I’ve just updated my Digital Setting Circles ASCOM driver, adding a few additional alignment stars in southern constellations at the request of a southern hemisphere user. I added stars in the constellations Carina, Crux, and Grus. Go to my ASCOM driver page and download the new version (1.0.8.0) there.

And an additional note to you southern hemisphere users: if you’re looking for the star Achernar, it’s actually with the constellation Phoenix in my alignment star constellations. Sorry for the confusion.

If you’re an ARRL member, you probably know that their flagship publication, QST, is now available in a digital edition. It’s good to see that the ARRL has followed many other publications down this path. I already receive digital editions of Sky & Telescope and American Rifleman magazines. What these other magazines allow me to do that QST does not, however, is save the digital edition to my computer as a PDF file so I can view it offline. It’s possible to overcome that limitation with a little work, however.

Continue reading

This is a tip that I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while. I consider myself pretty computer-savvy, but I didn’t even know about it until my guitar teacher showed me a few years ago.

Every so often I decide to hunt down a new song to learn to play on my guitar. Yesterday it was “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan–I heard it on the radio and thought to myself that it might be a good one to learn to play. Since I’m a sheet-music kinda guy, I found an arrangement on SheetMusicDirect. I always like to have a recording, too, but it wasn’t in my collection.

Continue reading

I’d been hearing lately about some astronomy software for the iPhone/iPad called SkySafari (made by Southern Stars), but not owning either one of those devices myself, I hadn’t really bothered to look into it at all. That all changed when I came across an ad for SkySafari in Sky and Telescope magazine that showed that an Android version was available. Now I became much more interested to see what the fuss was about, so I dropped $14.99 in the Google Play store for the Plus version so I could try it out on my HTC Incredible phone as well as my rooted Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Mostly, I wanted to see if SkySafari would connect to my digital setting circles box via bluetooth. Initial impressions are very good.

Continue reading

I didn’t find out about last Sunday’s solar eclipse until just a few days prior, and I didn’t have any equipment that I could use to safely view the eclipse. Not wanting to resort to the pinhole projection method for viewing the eclipse, I consulted my 40-year-old copy of Sam Brown’s classic (and extremely informative) book All About Telescopes for some other ideas. The book showed a design that would fit over the front of my 8″ Newtonian telescope, stopping the aperture down to 2″ and using a lens from a welding helmet to knock down the sun’s intensity to a manageable level. All I needed was the welding lens.

Continue reading

Decent paper maps for backpacking can sometimes be challenging to find. My preferred map has always been the USGS 7.5-minute quad, with a scale of 1-24,000 (1 inch equals 2000 feet). Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of ways to access the data. The USGS makes the map images available as PDFs online for free from the USGS Store, for example. National Geographic sells their TOPO! State Series software with maps on DVD for $49.95. Or you can go to a web site like Trails.com or AllTrails.com to access maps online (for $49.95/year–a price that I find a little astonishing). The big disadvantage to using any of these sources is that, for the average guy, it’s difficult to print out the map you want in the format you want.

Continue reading

QRP to the Field is an annual event, held the last weekend in April, when amateur radio operators who have an irresistible case of spring fever pack up their QRP (low-power) ham gear and head for the great outdoors for the purpose of making contacts with other equally-afflicted amateurs. I am, of course, proudly standing in the ranks of those impaired individuals. I usually use QRP to the Field as an excuse to embark on my first backpacking trip of the year.

Continue reading

If you read any of the tech blogs, you know that the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for anyone to try. What holds most people back from trying pre-release versions of Windows is having someplace to install it that won’t trash your existing OS installation. Often times this is done by creating a new partition on a hard disk and installing the preview OS there. Easier, in my mind at least, is to install the new OS in a virtual machine. That’s what I decided to do this morning. I already use virtual machines for other purposes (for example, I have a virtual machine running Windows XP so I can run some older software that’s not compatible with Windows 7). I use VMWare Player, a free product from VMWare.

It took me a few tries to successfully install the Windows 8 preview, so I thought I’d document what worked for me. Here we go:

Continue reading