Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cisco Packet Tracer

I've been in the IT business for longer than most of my coworkers have been on this planet but have never used a Cisco command-line interface. I'm working through 'Packet Guide to Routing and Switching' and at the end of the first chapter are some exercises requiring routers and switches. I have a bunch of electronic junk in Der Furrybunker but not so many routers and switches. Particularly not Cisco gear. A little on the pricey side, which may explain why no one will let me get near it at work.

I have all this gear. Not.

Then I came across an interesting little piece of software called Packet Tracer from Cisco. It amounts to a software simulation of all kinds of Cisco and generic networking gear.

Same thing in Packet Tracer.

The routers and switches have command-line interfaces and GUIs like the real gear. You can add IP addresses, netmasks and dynamic and static routes. Then add and configure some PCs and ping the opposite node to see if it all works. If you get it wrong the error messages are what you'd get in real life.

CLI from a Cisco 1941 router.


I've only played around with it for a few hours but so far it seems to work as advertised. And once you register for an account (free) you can download it for Windows or Linux, also for free.

Now I can crash enterprise networks and not get fired. Yay!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Looking Around at 360-Degree Photography

Winter has finally arrived. Late fall, anyway. It's been cold enough to turn the heat on and the cats are trying to sleep in my armpits to stay warm. They've been huddling in their heated cat bed and I've deployed the electric blanket on my bed. Now to find some heated gloves.

My Aunt Terry has picked up the filthy habit of photography - and yo, she's good! She's finally broken the bonds of Facebook and has a gallery on 500px. Check it out, there's some good stuff there.

I've acquired yet another filthy habit of my own, 360-degree photography. I set up my own web server to host the output here. Be patient, it's on a Raspberry Pi 3 on my pokey home internet connection, so it takes a few seconds to load. Actually, I think the bottleneck is the add-on crap for WordPress I installed but I like the stupid little 'share' buttons and all the other bling that'll probably never get used.

The Ricoh Theta S is a trip to use. No viewfinder or any way to change settings on the thing itself, as everything is done on (what else) an app on your smartphone or tablet. But since you need to hold it at least at arm's length, this actually make a lot of sense. The camera has a shutter release, power and still/video selection buttons.

I've been underwhelmed by the image quality so far but then my expectations may be unreasonable.

There are two lenses and two sensors. Each lens casts a circular image on the sensor and the firmware stitches everything together into a single, rectangular image. The output is strictly jpg, no RAW. You can use full auto, shutter or ISO priority or manual. It has settings for DR compensation, noise reduction or multi-exposure HDR. But you can only use one of these options at a time.

It also shoots video but I haven't played with that a lot yet.

Processing appears to happen in the camera, not the controlling device so any improvements would need to be pushed out in firmware updates.

But the spherical images are very cool. The images are transferred to your smartphone via WiFi and you can do the whole VR thing. Great fun! You can look in any direction, even 'behind' the camera, up/down...anywhere. And you can zoom in and out.

If you want to break out of Ricoh's 'ecosystem' you'll need to figure out what to do with the images.  Below is the jpg of one of the VRs I posted, W Market and S Highland. You can click on it for a closer look.


Other than some mild noise reduction this is pretty much what came out of the camera. You need software on the server hosting the image to display the image correctly and with the appropriate navigation controls. Can't do that on Blogger. Or on Flickr or 500px. Or Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter etc., etc.

As I recall, you can create Photo Spheres for Google Maps' street view without additional software. (That's how I found out about this camera.)  

Ricoh has a site people can post their VRs on. You can then embed a player on social media sites, but you don't get all the navigation controls.

I'm sure there are other options but I latched onto software called Pano2VR. They have a WordPress plugin that works great with the Theta S' output. It also lets you patch the nadir so you don't see the photographer or tripod.

Then you need a WordPress host. But installing Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) and WordPress on a Raspberry Pi 3 took less time than exploring the hosting options. I'm not kidding, check out the instructions. It worked for me on the first try. Well done, Raspberry Pi People!

I'm probably doing things the hard way but I'm curious how it all works and I like to have control over layouts, ads and all the pointless website bling.

If it was easy, what would be the point?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

acarsdec on RPi3

Getting ACARS decoding going on a Raspberry Pi 3 turned out to be relatively trivial.  I followed the instructions here. (Cool site, poke around.) Note the current version of acarsdec is 3.2 and I had to edit Makefile as documented to use rtl decoding only.

Took less than an hour, even with my cat Dora's 'help'. 

Apparently acarsdec CPU use was a concern on the RPi2. Just for grins I started arcarsdec with 6 frequencies instead of 4 and the CPU isn't even breaking a sweat.


Some sample decodes:


[#1 (F:131.550 L:-38 E:0) 05/06/2016 19:31:28 --------------------------------
Aircraft reg: .N355NB Flight id: NW1597
Mode: 2 Msg. label: 30
Block id: 5 Ack: !
Msg. no: M25A
Message :
051930 KMSP KPHL3
          A
GOOD RIDE SOUTH OF CLE.
TOPS AROUND FL370


[#5 (F:130.450 L:-22 E:0) 05/06/2016 19:50:45 --------------------------------
Aircraft reg: .N913AN Flight id: AA1201
Mode: 2 Msg. label: H1
Block id: 9 Ack: !
Msg. no: D74A
Message :
#DFBTRP 195022  40.9289  -81.3999 369 145.4 451   1474 0.01376
  81.00 -104.06 1.008  0.976  0.000 -0.015 -46  0 00 01 248 8    1382


[#6 (F:131.125 L:-32 E:0) 05/06/2016 19:59:01 --------------------------------
Aircraft reg: .N362NW Flight id: NW2811
Mode: 2 Msg. label: 39
Block id: 4 Ack: !
Msg. no: M86A
Message :
051939 KDTW KDCA3
2040

WCHR
ELEC CART
AISLE CHR
UM


I'll let this cook for awhile and see what I can do with the output next week.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

More Fun with ADS-B and ACARS

The release of the Raspberry Pi 3 got me going with aircraft tracking via ADS-B again. I took down my outdoor active HF antenna (which didn't really do much for me) put my ADS-B antenna back up, got a FlightAware Pro dongle and reinstalled the FlightAware software on an RPi3. Works as designed. Lots of CPU headroom. I didn't install anything else, like VNC, and the RPi3 runs for weeks at a time. Probably longer if I'd leave it alone. The RPi2 I was using before had to be rebooted daily. I think dump1090 and the FlightAware software like to have the place to themselves.

I'm not sure if the FlightAware dongle made any difference in my particular case but for $17, what the hey. It's orange and that's enough for me.

The RPi3 fits in the fanned aluminum cases I like to use and the WiFi works through the case, at least at <30'.

RPi2 images do not work but I've done the install so many times another install was trivial. 

In the spirit of getting small, I acquired an Intel Compute Stick, second gen, w/Intel Atom x5 and Windows 10 32-bit. I put Virtual Radar Server to display aircraft tracks and ProScan scanner software on it. I run it headless and access it via VNC. It's a Windows PC, nothing special.  I tried SDR# but it pegged the CPU enough to make the Stick PC inappropriate.

But it has enough horsepower and connectivity for what I got it for.

I also run a client for adsbhub.net on it which allows me to display flights from various parts of the world. Very cool. If you have a VRS setup I encourage you to check out adshub. If you don't have a VRS setup I encourage you to get one and then check out adshub.

I whine, moan and bitch a lot so when something works I try to dwell on it. FlightAware, VRS, and adsbhub are free, easy to use, have friendly people involved and if you're an aviation and/or radio buff an absolute blast to use.

I've been playing with decoding ACARS on HF with PC-HFDL for awhile now. Works like a champ on HF but I haven't been able to decode VHF ACARS on it yet. I played around with ACARSD a little but it seems pretty hard to get it to decode consistently.

HF ACARS is interesting. Long range, I can decode transmissions from 100's of miles around. I'm still working on interpreting the messages. Here's a sample.

[HFNPDU ACARS FM GND TO AIR 59]
<SOH>2.G-VRAY9_<DEL>Y<ETX>;+<NUL>
[Preamble TS(4) 300  bps 1.8 sec Interleaver FREQ ERR 9.69 Hz Mag 30 Votes 8 ][OK]
[Preamble TS(0) 300  bps 1.8 sec Interleaver FREQ ERR 9.09 Hz Mag 22 Votes 32 ][OK]

[MPDU 01:01:19 AIR CPA890 SLOT 4 300 BPS ]
Nr LPDUs = 1 Ground station ID RIVERHEAD - NEW YORK NOT SYNCHED
Aircraft ID 3A
Slots Requested medium = 0 Low = 0
Max Bit rate 1800 bps U(R) = 0 UR(R)vect = 0
[HFNPDU PERFORMANCE]
01:01:16  UTC  Flight ID = CPA890  LAT 42 13 4  N  LON 81 3 59  W 
Performance version 18
Flight Leg 47
GS RIVERHEAD - NEW YORK
SYNCHED TO UTC
Frequency 6
Previous Leg lost count 0
Current Leg lost count 0
Previous Leg Number of sec disabled 1010
Current Leg Number of sec disabled 356
Number of MPDUS received O.K
1800 bps = 0
1200 bps = 0
600  bps = 1
300  bps = 56
Number of MPDUS received in Error
1800 bps = 0
1200 bps = 0
600  bps = 0
300  bps = 0
Number of Squitters received O.K = 131
Number of Squitters received in Error = 0
Number of MPDUS transmitted
1800 bps = 0
1200 bps = 0
600  bps = 1
300  bps = 5
Number of MPDUS received first time
1800 bps = 0
1200 bps = 0
600  bps = 1
300  bps = 5
Reason for last frequency change = No Change Since Last PD HFNPDU, vendor code 2


And then there's PlanePlotter. Real nice people, the support couldn't be better. But the software 'thinks' way different than me. The layout, the options, the dependencies all just confuse the crap outta' me. Even the web site makes me dizzy. And the end result once I got it going was a real let down.

But all the cool kids are using it so naturally I got a copy to abuse myself with.

I wanted to plot flights decoded with PC-HFDL with PlanePlotter. The end result was a crappy gif map image. Even freeware like DUMP1090 (which displays ADS-B information, not ACARS) does better than that.

In all fairness this is a relatively new area of interest for me so I'm sure I'm doing it wrong. (Relative to Marconi and the Wright brothers, but I'm trying to be kind.) I'll take another stab at it

My next project will be setting up a multi-channel ACARS decoder on an RPi3.

Ultimately I'd like to have  one display, like VRS, with HF and VHF ACARS data bolted on.

Links to my Virtual Radar Server and scanner web pages are on the right. VRS will load in most browsers but the customizations require Google Chrome. And since I'm on Time Warner Cable, please be patient. I have like a 1.1 Mbps upload speed for whatever reason.

Also, if there's a problem I may be 'tweaking'. 


Overall, much YAY!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bunker Cats Update

It's been two months since I took in my two feline companions and it's been a lot of fun for all of us. They're both starting to morph from cute little kittens into adult cats. They seem happy enough.

Alfred is, well, Alfred, a standard issue Mk1 Mod1 domestic housecat. Affectionate, playful and purrs if I so much as talk to him.




Dora on the other hand is just a little spooky. She plays fetch, sometimes for 20 minutes at a time. It's gotten to the point that's she's bringing her 'birdies' to me while I'm still in bed and then laying next to me apparently waiting for me to play. And last night she saw her brother's picture on my computer screen and freaked out with her tail fur all puffed up.

Dora closely inspects everything I cook and eat. Alfred reminds me if I forget treat time. They both sun themselves in the windows and get very excited when a bird starts chirping or flapping outside. Alfred tries to walk with me and steps on my feet. Poor guy ends up getting kicked.

And Dora still doesn't meow.

They romp, rampage and roam like they own the place. They haven't destroyed anything important yet and the blinds are, by some miracle, still up. They still sleep on the blanket behind my desk chair when I'm home and confine their clawing (mostly) to their cat tree/condo. And they're still using their litterbox.

I'm still working on dissuading them from playing Hop On Pop.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mystery Signal on 8992 kHz USB

Today while monitoring USAF HFGCS on 8992 kHz USB I started hearing the signal in the YouTube video below. Not much to add to what's in the video other than I've heard it before and decided to record it. The first minute or two should suffice, unless you know or hear something something I don't. It seems repetitious to me.

My best guess is that this is an OTHR. Sounds similar to samples here: http://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/PLUTO_II_OTH_Radar




Friday, April 15, 2016

Naaman's Expectations and the Mission of Catholic Universities

Below is a copy of  a newsletter I subscribe to. Thanks to Fr. James for allowing me to post this. If you'd like to subscribe, drop him a line at JFlint at ben.edu.

ST. PROCOPIUS ABBEY
RULE OF ST. BENEDICT
NEWSLETTER 125
APRIL 12, 2016

Last Friday in our Abbey Church there took place the installation of Dr. Michael Brophy as President of Benedictine University. In the homily at the Mass of the Holy Spirit, Abbot Austin recounted the tale of the leper Naaman coming before the prophet of Elisha, hoping to be cured. At first, though, he rebelled at Nathan’s command to wash in the Jordan River. Why was he offended at the request? Abbot Austin explains, and then goes on to apply the lesson to Catholic education in what I think is a very useful way:

 
“What Elisha suggests is too simple, too plain. It doesn’t meet Naaman’s expectations. But Naaman’s servants reason with him, telling him to do it – all the more because it is so simple. So, he does and he is cured of his leprosy. Naaman at first had not been able to recognize the gift right in front of him. It was too simple, too plain – not according to his idea of things.

“This speaks – I would say – to the mission of Catholic universities. The intellectual life, the life of the mind, is a wonderful thing: to seek what is true, to have discussions and conversations about such things with colleagues and peers – these are the things we are blessed to do on our campuses. In this intellectual life, we seek the truth, we seek wisdom. But what if the Truth and Wisdom itself took on human flesh and stood before us? That is of course what Christians believe: that the Truth we seek became a human being like us: Jesus Christ.

“Now, the intellectual can be like Naaman. Naaman sought a cure; the intellectual seeks the truth. The cure was put before Naaman so simply, in a plain ordinary fashion. Naaman’s first reaction was to reject it as too simple. The Truth is put before the intellectual so simply, in the plain, ordinary garb of human nature. Like Naaman, the intellectual can reject this as too simple.

“To accept the Truth itself, now become a human being, is to believe in Jesus Christ. It is to have faith. Yet smart people (and this has been true throughout history) struggle with this. Faith can seem too simple, too plain. So, they reject it.

“One of the great thinkers in history was St. Augustine – a very smart person. But for all his smarts, he admits that at first, as a young adult, he was too proud to practice faith. That was for simple people, for rustics. He would rely only on the mind, only on reason. So he tried to do before his conversion. Yet he wrote his great works, the ones that continue to contribute to theology, philosophy, history, law, and other topics, after he accepted faith.

“The mission of a Catholic university is based in faith. It’s based on faith in Jesus Christ and His message as it comes down to us through the Church. Now, I know that such a statement can be qualified and nuanced. And that’s all good. It’s what we do as academics. But still, I submit, it is true that the mission of a Catholic university rests on faith in Jesus as the Truth become human and whose message continues through the Church. Take away the Catholic faith, and you no longer have Catholic education. This faith accepts that the Truth, which we seek, has become a human being.

“For many smart people, this is a paradox. The faith is too simple, too rustic; for them, being smart means being sophisticated and complex. Yet Catholic education embraces this paradox – or what seems to be a paradox to many.

“Faith is in a way simple. This is not to say that it is easy, but in a way it is simple. Because the proposal of faith is simple, humility is required to accept it. Catholic education, if it is true, has the humility to accept faith.

“But there is another very, very important point to make with this. The Catholic tradition does not say that faith is the same as understanding. It does not say that faith is a substitute for understanding. It does say that faith helps us to achieve understanding. It even says that faith seeks understanding.

“Of course, in the Catholic view, there is no opposition between faith and understanding. In 2001, the great moral philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe, died. She was a profound Catholic thinker, who was born in Ireland and taught in England. It is said that C. S. Lewis never lost a debate except to her. She was brilliant.

“But I remember reading an odd article about her upon her death. The article said that she had the faith of ‘a devout French peasant’! This was not a compliment and the article presented it as an enigma: How could someone so smart and intellectual have such a devout faith? But from a Catholic perspective, there is nothing odd about it. Faith helps, strengthens, and supports the intellectual endeavor.

“I said that faith requires humility and, so, perhaps the following image could be used. Saints have noted that if you want to build a high building, you need to make the foundations deeper. And if a tree is to grow higher, it needs to sink its roots deeper. Having the humility of faith is the foundation; it is sinking deep roots in the ground. Reaching high into the sky, that is the attainment of understanding.

“This, I would suggest, is at the heart of a Catholic university. Going deep in the humility of faith; reaching high into the sky through understanding.

“Today we pray for Dr. Brophy as he leads Benedictine University in this mission. And we pray for the whole Benedictine University community, that rooted in the Truth made flesh, it may seek and indeed attain ever greater understanding and wisdom.”

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Life With Cats Update

I'm starting to wonder if Dora's mute. I stepped on her paw this afternoon and she didn't scream. Or meow. Hmm. Oh, well, she certainly has other ways of making herself known.

She lay in my arm for over an hour this morning while I listened to the news.  Just snuggled in and purred. Every now and the she'd look up at me to remind me to pet her. Sometimes when I work at my desk she gets very insistent about being held. She'll sit and watch YouTube videos with me or stare at the Bunker Cam video. Other times she follows me around. 

Alfred's getting a little better about being a portable cat. We did a little Super Cat training this morning. Super Cat training consists of 'flying' a cat around then (gently) tossing it onto a soft landing, like a bed, while saying 'Soooper-Cat!'. I'm going to have to get him fitted for his cape pretty soon. He's also getting less afraid to roughhouse with me a little bit.

They both love to get their bellies rubbed. And, oh, the birdie toy! I have the two broken toys on a shelf. Every time I go near the shelf they come over and stare. They're just sticks with an elastic string. The birdies are broken off. But they know there's at least one left. And they really want it.



'Mmm, Birdie'


I got an urgent email from the internet asking me to please, please find another hobby or at least another subject as there is now a vast surplus of cat photos. I'm working on a reply.

It'll probably have at least one cat photo attached.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Three Stages in the Life of a Young People

'It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself.'

~G. K. Chesterton, The Fallacy of the Young Nation

No Blankie, No Peace

I tried taking the kid's blankie away and they decided to 'occupy' my chair.
The blankie's back. <sigh>


I was hoping the cat tree/condo would suffice, but no.


They're growing. Dora really is a little princess and Alfred really is a dork. Dora's teaching me to play fetch. I'm older and it'll take some time but I'm sure I'll catch on. Alfred just jumps up in my lap and squirms and purrs.

They're both the bestest kitties on the planet.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dora the Huntress

This was far and away their favorite toy.

My Little Pretty

A dorky little stuffed bird with a couple of chicken feathers on it, tied to a plastic stick by an elastic cord. I'd dangle and 'fly' it over their heads and they'd leap straight up, all claws and teeth. It's what I used for the 'Air Dora' shots.

They would see me get it out of the cupboard (I had to hide it) and they would immediately start following me, waiting to pounce.

Tonight they broke the elastic cord. Dora is still ripping it apart. She ran victory laps around the house with the damned thing. I'm serious. My pretty little Grrl! <sigh>

Needless to say, I have more of these toys on order. I can afford it since I certainly won't need mousetraps.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Uncollared!

The collars are off. Dora came into the bathroom last night and plopped down on the floor. I thought she was sick. She let me pet her and didn't squirm or act like she was in pain. She just laid there and looked at me.

Then I saw the problem - her foreleg was caught in her collar. She let me take the collar off and wandered away, none the worse for wear.

I took Alfred's collar off as well.

I guess they're too young for collars. They were only tight enough to keep from slipping over their heads, which apparently left enough room for Miss. Feline Ballerina here to get her leg into.

They have been celebrating by galloping about and literally bouncing off the walls ever since.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cats In My Belfry

The Little Infidels are getting acclimated. A week ago they wouldn't come near me, now they won't stay off of me.

Alfred purrs like crazy. He licks and nibbles. A few 'ows' from me and he seems to be getting the picture that biting me is bad. He's all frantic to be petted - with both hands, thank you - and crawls all over me. He'll sit at my feet and jump up on my lap. I put him down and he just jumps right back up. Takes a few tries if I'm trying to get some work done. And he's learning to be a bit more judicious with his claws when jumping up.

Dora is a snugglebunny. She's learning to purr. She likes to help me type and edit photos. She loves to track - and hunt - the mouse pointer. Sometimes she'll sit on the arm of my desk chair and wait for me to pet her. Other times she just jumps up on my back. Yikes! Once in my arms she'll purr and go to sleep. She loves to help me in the kitchen by making sure that I put the food in the dish just right.

And Dora has gas. Terrible gas. We're talking eye-watering, peel the paint off the walls, industrial strength, banned by the Geneva Convention cat farts. The first time they were both on my lap and I didn't know who to blame. The second time, Alfred was nowhere around.

You know what they say - if there are only two people in an elevator and one farts, everyone knows who did it.

I set up a bouncing ball screensaver on my Linux machine and they immediately went ape. (Do apes go 'cat'?) It works out pretty well: cat jumps up, takes a swipe or two at the ball, steps on a key and the ball goes away for 10 minutes...then we start all over again. Not the most cost-effective cat toy, but hey.

They sleep in the living room on the Sherpa blanket. Their sleep and dinner schedule is gradually syncing up with mine. They have all kinds of little stuffed mice, balls with bells and a little birdie on the end of an elastic string and pole. They love that one. Thankfully, you can get cat toys by the bagful for cheap on Amazon.

Cat Foosball


They still freak if I pick them up and carry them around. But we're workin' on that.

They're still in their collars. Kinda' funny to hear the bells going back and forth. And when it gets quiet I go looking around to see what trouble they're getting into.

Nothing's been broken yet, but a few things have been unplugged.

They are both very photogenic - if I'm patient, use a longish lens and a bounce flash.

Hopefully the blue/violet laser will come tomorrow. (Cats see that end of the spectrum better.)

I may end up investing in one of those cat condo tower things.

Who am I kidding? I'm already trying to figure out what I need to move or get rid of to make room for one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who needs the Gestapo?

In 1945, shortly after VE Day (but before the fall of Japan) there was an Election in Britain. Winston Churchill, amazingly enough, lost.

Many consider a speech he made, excerpted below, to be a contributing factor in his defeat.

“No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of Civil servants, no longer servants and no longer civil. And where would the ordinary simple folk – the common people, as they like to call them in America – where would they be, once this mighty organism had got them in its grip?”

Pretty strong stuff, but then Sir Winston wasn't exactly known for his delicacy and finesse. The reference to the Gestapo aside, how far off the mark was he? I'm thinking of the freedom-of-speech issues raised by the censorship policies of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter and laws and regulations about so-called hate speech, hate crimes and other thought crimes.

Was Amendment Numero Uno meant to protect 'free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent'? I have every reason to believe it was indeed meant to protect exactly that. Yet this is the very thing we're trying to stamp out by things like 'anti-bullying' policies that try to criminalize 'verbal assault'.

I actually need to be careful about what I say.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is the United States, not Cuba, or Iran or Soviet Russia but the United States of America. And I have to be careful about what I say. Not out of fear of offending anyone. I don't really want to offend anyone but if I speak what I think is the truth and it offends, oh well.

But I need to be careful because I may cross some invisible line and have my Twitter or Facebook accounts closed or be prosecuted by the government or some aggrieved party.

I remember the days, long ago, shortly after the Mayflower landed and before people had to leave the comfort of their caves to get coffee...and the internet was the Promised Land of free speech. People all over the world would be able to speak their minds without fear of retribution by oppressive governments or societies.

Yeah...another lie we fell for. I'm actually vaguely uncomfortable calling a spade a spade or even using the expression because someone might take offense. 

Who needs the Gestapo? 

Churchill should never have run for election and instead walked away in 1945 while he was at the top. Instead he ran and lost and ran again in 1951 and won. His family suffered terribly.

But at least he had a chance to warn us what would happen if the feel-good nanny-state and their inevitable thought police took control.

Yay, Sherpa Blanket!

Today was a red-letter day. The little beasties let me pick them up. Alfred was actually jumping up on my lap and wouldn't get down.

I put a Sherpa blanket that I got for Christmas down and they immediately came over and nested. Once they started drifting off to sleep they let me pet them.


Within an hour Alfred insisted on helping me type and Dora was scaling my back.

Of course they're back to acting as if I was a nightmare version of Shrek. But now I'm taking it as personally.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Need For Solitude

This is something I started to realize at a pretty early age but never became literate enough to put into words so well. From Thomas Merton's 'New Seeds of Contemplation':

'Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing, and a more genuine communion. But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and clich├ęs repeated over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible. Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think. He does not act, he is pushed. He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises. He does not think, he secretes clich├ęs.'

His point wasn't so much to depress his readers but to put his finger on the problem. And in that I think he succeeded.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cat News from Der Bunker

Dora and Alfred are doing well. Dora's the bold one. She trots around me like a bird that swoops closer and closer until it's sure you aren't going to eat it. I assured Dora that my pressure cooker doesn't have a 'Cat' setting. She's still skeptical. She climbs up on stuff and watches me. She still runs when I get up but not as far or as fast. She hangs out in the living room until she gets bored and then trots off.

And Alfred? Alfred's just a sissy. He hides and lets sis take all the risks and then peeks around the corner to see what he can get. This picture sums it up. Dora out front, Alfred waiting to see what happens to Dora.


They found a way into my box springs. I sleep on an infidel hideout. Good thing for them I don't jump into bed.

They have this thing where they get their paws wet in the sink or the tub and then leave muddy pawprints all over. 

Changing the litterbox assured me their appetite and digestive systems are working just fine.  I didn't weigh it, but it felt as if they each generated their own weight in waste in less than a week.

We play laser 'bug' at night and they get treats. Oh, they love those little soft cat treats.

They came with toys and the laser pointer and I got them a soft-sided carrier and collars. I'm being optimistic with the collars.

I'll let you know how the catnip oil spray works out.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kitty Update

It's pretty obvious I'm here for these cats, not the other way 'round. And I'm ok with that. As the saying goes, 'If you want a friend, get a dog'.

I've held each of them for a few minutes. He's cuddly and purrs and does all the cute kitty things until I walk away, then he bolts and hides. She's a little more aloof and seems to be counting the seconds until she can get the heck away from me. 

But I'm used to that.

They're both strong and agile. She's the explorer and climber. I might call Her Dora. Both 'get' claws and don't scratch, only extending their claws enough to hang on to my clothes. I'm still amazed how cats do that. And neither bites. Yay!

No pictures yet. My main concern right now is for them to relax enough not hide like outlaws in the Sheriff's house with all the dust bunnies.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New Roomies


For my birthday my stepdaughter got me two 'rescue cats'. My understanding is that they were found behind a strip of stores. They're about 6 months old and seem to have very little use for people, at least me. I've held Benedict for a few minutes, but he shivers and runs off when I put him down. I have yet to dig Scholastica out of her hidie hole.

When I got up this morning I noticed some telltales: Bathroom door partially closed, pawprints in the litterbox and menus open on a couple of my computers from someone stepping on the keyboard. Some cat toys were scattered and it looks like a little food is gone from their dish.

They're babies and they're scared so I'm not too offended. Pictures to follow - as soon as they assent.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Chesterton: The Monk Was Right After All

From G.K. Chesterton's Heretics:

'Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good—” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron ; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to- morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.'

I'd say that sums up our situation quite nicely.


Merton on Not Accepting God's Will


This is from Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation which I'm re-reading more carefully this time around:

'Not to accept and love and do God’s will is to refuse the fullness of my existence.'

'If I never become what I am meant to be, but always remain what I am not, I shall spend eternity contradicting myself by being at once something and nothing, a life that wants to live and is dead, a death that wants to be dead and cannot quite achieve its own death because it still has to exist.'

I wonder how many of us have felt this way and never understood why.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

GNU Radio on Ubuntu Happiness

FINALLY. I finally got GNU Radio working and in a usable, stable state. I had it working on a Raspberry Pi and on my somewhat ancient Mac Pro but wasn't happy with the performance on either platform. I also ended up doing something ugly and irreparable (even with Time Machine) to the Mac. Poor old thing, it's ready for the aluminum recycling center. I may have to pay someone to lug it out of here.

I had Kali (which has a bunch of SDR tools baked in) installed on my laptop in a dual-boot configuration but got tired of rebooting to change O/S. The laptop is ready for a Win10 bare-metal reinstall and VirtualBox, but one thing at a time. The laptop also is limited to 3 USB ports.

So I broke down and got an Asus mini-PC. Very capable, with lots of USB ports for SDR peripherals that don't always play nice with USB hubs. Neat little box but I can't find documentation for the AMI BIOS. It's not rocket surgery but I like to have an explanation for all the options.

I put Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS on it which works like a charm - as long as I don't update the kernel. The updated kernel hangs on boot. Whatever, it works as is. Yeah, I'm likin' Ubuntu. The install from a thumb drive is straightforward and everything - video, wireless keyboard/mouse, ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth and audio - worked out of the box. Other distros I tried needed drivers for ethernet and WiFi or couldn't detect the wireless keyboard and mouse which caused me much sadness and angst.

If you're installing GNU Radio on Ubuntu, here are two bits of advice that might save you some frustration and time.  First, do it the hard way. Don't use Ubuntu's GUI software installer. The GUI makes it easy and brother, I do love me some easy. But it didn't work out well for me. After several restart-from-scratch attempts what finally worked was installing GNU Radio as detailed here and Gqrx as explained here.

The Gqrx install takes a while. The last step took about 3 hours to run. There's no indication it's doing anything so don't panic. I had to open a terminal and ran htop to verify it was still grinding away.

Second note - don't install any unneeded bells and whistles. Maybe I don't need to tell you that but I love all the eye candy and widgets. Lots of fun but when I went directly from base install to SDR software install it worked. Whenever I stopped to play it screwed the SDR install up.

Now I can work my way through Michael Ossman's SDR tutorial videos again, this time with GRC working a little better.

And now that I have it backed up I can add some toys. Yay!


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Mighty KBC, Mighty Indeed

I was making a screen recording of SDR# tuned to Radio China International via Cerrik, Albania for a buddy to watch when I noticed a strong signal at 6.040 MHz. Sounded like a throwback to the US's Wolfman Jack days. Pretty entertaining. They identified themselves as The Mighty KBC.

The DJ asked for reception reports and since I was in an ideal position to provide one, I did. You can watch and listen to it (1 minute, 19 seconds) here.

Turns out KBC is based in the Netherlands with their shortwave transmitters in Nauen, Germany and this was their first day on this new frequency. They were kind enough to send me this reception confirmation (QSL):


Kinda' cool. Here's a picture of one of their antennas (from YouTube user alexder7588):


Sure not like the old days, these transmitters are pretty high-tech. No more dozens or hundreds of acres of towers with wires strung in all directions. Just 4 or 5 of these beasts at 125kW and they can broadcast all over the world.

Thanks again to the nice people at The Mighty KBC.