Great Lakes MotorSports

MicroSoft has a good browser?

When I did the Windows 10 upgrade, I made a point to give Edge a good try.  I never realized how much I’ve come to like it until now.  I need a plug-in to interface to Github and the vendor only supplies them for Firefox and Chrome and I find myself saddened.  I don’t miss the bloat of those two browsers.  I really had to think hard about it.  Ultimately I’ve decided on Chrome as the lesser of two evils, but I’m only going to run that one app in it.  I’ll keep Edge running for all my other sites!

FreeBSD ports update sadness..

So, today’s wondrous surprise is that Apache22 is looking for db 6.1, but it has been replaced by 6.2 during the last ports update and 6.1 is no longer available on ports at all…  Time to do the ugly origin reset/rebuild process to get it going again, but 6.2 being in the same ports directory as 6.1 was makes for a slightly new twist.  Sigh.

portmaster -o databases/db6 databases/db6
portmaster -R -r databases/db6
cd /usr/ports/www/apache22
make clean reinstall


Fly Pedals Review

I’m one of those guys that has too many bikes.  Partly because I like to ride with regular shoes most of the time, yet like to clip in for special events.  The easiest route was to just have that extra bike so I could avoid the annoyance of swapping pedals all the time.  Cost effective, no.  So, I’ve been searching for easy platform adapters for my clipless pedals for quite some time.  In my case, with SpeedPlay X series, it’s been fruitless until now.

Fly Pedals showed up as a FaceBook ad, probably the first one I’ve ever clicked on!  The concept of using your own cleats is something I’m surprised I’d not seen before (and is why I’ve never been able to get platform adapters for my pedals thus far).  Looked to be nicely designed and solid.  I jumped in and ordered a set of “Version II” immediately just to make sure I didn’t get stuck too far back in line in case there was a big rush of orders.  Part of the ordering process offered a discount for publicizing them on social media.  I attempted to do so, but the process failed (the coupon it gave me wouldn’t work).  Not a real big deal, wasn’t even going to worry about it.  The price is quite reasonable to begin with.  While the site does also offer some cleats, they didn’t have X series SpeedPlays, so I had to jump over to Nashbar (.com) for those.  Normally I’d support my LBS, but they recently moved so they’re not so “L” anymore, and they weren’t open at the time either…

As usual Nashbar had a box on my doorstep in 2 days.  The Fly Pedals took a bit long as they came from further away and came via UPS – USPS transfer (which always adds an extra 2 days beyond the estimate for me).  Still, pleased with how quick the order was shipped.  Package arrived in excellent condition, nicely packed.  Simple instructions for the pedals, simple and elegant design.  Contrast with the trainwreck that is the SpeedPlay directions.  Seriously guys, I know how to install the cleats, give me a specs area so I can get the torque values without spending 10 minutes hunting for it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s just the documentation, SpeedPlay makes a great product over all (even includes extra shims and 2 different length bolts!).  In this case, the extra long SpeedPlay bolts with the standard shims were perfect for attachment to the Fly Pedals.  A Snap-On torque screwdriver helps with the touchy part of getting the torque correct.  Too much and you can break things.  Not enough and things may not stay together while riding.  Finally, the install on the bike was easy, just place on the pedals and give it a firm press (by foot, carefully balanced) and right into place.

The riding experience…  Now, it is definitely different from plain double sided platforms.  I’ve used single sided platforms in the past, so am familiar with having to hit the pedal properly to spin the correct side up.  The Version II here is touted as being easier than the original due to an offset design, but the best position of my SpeedPlay cleats (for contact area) seems to defeat that and leaves the pedal exactly up side down.  The SpeedPlays also are very low resistance (compared to some combo pedals which have some stick to them), so you can’t just push the pedal part way and then kick it over.  After some experimentation, I found the best entry is from the side, kind of sliding my foot back and up at the same time.  After a few starts on my test ride I was about 50% successful without even looking.  Even when I missed and had to go *right now* to avoid getting mowed down by cars, the Fly Pedals didn’t get kicked off from me pedaling on the wrong side.  The pedal grip on the shoes was good, better than most platforms I’ve used before.  Shoes in question this time were dress shoes with light tread (I was dressed for a meeting and didn’t want to change for the test ride).  The only oddity is in the feel.  SpeedPlay X Series has a good deal of float (a good thing generally), but on a platform it makes it feel almost greasy.  Not an issue most of the time, but when standing I noticed it a few times.  I was quite secure on the pedal, but the extra motion of it just made it feel odd.  Note that Fly Pedals does mention that zero float is preferred if possible.

All in all I’m very happy with the product so far.  It does a good job solving the problem I had.  It also seems like it should be fairly durable (they have a lifetime warranty in case it does crack).  So, anybody want to buy my spare bike?

Sound, it’s important…

I never realized exactly how important sound was until I watched a FIA Formula E race…

I consider myself pretty solidly in the anti-pollution camp.  Not primarily the “standard” definition, with my concerns being as strong, or stronger, regarding light and sound pollution than water/air.  Not a fan of loud exhausts, noisy HVAC systems, extraneous/poorly aimed lighting, etc.

However, it appears that the shriek of the engines is critical for a racing engine.  I’ve always liked Formula One (as well as some of the old IMSA cars) more than, say NASCAR, but have never known why.  After watching this Formula E event, I now understand…  F1 engines at 16,000-18,000 RPMs and Mazda 4 rotors at full boost just plain sound fast.  Do I want them to blow out my eardrums, no, but some volume is required with that sound to make for a truly great race watching experience.  Nearly silent, except for the whine like one hears from little toy RC cars, Formula E cars are boring.  Was the competition good, yes.  Were they actually fast, yes.  Did I enjoy watching the event, no.

Truly an unexpected revelation.  What are your thoughts on the sound (or lack thereof) of racing?

Alfresco 5.0.a document library woes with Internet Explorer.

Here’s a quick hacky workaround for the issue of the document library refusing to display anything in Internet Explorer.  Note that it’s specific to Alfresco 5.0.a as the document library code has been re-worked in 5.0.b. to correct this issue.  I did not develop this hack myself, but ran across it on the web awhile back.  I’d love to give credit to the person that threw the original hack together, but my google-fu is failing me.  That’s actually why I’m re-posting here.  Someone asked me about it and I couldn’t find that blog post, had to go digging in my code and internal documents to scare up the code again!  Here’s the quick and dirty version for those able to tangle with Alfresco internals (and recover if something goes wrong as I can offer no guarantees on this code for any particular install as yours may be different in some critical way!).

Alfresco 5.0a has a bug in the document library renderer that’s supposed to be fixed in 5.0b and later. Append this (and then restart tomcat) to  alfresco-5.0.a/tomcat/webapps/share/WEB-INF/classes/alfresco/templates/org/alfresco/include/alfresco-template.ftl:

if (!document.baseURI)
{ HTMLElement.prototype.baseURI = document.URL; }

William Optics Binoviewers Review

I’ve always had an interest in casual stargazing (calling it amateur astronomy would be a stretch for me).  I enjoy it, but am not going to throw huge sums of money into it, which is why I was intrigued by the William Optics Binoviewer as a low cost way to get BOTH eyes involved in the viewing.

I don’t know anyone that has a binoviewer, but I had been hearing tales from the fringe of wonderous sights to be seen through such fabled device.  Few reviews exist on the Internet and fewer still videos.  What is out there is from people with MUCH nicer setups than I have, so that information is of little use for an entry-level person like me.  What I did gather is that it probably wouldn’t work with my existing reflector telescope, so that kept me from trying binoviewing for some time…  However, as fate would have it, I recently was able to make a trade for a bargain basement Tasco refractor.  While nothing to write home about, the optics were clean and it has a ton of backfocus (which appears to be a requirement for binoviewers).

Having that refractor in hand gave me the courage to finally order a binoviewer kit, since it seemed like it at least stood a chance of focusing with it.  I looked at Orion’s binoviewer, but that would require me ordering matching eyepieces as well (maybe just one as I have a selection of 1.25″ Orion Plossls already).  The William Optic unit I ran across included matched 20mm eyepieces for an unbeatable price (cheaper than the Orion with one eyepiece tacked on).  It also includes a 1.6x mini-barlow with the idea that you can use it to potentially get focus in telescopes that otherwise would be unable to focus with the binoviewer in place.  Order was placed with OPT (Oceanside Photo & Telescope) and a week later I had a beautifully packaged binoviewer in hand.

My first target was a 3/4 Moon with the Tasco 60mm refractor.  First I tried the binoviewers “native”, but surprisingly could not get focus.  Very surprised and a little disappointed, I grabbed the included 1.6x mini-barlow and screwed it into place.  I was able to get focus quite easily then, and after a little fiddling with the inter-eye distance adjustment I was able to merge the image.  Spectacular doesn’t truly describe it.  Even at a much lower effective magnification than I’ve used in the past, I felt more like I was “right there” at the Moon.  I do have to note that atmospheric distortion was more noticeable at first, but eventually my brain seemed to tune it out.  The William Optics unit also has separately adjustable eyepiece focus, but after fiddling around with it a bit, it really didn’t seem to help and I ended up back at the “out of the box” setting.  Could be related to my very poor (but corrected with contacts) eyesight and might be more useful to someone with normal vision.  As a side note I was still able to screw in my adjustable Moon filter with this combination to keep the brightness reasonable.

A few days later, we finally had clear skies again during daylight hours, so I grabbed my Orion 130ST with solar filter and headed outside.  Why daylight solar observing and not nighttime?  Well, I was expecting having problems getting focus (if I ever could at all), so figured it’d be easier to see and try all my possible barlow combos during the day!  No focus native, no surprise.  1.6x barlow, no focus either.  No surprise, only slight disappointment.  OK, let’s start higher and throw the 1.6x barlow on with my Orion Tri-power (3x) barlow.  Success!  Easy focus, but the Sun is way too huge.  Time to go for lower magnification.  Swap the 3x for an Orion Shorty 2x (1.6x still also attached).  Focus again!  All right!  How about removing that 1.6x and going with just the 3x.  Yep, still working!  Can we focus with just the Shorty 2x?  Indeed we can!  So, while the included 1.6x wasn’t quite enough, a Shorty 2x was able to get me focus on this 130mm reflector!  It makes for a larger image of the Sun than is ideal, but provides hope that nighttime sights can in fact be seen with this reflector/binoviewer combo.  As for the Sun as a specific target, I found it VERY hard to merge.  Nearly a full minute of fiddling around before I found the exact combination of spacing, eye location, and shading myself from the Sun that allowed a merge.  With just a white light filter and only 1 sunspot in sight, it was not as awe inspiring as the Moon, but it was still impressive.

In summary, if you are a low budget person like me, don’t think binoviewing is totally out of reach.  The William Optic unit performed very well with both my bargain basement and my better quality, but still entry-level equipment.  I look forward to trying to catch some planets, as well as some higher magnification attempts at the Moon now that I know the configuration to focus the reflector.  Being able to successfully merge the images at high magnification is a concern, we’ll see how far I can push it before merge failure or optical quality degrades noticeably!  Given the specs, it appears that even if I wanted to buy more eyepieces of lower power, it probably wouldn’t be too helpful in trying to get widefield views (sounds like that’s an advantage of the binoviewers that cost multiples of this unit).   Hopefully I’ll be able to report back in the weeks to come on what I can try!

An Aviation Journey…

On the day of the last flying club general meeting I’ll be attending (as I’m dropping out of that club), I’m reviewing my logbook.  Just over 300 hours total time, with just under 300 hours of the in single engine land airplanes.  While the trips/vacations were great fun, the journey to the certificates was the real adventure.  My interest had been there my entire life, but had been deferred for many years for a number of reasons.  Let’s focus on the training portion, joining this journey right at the beginning of the actual training.

A relative had recommended an instructor up at KTTF, so that’s where I started.  I gave them a call and the recommendation was to start with a ground school class that was just forming.  As I recall it wasn’t too terribly long, perhaps a couple weeks, and I was off to that first class full of excitement!  I arrived at the airport and found my way to the classroom.  A couple other students were already there, and several more trickled in as we waited.  Everyone was abuzz with the excitement of finally moving forward on our dreams of flight.  Some students had waited years, saving up money the whole time, others were more like me and had just recently decided to go for it.  Well, we waited.  Then we waited some more.  Finally, we decided to call the instructor and find out what was going on.  It turns out that the class was cancelled!  Not only had no one told us, but the reason was astonishing!  We were told there were not enough students to make it economically worthwhile for him.  How that could be, I did not understand as there were about a dozen of us in a room with perhaps 20 seats at most.  I’ve had much smaller college classes!  We were told that maybe another class might be forming in another couple months.  That right there ended my time with that first instructor as I found the whole situation unacceptable…

On the way home from KTTF that night after deciding that I would not be returning, I was pondering my options.  About halfway home I remembered KDUH was on the way.  Not knowing if they were open or not, I figured I’d take a chance and stop in.  It’s a small place, but they were open and very friendly.  I walked out of there that night signed up for a free ground school, with a Cessna ground school package in hand, and signed up for a flight lesson with what would now be my second instructor (Mark)!  This was the most exciting time, in just a couple short months I made a ton of memories!  Being out of work at the time I had the flexibility of scheduling the training flights in the late mornings that Autumn when the weather was often beautiful.  Flying in a Cessna 172 also gave great views, with the wings not blocking the ground.  However, the airlines conspired to add a new challenge.  After completing ground school, and roughly 15 flight hours in, the airlines came calling and hired away ALL the flight instructors…

A couple months later, KDUH finally managed to line up another instructor for me to fly with.  Instructors were very hard to come by for awhile, and the focus was on getting students done that were closer to checkride time.  Myself being so early in the process had to wait.  While the waiting was a bit annoying, my experience so far had been good, so I waited.  Finally, a new instructor was found, so 15 hours in and on my third instructor!  Unfortunately, I never really meshed with that new instructor.  We did a couple of hours of ground school that didn’t go too well.  Flew one flight, which also didn’t go that great.  Some instructor/student pairings just don’t work out well and you have to know to move on.  The bad news was that there were no other instructors there to move to.

At the recommendation of a friend I then looked into a flying club over at KTDZ.  There were four active flight instructors there at the time, so I looked at the list and started with the one that had the most impressive collection of ratings.  We got together, talked for awhile, discussed my goals, his availability, and decided to move forward.  So, here I am now still under 20 hours and am just signing up with my fourth instructor, Tom!  I also transitioned to a low wing Piper Warrior as I always liked the looks of them (more like the “real” airplanes in the books I read growing up).  By then I was also working again, so had to stick to the evening time slot for training.  Great Lakes region evenings are not the best time to be flying as that’s when the thunderstorms like to roll through.  There was many a cancelled flight.  Despite being on the schedule twice a week there were times I only flew once in a month!  Still, there were also good weeks when I flew twice.  Finally, it was checkride time!

After passing the checkride, I made a point to getting checked out in the rest of the club airplanes and working on cross country hours so I could get started on the instrument rating “upgrade”.  Along the way I met and flew with my fifth instructor (Dave).  The bulk of my instrument training was with Tom, but I did fly with Dave too occasionally.  Notably, Dave was the last person I flew with right before my instrument checkride.  I had gotten signed off by Tom and decided, the evening before checkride day, to get a few extra takeoffs and landings in the airplane (Liberty XL2), since it’s pretty pitch sensitive and I wanted to be at my best.  The airplane failed that night, as the fancy FADEC system decided it did not want the engine to run right.  Dave happened to be at the field and graciously volunteered to go up with me in the trusty ol’ Warrior so I could get the feel for it and take the checkride in it instead the next day.  I hadn’t flow it in awhile, but I did have most of my primary training in it.  Switching airplanes at the last minute like that made me very nervous, but Dave got me through the practice checkride flight, and the DPE seemed to think that the last minute change wouldn’t be more than I could handle.  He made the point that the certificate didn’t say what kind of airplane it was good for and that I very well could be in that one for my first real solo IMC flight (as it turns out, that came to pass…).

That checkride under my belt and I spent the time to get my High Performance Endorsement in the club Cherokee 6.  Definitely a good experience as it requires more planning, and things happen faster.  Many fun trips were had at this point as I finally felt like I could exercise these hard won privileges!

Finally, after not doing much more than keeping up on currency requirements, I decided I needed to do something more.  The Complex endorsement was my choice.  No club airplanes met the requirements, so I started looking around.  Finally over at KUSE I found a couple.  A C172RG and a Piper Twin Comanche…  Not being a fan of the performance of a retractable 172, I signed up with instructor number six, Tijmen “Tim” to get my complex in a twin!  It was such an enjoyable experience flying that Twin Comanche that I went ahead and did the multi-engine checkride!  A bit expensive, but since it doesn’t take that many hours it was reasonable.

Upon reaching this point, there wasn’t a whole lot more to do locally.  There are many more ratings, but either we don’t have the aircraft available locally (think seaplane or airship), or they’re extremely expensive and thereby out of the running (helicopter).  Upgrading from Private Pilot to Commercial is something I also pursued, but only briefly and half-heartedly as it required a lot more dedicated flight hours and retractable gear airplanes.  I didn’t mind driving all the way out to KUSE for the few hours that the Complex and Private AMEL took, but to do that for all the hours I’d need for my Commercial, well, that was just going to be too much.  So, went back to KDUH and flew with instructor number 7, Nick, to get a glass panel checkout.  So, back to the first place I flew, back to a C172, but this time with advanced avionics!  Felt like being back at home and I enjoyed how much closer to home it is than any other place!

Now, back to the beginning where I’m leaving the flying club.  This is not the end of the journey, but simply a change in direction.  I found myself not flying (and not learning/growing) anymore.  KTDZ, where the club airplanes are located, is not convenient for me at this time and the extra drive time really killed my desire to go flying.  I also hate to rent airplanes closer to home when spending the money on monthly dues out at the club.  Despite loving my flying club, I have to leave it in order to be free to fly…

DIGITAL BAND (guide..not official) PLAN FOR VHF/UHF

Courtesy of W8TER:

This is NOT an official band plan but a guide for most “normal” digital activity and areas will vary in different places so please use common courtesy and if you are unsure ask local operators and or listen…..but never run digital on the SSB/CW calling frequencies or the EME subbands

6 Meters CW/SSB/Digital
50.060-50.080 CW Beacons (unattended sub-band)
see: <>
50.080-50.100 CW QSO’s
50.100-50.125 DX Window
50.110 DX Calling Frequency
50.125 North American SSB Calling Frequency
50.133-50.430 Voice Nets see: <>
50.255 FSK441 lower practical limit for most QSO’s
50.260 FSK441 Calling Frequency
50.265 JT-65
50.285 FSK441 upper practical limit for most QSO’s
50.290 PSK31 (USB)
50.291 PropNET (with +1500hz PSK audio)
50.293 WSPR
50.300 or 50.700 RTTY?
50.620 Packet Calling Frequency
6 Meters 
50.680 SSTV 

2 Meters CW/SSB/Digital
144.00-144.05 EME (CW)
144.05-144.06 Propagation beacons (old band plan)
144.06-144.10 General CW and weak signals
144.10-144.20 EME and weak-signal SSB
144.140 WSJT FSK441/JT44 calling frequency
144.110 to 144.160 WSJT FSK441 or JT44 (around this area)
144.131 PropNet +1500hz PSK audio)
144.200 National SSB calling frequency
144.20-144.30 General SSB operation, upper sideband
144.275-144.300 New beacon band
2 Meters FM Digital modes
145.500 SSTV (National SSTV Simplex FM Frequency) 
145.550 FM PSK31, Hellschreiber 

70 Centimeters CW/SSB/Digital
420.00-426.00 ATV repeater or simplex with 421.25 MHz video carrier control links and experimental
426.00-432.00 ATV simplex with 427.250 MHz video carrier frequency
432.00-432.07 EME (Earth-Moon-Earth)
432.07-432.08 Propagation beacons (old band plan)
432.08-432.10 Weak-signal CW
432.100 70 cm calling frequency
432.11-432.20 WSJT JT44/FSK441 ?
432.150 SSB PSK
432.10-433.00 Mixed-mode and weak-signal work
432.30-432.40 New beacon band
441.000 Packet Calling Frequency

Where to work?

I’ve been staying on the fringes of the tele-work vs. office working conversation so far, just offering up a couple instances of tele-work usage.  Now it’s time to dip a little further into some of the issues.  No need to panic, this will NOT be an exhaustive survey of issues, just a rambling of thoughts in regards to recent headlines.

Yahoo’s current argument is to bring tele-workers back into the office environment.  I can go along with that at least part way.  I do gain personal benefit from chance encounters in the office.  However, there are 2 major problems (conceptual, rather than the location/talent reasons that everyone and their brother has already trotted out) that result from doing this as an all or nothing shift.

1) While it’s all fine and good to have these chance encounters, they come about due to distraction and interruption.  Distraction and interruption are the enemy of completing projects!  So, in essence, you can come up with a lot more ideas of things to do, but then you can’t actually get any of them done.

2) The typical role of management is to prevent people from wandering away from their desks.  That makes it pretty hard to have all those great chance encounters.  Furthermore, preventing them is done by continually observing and interrupting people.  So, you’re both actively preventing people from gaining the benefit of interaction while still supplying the damaging interruptions.  Result: If management is doing the (typically defined) job, office workers are both not going to get new idea AND not be able to implement anything.

Certainly not all management is bad.  Quite the opposite, there’s a definite need for management in nearly all organizations.  Having been on both the manager and the maker schedule myself, I’m very aware of how easy it is to get sucked into the classical management discipline though.  As having been a Vice President myself in the past, I still get all kinds of management oriented mailings.  It’s very distressing to read them now that I’m working back on the maker side of things again.  These mailings are chock full of tips and seminars on how to do the very things that destroy productivity and damage morale.  People that really want to become good managers will seek out these papers and events, only to be turned into bad managers (with slightly emptier wallets).  Nobody wants to be THAT person, but the system is setup (because people make money off of it) to do exactly that…

On Local Groups…

No, nothing to do with a cluster of galaxies. Instead, everything to do with clubs/geographic specific web forums/localized groups of people.

There’s one main thing you need to know. Timing is everything. That’s it. Just because you tried and failed 10 times before doesn’t mean anything about now. You (or somebody else) could possibly suddenly be successful with even less effort than was exerted in any previous attempt.

Now, how do you know the timing is right? Well, you can’t ever know for sure. It’s really just dumb luck. Except that once again this dumb luck is disguised as hard work. Do the hard work of continuing to push whatever your group may be. Don’t be afraid to make incremental changes names/styles/designs though. Keeping it fresh gives people new reasons to check in periodically and can increase your chance of success some. However, the primary influence on your success rate still comes down to the community being in the same place (idea-wise) at the same time you are. Make sure you’re there all the time, but don’t kill yourself doing it, you need an effort that can be sustained over the long haul…