• Idaho – June 2018

    We had been planning this trip for about 4 months… Pinning down the date took the longest time. Amy and Cole were busy on the 4th July (Wednesday), so that took that set of dates off the books…. Anyway, the week after was chosen way back and we stuck to the date.

    Training at Opto Wednesday morning, then off at lunchtime. Freddy had the car packed and Krysta was ready for her first big road trip and we were all psyched up for the next 22 hours in the car.

    The drive out to Las Vegas is the first bit to get done, I took us to the rest stop just this side and Terry took us through the city that never sleeps around 3pm. From there, it’s the open road.

    We go through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho, so lots of ‘big sky’ country.

    Got there around 10am, made great time, 20.5 hours. Yes, Terry and I swapped back and forth and so we drove straight through.
    It’s a lot quicker in the summer than in winter, hence the 2 hour quicker than expected.
    I took a quick shower and then left the gang at Amy’s pad to have a snooze while I went into her work and recorded a live feed and a YouTube video for/with her.

    We are just trying to help her do the social media thing, people want to know that the models are just like every day people and knowing their parents helps that.

    From there, we headed back to her place to pick up the rest of the troop and headed off to the island.

    Coles parents are building a cabin on a plot of land that is on a 5 acre island and thus is only accessible by boat.
    Here is the dock you wait at for John (Coles Dad) to arrive at.

    There are a few shanties and tents on the island with some cabins on the other side, so there are a few little boats that come and go from here.
    Everything, EVERYTHING, must be shipped on and off the island by these small boats. There are no services at all on the island.
    Here is the their cabin.

    As soon as I arrived, having been there before, I was looking around and noticed some bugs on one part of the roofline. I straight away told John and so we got out to take a closer look.

    Yellow jacket hornets. They are building a massive nest under his eve.
    I am looking forward to the story of how he removed them as we tried once latter tha night and they attacked us before we even really got close.

    We all piled into the boat and went around to whats called Pebble Beach.
    Its a beautiful beach full of flat round skipping stones. Tons of fun and sore shoulders latter, we headed back to the cabin for dinner and more talking.
    We just low key hung out most of the next day (Saturday) and saw eagles, osprey and other beautiful birds. All in all a very peaceful day.
    Later that afternoon we drove the two hours back to Amy and Coles place.

    Here is a shot of the three guys scheming what to do with Coles very empty back yard. As the evening wore on, the plans got more outrageous. Odd that.

    Sunday Cole had to work, so Amy took us downtown after doing Freddys hair.

    Downtown is rather beautiful. All the street lights have flower baskets under them and Freddy just loves it.

    Meanwhile Terry and I were checking out the cars…..

    We got to the park to do some squirrel watching and got a passerby to get a photo of us.

    Later that night we got to hang out with Cole and Wade, Amys sugar glider.

    The thing is super cute.

    Next morning, quick breakfast photo.

    And then after a whole lot of this….

    We were back in Temecula.



  • Solar Inverter

    I have a small test solar system that I run a few things off.
    It stopped working.

    Did not take long after opening it to find out why.
    Pretty poorly built really. I should have opened it from new and would have seen trouble coming before we put it into service.
    There is no way this thing is rated for the 600 watts it was sold as.
    In a way, it did me a favour. Freddy approved a new 1000 watt version and it really is rated at that. As such, the efficiency of the unit is much higher and I am getting more power than ever and have changed nothing but the inverter.



  • Discone

    As part of my amature radio fun and games I had to add an antenna.
    Wanting to do a little bit of everything, I bought a discone. It’s not great gain, but it covers a broad range of frequencies.
    Because the HOA is pretty strict about such things, its a lot lower than I would like, but so far, after a month, no letters to take it down….

    I just need a way to both transmit and receive through it.

    I have also been more active in using SDR, software radios. It’s a pretty steep learning curve, but it allows all sorts of signals to be picked up.
    We have watched pager messages, weather satellites, aircraft, other hams and weather stations. Not bad from a 20 buck USB radio and some free software.



  • ACARS

    Turns out that aircraft blat out more than just their positions.
    They also send a lot of short messages that anyone can receive and to some extent decode and make some sense of.
    This has been keeping me busy for the past month or so. Been really enjoying being distracted from other things, and my love of all things aircraft gets a good dose of love.
    The fact that I also use Node-RED to decode the messages is also very helpful as I needed a project to dive deeper into it.

    I started off with the freely available acrsdeco2 program and the real power of this program is that you can run remote instances of it and have it feed into a central server.
    I sent a Raspberry Pi and two receivers to my mate in Phoenix and have his data added to what I can pick up. The net results is that we have pretty much the whole area now covered with just the two receivers. More would be good and we will look at adding a few more in due course, but for now, the two systems working as one does the job.

    From there I added Node-RED. Doing a ton of reading got a lot of the abbreviations entered into the system and then I started filtering out the boring positions reports. I split off the airborne weather reports and engine reports.
    I then added several displays that showed this filtered and partly decoded information.
    The flow is by far and away the most complex I have done.

    If you would like to watch the messages, you can, just hit up the resulting node-RED dashboard; http://thebaldgeek.net:2880/ui/#/0

    The top line is just helpful data for me to see how much data we are handling. Some quick links to other parts of the system and weather stations at each location are included.
    Next is heavily filtered messages. At times I can see more than 1 message a second and they scroll past too fast to read, so I do some heavy filtering to slow the interesting stuff down.
    Next is an aircraft call sign filter. If you want to follow a specific aircraft, this is the tool to use.
    Next is the raw message. This way you can just what we are working with.
    Below that is a way to stop/ start the raw lightly decoded messages.
    Then you have the real interesting stuff. It is the result of the filter and should be interesting enough that we email it to a few of the guys and myself.
    Below that, the reports and a table of last seen (heard) aircraft.

    All in all, fascinating stuff.