So, you probably saw the post I put up a day or two ago about having just gotten a Celestron NexStar 6SE telescope. I’ve been having a ball with it so far. My plan last night was to try using my digital camera to take some video of Jupiter and then run it through Registax software to see what came out of it. I followed the instructions posted on this page at Stargazer’s Lounge. I can’t claim to have done anything original here–just followed the cookbook.

My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax
My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax

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I’ve never been crazy about my Meade Starfinder 8″ equatorial Newtonian telescope. The optics seem fine, but the mount is heavy, hard to move, and hard to use. Even with my digital setting circles it’s difficult to get the thing pointed exactly where you want it, and a modest breeze can make it almost unusable. Even getting it set up was a chore. So I didn’t really use it much, and I felt bad about that. So, a week ago I decided to buy myself a new telescope, and this time I chose something much more compact–a Celestron NexStar 6SE SCT.

My new Celestron NexStar 6SE on my living room floor just after unboxing
My new Celestron NexStar 6SE on my living room floor just after unboxing

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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.

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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:

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I love my HTC Incredible Android phone. I’ve had it for several months now and I continue to find new and cool ways to use it. Last fall, for example, I was looking for a way to connect my laptop to the internet while visiting my parents in rural Minnesota (they don’t have wifi in their home). I discovered PdaNet, an Android app that allows you to use your phone to connect your PC to the internet–for free. Of course, this is the same kind of functionality for which Verizon and other carriers want to charge you $20 a month–waaaay more than I’d pay for it, considering I’d only use the functionality once every few months. So PdaNet was a great solution for me.

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It’s no secret that I’m not really a big fan of Apple. I do own a 3rd-gen iPod, and that it’s a pretty impressive little device. But by and large, I find Apple products overpriced, and the trend towards being closed systems (you will buy from the App Store, and only the App Store) is disturbing. That being said, I do run iTunes on my PC–thankfully, Apple chose not to release it only for their Mac systems. I find iTunes to be fairly bloated but otherwise usable. I have, over time, ripped almost all of my CDs into iTunes, so it’s my primary repository of music.

Last fall I finally replaced my crappy LG Venus cell phone with a way cool HTC Incredible phone running Android. As you would expect, it’s capable of playing pretty-much any type of music file, either with the included player or one of many third-party apps you can find. What it lacked was a straightforward way of getting music onto the phone. Verizon included a CD with some PC software and a synchronization application, but it was clunky and horrible, and it completely ignored the fact that my entire music collection (like those of millions of other people) was stored in iTunes. I needed a better solution.

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I just read this op-ed piece in the Jan 2011 QST Magazine (p. 82). Hilarious–and so true! KL7AJ begins with:

I have, at last, identified the one glaring difference between my generation of Amateur Radio experimenters and the current batch of 2 meter obsessed appliance operators.

In our day, it was our job to create emergencies. The new EmComm oriented hams are intent on “fixing” emergencies.

Although I didn’t become a ham until I was in my late thirties, I was an experimenter by the time I was ten. My parents detected the “mad scientist” gene in me at an early age, and foolishly nurtured my tendencies by giving me a chemistry set. Remember, this was back in the 60’s, when chemistry sets hadn’t yet had all the fun extracted from them by product liability lawyers. Mine had an alcohol lamp, glass test tubes, and plastic bottles of a variety of chemicals whose names I couldn’t even pronounce–the potential for both fun and disaster was thrillingly high.

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I confess to a general loathing of antivirus software. For many years I ran Norton Antivirus on all my computers, gritting my teeth and forking over the subscription payment every year while wondering if it was worth it. And, over those years, Norton forced me to upgrade periodically or I wouldn’t continue to receive antivirus signature updates. Every upgrade was more bloated than the last and further degraded the performance of my computer. Norton and McAfee were in such a race for market share that their products were increasingly stuffed with “features” that I neither needed nor wanted. And never during this time did Norton ever report finding or protecting me from a virus. Was all this virus business just a bunch of hooey?

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