Tuesday, March 22, 2011

R.I.P MIR, De-Orbited 15 Years Ago Today

On 23 March 1996, at 05:59 UTC, the Soviet Space Station MIR reentered the atmosphere, and burned up.
Call it what you want, the MIR did yeoman's duty as mankind's first long-term outpost in space, and I was rather sad to see it go. There was a very active Amateur Radio station onboard, and I made numerous contacts, using both FM voice and packet radio, with the crew members. It was always a thrill talking to them, even if it was for only a few minutes, and I always wished them a safe journey. It was a double-thrill for me, as all of the equipment I used was either home-brewed, rescued from the junk pile, or considered "obsolete" by other Hams I knew.
My FM radio was an Alinco DM-590T a friend gave me that was in a zillion pieces, and missing a few at that, my antenna was a home-brewed 2 Meter Collinear. And my packet radio setup was a Commodore 64 running an A&A Engineering "soft modem" with Digicom>64 software. Since the C64 could not multitask, I'd run the satellite tracking program (I still have the disk somewhere) once a week, and print out the list of passes that I knew would be in reach of my little station. Then before the pass, I'd fire up the C64, load the packet software, tune the radio, and wait for them to come in range. When the packets started to decode, I'd connect to the bulletin board, and leave my best wishes for a safe journey to the crew.
One of the things I remember most was listening to the when Mike Foale was onboard, and they suffered a collision with an unmanned Progress cargo ship. It really knocked them for a loop, and Amateur Radio was one of their few remaining communications systems (scroll down to find the story in the link) until they got the MIR patched back up again.
The QSL card in the picture is one of the ones I received from them, and is one of the most treasured ones in my collection.

Whoo-Hoo! Going Back To Work....

Just got a call from the company that took over the site I worked at for my former employer.
They made me an "offer I can't refuse", so I'll be headed back in the middle of April.
It will be fun going to sea and doing rocket stuff again.
At least I hope it will.........

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cold, Wet, and Windy.....

Wet is wet, and windy is windy, but "cold" is relative, so before everybody from outside of Kaliforniastan starts telling me "You call THAT cold?", just let me say I grew up around Chicago, and spent time in the winter in Idaho, both Dakotas, and Montana, so yes, I do know what COLD is.
Cold is having your flashlight go out in your hand, because at 40 below, the batteries freeze.
Cold is having to cut your engine oil with a pint of kerosene (a trick we used before you could buy 5W-10 or 0W-5 synthetic oil) because otherwise your engine won't crank over in the morning.
Cold is hearing your breath freeze (it sounds like little firecrackers) as it drifts away.
Cold is having to use a 100 Watt soldering iron with a special tip because a 40 Watt iron will not get hot enough to melt solder outdoors.
So with that out of the way, it's barely gotten above 50 degrees here, and it's been raining all day. We've accumulated .65" since midnight, and the winds are running about 15mph continuously, with gusts over 35mph.
The barometer is at 29.59 and falling, it's going down to about 45 degrees tonight, and rain will continue all day Monday.
Yeah, I know, it's a "Slow News Day", and I wanted to post something while I'm updating my laptop to OpenSUSE 11.4.

As of 9pm, we've had 1.2" of rain, but the wind has died down.
It's 48 degrees, which is pretty cool for this time of year.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"No Match for a Good Blaster"

H/T to Conservative Scalawag for finding this.
I recognize maybe half of them, but this goes far too deep for me!
The original, and the shirt, are available here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hillary Stepping Down in 2012?

Well, at least she is according to what I read in the paper this morning, and heard on Hannity's show a bit later.
Wonder if it will be to spend more "quality time" with Bill?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beech King Air Crash at Long Beach Airport

I usually listen to the tower at LGB all day long, but this happened after I turned the radio on. I noticed that there was a lot of helicopter activity around one of the runways, and that the runway was closed. I didn't think anything about it until my wife came home and told me about it.
A Beech King Air went down on takeoff, killing 5 of the people on board.
More here at the Press Telegram.

Man With 4th Amendment Written On Chest Sues Over Arrest

I almost didn't believe this when I read it.
According to the suit, while under interrogation on December 30, the authorities wanted to know “about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were.”

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Major PC Clean Up Time

No, not for me. I run Linux, and don't have these problems.
The Church where my wife and I were married has a PC in their office that I've worked on a couple of times before. The last time it needed a new power supply, and while I was at it, I maxed out the memory, and installed a newer, bigger hard-disc. Well, I got a call from them the other day that they couldn't get on the Internet, so not having TOO much else to do these days, I drove over there to see what was wrong.
They had installed a Linksys Cable-and-DSL Router, which was working fine, but *something* had changed the way they connect using their Ethernet port. It had been set to use a proxy, which they don't require, and as a result, they couldn't connect. A simple change, and they were back on the Net in no time. Since I was already there, I went to see if Windows Update had anything new, and it wouldn't connect. Hmmm....we have Internet connectivity, but can't get to the WU site. So, I went to run the anti-virus/anti-spyware programs I installed for them, and they wouldn't run. Since they were using MacAfee, not one of my favorites, I uninstalled it, and tried to install AVG.
It would install, but wouldn't run!.
Now it starts to get interesting. I opened my Bag-O-Tricks, and grabbed one of my run-from-CD virus scanners.
HOLY SMOKES! They had 117 infections of various types that one program found, 57 more another program found, and a staggering EIGHT HUNDRED assorted types of Trojan Horses, keyloggers, password stealers, and other various pieces of malware that my third Magic Bullet found. At this point I wasn't going to be able to save the patient on-site, so I brought it home to work on.
I copied all their documents, photos, and records to a clean hard-disc, and ran various utilities on the drive to make sure their data was clean, and not booby-trapped with other nasty junk. Right now I'm running DBAN on the original drive, and after it's finished scrubbing the drive, I'll reinstall Windows and all the protection utilities I install for people. When I take it back in the next day or so, I'll give them a tutorial on how to use and update these programs, and a printed list of things to do weekly.
So how did this mess happen? They let a few of the church's youth group use the machine for a few hours, unsupervised, to ostensibly "check their email"! I didn't find any evidence of Adults Only sites being visited, but I did see plenty of file sharing and music downloading, along with a couple of visits to some warez sites. It's anybody's guess which site did the Drive-By Download on them, but the point is that it did happen. Whoever used the computer tried to cover their tracks, but if you know where, and how, to look, it's not terribly difficult to reconstruct.
From now on, the PC will be "Off Limits" to anybody but the office manager, and we'll be changing the passwords on it to something easy to remember, but hard to guess. I've also instructed them to watch their credit cards and bank accounts for suspicious activity, just in case any of the staff did any financial transactions while this PC was compromised.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Slide Rule Musings.....

One of my AMSAT friends sent me a link with pictures of the early days of Amateur Radio Satellites, and we all joked about all the slide rules in the pictures, which started an ongoing discussion on the email list.
My Dad bought me my first slide rule back when I was about 12 years old. I was studying for my Amateur Radio license, and it just made doing the math so much easier. It was a Post 1445P 8" "Student Model", but it let me do multiplication, division, and logs in the blink of an eye. I can still remember going in to the FCC Field Office in the Federal Building in downtown Chicago to take my General Class exam. I had a big paper bag with my Heathkit HD-10 keyer, some pencils and erasers, and my slide rule. The examiner gave me a big smile when I took it out of the bag.
In the years since then, I've had half-a-dozen linear slide rules, from little 6" ones that fit my pocket protector (yes, I had one...), to the monster 12" ones that cost almost $100, and came with a beautiful fitted leather case. Some of the linear rules had specialized scales on them for doing certain calculations that would be cumbersome on a "regular" rule. I've had a few circular ones, too. The round ones were, like most round slide rules, specialized completely for certain functions. On of my favorites (that I still have somewhere) was my aluminum E6B Flight Computer, still available, by the way, commonly called a "Pilot's Confuser" or "Whiz Wheel". Once you learned how to use it, it sure beat drawing out a wind triangle on the map in your lap while bouncing around in rough air!
Sadly, most of the companies that made slide rules have either gone out of business, or shuttered their slide rule manufacturing facilities. In the end, slide rules helped design the machines that made them obsolete, a rather ironic turn of events for a device that was (literally) hundreds of years old. The only place I'm aware of that you can still buy a freshly-made slide rule is Think Geek, one of my favorite places for funny tee shirts.
With the loss of new slide rules, the market for old ones has gone through the roof. What were once yard-sale $1 items are now going for $50~$150 on eBay, depending on how complex and large they are.
So, if TSHTF and we don't have electricity, I can always get my slide rule out for those important I'm-going-to-help-save-the-world calculations.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Desoldering Station...

After years of using solder wick, squeeze bulbs, and manual pumps, I finally broke down and bought a half-ways decent desoldering station. The straw that broke the camel's back was working on a whole pile of PC's and motherboards with bad capacitors that several people gave me. It would take me 20~30 minutes using wick and/or a bulb to get the solder out of the holes on the multi-layer boards, and could get pretty frustrating. Especially on the minus lead of the capacitor, as it usually goes to a LARGE ground foil which conducts the heat away pretty rapidly. It would take a combination of brute force and great delicacy to get the solder and the lead hot enough to wick off or suck out the solder without overheating the board and damaging the foil. I'm pretty good at it, but once in a while I'd lift a pad or a trace, and then have to spend extra time repairing the board.
Well, with my handy dandy SMTmax ML-859 Desoldering station, I can heat up the lead, squeeze the trigger, and SLURP! there goes the solder.
I'd been mulling over which one of the many units on the market to buy, and finally decided to get this one. Several times I came *this close* to buying one of the $400~$500 units, but always backed off. This one cost $155 plus shipping, and if it wears out in 3 or 4 years, I'll just get another one, although it came with enough spare parts to keep it going for quite a while.
I'll still keep a good supply of wick on hand, and I have several bulbs and pumps, but for the more delicate stuff, I'll use the new unit.
Besides, it's fun to squeeze a trigger, and see stuff disappear!


Finally got a round to buying some 357 Magnum to use in my Marlin 1894 from these guys.

Good quality, fresh, name-brand stuff at a good price.
The shipping seemed a bit slow, but then it was a LOT cheaper than from the other places I usually buy it from.

Go give 'em a look-see, and compare their prices.
Bulk Ammo

Saturday, March 5, 2011

STS-133 As Viewed From A Commercial Airliner

Just is just stunning!
One of my AMSAT friends posted the link on the AMSAT email reflector, and it's absolutely amazing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sad But True......

From a friend of mine.....

John Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock


for 6 am. While his coffeepot


was perking, he shaved with his electric razor


He put on a dress shirt


designer jeans


and tennis shoes


After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet


he sat down with his calculator


to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch


to the radio


he got in his car


filled it with GAS

(from Saudi Arabia )

and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB.

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his computer

( made in MALAYSIA ),

John decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals


poured himself a glass of wine


and turned on his TV


and then wondered why he can't find a good paying job



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Michael Moore Is A Big, Fat, COMMUNIST Slob!

I don't like Michael Moore. I never have. He's a lying, manipulative SOB who will do, say, and film anything he can to advance his communist agenda.
He wears his plaid shirts and grungy baseball caps so he look like the "Common Man", and yet lives in a luxury apartment in Manhattan.
He brags here about his multimillion dollar worth, and yet has the unmitigated gall to condemn the wealthy here.
What a disgusting, hypocritical, socialist, communist douchebag elitist.

The absolute "nicest" thing I could possibly say about him is that he's a typical Limousine Liberal.

I Guess *Maybe* Wikkileaks Is Good For Something After All...

Courtesy of several links I don't have time to post right now, I found this story over at The Buckeye Firearms Association about how Wikkileaks has published some Department of State documents revealing quite a bit of insight as to how weapons are getting in to Mexico.
AFAIK, this was originally published in The Outdoor Wire.

HINT: It sure aint the Gun Show Loophole!

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...