What's New...

August 09 27 2017: Gervase Markham has died (via LWN). He was a prominent developer for Mozilla and well-respected by his peers and the Free Software community. He was also a Christian Geek. I corresponded briefly with Gervase on the subject of Christian faith and found him both orthodox and reasonable. Of course, some other hackers were not so pleased with his positions.

I've known some Christian professionals who made a pest of themselves by making their faith positions very public and/or taking to extremes the usual evangelical imperative for "soul-winning". Some have gotten fired for it, and I can't help but think that they asked for it. Hard to be sympathetic with brothers like that. I don't know if Gervase was like that. But I also know that, any more, it doesn't take much at all of making your faith position known to draw the displeasure, even the hatred, of those who are more appropriately aligned with the spirit of the age.

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June 27 2017: Last October, we (as usual) enjoyed Modernism Week. This time, we actually did the Trailer Tour: several camping trailer enthusiasts had set up their vintage trailers for guests to inspect. Bowlus Road Chief Big small-apartment trailers. Little "campstove on the back" trailers (cute). Tent trailers (like my family had when we camped in such places as Buffalo, NY, and Needles, CA (fun, fun, biting marsh flies, fun)). And a beautiful 1935 Bowlus Road Chief. The Bowlus trailers were the antecedent to the famous Airstream, even though only a very small number was made.

Turns out that some outfit is making a NEW Bowlus Road Chief! Updating the chassis and interior appointments to 21st Century standards while retaining the 1930s look-and-feel. At $137,000, it's a bit pricey, though.

Nice Road Chief website with lots of photos.


June 24 2017: I've been playing with some system-on-board devices as alternatives to the Raspberry Pi. One that I really like, that is not unusably microscopic but has a nicer footprint and more I/O and built-in flash memory is the $9 iC.H.I.P.. Unfortunately, it seems that NextThing overextended themselves with their $9 basic model, let alone the $16 Pro model, and may have gone under. Since the C.H.I.P. is Open Hardware, it is possible yet that some enterprising hacker(s) may produce them on their own - won't be $9, but they may be available. Hope springs eternal.

NextThing was really pushing the C.H.I.P.-powered PocketCHIP handheld computer. I got one. I'm not really impressed; it seems to have emphasized its emulation of 8-bit video games, and I'm not that much into video games. But it seems that with the demise of C.H.I.P., and therefore PocketCHIP, a raft of Raspberry Pi-based handheld computers has appeared:

RasPad RasPad : Fully-assembled unit based on Raspberry Pi 3B+. Looks to be larger than a "handheld computer", but preserves access to all SOB ports. Still a Indiegogo startup project, so not actually available yet.

Noodle Pi Noodle Pi : Actually, the housing for a do-it-yourself project along with instructions for obtaining the parts. Based on the Pi Zero. The developer appears to live in Canada and accepts only transfers or Bitcoin.

Poco Zero Poco Zero : Finished product by a UK hacker. Based on Pi Zero (obviously). Very small, very much oriented to video games (like the PocketCHIP). No I/O other than USB.

The Ark (back) Ark : Based on Raspberri Pi Compute Module. Open Hardware, and not a kit or finished product; looks like it's a circuit board fab project, and no mention of a case. Not sure it's quite there - probably the PocketCHIP has a better shot. It seems to be pushed toward "democratic" (leftist?) political activism (but nobody profits from it, so it's just a tool for anything).

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Via our city councilman's newsletter, I came across the news that a development firm is planning a multi-purpose building to replace the run-down apartment building on the northwest corner of Speedway and Campbell.

Speedway/Campbell Tower

This is fine by me. The replacement of the Rondstadt Transit Center downtown is fine by me. I'm not so thrilled with all the high-rise student housing going up, especially what's planned around the Benedictine Convent on Country Club or on Fourth Avenue (although THAT one would make the trolley people happy). Although, probably, the "residence" part of this tower would almost certainly be students, the literature doesn't say it's intended for that purpose.

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On the Arizona page, updated the restaurants lists (downtown, Tucson Originals) for places added, dropped, or we (at least I) have been to. I'll have to say, as someone who appreciates barbeque (a taste enhanced by many visits to Huntsville and Dallas), Brother John's on Stone doesn't stack up on barbeque to a place like Red Desert (about as close to my workplace on Grant as Brother John's is).


March 4 2017: I was looking forward to the Davis-Monthan air show this year (every other year on even-numbered years). However, it seems they have come to an agreement with Luke AFB regarding Arizona air shows, and therefore DM is switching to odd years. That means this year's show, on the weekend of the 17th, will be Luke Days at Luke Air Force Base, one of the bases equipped with F-35s. We are thinking of going there this year (it being up on Phx, probably won't ever go but once). Strangely, the Navy's Blue Angels team will be flying at Luke this year, rather than the USAF Thunderbirds.

Luke Days 2018

What inspired me to look this up? Every so often, air show pilots (Air Force and civilian) practice flying in formation with modern jet aircraft and World War II aircraft. They're doing that this weekend! I've seen flights of F-35s with P-51 Mustangs and P-38 Lightning and F-86 SuperSabre airplanes. It's like having an airshow from my backyard!


January 10 2017: After two months of being unemployed (well, retired), I am now re-employed at Marcus Engineering LLC, a smallish electronics contractor that does embedded system design for customers wanting demo units, prototype products, and manufacturing designs. They are a Microchip Partner, so they are heavily into PIC processors - which is fine by me. I think the hardest part of this will be reacting quickly to a commercial market timeframe.

As a result, my bio got updated.


December 13 2017: It's the Christmas season, the time for shameless self-indulgence - including candy. For stockings, and... for just eating. Shamelessly.

A friend told Jerri about an amazing candy shop in Chandler, and since it's the Christmas season (shameless self-indulgence) and we have some stockings to stuff, and I am currently unemployed anyways, we take a day trip to the Phoenix area. Sweeties Candy of Arizona, on Warner and Alma School, maybe two miles east of the 101 loop between 202 and State Route 60. It is amazing. Adding this one to the Arizona page.

Sweeties exteriorThe outside doesn't look like much, but it is a full-wide storefront, like a grocer. Not a hole-in-the-wall. We're talking Phoenix Big.

Sweeties aislesEvery imaginable store-bought candy, including Mexican. Soda pop, too (we got some St. Louis Fitz's root beer). A complete stock of Jelly Bellies.

Sweeties bulk sectionA fabulous bulk section. Even bulk PEZ! NEVER saw that before!

Cerreta ChocolateBut for all that, it can't beat Arizona's Chocolatier - Cerreta's. Which of course we have to visit while we're up here, and restock. Self-indulgence. Shameless.


November 19 2017: During the first week of October, the TOW International Data Exchange - TIDE - is held, usually in Orlando. I go to Orlando, but because I take Jerri and Faith, it turns into a family vacation at Disney World and Universal Studios, and I miss out on the TIDE almost entirely. See the details on our adventures on the family page.

Also, the AZ page got tweaked some, in part because we've now been to the new-ish MiAN restaurant in the TEP building downtown. Pretty good, especially the ambiance of the patio dining on Broadway.


November 6 2017: Last Saturday was the 10th annual Tucson Comic-Con. We went for one day, just to get a taste, and because Bily Dee Williams ("Lando Calrissian" of "Star Wars") and Gates McFadden ("Beverly Crusher" of "Star Trek Next Generation") were presenting. Williams was a bit disappointing; he's getting pretty old and he's not really there. McFadden was a bit more interesting, and has relatable experience well beyond her Star Trek role - she is also very, well, bold or assertive. Reminded me a bit of the elderly Julie Newmar ("Catwoman" in the classic '60s "Batman" serial), who we saw a Phoenix a few years back. R2D2 at TCC There were lots of local fan club setups, such as the Tucson Steampunk Society, and several Star Wars-related clubs, including the one that produced this great radio-controlled R2D2 model. We took in a somewhat dumb Star Wars panel (hearing bloggers speculate for an hour on the "Last Jedi" trailers is a bit tiresome) and had lunch off a food truck in the patio (after standing in line for a half-hour; there was definitely room for more trucks). The best part for me, as it was in Phoenix, was the exhibition hall.

Tucson Comic-Con

Pretty decent for Tucson. Similar to Phoenix, just a bit smaller, and not nearly as choked with cosplayers. All in all, the Tucson Comic-Con was a pretty good show for our "village" (as McFadden designates Tucson), and I believe that, after ten years, it is well-enough established that it will probably continue to grow.

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Some years ago, I got an excellent X10 line analyzer from JVDE. He has other X10 gadgets, such as a more capable replacement for the unobtainable PCS05 two-way powerline interface. I've added this resource to the X10 section of the tech page.


November 1 2017: After 33 years with Hughes Aircraft Company and Raytheon, I am now retired.

Which means I will have more time for exploring my electronics and software interests, at least, if I settle into a part-time job. Because I will need a job - retiring to not having to work at all is something the previous generation enjoyed.

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Arizona page updated with some restaurant changes. Pizzeria Bianco is no longer in Tucson (although there are rumours they may set up somewhere else, just not on expensive Congress), we've been to MiAN at the patio underneath the new-ish TEP building, and there are some newcomers to the Originals. Also a new event: Tucson Comic-Con! We will be attending some on Saturday!

Tucson Comic-Con Decal


September 3 2017: Toward the end of July, Faith and I both had Friday off, so the family took a long weekend in Phoenix. See what we did.


August 26 2017: Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Huntsville, and I had a late flight out and nothing to do earlier. The previous evening I had been watching the little Huntsville tourism channel on the television in my hotel room and saw an advertisement for the Veteran's Memorial Museum. I hadn't ever been there, so Friday morning I went down Memorial Blvd to Airport and turned west to where Huntsville's airport used to be. It was rainy that day, so I couldn't see the stuff the museum had outside, but the collection inside was very well presented for such a little place. And, very extensive; I didn't have time to do it justice in the two hours I had. Some things I saw were very interesting for an old TOW guy. I had never seen an Improved TOW Vehicle other than photographs and remarks in documents and software source code. Here I saw an ITV for reals! Front view with the business end of the "hammerhead", and side view with the aft hatch open and the tracks.

ITV Front ViewITV Side View

AH-1S Port ViewHere also is the AH-1S version of the Cobra attack helicopter, the variant upon which TOW was first mounted. This is the port-side view, and the TOW launcher on that side is visible.

AH-1S Starboard ViewThis is the starboard view head-on. The Telescopic Sight Unit is visible on the nose of the aircraft.

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Also last month, with effectively a full week off for the Fourth, Jerri and Faith and I went up to Fort Collins, Colorado, to see Charity and celebrate Independence Day. Of course, we did more than that, and the full account is on the Family page.

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And more recently, we did a weekend trip up to sweltering Phoenix. Story forthcoming. Found another Centennial sign on the 202 loop near Van Buren.


May 19 2017: I've been collecting single-board computers to play with, originally with an eye to controlling a string of individually-addressable Christmas lights. It started with a Raspberry Pi, and then progressed to four more via Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. Since I've been playing with SBCs more than microcontrollers lately, I figured it was high time to make a Single Board Computer page.


May 13 2017: Some cleanup on the Arizona page:

  • Sad, sad news. Thanks (in part) to misguided leftist Tucson's minimum wage law, the family Mexican restaurant, Midway Molina's, is closing.
  • Downtown Proper restaurant is gone. But an exciting new Oriental/Sushi place has sprung up in the TEP building. Likewise, Simplicit has opened in the restaurant space at the Temple of Music and Art. Carriage House started off with a Sunday dim-sum buffet, but they seem to have dropped that now and are strictly a cooking school and event venue.
  • There used to be webcams downtown, on campus, and along the freeway. They don't seem to be working anymore.
  • Don't know how I've overlooked the fascinating Hydra clothing shop for so long, with their interesting window displays and their passionate commitment to downtown.

AND

  • I'm adopting a new hobby - visiting the County Fairs in this Great State. In another state, this might be problematic, but Arizona has 15. Already been to three. A map of the counties and info on their fairs has been added to the end of the page.

April 26 2017: Not new: A training course for hacking in the Linux Kernel. At one point it was a contest; the contest part is just about over, but the challengers say "it will live on, it will just look a bit different". The Eudyptula Challenge (via LWN News).

Also, The Zephyr Project, a "modular, scalable platform designed for connected, resource-strained devices", which is code for "microcontrollers". Probably not 8-bitters, though, although it lists Arduino. Not based on Linux, but rather a Wind River product that got open-sourced. Via LWN News, again.


March 04 2017: Nice writeup on the TI-99/4A in The Register. Includes a video of a "Megademo" written for the 4A... this year!