With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

Happy Wossname

2005 December 25 16:22

Am sitting in the parent-in-law's house in the woods on Christmas day. A fire is going in the fireplace. Wife is sitting in front of it reading Sherlock Holmes. Turkey is baking in the oven. Some presents have been opened, the rest are awaiting other parts of the family tomorrow.

I received a newer flight simulator yoke and rudder pedals from CH Products. Very nice, I really like their setup utility. However, the demo game that comes with it is a cobat game, and I'm more interested in general flight simulations. I just finished downloading the demo of a much earlier X-plane which I'm going to try out.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Travel safely, and Happy New Year!

raise your glasses...to civilization

2005 December 13 19:51

Unlike Ohare or Washington Reagan, the Cinncinnati/Northern Kentucky airport has wireless internet. It's provided by cincinnatibell.com, is $5 for one hour or $10 for 24, and it's pretty snappy.

I'm flying back from a meeting in Washington, DC. It's a city I really like to visit (particularly on someone else's dime). The Air and Space Museum is like Mecca for aerophiles/astrophiles like me (are those even words?!?).

It's really a thrill be in the presence of either actual spacecraft that have returned to earth, or flight-rated hardware that never flew. In the east gallery of the museum is a fully flight-rated Lunar Module that would have been the second test mission for that craft. The first LM mission (Apollo 9) was so successful that a second test mission in earth orbit was not necessary. So it was built to be fully functional; real engines and everything.

I saw the Voyager, and once again marveled at how small the thing is. Along with its many records, I wonder how it would stack up for cubic feet per occupant for aircraft designed to fly more than 4 hours (or whatever "official" amount of time the average person can go without using the restroom).

A couple of things I saw this time that I hadn't realized were there before. There's an actual Vanguard satellite that was ready to launch but then the launch vehicle blew up. There's the battery key for Sputnik I. This was the thing that kept the battery from activating before the launch; it was pulled out to engage the battery and the transmitter just before the rocket was launched. The closest you can get to the very first artificial object to go into orbit.

We're going to board soon, so I need to go. Fly safe!

so how DO you write software, anyway?

2005 December 10 09:13

First of all, I'd like to wecome anyone who is here because they crossed via my mirroring of Wil Wheaton's radio free burrito episode 1. I very much hope you find something here that you enjoy.

If you have ever written computer software, then I think that an absolute must-read is The Mythical Man-Month by Fredrick Brooks. Apparently he was a high-level managing engineer at IBM when they were building some of their mainframe systems, and the insights are really quite stunning. I come from a background of writing software from the bottom up; that is, I start writing little components and build the superstructure as I go along. I fairly good at that; going the other way; designing the whole product and then starting to build small pieces I am much less apt to do and much less skilled at. This book is aimed directly at someone like me; who knows how to program but less so knows how to engineer a software system. A collegue at work kept quoting from it, so I checked it out of the campus engineering library. Wow.

I would like to put in a quick plug here for the new smaller PlayStation 2 console. It's almost mini-laptop sized. It has all the same connectors, two memory card slots, two controller slots, same IO port. It also has an infared remote receiver and ethernet gaming port built-in. This version lacks the hard drive bay and the expansion connector of the original PlayStation 2 console, of course.

I found a really great airplane web site written by a guy building a Cozy Mark IV composite aircraft. I think I'd like to build a composite bird one day, once I determine that I can build an airplane at all first. I have taken seminars which go over the layup process, and I think I have a reasonable handle on how that works and what's involved. But from everything I've read, finishing the surface of the composite takes the vast majority of the time of building a composite, and I have found no way of getting training in that process. I have read various kit building books, but they tend to give the finishing process a brief overview.

Rick's page above has a couple of very illuminating sections for me. First, he has a fairly detailed sequential log page of the time he's spent building his aircraft. It's a very illuminating example of the time stretches involved in building something of that magnitude.

Hmm...hold on. There seems to be two web sites embedded in each other. The page on composite finishing was built by someone else at the same domain, Wayne Hicks. Wayne's finishing chapter has a sufficiently detailed explanation (although mostly without photos, unfortunately) that I think I now have a reasonable idea of the steps involved. No photos, as I said, but excellent diagrams that actually show what he's talking about when he describes the sanding patterns and the filling techniques.

Snow has come to the midwest. Everyone travel safely. When I next write, I will probably have been in the presence of the Voyager again.