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The Night Sky

I have always been a person of the countryside. I grew up in small Texas towns, usually outside of town in the countryside. Currently, I have the pleasure of living on the eastern edge of the Greens Creek valley here in Erath County, TX. It affords me a wonderful horizon from the South West to the West. Lately, I have taken notice of what a good location I have for star gazing. Several times in the last few weeks I have had exceptionally clear skies and the Milky Way seemed to be exploding across the sky. I have even seen a couple nice shooting stars. Nothing like a beautiful night sky to open up the wonders of creation before you. The majesty of the Creator seems to be made manifest at such times. I have taken an interest in star gazing and am beginning to pursue it now. I guess it was probably inevitable and a lot of factors have contributed to that. First, living in such a good viewing area. Second, having a good friend who is the manager of the planetarium at Tarleton State University and also the tech at the university observatory. He takes students and members of the public out on star watching parties at the observatory. Finally, I have installed a very nice astronomy program on my Ubuntu laptop called Stellarium. While not highly complex, it is an entirely useful and elegant free program. It is a very good guide to the night sky which helps as I am a complete novice at this. I have decided for now to just work on naked-eye astronomy, no external optics. I want to learn the sky as man learned it for eons. I want to see what they saw and notice what they noticed. I want to understand how men have found their way by the stars from time immemorial. I want to learn the sky for the times and the seasons and to look up and see the constellations come into view as the procession of the stars passes overhead. The night sky, such a beautiful thing.

Science Day at TSU

Today was the annual Science Day at TSU (Tarleton State UniversityStephenville, TX). The amateur radio club, Tarleton Area ARC, takes the opportunity to set up our emergency power solar array and operate a ham radio station outside as a demonstration of both solar energy and radio technology. This same day is the day that new students and parents tour the campus, so we have lots of foot traffic passing by us. It is a good opportunity to educate the public about the solar energy and stir up some interest in amateur radio. We had quite a few people stop by to visit and it was a very successful event I felt. We operated from my Elecraft K2 QRP radio to a half-wave dipole for the 20 meter band. Very good contacts were made to Indiana and Iowa via SSB and PSK31. The only difficulty for the day was with a laptop running Ubuntu 10.10, which I have blogged about here. Many thanks to Larry Barr, K5WLF, for providing the solar energy setup and being my operating partner on the air.

bye bye Ubuntu 10.10

It is with a sad heart that I have backed up my files off of my laptop running Ubuntu 10.10, aka Maverick Meerkat, and reloaded from scratch with the previous version, 10.04, or 10.04.1 specifically. I have typically liked to keep up with the latest, greatest version of Ubuntu with the 6 month releases. In that vain, I upgraded my 10.04 system to 10.10 when it was released. I was not cetain there were any new features that I really needed, and 10.04 was working flawlessly for me, but I just went ahead and dove in headfirst and upgraded. That was a mistake. I immediately noticed some glitches in the screen savers and then discovered that there had been radical changes in the Bluetooth management. I often use Bluetooth to tether my 3G phone and surf the web. Under 10.04, the default Bluetooth manager would not handle this type of arrangement in a convenient way. So, all one had to do is install the Gnome default Bluetooth manager, blueman. It paired with the phone effortlessly this way and then the network manager was used to create a DUN dialup connection for the particular cellular provider. It worked perfectly. Ubuntu 10.10 broke blueman. The default network manager was redesigned to basically combine the functionality of blueman and also streamline the creation of the DUN connection for Mobile Broadband. Looked nice, but unfortunately did not work well at all. It absolutely refused to easily pair to the phone without repeated pairing attempts and then when I finally got it to pair and created the Mobile Broadband connection and get on the web, it would not seem to hold its settings requiring a complete recreation of the connection settings every time I wanted to use it. I needed this to work for me out in the field today and it failed me, causing me much lost time and effort. This upgrade was a REGRESSION! Yes, the dreaded “R” word. I should have know that this release was not going to be a good thing when both I and a friend experienced strange behavior post upgrade to 10.10 on very different systems. Then within days, Ubuntu was pushing down over 400 megabytes of sudden critical updates. Seemed strange at the time, but now I know why – 10.10 was broken, still is in some ways as I have described. I learned a serious lesson this time. Never upgrade and good, stable LTS edition of Ubuntu for the latest greatest 6 month release without thoroughly testing the new release on a separate system. So, I post this blog from a nice freshly installed 10.04.1 build of Ubuntu. Goodbye Maverick Meerkat, it was not nice getting to know you. May you be eaten by a Jackal.

Voting Day Thoughts

It is finally here, the 2010 midterm elections.  That a midterm election has become such a big deal is significant in its own right.  However, the reason for that is even more significant.  Frankly, the people are not happy – not in the least.  The people have seen their country hijacked by Barack Hussein Obama and his Socialist cohorts in the Congress and do not like it one bit.   The people have reawakened with a desire to return to constitutional governance after decades of freewheeling growth in the federal government.  The people want their country back and they want the country, the Republic, that the Founding Fathers intended.   From this passion has arose the TEA Party movement, and it is sweeping the country.   What began primarily as a tax revolt, has turned into a greater political movement to return to the principles of our country’s founding and the Constitution.   It is about time!  If you have not gone out to vote yet, please do so.   Exercise your right to vote and vote for the most conservative candidate you can.