Friday, July 31, 2009

An iPhone App I'd Like To See

Since I've been using with my iPhone for a while now, I've come up with an app I'd like to play with: all six primary flight instruments, aka the "six pack."

I've been looking at other apps and thinking how this would work.

1. Airspeed. Easy enough. There are speedometer apps that use the info from the GPS. Wouldn't be true airspeed without a pitot tube, but close enough for make believe.

2. Attitude Indicator. Get the info from the iPhone's accelerometers. I found a couple of not very nice-looking apps that do this already.

3. Altimeter. Found a couple of good-looking apps that do this. Uses the info from the GPS, so subject to the inaccuracies there.

4. Turn Coordinator. This might be a little harder, but should be doable. The ball is just a level, easy enough. I think you could do the turn needle using the iPhone compass and measuring the rate of change.

5. Directional Gyro. Uses the compass built in to the 3GS phone.

6. Vertical Speed Indicator. Measure the rate of change on the altimeter.

As far as the interface, I'd start with a screen showing all six indicators in the standard layout. Tapping on one would blow it up to full screen. Tapping again would return to the wide view.

Easy enough, no? I'd pay $4.99 to $9.99 for a really nice, realistic-looking, app.

Version II

Same info as the six-pack, but combined EFIS-style Primary Flight Display.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Endeavour + ISS

Caught the Space Shuttle Endeavour followed by the International Space Station through the Big Dipper, Ursa Major.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thoughts on New PCs

On one of the message boards I read, a poster was talking about the new Windows PC she just purchased. There were several replies about "be sure to install a firewall," "make sure you update the anti-virus software," and suggestions for a malware scanner and removal tool.

The poster's reply was "Thanks! It's at the shop right now, having my old files transferred to it!"

All this got me to thinking, "Does this sound normal to most PC users? That buying a new machine involves an immediate need to install a bunch of 3rd party tools before connecting to the internet, and that transferring data requires a professional?"

You see, I was thinking about my last new Mac. I took it out of the box. I turned it on. I connected a Firewire cable between the old Mac and the new one and Migration Assistant moved all of my info over. And that was it.

So, do those of you using PCs really think that her experience was normal? 'Cause to me, it sounds like a big pain in the rear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary Apollo 11

Here's a re-run from a couple of years back:

And don't miss Jamie and Adam on CNN.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Anyone Wanna Buy Me A Gift?

Just $2,350 at Amazon!

Actually, my Seiko looks a lot like this watch and probably keeps better time. But nobody wore my Seiko on the Moon.

Dear Internet

Dear Internet:

1 not firmly or tightly fixed in place
2 (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely
3 relaxed; physically slack

verb [ trans. ]
set free; release

Please note: none of these mean you can't find something, or your team didn't win. "Loose" and "lose" are two different words.

Your pal,


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Naive Thoughts on Health Care Reform

I'm no expert, but I think:

Health insurance needs to separate from employment. "A public plan takes away our right to choose our coverage." Bull. If you're like me, you don't have any choice about your coverage now--you get the plan selected by your employer. Your job doesn't provide your auto insurance or your homeowners/renter's coverage, why should health coverage be any different? Employers benefit not only from not having to provide coverage, but from eliminating the people needed to administer and shop for their programs. Less money needed for benefits means more money for salaries.

A public plan doesn't eliminate private coverage. Take Medicare for example; you still need supplemental coverage for what Medicare does and doesn't pay.

How about this? Use Medicare as a model, and cover all citizens with a limited, basic plan. Allow individuals to purchase their own supplemental health coverage, just as they now do for anything else they insure. Competition results in improved plans

Can't afford the supplemental insurance? You can still see a doctor without going to the ER (probably the most expensive way to see a doctor now). The doc still gets something from your basic plan. And if you set up a method for doctors having medical school loans reduced in exchange for treating those patients, I bet you'd not have much trouble recruiting young docs.

Surely there are problems with this. So what am I not taking into account?

Back From New Mexico

Trip highlights: Having relatives in Cloudcroft to visit. Much praise for a fine Saturday night astronomy presentation, despite cloudy skies. Visiting the New Mexico Space History Museum and the model train museum in Alamogordo. Playing in the dunes at White Sands. Visiting the Sunspot Solar Observatory and getting a private tour of the Sloan and 3.5 meter telescopes at Apache Point Observatory. Cool days and cooler nights.