Raspberry Pi 3 with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth!

The new Raspberry Pi 3 goes on sale today.  I already have a number of R-Pis running stuff around the house, a couple for ADS-B receivers up on the roof, and while the built-in wired connectivity was always reliable and a terrific feature, the new wireless connectivity, especially the integrated IEEE 802.11n, means that I can remote these bad pups even further, maybe using solar or other wireless power sources.

Oh, and Happy Leap Day! Google has a cute cartoon to commemorate this calendar artifact…

Canopus on my cheap webcam!

Here in Phoenix we’re fortunate enough to get a glimpse of Canopus every winter at it rises a few degrees above the southern horizon. Tonight, I pointed the $65 webcam atop the roof at the saddle between Camelback Mtn and Mummy Mtn, and waited for Canopus to ease into place.


There’s some thin haze and wispy clouds tonight but not too much. The neighbor’s porch lights are at the bottom of the image, and the ghostly rise of the palm trees across the street are visible in silhouette. From the camera, the bearing to Canopus is about 189.8° az by 2.8° elevation, a line that crosses over the east end of the runways at Sky Harbor and also over a lot of city lights.

Not bad for a $65 camera.


Wi-Fi Stumbling Setup on Truck

I was blogging about this on another forum, and thought I should add this here as well!

I do white-hat wardriving as a hobby, and there are some nice tools out there for both collecting, cataloging and displaying the data collected.

My mobile setup includes the antennas for dual-band Wi-Fi (the big Cisco stick in the foreground)  and the GPS antenna (active, in the black base of the whip antenna at the far left of the photo):


The Wi-Fi antenna is on a mag-mount as it’s quite stiff and bulky and I’ve had it knocked over a few times by tree branches or parking garage structures, and the mag-mount is kinder to the roof than it would be if the antenna were permanently mounted. The coax running from the Wi-Fi antenna base is the low-loss double-shielded 0.25″ coax, and there’s about 5′ of it to get to the dual-band Wi-Fi dongle in the truck. As well, the GPS receiver is inside the truck and connected by 10-15′ or so of RG178 coax.

The Wi-Fi setup in the truck is shown in the following photo:


This is an Amped Wireless UA230A dual-band Wi-Fi USB dongle, with a reverse SMA connector, to which is connected the coax from the antenna on the roof. This is a really nice USB Wi-Fi dongle and appears to be quite sensitive and stable. The PC is a run-of-the-mill dual-core Atom with 4GB of RAM and an old-school rotating HD. The OS is Windows 7 Pro.

The software that I use to collect APs is Vistumbler, a really terrific tool that’s super-easy to use. Even more importantly, the developers of this software rock, and are always receptive to critique and suggestions.

Getting the APs captured is one thing – the next and just as important is to be able to add them to a database that makes sure there’s no dupes, that organizes the AP data so that it’s searchable and potentially displayable. This is where WiFiDB.com comes in. Again, same guys as the ones who developed Vistumbler, same great support and enthusiasm.

Finally, being able to display the data in a way that’s manageable for the user is critical, and that’s again a feature of WiFiDB. It provides Google Earth .kmz exports of AP files. Here’s a shot of  urban Phoenix with only my collected APs displayed. Obviously, there’s a lot of APs left on the table here, as there’s many miles of residential and commercial streets left unswept.


But wait, there’s more! The guys at Vistumbler/WiFiDB have also come up with some other nice visualization tools. This is a single AP with SSID of CoxWiFiFree in Phoenix around Greenway and SR51. The range of the AP is about 0.5 mi from one end to the other, and the signal strength is approximated by the color and the height of the trace above the ground. I had originated this idea some time ago while working on tracing out coverage for a land-mobile-radio (LMR) network here in town and showed it to the guys, and they thought it was pretty cool and ultimately included it in WiFiDB.


There’s lots of neat stuff out there in the interwebs, and things which can really add to understanding how radio waves propagate and how networks work (or not). I was fortunate to “stumble” across Vistumbler, WiFiDB, and the guys who develop, operate and maintain both.

China reports to be the first to arrive at the fusion “century” club

Chinese scientists have apparently created a sustained plasma temperature of over 50  million C for 102 seconds, making them the first initiates to the fusion century club, home of those nations who have hit 100 seconds.

In other news, the Chinese city of Hefei has lost all power and communications with the city have been silenced.

Ok, the second headline is probably from Faux Nooz. Really, if this is true, you scientists rock!  Gōngxi gōngxi!

Are the Moon landings becoming only a myth?

Astronaut Ed Mitchell’s death is a great loss.  He is a true hero, one of the many who worked so very hard, who risked so much, with such diligence and camaraderie, to get us to the Moon. I wonder what happens as those, who did these amazing things, and lived those times, are “succeeded” by those who are technologically ignorant. What happens when those who prefer to believe that the Moon is painted on a celestial sphere and spun by a mythological entity gain political power and control?

As someone who had a very small part in unmanned space flight, but who got to experience some of the tremendous rushes of success and heartfelt loss, I hope that somehow this country pulls its collective head out of its nether regions and focuses on science and exploration, not bombing others back to stone.