Freesteel Blog » 2017 » June

Monday, June 19th, 2017 at 2:17 pm - - Whipping

Quick pre-holiday blogpost when I should be packing. A couple of things in the past few days.

Firstly, I tried to help out in a small way on the LibDem campaign to hold the Parliamentary seat of Southport. In spite of hundreds of hours of canvassing (mostly knocking on doors of people their database said were supporters) their being demoted to third from first place came as a complete surprise on the night. It seems no one, including me, had thought to look up the polling estimates that looked like this:

yousouth

I put a lot of the failure down to the assumptions embedded into their expensive Obama-campaign based software ngpvan where its fundamental error is expressed in its selling pitch at minute 0:38 thus:

Campaign tech 101:
The Key to a Successful Campaign depends on ONE THING:
Your Supporters

No no no no NO!!!

The key to a successful business may depend on one thing: your customers.

But the key to a successful campaign within our could-not-be-more-shitty first past the post electoral system depends on one thing:

That no one else gets more votes than you!

The massive canvassing and leafletting effort may have added a few hundred votes onto the outcome, which would have made a difference had it been close. But afterwards it is important therefore to subtract those votes back off the final tally when estimating next time how far you have to go to win it. Unfortunately, this control variable is usually forgotten from the equation.

If we had a decent proportional representation electoral system, then maybe your own supporters would matter equally, and the national party would run some kind of franchise system around the country where they gave us a target of how many votes we were expected to get given the local circumstances. In the same way that a Mercedes dealer in Kent should have a higher sales target than one in West Wales.

Speaking of which, I then went to the vote count in Liverpool, where it was quite depressing to watch as the Green Party vote dropped by 80% and tens of thousands of votes were piled on to the majorities of our wretched pack of Merseyside Labour MPs who have spent the last two years fighting against Corbyn and all of his popular policies by the Corbyn surge.

As an example, take my own warmongering MP Louise Ellman, who is head of the Transport Select Committee which produced a report as recently as February 2017

Riverside MP Louise Ellman has said the Government’s management of the railways is “not fit for purpose.”

The chairman of the transport select committee said passengers and the general public are running out of patience with rail companies thanks to poor performances, rising fares, overcrowding and late-running services – and has now called for an independent review.

Her committee reported: “The current model fails to deliver for passengers, to drive industry efficiencies, promote competition, reduce the taxpayer subsidy or transfer financial risk to the private sector.”

Yet when pressed by the news presenter on the radio at the time, she flat out refused to consider renationalization as an option whatsoever, even though this is now on the Corbyn Labour Party Manifesto and most members of the public approves of it.

These New Labour ideological capitalist clowns had 13 years to fully renationalize the railways when they were in government. After a series of huge train crashes caused by cost cutting and maladministration of the engineering and then a total bankruptcy, they took ownership of the tracks — only because they couldn’t find any other company whom they could bribe to own it. On the other hand, the railway franchises keep being bunged back into the private sector over and over again at great expense, when they could easily be rolled back into the public sector and managed efficiently as the contracts lapse. But allowing this as an option proves that it could have been done 10 years ago, and that they are complete dimwits — which they totally are. Rather than get with the program, they far prefer to waste our time, spend our money and lose elections that admit that it’s possible for this policy to change.

Meanwhile in the Microshaft Word Department

I came up with a nifty idea to scrape the comments tagged into a Word document and output them formatted in an excel spreadsheet.

While looking around for the tech to do this (OMG Powershell is shite) I discovered this gem:

3 effective methods to extract comments from a word document

Each of the three methods takes about 12 steps and generally you wind up with the content in some XPS file in a format you don’t want where you have to do as much cut-and-pasting as if you did it to each of the comments individually.

The article ends with this fine summary:

File Loss Happens All the Time
To sum up, in this article, we discussed 3 methods to extract comments. Yet two of them involves saving file in other formats. This operation definitely increases the risk of damaging files. So when it happens, you need to recover Word doc with a specialized tool.

You can’t believe how anyone puts up with this. Mind-boggling. It’s like watching treatment for blood loss with leeches.

Then I went to Tailbridge on Saturday when it was too sunny and flew around for 3 hours along a short 500m of ridge not getting more than 150m off the deck until I got sick.

pic2

pic3

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 at 3:28 pm - - Flightlogger

I don’t know why I refrained from looking into hacking the XCSoar flight software that I have on the phone that’s bolted to the stick to which I’ve hot-glued my temperature and orientation sensor technology.

It is now the ugliest piece of electronic junk in flight today.

sensorset

But the fact that the Air-Where project seemed to have done something amazing in the last year with Lora networks and an ESP8266 to display all your flying buddies onto the same flight map as the airspace without my noticing indicated that I had some catching up to do.

Even working full time on this I can’t remotely keep up with the tech.

Here’s some of the stuff I learned in the last couple of days.

It’s hard to believe, but there’s enough vol libre hacker capacity in Europe to squander it on two completely independent open source flight computer projects, XCSoar and LK8000 which got forked acrimoniously from one another back in 2009.

And merrily they have been implementing the same things as each other over and again (see below).

I’ve downloaded and built both systems from source, following the Make instructions. (I’m terrible at OS stuff like Make; the code is in C++ and if I do anything it’ll have to be blind and without a debugger.)

The XCSoar code seems marginally more hackable at the moment, but I should check I can deploy the Android version. (Getting all this C++ stuff to run on a Java phone environment with a bunch of different sensors is an amazing achievement.) Most people go with Kobos, but I can’t cope with the lack of colour and it looks like it’s got even more difficult Operating System problems I don’t have time to learn about.

The architecture of XCSoar is given as follows:

xcsoardataflow

The key therefore is the NMEA data stream, which the XCSoar program can point to as one of its inputs.

So, in the case of Air-Where, they’ve used an ESP8266 to connect to a Kobo or Notepad computer as a standard wifi hotspot (like I’ve been doing with my other ESP8266 projects) and somehow obtaining a stream of data composed of NMEA statements through a port called /dev/ttymxc0.

The most common source of NMEA is the GPS unit, like so:

$GPRMC,164742.682,A,5324.1915,N,00257.8000,W,10.96,098.82,190115,,,A*4e

I did not know this was part of an extended language, but it turns out there’s an air collision avoidance FLARM protocol in NMEA form as well.

According to the manual:

$PFLAA,0,-1234,1234,220,2,DD8F12,180,-4.5,30,-1.4,1*

is read as:

There is a glider in the south-east direction, 1.7km away (1.2km south, 1.2km east), 220m higher flying on south track with a ground speed of 30m/s in a slight left turn with 4.5°/s turning rate, sinking with 1.4m/s. Its ID is a static FLARM-ID “DD8F12″. There is no danger.

The final number before the * is <AcftType> and it is chosen from the following real list:

0=unknown; 1=glider/motor-glider; 2=tow/tug plane; 3=helicopter/rotorcraft; 4=parachute; 5=drop plane for parachutes; 6=hang-glider (hard); 7=para-glider (soft); 8=powered aircraft; 9=jet aircraft; 10=flying saucer (UFO); 11=balloon; 12=airship; 13=unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); 15=static object

Well, it’s good to know that if you want a softer bump you should go for the paraglider rather than the crunchier hang-glider.

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Monday, June 5th, 2017 at 11:52 am - - Hang-glide

Some friendly competition in Derbyshire between hangies and paragliders on Saturday meant I got to witness the scale, organization and infrastructure of the paragliders — which included following me on xcrt.aero and being at the nearest road before I’d even had time to pick myself off the ground.

Then I was in the car for an hour as they drove madly up and down the M1 taking wrong turnings in an effort to collect three other paragliders strewn in the area.

Motto: write the logbook on the day and edit the video as quick as possible without wasting too much time.

My flight datalogger failed to record anything, so I can’t see if my thermal detector collected any signals.

Not that I had any spare brain capacity. For two hours I was continually trying to visualize and feel the structure of the air convection wafts while making constant adjustments to my circling.

I’m also learning how to stay in very weak air where you are gradually losing height — but at a slower rate than if you were on a desperate glide to nowhere — which moves you forward in time for something else to develop. It’s like skipping a turn in a card game.

Here’s a screen-grab of the livetrack24 view of my flight, which receives updates from an app running on your mobile phone.

livetrack

This is not to be confused with the latest AirWhere technology thing, also done by the paragliders recently which create an ad-hoc Lorawan network among themselves that displays their distance and climb rates of your neighbours on the network.

A small amount of additional calculation and they’ll be able to circle the ones who are in thermals you should fly to and join. This helps people haven’t learnt how to judge distances, times and glide angles.

I just cannot keep up with the tech.

Here’s some plots that I did salvage the data.

flightterrain

flightterrainside

Friday, June 2nd, 2017 at 3:32 pm - - Hang-glide

This is the follow-on of my Loser Plateau article of last year in Skywings magazine.

4 page PDF version

I should find something new to write about next time. Now that I am flying my BWG (Boring White Glider), which is a more advanced U2 I got second hand off Tim who no longer needs it because he’s got a whole hang-glider factory. Helen the bright orange HSMWorks glider is a Sport2, and I’m not ready to let go of her yet.

swp1

swp2

swp3

swp4

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 at 4:06 pm - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

I’ve been flying around my data logger on my hang-glider and doing my own data processing with mixed results for two years now.

During this time I’ve been on the lookout for someone else’s work that I can copy.

Just yesterday I discovered the existence of Dropsondes and then Radiosondes (devices that get lifted by a weather balloon with a radio link; nothing to do with sound-waves).

The fact of their existence has been staring me in the face for years.

raspsoundings

Those little red *S* symbols in the rasp forecast are not weather symbols for sunshine, but in fact the locations of half a dozen atmospheric “sounding” stations.

Until now I’d believed they were something involving a fancy radar beams shining up through the clouds, but it turns out it’s a freaking weather balloon with a humidity, temperature and gps sensors (they don’t bother with the barometer anymore and just use the gps altitude) that radio back data for an hour and a half till the latex balloon bursts at 25,000m and the device falls under a biodegradable parachute with a 95% of never being seen again.

The US government has a complete tour of the procedure, but the MetOffice has some automated stations which assemble and let off a new balloon every 12 hours from a robot building.
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