Freesteel Blog » 2012 » December

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 at 11:59 am - - Cave

The snowboarding was not a great success. The lower slopes were sheet ice (the colour of white bed sheets) and the blue runs were narrow trails no wider than three snowboard lengths, so we blocked them up effectively with our long incompetent side-scraping when we weren’t catching the edges and pulverizing our buttocks on the rock hard surface.

It took most of the morning to persuade Becka to try the chair lift. When she attempted to walk on to the Bijolin lift, the man made her put one foot back on and phoned ahead to the guy at the top to slow the chair down to help her get off. After that successful experience, this was the only lift we could do for the next twelve runs. The top of the run was good and out in the open with powder snow, but the lower half was miserable. There were two lifts that just did the top section. One was a chair of the kind that’s attached to the wire and doesn’t slow down when it comes round, and the other was a drag lift.

Now the trick with the drag lift on a snow board is you have to point the board lengthways as hold the button between your thighs sideways. Becka kept falling off until the mean young lady told her she wasn’t allowed another go and sent her away even though there wasn’t a queue. So we were back on Bijolin the rest of the day until my lift pass broke due to getting folded and we had to scrape all the way back down to town to get it replaced.

The lift pass is an RFID card that you put in your pocket on your left hand side so the gate lets you through whenever you go near. But it doesn’t work if you have anything else in that pocket, like keys, camera, phone, ibuprofin pills in a silver foil blister pack. And it rejects you if you fall off the lift and you go round again too soon.

I imagine they could email you a list of all the lifts and times you took them at the end of the day if they wanted to. There is some computer that has all the data as to the directions people tend to ski, is capable of modelling how the pattern changes when a lift or ski run closes down, knows by process of elimination the lift pass holders you are skiing with, and is able to grade what level of skier you are by the minimum time at which you are able to appear at the bottom of the run in relation to all the other skiers on the day.


Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 at 9:43 pm - - Weekends

This is written during an industrialized snow fun week in La Plange in the south of France where a couple of caver friends are running a chalet for a season (including the guy on the left in this picture) where 10 other cavers have descended to avoid Xmas. At the end of this week half of them (including us) will head off to Bull Pot Farm to see the New Year in with the usual dose of squalor.

It was uncomfortable letting our friends do all the cooking and cleaning and tidying for us, but that lasted about 6 hours until post-skiing knackeredness set in. It’s hard work. How did this activity take off to this incredible extent?

Tomorrow we’re trying out some of this snowboarding nonsense. Expecting massive carnage on the gentlest slopes, having concluded that our crap style of skiing has plateaued out on all the pistes we can find. Must get to bed. Things have improved since I have sworn off “Chalet wine”, which is one step below “House wine”. Gave me a headache for most of the day.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 9:15 am - - Cave

Down Boxhead, through Crest Run bypass (flat out crawl, but with SRT gear in a tacklesack), came back to the start once as made a wrong turning. Finally climb up into Lyle Caverns. Then we surveyed down the pitch into Lost Johns’ streamway and up Lost Inlet towards The Tube and joined with our previous survey. Then the laser DistoX ran out of battery. No you can’t change the batteries as this would require you to recalibrate the electronic compass, so we finished on paper and tape measure.

Then out through the NottsII connection, which is quite twisty, but at least downhill most of the way.

Can’t link to the data on the Cave Registry as it has become password protected.

Monday, December 17th, 2012 at 4:54 pm - - Adaptive, Vero 4 Comments »

Does this look familiar?

This one from EdgeCam got under the radar.

It seems it was released last month, or maybe earlier in the year.

It does not appear to have implemented retract steps yet — a feature we had from the start in our original 2004 Adaptive Clearing development — but the pitch of the initial clearing spiral is variable, which shows it’s on the right track.

At some point we’ll have enough of these “unique” “revolutionary” cutting strategies for an independent agency to really help us out by properly benchmarking them against one another and publishing the results. That way everyone would know where their weaknesses lay and what to focus development on.

As it is now, with all the different software companies building their own implementations of this fluke cutting technique, and falsely marketing them as though nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world, we are experiencing an extraordinary amount of wasted energy.

The waste is in the form of machinists waiting for unnecessarily inefficient and buggy implementations to complete the calculations, because the developers don’t get the crucial feedback they need to make cheap and substantial improvements in the software, and in the form of developers unwittingly working on areas of the code that are have no benefit to the end user.

That’s quite aside to the unbelievable waste by certain companies sinking their finite resources into pointless patents rather than improving their code.

The Adaptive Clearing is on my mind because we have been spending what feels like months working on toolpath reordering and the multicore version of the algorithm.

The reordering algorithm was worked out on the long train back from Copenhagen, and it’s quite simple. I’ll write it up at some point. And the multicore is something that Anthony wants. He’s promised to make one of his nifty videos where he demonstrates the algorithm using a sit-on lawnmower if we ever get it finished. That’s what’s keeping me motivated when I am losing the will to push on after one too many of these queues of queuing threads hangs and everything is completely broken for a couple of days. What a great idea: take an algorithm that’s already too complicated and make it four times more complex. I’m sure it will work out. Maybe.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 7:46 am - - Cave, Kayak Dive 1 Comment »

I am getting lots of programming work done. Honest. Just not having had a chance to write it up yet.

On Saturday 8 December we went on a lovely whitewater trip with Liverpool Canoe Club on the river Dee above Llangollen. We hired the boats from down on the docks and had thought only a few folks were booked to come, but 25 turned up, most of whom had their own boats.


Monday, December 3rd, 2012 at 11:44 am - - Hang-glide 1 Comment »

The misery to flying ratio was reaching danger levels after the fourth night sleeping in the car at sub-zero temperatures on the airfield. It could have been the tail end of a mild cold, but I was getting into a black mood.

Anyhow, pulled out a nice flight in the end, which means I am no longer in the mood for grumbling.

There’s a great landing video on facebook here. (Anyone who knows how to rip it, send me details.)

Update: By the power of Download Flash and Video, here it is:

I had not expected to get this far.

Drove down to Airways airfield on Wednesday 28 November at lunchtime to get my new glider assembled. I was gratified to note that Anthony hadn’t got to the factory in time to rebrand it as Autodesk HSMWorks.

After a sleepless freezing night, did some winch flights on the Falcon training glider on Thursday to get some experience again (since last May) and learn about the harness that feels like a turtle suit.

There’s not much daylight, so flying for beginners stopped at three, which still gave enough time for instructor boy to have two aerotows to a thousand metres. Fortunately the cycle into town and chips cheered me up and set me up for the night.

Moving the trangia into the car to brew tea was the only way to warm up in the morning as the airways club house had run out of heating oil.

Friday was nil wind and foggy for the morning. In the afternoon my glider got its test flight by aerotow. There was so little breeze they didn’t risk it with the winch, but those that could tow marvelled at the amazing view of the fog filling the valleys, while I got rather cross.

I hadn’t intended to stay all the way to the weekend, and had to phone home to get permission. You don’t want me coming home this angry, do you? But there was scheduled to be more wind the next day.

It rained all night and the frost melted. The airfield was a bog in the morning and couldn’t be used.

Some other beginners turned up and a late plan to dash off to a hill site materialized. The instructor decided to send me along as I clearly could fly in spite of the limited scope to demonstrate it. It was first of December.

Here’s me coming in for the top landing, still wearing wellies from earlier in the day.

Interestingly, this was the hill I did my first soaring flight back in 1989 on an Atlas.

Bring on the spring.

In the meantime I’d better get doing some real work to make up for lost time then.