Free At Last!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll apologize in advance for any injuries that may occur if visitors fall asleep while reading this post. I probably should have added a “Geeky Content” warning to the title. If you feel drowsy or experience partial paralysis of facial muscles as you wade through this material, try giving yourself a quick, hard slap and move on to something less stupefying before you fall from your chair and do yourself harm.

Today’s subject is freedom. I’m drawn back to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech in which he quoted an old spiritual song containing words something like, “Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

My strategic plan all along in my War Against TELIKOM has been to connect to the Internet without any ghost of signals passing through any of its antiquated, poorly maintained and evil equipment. I feel that victory is rapidly approaching. I expect that, by this weekend, I shall be able to sit in my house and connect any time that I please for as long as I please and download as much as I please with never a fear that I will face an exorbitant fee or lose my connection every five minutes.

How can this be? Well, unless your uncle is Daddy Warbucks, you have to have some help. The first battle was won when our organisation purchased a third-party Internet satellite dish, called a VSAT, if you care. I’m trying to avoid too much geek-speak, as it bores the life from me. We’ve had the satellite Internet connection for about a year now, and it’s perking along nicely. We lose it only when it rains torrentially.

So, the question became, how can I tap into that gush of free bytes? Friends come in very handy here. I happened to have one who is the most renowned guru in the land and a geek among geeks.

Well, I can see already that I must shorten this story. I’m beginning to feel sleepy myslef.

Anyway, Mark came up with the idea of connecting to my house by wireless signals. The rub is that these pesky little beams refuse to penetrate anything but air, at least if you plan to go further than a few tens of metres.

Climbing to the top of this old amateur radio tower at the back of our office, I was disappointed to find that I could not see our house:

So, the problem became:  what can  I see from there which I can also see from my house?

I’ll digress a moment to refresh myself by showing you the pile of junk that is typically required to get all of this working;

It’s mostly on the top shelf. You can see, from left to right, a satellite modem which talks to the gizmo up in space and a “router” which splits the signals up somehow and distributes them to the correct computers. These are the essentials, except for the actual wireless gear, which is coming up next. The black box is a “hub” which simply lets you plug a whole bunch of computers into a network and sorts out the torrents of information that flows through it. Below is a UPS which prevents the evil PNG Power from devastating our investments and an old computer which I use to keep tabs on what is going where.

Here is a picture of the front and back of the long-range wireless units. They include a gadget which sends and receives wireless signals and a highly directional antenna which concentrates the beam and allows it to travel much farther between units:

A clever bit is that there is a little doohicky which you plug into the wall to provide power through the cable which also carries the network signals. Therefore you need only one cable going to this unit. It’s called Power Over Ethernet, but the very sound of that causes my eyelids to sag.

Here is a Google Earth shot of Madang showing the plan to get the web from our office to our house:

One unit goes on the ham radio tower at our office. Two units go on the security camera pole at the coconut oil refinery. They talk to each other, to keep the signal going, through a short piece of network cable. The green lines represent the wireless radio beams doing the magic.

So, having gotten from the office to the coconut refinery, we shoot the second beam way across the harbour to the front of our house. Here is a view of town from our veranda taken with my mighty Olympus SP-590UZ furiously gathering photons at its maximum of 26x optical zoom:

You’re looking almost a half-kilometre at that little pole in the middle of the frame. It’s got security cameras mounted on it already. From that pole I can see the tower at the office and my veranda.

Therefore, I mounted the last unit beside the front door of our house and ran the POE cable to the bedroom wherein lie our thirsty computers:

I didn’t realise until I saw this picture how much our house needs a coat of paint.

Tomorrow will be the magic day, if it doesn’t rain, when the hop units will be installed on the security camera pole. Everything else is installed and powered up.

This weekend I hope to enjoy TELIKOM-free browsing. If it works, it will be magic. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

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Tomato Soup and Other Esoterica

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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So, if you come to visit us in Madang for Christmas, what can you expect? Well, first you have to land your Fokker F-100 at the airport (hopefully) in Madang. Just because production ended for the F-100 in 1997 doesn’t mean that it’s not a good aeroplane. It’s just a little long in the tooth. I was recently allowed to land an F-100 at Madang. Here is a photo that I took through the windscreen as I guided us in on the final approach (never liked the sound of that, but that’s what they call it):Landing at Madang courtesy of Google EarthOkay, okay, I lie. I wasn’t flying the plane. In fact, there was no plane. It’s an image from Google Earth. Anyway, if you did land in Madang, this is exactly what it would look like. The big blob of land with the lake in the middle is Kranket Island.  At the top, to the left of the runway is an orange patch. This is the wood chipping mill. Our house is just to the right of it.

Sticking with aeroplanes for a bit, here is a shot of 50 calibre machine gun cartridges laying, after sixty-six years, in the salty water of Tab Anchorage  near Wongat Island  in The Green Dragon,  an American B-25 bomber shot down in 1943:Bomber bulletsWhen I first started diving The Green Dragon  many years ago, there were many more cartridges in the ammo boxes. Sadly some divers can’t resist taking a souvenir. Every time somebody takes “just one” it hastens the day when there will be none left to see.

Now I’ll show you (don’t ask me why) a Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria):Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)Just because I can, that’s why. I find that “because I can” is often sufficient reason for doing something. Much of my life is delivered up to “just because I can” moments. Several of them have nearly killed me. Needless to say my aim is to not  die in bed with my boots off. My bucket list is getting shorter. I’ll cram as much of it in as I possibly can, I assure you. I’m a lemon squeezer and I like walking close to the edge.

Now this is a sweet shot. I could give you a handful of technical reasons why it is pleasing. It’s a geek thing, never mind:Coral (Diploastrea heliopora)It is what it is. And, it is Coral (Diploastrea heliopora).  But that, of course, is not what makes it interesting. My students out there:  State at least three compositional features that make it an “interesting” image. Turn you papers in before the bell.

A few days ago I briefly introduced you to a Tomato Anemonefish [female] (Amphiprion frenatus):Tomato Anemonefish [female] (Amphiprion frenatus)Let’s get up-close and personal. This little tomato is one of my favourites. Only the females are so pretty. They are very frisky. The slight shutter lag on the Canon G10 (maybe a third of a second) makes it very frustrating to shoot little scooters like this baby. You have to try to figure out where the fish is going to be a fraction of a second later and hope that you catch what you want. I took about twenty shots of this fish and got five that are reasonably good. Here are the rest of them in a little gallery:

Unbeknownst to you, I went to the bush yesterday. If I made it back, I’ll see you tomorrow. It’s DIVE DAY!! I’m going to fetch some more Christmas Tree Worms for you.

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Three Small Stones from Hell – The Manam Island Volcano

Posted in At Sea, Dangerous, Under the Sea on September 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday evening after work, as is my custom, I sat down with a cold one, a cheap cigar, a book and petted Sheba, my dog. I was reading in Analog Magazine  a short story about a descent into an extinct (they thought) volcano. It was a good story, but that’s not my point. It got me thinking about the strange stones that were in a basket of seashells right next to my chair. I reached over to look at one of them and began thinking of how I can tell the story of how I found them.

These stones, each smaller than your fist, were belched violently from the huge volcano at Manam Island.  I’ve written about Manam before here and here. Though I’m certainly no expert, I think the these are pieces of pumice, an almost fluffy mixture of liquid rock and gas. Think of it as very hard Champaign:

Three bits of volcanic pumice belched from the Manam Island volcano

Guessing again, I think that the strong red colour probably comes from a high iron content. Rust is red, eh? The sea floor where we were diving only a few kilometres away from the coast of the island was littered with these red stones. It was very obvious that they had not long been on the sea bottom. There was nothing growing on them. This means that they could not have been there more than a few weeks at most, since everything is soon covered by living organisms that are desperate to find something on which to attach themselves.

Here’s an interesting Google Earth view of Manam Island:

A Google Earth image of Manam Island

Here’s one from directly above. You can clearly see the brownish chasms left by lava flows:

Another Google Earth image of Manam Island

The strange discontinuity at the left is caused by the merging of images from two different satellite images.

Here’s a shot of Manam Island  volcano having a leisurely smoke just to show you that it is not very sleepy:

The red light of sunset lights up the eruption of Manam Island volcano

I got the image above on the same excursion during which I collected the stones. I have to admit that, while I was diving, I wondered what a big eruption would be like underwater. Not much fun, I think. I have felt earthquakes underwater and seen the flash of lightning while on night dives. Neither is to my liking – too creepy. I once heard the nearby explosion of dynamite when some [expletive deleted] were blasting the precious reef for a bucket full of fish. I thought that my dive buddy’s tank had exploded. I turned around quickly and saw her covering her ears with her hands. It was very  loud.

While I was fiddling with Google Earth today, I discovered a way to make a picture that looks almost exactly the same as what you would see if you were landing at Madang airport:

A nice Google Earth rendering of Madang Town showing my house

You can see Madang out on its peninsula and the airport over at the upper right.

I probably should note that there is no giant sign out in Binnen Harbour that says, “My house”. I painted that in the image.

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More Fun with Google Earth

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, It’s Satuday and guess what. Nobody wanted to go out on the boat today. What a bunch of slackers and hung-over sleep lovers!  Woe is me.

So, I came to the office to play with Google Earth for a couple of hours. Strangely, I can think of a million places to look at while I’m doing something else (like working), but when I sit down at the computer my mind goes blanker than usual.

Still, there’s the old favourite – find someone’s house. We still own a house in Brownsburg, Indiana. Would you like to buy it on the cheap? Here it is at 8080 East 300 North:

8080 East 300 N, Brownsburg, Indiana, USAIt’s the middle driveway of the three.

Google Earth’s Street View has been a bit controversial. This usually happens when the little Googlemobile catches someone being arrested, leaving a naughty shop (you know the ones I mean – I can’t use the word for fear of being banned from millions of computers), having a car parked in an inappropriate place, or just generally loafing around on the boss’s time. I used the Street View feature to get a shot of the house:

Want to buy a house real cheap?It won’t win any photography contests, but hey. As with many unfortunates such as ourselves (poor us), we still owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth. As long as it keeps standing, we’ll let the renters pay off the loan.

How about something a little more exotic?  How about Jerusalem:

JerusalemThat’s actually rather stunning. Click it to enlarge. It appears that the shot was taken in the morning. Their are deep shadows in the rugged landscape to the west of the city.

Hmmm . . . Yes, got it! The White House:

The White House (guess which one)Please don’t use the images in this post to plan anything.

Okay, I’m running out of ideas now.

But, I can never pass up a chance to poke a little fun at the Goofyest City on the Planet. Yes, you got it in one . . . Las Vegas:

Las VegasIt’s mildly interesting to me that this shot bears a middling resemblance to an image that I captured from a commercial flight only about ten months ago. I was riding in a aerial cattle car from Las Vegas to Boise, Idaho. I wrote about it in The Long and Dusty Road to Boise:

If you look closely, you can see the big hotel with the golf course to the left (the dark squarish shape). It’s the same spot that is the dark shape to the North of the airport in the satellite image.

If you find something interesting on Google Earth, leave a comment with the link and your remarks and I’ll post it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

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Google Earth Learns About Madang

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve always been disappointed with the satellite images on Google Earth for the area around Madang. Until today. I don’t remember how I drifted to Google Earth again. Something on another web site caught my eye, I suppose. Anyway, I downloaded the latest version and cranked it up to see if Madang looked any better.

WOW! You can see streets and everything. If you try to zoom in to the level of seeing who is parked where, it gets a little fuzzy, but you can see the colours of the cars just fine. No registration reading yet. Can’t see people very well. But Madang is finally coming in crisp and clear:Madang, Papua New Ghinea - most of the town on Google EarthOf course, the first thing anybody does with Google Earth is look for his house. Ours was easy to find. Just south of the end of the airport runway, north of the big pile of wood chips and directly across the harbour from the main wharf:
Our house in Madang is directly across the harbour from the main wharfHere is a shot of Nagada Harbour and the Jais Aben Resort:
Nagada Harbour and Jais Aben ResortThe top island is Leper Island and lower is the north tip of Kranket Island. In between is Magic Passage, one of our favourite diving locations. The reefs are very nicely visible:
Magic Passage - one of our favourite diving locationsThose familiar with Madang will recognise this location immediately. It is the north end of the golf course (at the bottom) and the Coastwatcher Monument at the upper left sticking up like a big white rocket ship. It looks to me as if this shot was taken at about 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning:
The Coastwatcher Monument and the North end of the Golf Course in Madang, Papua New GuineaHere is a nice shot of Kar Kar Island. It’s too bad that the fringing reefs are not visible. Also the cloud cover hides the giant crater where the active volcano sleeps (for the moment):
Kar Kar Island from Google EarthThe shots of Madang were taken before last July. I can tell because the huge mango tree that was behind our office is still visible. We chopped it to make room for an office extension.

It’s cool to join the rest of the world. Now, we too can send someone a link to say, “Here is where I live!”

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