for ourselves.  We’re used to it though as the entire airport is pretty much run by the students.  It’s always awesome to see the teamwork and everyone works together so well.

I didn’t have much of a plan for the day other than to hang out with people, but as the show started and people arrived for the airplane rides, I began to see a job opening in scheduling.  They had done well in making a time slot board, but I made a good system to tell the difference between reservations and completed flights, ways to prioritize flights, etc..  Airplanes would come and go in different orders, but we kept up all day and were never more than 10 minutes off of a passenger’s reserved slot.  Even smoother than an airline!  We had our share if issues too with the weight and balance.  Cessnas are mostly trainers and aren’t able to carry the weight of 4 big people.  We had issues with seatbelts not being long enough and too much weight in the front of the airplane, but we were able to accommodate everyone who was willing to work with us.  (Only one group stormed off in a hissy fit)  I feel it was one of the best years for rides and we made a lot of important cash for the flight team to compete next month. 

The displays were alright, the main attraction was a restored C-47.  It’s a military version of the DC-3.  Also notable were a T-6 Texan, Parker Hannifin’s Citation Sovereign, the Goodyear Blimp, an Extra 300, and many General Aviation aircraft of all types.  Flyovers were performed by a C-130 Hercules and a KC-135 Aerial Refueler.  Unfortunately, the C-130 showed up about an hour late.  The airshow is free though, so take what you can get.  Many props to those who organized everything. 

I did take an airplane ride myself with my dad, and it was nice to fly a Cessna again.  It’s a lot more sensitive than the ol’ ATR.  I was a little all over the place, but that’s what you get when you fly one once a year now.  I had a good time with my dad watching the flyovers and taking the ride.  For the rest of the time I volunteered doing the ride scheduling, and then helped to clean up when it was all done.  All in all, a pretty good year for Aviation Day.  The airport is always an issue in the city of Stow, for noise and real estate concerns, and we need all the good publicity we can get.

The next day I went out to the airport again to help the flight team practice.  They were running a message drop practice followed by landings.  In three hours, I think they got 4 heats of message drop in.  That is way too little!  It’s wasting time and resources.  The airplanes are sitting on the ground, not being used and no one is getting any useful practice in.  I think I’m going to write up a better schedule and method for them.  Don’t know what happened between my departure and now, but that was aggravating.  Landings went better.  With only a month between now and regionals at Battle Creek, they need to be more efficient to get good practice in and be ready by then.

There’s a few more pics in the Gallery Page.

Posted by eclipse on 09/15 at 07:43 PM
In KSU • (1) CommentsPermalink

Friday, October 09, 2009

Good Morning, Shreveport

Waking up at 4:00am is never fun, especially when you are used to waking up late.  Sometimes though, it does provide for a spectacular morning.

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Posted by eclipse on 10/09 at 12:50 AM
In WorkFlying • (4) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Installing rutorrent on your AppleTV

My AppleTV experience started in June ‘09 with a 40gb version I bought used from craigslist.  I’ve made many hacks on it already, like installing XBMC and Boxee. I’ve set up samba filesharing service, installed rtorrent, fought a lot with python and rssdler, created special cron jobs, and expanded its capacity to 1.5TB via network streaming.  Rssdler allows it to watch RSS feeds and download torrents automatically via rtorrent.  I like rtorrent because it is very stable and utilizes little system resources.  With only 1.0Ghz and 256mb of ram, resources are always a concern.  So when I started to look for an easier way to control rtorrent, a small footprint was a factor.

My original plan was to install wtorrent, a web based client that allows you to view rtorrent’s information and control it in your web browser.  This requires a web server like apache or lighttpd running on the AppleTV, and uses memory.  wtorrent’s system requirements were pretty high actually, needing not only httpd, but also php, scgi, ajax, etc…  I looked for alternative web clients and came across rutorrent.

rutorrent has many good features, the best of which are a light footprint, easy install, and nice interface.  I want it to be easy to use so Alison can benefit from it.  It doesn’t have multi-user support or password protection, but my AppleTV isn’t accessible from the outside world so I don’t have much use for that.  You can set up passwords with .htaccess if you need it though.  I spent many hours trying several different combinations of web servers and rtorrent frontends, finding information spread widely around the internet.  I ended up using the following configuration which is working out quite nicely.  I’ll detail it here in hopes that someone else who is interested can save some time and effort as well.

In this tutorial, I assume that you’ve hacked your AppleTV with the patchstick already, and you’re familiar with ssh, nano, unix filesystems, apache httpd, and copying files to your AppleTV.  I’ll still try to make it easy to follow for those of you who just type what you are told.  Items in bold should be typed into the console.

  1. Install rtorrent.
    • This has been documented pretty well already by a few different sites.  Try
      http://dyve.posterous.com/a-proper-rtorrent-install-for-apple-tv and come back when you’re done.
    • Enable scgi in your rtorrent configuration file
      nano ~/.rtorrent.rc
      type scgi_port = 127.0.0.1:5000 in the global section (just make it the first line if you’re unsure)
    •  
  2. Install XAMPP 0.7.4.
    XAMPP is an all-in-one apache http/php/perl/mysql solution for linux and mac os x.

    • Goto http://sourceforge.net/projects/xampp/files/ and download xampp-macosx-0.7.4.tar.gz.
      I used the newest version that was available as a tar file because you’ll need to extract it with the -p option to preserve file permissions.  If someone verifies that the files from the .dmg files work, I will make an update.
    • Copy the tar file over to the AppleTV via scp or samba.  I copied it to /Users/frontrow/xampp-macosx-0.7.4.tar.gz
    • Login to the AppleTV with SSH and navigate to the folder you uploaded it to and type:
      sudo tar xfvpz xampp-macosx-0.7.4.tar.gz -C /Users/frontrow/
      • This will install the app to /Users/frontrow/Applications/xampp.  Other sites will tell you to extract it to / so it installs in /Applications/xampp, but the 40gb AppleTV will give you an error saying “Cannot write: No space left on device.”  This is because /Applications is in a separate partition on the hard drive.
    • Creating a symbolic link in /Applications will give you the same functionality as if it was installed in /Applications.  Type
      sudo ln -s /Users/frontrow/Applications/xampp /Applications/xampp

    • Set up your httpd.conf
      sudo nano /Applications/xampp/etc/httpd.conf

      • Set up the httpd.conf however you like.  Other sites like this can explain it better than I can. You can also skip this and come back at the end.
    • Start the xampp services
      sudo /Applications/xampp/xamppfiles/mampp start

      • If you get php errors, it’s because you didn’t use the -p flag when extracting the tar file contents.  If/When this completes successfully, you should be able to type http://the-ip-address-of-your-AppleTV in your web browser and get a page.
    • Setup XAMPP security
      sudo /Applications/xampp/xamppfiles/mampp security

      • Creating a password for mysql will cause the demo html page to not work.  Not that that is a big deal, you’ll be replacing it with rutorrent later
    • Create a LaunchAgent to start the program automatically on boot.  You can download my launchagent here.  Copy it over to the AppleTV and then copy it to /Library/LaunchAgents/ by typing
      mv org.awkwardtv.httpd.plist /Library/LaunchAgents/

      • Congratulations, at this point your web server is installed and will start automatically with the AppleTV.  Now it’s time to install the http frontend for rtorrent.
  3. Installing rutorrent.
    • Download the latest version from the homepage: http://code.google.com/p/rutorrent/ and extract the files to the directory your xampp httpd.conf file uses as default for web pages.  If you didn’t change it, this folder will be /Applications/xampp/htdocs/
      • I found it easiest to extract the files on a desktop computer, and then move them over to the AppleTV via samba.
        Alternatively:
        • Copy the tar.gz file via scp
        • Navigate to the folder in SSH
        • gunzip rtorrent-2.7.tar.gz
        • tar -xf rtorrent-2.7
        • cd rtorrent
        • mv * /Applications/xampp/htdocs/
    • Download the RPC plugin (rpc-1.0.tar.gz) from http://code.google.com/p/rutorrent/downloads/list.  Copy it over to the AppleTV.
      • gunzip rpc-1.0.tar.gz
      • tar -xf rpc-1.0.tar -C /Applications/xampp/htdocs/plugins/
    • Make sure it works by going to http://the-ip-address-of-your-AppleTV

Posted by eclipse on 10/27 at 04:52 AM
In TechAppleShowAds • (6) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New York

In November Alison and I went to New York City.  She had never been there and I had vacation time assigned to me.  As the day to leave approached, things started to go wrong.  My vacation days were moved slightly at the beginning of the month which meant I had to work the first day we were supposed to be there.  Not a huge deal though, we decided Alison would fly up ahead and get the hotel room.  All I had to do was work one turn to Lubbock and then I could fly down and meet her there.  Of course there was a huge storm that wreaked havoc that whole day, and on top of it, I came down with some sinus infection.  We were 4 hours late and I missed the flight.  I was saved by the fact that another AA flight was delayed even beyond ours and got to New York around 1:30am.  Rode with some crazy non licensed taxi driver from the airport to the hotel at a hundred miles an hour, pretty scary.

Despite feeling like crap, we were determined to see the city.  I figured we’d go south to the statue of liberty and walk north from there.  We saw it from afar and bought tickets for the next day.  Then walked up to the WTC site, which is still a big construction site.  Saw an old church, went up to city hall, saw the Brooklin Bridge, Chinatown, and had Pizza at Lombardi’s.  Rested for a little bit back at the hotel and then went out to Times Square for sushi. 

The next day started at the Statue of Liberty again, but we got to take the boat over to Liberty Island.  We got to walk around the base and go up on the pedestal.  They had a nice little museum inside the base.  You can go up to the crown for lots of money, but we didn’t.  It took about half the day.  We then had some more pizza and went to Central Park.  Went on a horse carriage ride for fifteen minutes or so.  Saw the 5th Ave Apple Store underground, and also went to the expensive stores around. 

On the last day we went to the Empire State Building, and went to the 86th floor observatory.  It was pretty cold and windy so we stayed on the warmer south side.  We walked around Times square over to Rockefeller Plaza where they were putting up the tree and the Catholic Church near there.  Pretty impressive amount of money eaten up by that church.  We ended up in Central Park again to be near the apple store for internets.  I needed to sign in 4 hours before the flight, so we stayed pretty near but went for ice cream at Serendipity’s.  The sundae there was good.  The hot chocolate, not so much. 

Posted by eclipse on 12/30 at 10:48 PM
In Life • (1) CommentsPermalink
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