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Reflections On 2011

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Wow. 2011. What a year.  Going into it I had some expectations.  I’m not one to have too many expectations as I’m always surprised what a year brings, but 2011 I went into with one — to get back into flying.  And I did.  It took a little more time than I thought.  I think it was about 8 weeks for me to get things lined up and get my third class medical (with restrictions for colorblindness that I didn’t have previously).  Then there were a few more weeks as I went through re-familiarization and a flight review (and getting checked out in plane models I hadn’t flown previously).  I don’t have my exact hour tally here, but I flew close to 50 hours this year and it’s been amazing to be back at it again.  The Cessna 162 I put a lot of that time in even has a glass cockpit.

Technology like that has really changed aviation.  My first experience with using a GPS for flight navigation was last year in a G1000 equipped Cessna 182.  I was amazed.  It was like I was on the Enterprise.  Well, in getting back to flying this year, the two planes I’ve been flying (a Cessna 172S and a Cessna 162) both have GPS.  To top it off (and for when I’m in something else eventually) I got my iPad setup with ForeFlight for geo-referenced electronic sectionals and AFD.  Honestly, I like that setup better than the built-ins on the planes.  I remember cross-countries used to be nerve racking for me as I was sure I’d get off course and mistake landmarks resulting in me getting lost.  No more.  Now it doesn’t take nearly as much concentration and leaves more attention for the flying and scanning for traffic tasks.  One more nice bit of cockpit convenience is my Bose A20 headset.  Past experience had left me weary of noise canceling technology, but enough positive reviews led me to bite the bullet and give them a shot.  I can happily say that they work amazingly well.  Noise fatigue is nothing to mess with and I’d like to keep my hearing, so I consider this a great investment.

One last bit of technology has changed my flying and non-flying life — lasers; specifically LASIK.  I’ve thought about it for years, but finally went for it.  I’m still recovering, so I won’t be flying for at least another couple months, but if everything stabilizes correctly I’ll be able to get around without my glasses.  It sounds innocuous enough, but without my glasses I was totally blind.  If something ever happened to them while flying there would be no possible recovery as I wouldn’t even be able to see the instruments.  Hopefully, I’ll be back in the air this spring.

Being out at the airport I’ve had the chance to see, hear, and feel some beautiful old warbirds and it sparked a desire to get some experience with them.  I decided to make it a goal to fly in as many old aircraft as I can before they’re gone.  I’m not limiting myself to warbirds, but that’s the typical implication.  So, I had some success with this too.  I got 0.7 hours dual in a Boeing Stearman.  That was amazing.  We did basic familiarization maneuvers and a whole series of different stalls (some of which I had never done before).  I’m hoping to get some more time in it.  It gives me the desire to go get my conventional gear and high performance endorsements.  I also got rides in a couple of WWII bombers that came through the area.  First was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”.  That experience really deserves it’s own post.  It was incredible, though.  Then at the end of the year, EAA’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast” came through the area offering rides.  That was another experience deserving of its own post.  Most striking was just how much the technology developed and changed in the relatively short time between the development of the two bombers.  I’m looking forward to what 2012 might bring on this front.

One more cool thing to add to my aviation high points for the year — flying under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Yes, we really did it.  I have the photos and video to prove it.  I didn’t think it would be possible, but during a helicopter tour of San Francisco the pilot offered and we hardily took her up on it.  It was incredible.  Definitely a high point.

We’ve done a bit of other travelling as well.  I attended a conference in San Jose and stayed for the weekend to do some sight-seeing in northern California (I’d never been before).  Shinta flew out too and we even met up with some old friends.  We crammed a lot in, but it was a good trip.  Because we were “close”, we had to go see the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This is another one of our “things” now.  We try to see big aquariums.  The other “things” are Segway tours, helicopter tours, and fancy food.  So, on this particular trip we also went to see the giant trees, famous San Francisco landmarks, and Pebble Beach.  Neat, but short trip.

We drove out to Atlanta for Independence Day weekend (returning before the actual day).  That was a whirlwind.  We went to the famous Georgia Aquarium (which was completely awesome), the World of Coke, and got a tour of CNN Center.  We also worked in a Segway tour which led to a dinner at Ted Turner’s Bison steakhouse (very tasty).  Who knew he owned the most bison in the country.  Neat city and we’ll have to visit some more to explore.

We made a trip out to New York City this year too.  We went up to see the sights and hang out with friends.  I absolutely had to have lost some weight with all the walking we did.  I had some good shoes and my feet hurt daily.  We walked all over Manhattan (at least it felt like it, and I have the GPS tracks to prove it).  We also saw a couple of Broadway shows (Spider-Man and Chinglish), ate some awesome food, and saw the sights.  Amazing city.  It’s incredible just how much there is there.

So 2011 was a great year.  I wonder what 2012 will bring.

iPad 2

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

So we actually stood in line for the iPad 2 launch. Shinta had a doctor’s appointment she couldn’t drive after (some drugs require several hours to wear off). Afterward, I took us to the Apple store instead of home. We managed to be about number 350 in line. The line literally wrapped around the building. Naturally, there wasn’t enough stock for me to get my top pick model, but I’m fine with what I got. I’m not going to do a full review here as there are plenty of reviews out there already. From my week+ of usage, I tend to agree with most of what I’ve read — this is a great tablet for those that don’t have one already. The thinness and lightness really are that good. The extra horsepower is welcome as well. I’m taking it slow in transitioning away from a notebook for couch surfing, but so far so good. I can’t wait to use this in the cockpit too.

iOS 4.3

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

True to form, I updated all our iOS devices to 4.3 (well 4.2 for the AppleTV 2) the day of release now almost 2 weeks ago. The changes are are almost imperceptible so far. Safari does feel a bit faster, but that’s about it. I’m looking forward to app updates that use the newly exposed AirPlay video feature. It’s already cool with the YouTube app, but having it with something like ABC Player would be nice. I haven’t tried using home sharing yet. I did try using IPv6 with Atomic Web Browser and it works now. I don’t know if that’s a 4.3 change or from an app update, though.

iOS 4.2(.1)

Monday, November 29th, 2010

iOS 4.2(.1) has been out for a little while now and so far it’s been good.  We updated all our iOS devices to it and I say, AirPlay is really cool.  Mostly, for our purposes, it’s just bug fixes, but I think we’ll really be using AirPlay.  Also, it’s nice to have some of the organizational features of iOS 4 on the iPad finally (and the Thai keyboard).  I suppose the iPad has IPv6 support now, although I haven’t tested it.

Update:  I tested it and IPv6 works on the iPad, at least via Safari.

FlightAware officially rocks

Monday, October 25th, 2010

In case you’ve never heard of it, FlightAware is a cool website that allows you to track flights.  I’ve been following them since I first heard about them back in 2006 in BSDtalk PodCast #42 (I just realized it was #42 in looking it up again).  FreeBSD, PostgreSQL, and aviation all in one PodCast — I was riveted.  I stopped being an active pilot in 2001, so it wasn’t something I needed, but I’m always curious about traffic around and it’s a neat way to see some of what is coming and going.  Today, FlightAware officially rocked it and made my day.  It started last night.  I was looking at what traffic had been coming and going to the little GA airports around town and noticed an Avantair Piaggio Avanti was enroute to town.  This was almost midnight, so this was just interesting.  I looked a bit closer at the travel history and realized that it probably wouldn’t be leaving too early today (by my standards).  So, when I got up in the morning I checked if there was a filed flight plan — nope.  I then actually signed up with FlightAware so that I could setup alerts and did just that.  I setup an alert for that flight number in case they filed a flight plan, departed, etc.  It wasn’t long and I got an alert.  They’d filed a flight plan for a departure in 15 minutes.  I grabbed the camera, jumped in the car, and headed to the airport.  Timing was great as I was able to see the plane startup, taxi, and take-off.  I can now say I’ve seen a Piaggio Avanti.  I’ve certainly seen pictures, but there’s something special about seeing something for real (not up close in this case, though).  It’s a beautiful plane.  I was surprised that it wasn’t that loud while taxiing.  I certainly heard the distinctive square wave noise as it did a run-up, but I didn’t get to hear it take-off as a Skylane started up some 25 feet from me while the Piaggio Aero was doing it’s run-up.  I got some okay pictures.  This had me jazzed, though.  Later in the day I saw that a Piper Aerostar 600 was scheduled to arrive.  Wind was such that I figured the approach would be visible from the house, so I stood outside for a few minutes before arrival to see if it came by — it did.  Nice.  So, now I’ve seen an Aerostar.  I love Ted Smith designs and the Aerostar has a reputation for being one of his best.  Great day!

Target mobile. Target iOS.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I work in eCommerce.  In the last year I’ve seen a number of presentations touting the push into mobile web.  I don’t doubt it.  I’ve seen some numbers showing significant growth in mobile web utilization in our own customers. My question has been about where and when to focus that energy.  I’m not anymore.  Do it now.  Do it for the iPhone (iOS really).  Keep Android in mind while doing it.

Maybe it’s bad to base my conclusion on anecdotal evidence of basically a single observation, but my gut is shouting loud here.  I was in Singapore on Friday.  It was a 12 hour layover, so we (the wife and I) took the free Singapore tour and then decided to see the sights some more.  We wound up wandering pretty far from the airport (Changi).  For the return we decided to try the subway.  At one point, while the train was pretty crowded, something dawned on me — everyone had an iPhone.  I mean everyone.  Even me.  More surprising — they were mostly iPhone 4′s.  Some were playing games, some surfing the web, some on calls, some listening to music, some were texting, and some just pulled them out to check the time.  This is on a subway at almost 23:00 packed with people (on a Friday night).  There was that much disposable income standing around.  I had noticed several people with iPhones and iPads in the various airports we had been in and out of, but that’s sort of expected.  Here we were on a subway with normal folks going about their lives, not just transiting the international terminals.  We passed through a good 15 stops including a transfer station and crossed a good portion of the city.  Very few people went all the way to the airport like we were, so it wasn’t just travellers happening to be on the train with us.  Lots of folks would flow in and out of the train at the stops and it was the same the whole time — tons of iPhones, and a significantly large portion being iPhone 4′s.

So, target mobile. Target iOS.  Keep Android in mind (I say that because I’ve met a number of folks that refuse to get iPhones and only see Android devices as their alternative).

A month with the iPhone 4

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

I’ve now been living with an iPhone 4 for a month.  I’m sure few would be surprised for me to call it a great smartphone.  As I said in my previous post, the screen is the outstanding feature.  I am truly amazed at this “Retina display”.  I actually carry 2 iPhones (work-issued and personal).  My work phone is an iPhone 3GS.  So, I’m reading each on a daily basis.  When they were both 3GS I was a happy camper (except for having to carry 2 phones).  Now, every time I check e-mail on the 3GS I’m reminded how poor the screen is in comparison to the 4.  The difference is striking.  I’m a gadget freak, so I would have picked up this new version anyway, but the screen itself is totally worth the upgrade.  In fact, it almost makes me disappointed in the the iPad 3G, which is nearly as new.  I know — totally different beast.

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8 years later … I logged another 2.6 hours

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Well, it’s been 8 years, but I finally logged another 2.6 hours of time flying. On Saturday I got to do a little cross-country flight to Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, AR. A few weeks back, I got an e-mail newsletter from CubCrafters listing that their network of dealers will be hosting “Demo Days” throughout the month of June. These are demo sessions across the country promoting LSA and CubCrafters’ Carbon Cub SS. I’ve not seen many LSA, and the Carbon Cub SS is a development I’ve followed, so I took a list of Demo Days events and looked where the closest one might be — it was in Lakeview, AR. That was just close enough to entice me, but still too far. It’s a 4.5 hour drive and at this point I’d have to do the visit in a day trip. That’s just not happening, so I decided to look into air-taxi as I’d seen one advertised before by Downtown Aviation. It wasn’t going to be cheap, so I actively recruited other aviation buffs to join me and help defray costs. I only had one taker, but every bit helps. Downtown Aviation was willing to structure the flight as a training flight to help save us some money. I really appreciate that. So, come Saturday, we loaded up in a Cessna 182 and made a cross-country training flight out to Lakeview and it was a blast.

Gaston's White River Resort

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First post with the iPhone 4

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I waited in line to get the iPhone 4 today and came away successful. I don’t yet know if this is a great new phone, but it has an amazing screen. I am blown away by the clarity. It’s like going from an SDTV to an HDTV. Text looks like it’s back-lit print — just amazing.

The purchasing experience was great too. Note that today is the second day of their availability. My working theory was that there would be some reservations that weren’t picked up on day one and those go in the available-to-walk-ins pool. I was sure others would be thinking the same way. I’m not totally nuts, though, so I got in line at 7am (for a scheduled 8am early opening). I was about number 20 in line. I talked to the folks around me and it seems everyone had been there the day before. It sounds like that had been a real zoo. It took about 30 minutes for me to get inside once the doors opened. I spent another 30 minutes getting and activating the 2 I was after. Not too bad. Now what do I do with 2 iPhone 3GS?

Red Bull Air Race OTA on Fox in HD

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I watched my first Red Bull Air Race in HD yesterday, and it was over the air (OTA) for free on Fox! It’s one of the few things I missed from having cable, but even there I didn’t get it in HD. I’d discovered that the World Cup was on ABC and was pulling it up on the big screen for Grandpa and I flipped past the air race. Whoa. I quickly pressed the record button. After the World Cup game was over (it was Brazil vs the Ivory Coast), I went back to the recording. Very cool. I hope there are more. It was truly awesome.