Friday, May 28, 2004

The camera with a mind of its own

There's a really nifty science-education facility under construction here. The folks who're building it thought it'd be neat to have the construction process visible on-line. A science-education buddy of mine talked me into setting up their Toshiba Network Camera.

Now, network cameras are really, really nifty toys. They tend to have built-in web servers and are usually able to serve up both video (streaming or through a Java applet) and single-shot still images on demand. This is a good thing if you're either using them internally (for security, as an example) or have a lot of bandwidth.

In this case, the goal is to put images from the camera on a web site, so the general public can see them. Right-o, no problem, one would think. Except that the camera thinks otherwise.

First, there was the matter of it having somehow picked up an IP address from some DHCP server totally unrelated to the network it was on. I have no idea how this happened, but it required someone to climb a pole and hard-reset it.

Once I was able to get in and configure it, I told it to FTP an image to a web site where I have an account, every 60 seconds. It uploaded a couple, then started connecting every 5 minutes and only updating the timestamp of those files. Okay... I tried a 30 second interval instead. No change to its behavior. It seems to sincerely believe that what I
really want is for it to connect to the server every 5 minutes and do nothing. Grrr.

I poked around and figured out a way to easily request the latest image from the camera's built-in web server, and spent some time pondering possible software options for doing so and FTP'ing the results to their public web site 2,400 miles away, but didn't come up with anything useful for Windows XP.

On my way out for lunch, I decided the better way of getting around things would be to have their DSL router forward port 80 to the camera, then lock out most of the world to preserve their limited bandwidth. The final solution will have to wait 'til after the holiday weekend at this point, but hopefully you'll all soon be able to look at images of a construction site!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bump Shimmy Bump

For a while, I'd noticed that my Accord had a bit of a shimmy at certain speeds, and while braking. I always figured something was a little unbalanced wheel-wise. Well, the last day or so, it had a pretty serious shimmy, and the wheel that shimmied before felt like it was going bump bump... almost like a flat, except it wasn't.

This afternoon, I decided that something must be stuck to the wheel, or something like that, so I put the car in neutral and pushed it along until I found... a point on the wheel where the outside was "flat" and the inside of the wheel was bulging like it might pop at any moment. Uh-oh! Things were so worn down the sidewall had big cracks in it and wires from the radial belt were sticking out of the rubber.

Long story short, I manged to limp the car to a few places and wound up going to the local Goodyear place to get a pair of Dunlop SP20FE's put on the front of the car (balanced, of course). It's sooooo much nicer now. I can't wait to get it out on the highway.

So the lesson for today is to not ignore tires that shimmy.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Samson's Strength, or Albatross?

So, there went 17 inches of my hair. Yes, really. From "way down my back" to "barely down my neck," in a matter of seconds. Neatly banded at each end to keep it all together so it can be sent off to a wig shop or whatever.

What have I lost? What have I gained? Just what did that hair mean to me?

I suppose it was part of an image. An image that had been cultivated over years, an image that had once appealed to someone. A display of sorts, not unlike the peacock's tail. But times changed, goals were reached or passed or altered, and the hair no longer served that purpose. Now there are different goals, different people to impress, and an extra foot and a half of hair isn't worth what it once was.

I may let it grow back someday - I don't know. To some extent, it's easier than getting it trimmed all the time. On the other hand, long hair is harder to keep combed. For now, though, a haircut is a rite of passage, a sign of changing and refocusing on different things, different people, different goals. The first outwardly visible sign of what will probably be many changes in life.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Butterfly Blue

My front porch overlooks the final approach to Hilo International Airport, so jets are flying past all the time. A few months back, I caught a glimpse of a red one, but didn't follow up to see what it was. This afternoon, another went by, so I drove over to the airport and took this picture of it.

An airport security person did come over to make sure that I wasn't some sort of terrorist, and explained that in the "post-9/11" environment, they're nervous about photography. Fortunately, he was able to explain to me what on earth a Boeing 737 based in Australia (VH-VOT) would be doing all the way over here in East Hawaii.

Apparently, Virgin Blue (or its subsidiary, Pacific Blue) does the occasional flight from Australia or New Zealand all the way to California (or the other way around) via Pago Pago and, of course, Hilo! I say "of course" because Hilo is the easternmost airport in Hawaii, and thus a good spot to refuel before the flight to California (or, as the case may be, 
after the flight from California). On a California-bound trip, the people aboard can get off and get a night's sleep while the plane is refueled and any necessary maintenance is done.

My Driveway as Observatory

Hilo's an interesting place to be, as far as the night sky is concerned. On one hand, it's the rainiest city in the country (valid whether you define "country" as Hawaii or the United States), so there are a lot of nights where there's nothing to see but rain, or at the very least, clouds.

On the other hand, Hilo's the primary gateway city to Mauna Kea, which many people would argue is the best place on the planet, bar none, to look at the night sky. The 4200-meter summit of Mauna Kea is home to more than a dozen world-class observatories, including the largest dedicated optical, infrared and submillimeter radio telescopes in the world. Even the Visitor Information Center at 3000 meters (where I can be found volunteering most Wednesdays, as well as some Tuesdays, Thursdays and the occasional Friday) has clear skies most nights, and the viewing, be it through one of the various telescopes (ranging from a 14" catadioptric down to a high-quality 4" refractor on a computerized equatorial mount, with a slew of Dobsonians in the middle) or even one of the pairs of Oberwerk 9x60 binoculars, is spectacular.

The presence of all this astronomy creates some political pressure to discourage light pollution, so Hilo manages to be darker at night than many cities its size, but I live right smack in the middle, only about 12 meters above sea level, so even on a clear night (or more likely a clear part of an otherwise cloudy night), I don't get my hopes up.

Tonight, I spotted Venus and Jupiter on the way out to get dinner, and Sirius on the way home with dinner. After I ate, I could see Arcturus from the porch, and once my family finished eating, we all went out to the driveway. Big Dipper, check. Polaris, check. Hmm, I wonder, if I look the other way... yup! Crux (Southern Cross), check. Castor and Pollux, check. Through 8x21 compact binoculars, I could see comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT continuing to move off to the right of M44, my wife could see at least one moon of Jupiter, and we each saw one satellite go over. I waited a couple hours for some clouds to blow over, then went back out and saw Scorpio/Maui's Fishhook, Alpha and Beta Centauri, and Vega. Overall, it was a pretty nice view.

I'm definitely going to have to get some better optics, for those clear nights!


While swimming this morning, I found myself in close proximity to these two Lauhau (Fourspot Butterflyfish, Chaetodon quadrimaculatus), Kikakapu (Raccoon Butterflyfish, Chaetodon lunula) and Ma'i'i'i (Brown Surgeonfish, Acanthurus nigrofuscus)... so I took their picture. Canon PowerShot S20, Ewa-Marine D-MM enclosure, hardly any depth at all since it was low tide over a reef.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

User Group Demographics

As a youth, I participated in the Rancocas Valley Commodore Users Group in southern New Jersey. At that point in time, Commodore had a sizeable share of the home computing market, and meetings reflected this, with a broad ranges of ages represented, and a gender imbalance that wasn't too bad for "back then."

More recently, I made it to two or three meetings - over the last two years - of the Big Island Linux Users Group here in Hilo. The demographics of this group were distinctly different. I don't recall seeing anyone I'd consider a kid - it was pretty much college age and up - and the majority of participants were male.

This evening, I attended my first meeting of 
Hawaii Mac Nuts, a Macintosh Users Group which also meets in Hilo. (I use both Linux and Macintosh, and know that I'm hardly alone in doing so.) I still didn't see any kids, but one lady who I believe to be a teacher brought in some peripherals for "show and tell" that she'd borrowed from kids. The gender balance was basically 50-50, though.

Of course, I've yet to attend a Windows Users Group, so I can't say for sure whether Macintosh users are more or less gender-balanced than "the majority," so to speak. I'd expect a pretty even gender split among Windows users, but that might not hold true when it comes to attending users group meetings.

Anyway, I'd definitely recommend Hawaii Mac Nuts to anyone in the Hilo area who uses a Macintosh. There are some very knowledgeable people there, and overall the meeting was enjoyable and informative.

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

I've stuck it out and continued participating on Twitter while Elon Musk has run it into the ground, made it progressively more inhospit...