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HOWTO: ISS Viewing
outdoors : by Tommy - October 5th 2011, 09:08PM
outdoors
The fact that there's a space station orbiting above the globe right now has become somewhat passe in pop culture. Not many people are truly wowed at the news of it. Within seconds, a few clicks of a mouse will take you to hundreds of pictures and videos of the International Space Station; but did you know you can see the space station yourself? No binoculars or telescopes needed! I figured I would write up a HOWTO for the uninitiated. It isn't hard, it just takes a little know how.

For starters, you need to know a few terms used when talking about satellites (the ISS is a satellite of the planet Earth).

Azimuth
The first term when dealing with satellites is azimuth. Azimuth is a technical term that means the same thing as heading, bearing or direction. Most people are comfortable with the cardinal directions North, South, East and West. The cardinal directions are fine for general directions, but to know exactly where something is we need to be more specific. When dealing with an azimuth, a number of degrees is stated. 0 is North, 90 is East, 180 is South, 270 is West, and on around to North again. Kinda get the picture? It's a full circle divided into 360 degrees. (Also note, there's technically no such thing as 360 when dealing with Azimuth, because 360 would be the same as North, but that's already 0.)

Altitude
It's not entirely what you think. Sure altitude means height, but we're not talking in feet or meters here. Remember, we're dealing with observational angles here, so knowing how high something is is of little consequence to us. Altitude in astronomy means "angle above the horizon". Altitude is expressed in degrees, just like azimuth. 0 is at the horizon, 90 is straight up. 45, you guessed it, is right in the middle.

Continue reading...

tags: iss space astronomy satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
Texas Historical Markers
programming : by Tommy - September 1st 2011, 10:51AM
programming
While arguably probably not my best work, it only took me all of a couple hours, I present a listing of all the Texas Historical Markers. I don't know why I never linked to it before. Maybe I'm not too proud of it, but I wanted to give you access to it. What features do I need to add?

I discovered one evening that Texas has a database of all historical markers in the state freely available online in a comma separated value file (among other formats). What's a geek to do but grab the file and throw it in a MySQL database!
I whipped up a quick drop-down list of all the marker names and used AJAX to show the marker's text. A couple of simple URLs allow you to see, generally, where the marker is located. I have the location information in the database, but it's not Lat/Long which would make for easy map-making. Perhaps that will be my next step. Found a supporting .txt file that has most of the Lat/Long. A simple JOIN from the database fixed that problem. (though, to be honest, some of the coordinates are way off. Unless Texas has markers in Mexico.)

At any rate, take it or leave it, there it is: http://n5dux.com/histmark/

tags: texas history php database

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
WAS Complete!
radio : by Tommy - April 22nd 2011, 10:01PM
radio
After working diligently last Fall, then doing absolutely nothing with HF for most of the winter, I finally got back on the air this evening and finished contacting the last of all 50 states. Tonight I was able to contact Wayne, KB1TMA, for #50, Rhode Island.

I can now say I have talked to someone in all 50 states and will soon have a postcard from each of those contacts to prove I've done it.
Contacting all 50 states has been something I've tried to do for years, but never having a permanent setup made the task near impossible. I was close when I was living in Nacogdoches, but my count started back at zero when I moved to Longview.

Joining and checking into the OMISS net really helped me knock out a lot of states early on, and I probably could have done the entire job in under a couple months if I had really, really tried, but I took a leisurely pace and just happened to check into the net tonight with that last hard-to-get state. So thanks for the help OMISS members.
Next up? Probably the Worked All Continents award. (I only need Antarctica and Asia.) Worked all Canada may not be out of the question, but I doubt I ever get so detailed as to try for the Worked All Counties award.

tags: was ham radio arrl

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
Programming Challenge 2
programming : by Tommy - February 23rd 2011, 10:16PM
programming
Ok programmers and code monkeys, it's time for Programming Challenge 2. Nothing overly complicated this time. I was just messing around and thought you'd like this quick little brain teaser.
It's a "just for fun" challenge. Choose your favorite language for this one. Here it goes:

Part A: Display/print a vertical sin wave using * characters.
Part B: Display same sin wave horizontally using * characters.

Part A should get you going in the right direction (esp. if you've never played with the sin functions in your language), but Part B is a bit more tricky. No graphics libraries, cheater.

Post source in comments (must be logged in to comment).

Winner to receive 1 small shot of self satisfaction of completing trivial problem through useless challenge on obscure blog.

tags: programming sin_wave

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

 
HOWTO: Working FM Ham Satellites
radio : by Tommy - January 22nd 2011, 03:37PM
radio
A local ham recently asked me the best way to talk on ham radio satellites using what he already has on hand. It doesn't take much, although some more specialized equipment does make it much easier, but the point is - you don't need much beyond what you may already own if you have a basic VHF/UHF station. The following is my email to him:

Which birds to target and how to track them
"The best satellites to start with are AO-27, AO-Echo and SaudiSat-1C. (Satellites go by different names depending on where you're getting your info.)

I usually direct people to Heavens-Above to get the latest pass information. The exact time and angle of each pass varies from day to day, so you either need tracking software or a website to tell you when the next pass is over your location. With Heavens Above, you need to enter your longitude and latitude, so it can figure out the information for you.

I've put in the longitude and latitude in for my QTH here in Longview on this link:
http://www.heavens-above.com/main.aspx?Lat=32.5560&Lng=-94.7474&Alt=365&Loc=N5DUX&TZ=CST
(change the location by editing the link or click on the link under Configuration at the top of the page)

When you go to the website, you'll be shown a lot of different links. For our purposes, we're interested in "Radio Amateur Satellites". Click on that link.

Now you'll be presented a table of all the various satellites that Heavens Above is tracking. I usually find the satellites I'm interested in working, then look over at the "maximum elevation" - this is how high in the sky the "bird" will get. Generally the higher the pass, the better chance of hitting the satellite you'll have. If all you're using is a vertical, 45-degree passes will give you a good shot. But anything greater than 30-degrees should be doable.

Continue reading...

tags: satellite ham radio intro howto

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

 
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