Black Friday deals.. A bit of a splurge!

Black Friday / Cyber Monday. Lovely little words that mean decent deals on techie things, and an opportunity to get a few bits and pieces that I’ve been meaning to get for a while.

On the astronomy front, I’m ordering a Celestron AVX mount. After a year without a computerised GoTo system, I’ve been missing the ability to just select an object and have the scope slew to wherever that object was. Plus, I’ve got my low-light security camera all ready to do electronically-assisted astronomy, to get a look at all those little smudges of light.. So, I’m getting this mount to attach either of my two smaller scopes to. With the SCB-4000 camera and a portable screen, I’ll be able to get  colour images in a few seconds, and I’ll be able to show those faint objects to other people as well. This mount should have decent tracking capabilities, enough that I should be able to take proper astrophotos again and fill out my portfolio of faint things. I’ll be on the lookout for a nice low f/ratio Newt for the video astronomy, and I’ll go quasar hunting..

I’ve picked up a SkyFi box and a cheap Amazon Fire 7 tablet to run SkySafari on, so that I can click on-screen and get the scope to move to where I’ve requested – wirelessly. I had to find another rom for the Fire tablet, removing all of the Amazon-only cruft from it and allowing the apps I’ve already paid for to run correctly on the tablet. The original OS on it prevents apps from contacting Google license servers, which stopped SkySafari from running. I’m planning on doing a completely wireless setup at some point, with wireless control of the camera and mount, which should make for easier setup and use when I’m out in the backyard. It’ll also mean that I can observe from inside when the scope is outside!

To the behemoth desktop computer I’ve added another 16Gb of ram for a total of 32. I should have no issues with running virtual machines for the thesis display now – not that I had much issue in the first place. Still, for a machine that’s 4 years old, it’s still ahead of the curve and above the average, still in the top 2% of systems according to the Steam hardware survey. I may yet add another 16Gb to restore the quad channel memory access that I had, as I now have 4x4Gb and 2x8Gb, and two free slots. I’m not looking forwards to having to hibernate this!

It was also an opportunity to try out one of the reshipping companies in the States, as there’s a new series of astronomy books being published, that will effectively become a modern Burnham’s Celestial Handbook. Amazon’s listing for the book didn’t ship to Ireland, so I trialled the sending of this to the reship company for further shipping, akin to the Parcel Motel idea. Turns out that the postage is x2 the cost of the book, and I’m not hugely happy with that, but I’ll have the book for cheaper than Amazon UK were selling it delivered.

The Galaxy S6 will be getting a nice waterproof case. I’ll have to look into sourcing a new gorilla glass screen for the phone, now that it will be protected again. Still kicking myself about having ordered the wrong model, and cracking the screen the day that the wrong model arrived! That will be a fun day fixing that, getting the heat gun out and replacing the outer glass screen.

I also managed to pick up a few Christmas present items, that I know will be appreciated.

Back in college officially.

Yes, the time has finally come, where I get my arse in gear and forge ahead with the completion of my Master’s Thesis, and to finally complete this Masters of Engineering course that I’ve been pursuing over the past while.

My letter of re-admittance arrived this morning, I’ve contacted the relevant Department personnel with regards to my supervisions and other relevant internal matters, and all looks good. I’ve been given a deadline to complete the document by in order to graduate this January. It’ll be tight but certainly possible.

A nice side effect will be being properly of student status again, and eligibility for reduced cost gym membership etc – as well as kayaking Intervarsities competition eligibility once again for the next year as a student and the year after as a year’s grace!

Now to knuckle down properly and get this thing done!

C&S Recruitment drive – a long, but fun day..

Yesterday was the annual ULSU Clubs and Societies recruitment drive, hosted in the UL Arena.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing the Skynet cluster infrastructure for this event, resurrecting the physical webserver after the hdds cooked during a previous aircon failure, and getting a few other little bits and pieces sorted. I had a lot of work to do to facilitate Keith O’Neill of Bluechief, as he was updating and upgrading the ULSU website, and Skynet had agreed to provide the hosting and backend management for that site.

The day itself was a long long day, in the college for 9 and immediately lifting and dragging the pod constituents from the new Sprinter in to the Arena. Then back up to the Stables and SU to collect the rest of the part as well as the Compsoc equipment to network some 80 PCs in three basketball courts with zero infrastructure..

Some 3000-4000 people attended the Drive over the 3h30 it was open to the college population. Many new members in all of the attending clubs and socs, and some good showings for the Kayak and Mountain bike clubs. Lots of good chats with people that I hadn’t seen in a while, great to make new acquaintances as well as meeting up with old friends.

I had to help out with the takedown as well, and I got out of the Arena at about half past 9 or so, got treated to pizza (lunch!) from the OPC after that as thanks for my assistance lifting and dragging..

Satisfying day to see so many new people around the Arena, and I’m looking forwards to seeing all of the new people at the club events as well!

Fun in Bikepark Ireland

I was recently out in Bike Park Ireland and had a great day out there. John came along for his first time there, and he brought his ’07 Specialised Enduro and I brought my Santa Cruz V10 dh bike. It was definitely far too early for me to be getting up at that hour of the morning after finishing work at something like 4am, so I was definitely slower than I’d like to be but John was definitely getting up to speed as the day went on.

Definitely a good day. Somewhere about 20 runs in total, mostly on the Red, but a few Black 2 runs to spice it up were taken as well. David was supposed to come along as well but he had farming duties to attend to – pity as he missed a great day’s biking. Here’s a clip of one of our runs on the Red:
My chasing John

At the end of the day I found a little bit of a wobble in the rear of the V10, so I dropped it into Rory at RAW for a bearing replacement and general fixup, and it’s about as good as new now, nice and taut and ready for more abuse!

More toys.. A Wii has been added to my collection

Yes, I’ve sourced a Nintendo Wii!
I was doing a little tidying up of some stuff in the house, and I came across an old external harddrive. Looking at the contents I realised that I had backed up the games that were there when a Wii used to be under the television. I remembered fondly some of the games, and after some checking on I found a decent set of a Wii and accessories and a nice games collection for a decently low price.
So I picked it up yesterday evening, and immediately proceeded to set about softmodding and adding the Homebrew Channel. It is good to be able to execute code on this device that Nintendo have not blessed! Especially since Nintendo stopped providing the Connect24 framework that provided the news and weather channel content, keeping that exclusive to the Wii-U.
The console, though nearly 9 years old, fits nicely beside the amp, and I have it upscaling through the AV amp onto the HD tv. Good picture, and I have been able to play my backups on the new Wii as well.
The next steps are to get MAME working with the 30Gb Google library of arcade roms that I have on my server.. That could lead to some very interesting gaming experiences!

A little bit of solar system astrophotography!

Saturday night after work, I set up the 12″ dob with the camera attached, and I tried recording some video clips of Jupiter and Saturn, and after a bit of processing I got these two spectacular pictures out at the end..

Jupiter, with Io and it’s shadow on the cloud tops:


Saturn, with a clear Cassini’s division :


Quite happy with these pics, and it’ll only get better!

Some bike maintenance work, and a shiny new XC helmet

After my little ground collision at speed in Wicklow before Christmas, I decided I had to retire the helmet that I was wearing on that trip. CRC were doing clearance sales on a few bits, and included was a Cratoni Terrox helmet at 70% off. I wanted a helmet that I could use with my goggles and this looked as though it should work okay with them. Opening the box I saw that the helmet has a carbon fibre frame, a range of foam inserts to velcro on for fine tuning the fit, and there’s a net insert to prevent bugs and crap getting to your head. The fit is pretty good, the ratchet adjustment is perfect for me thankfully. Plus I can fit my goggles around the helmet without too much hassle and they are held by a little notch at the back. A very shiny helmet for sure. Would I have paid full retail? Hell no, but it’s better than what I was going to get at the price I wanted to pay. CE certified as well.

I got a new goggles insert as the shiny one I was using got badly scratched on the floor of the Sprinter heading over to Chatel last summer and my vision was being impaired by the gouges inside and outside directly in my field of vision. I got the double-skinned and vented persimmon visor. Appears to work well enough when I was wearing it around the house and in the back yard today. Tearoffs are on the way to minimise the chance of getting the visor gouged again.

There was also a set of finned SLX metal pads to install on the Reign, and they went in with ease. Got to love Shimano brake systems for that!

I also shortened the rear Zee brake hose on the V10, and both brake hoses on the Reign so there should be a lot less flapping at the front of the cockpit now.

All in all, a good hour or two sorting things out that I wanted to get sorted.
Now to actually go ride the damned thing :D

Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie.

Just because you may take offence is no reason to persecute. The issue is with you and the lack of acceptance, not the entity you take offence at.

That is all.

New telescope!

I saw a Skywatcher 12″ FlexTube Dob for sale on DoneDeal recently, and managed to scrape together the cash to go and get it.

For once the new astro equipment curse did not hold true, and I had a clear night sky to play with. First light was with M35, M1, and M42. M42 is beautiful with 12″ aperture.

Then I decided to go and clean up and start the modding process. I took the mirror out and gave it a good rinse, carefully using fingertips and hydraulic pressure to remove the crap that had built up on the mirror while the scope was in storage, I cleaned and lubed the poles, then I recollimated the scope.

Back out and I left it to thermally stabilise again. Target list includesM81/M82 (M81 is bright! M82 has structure), M65/66, M95/M96, NGC2903, NGC2392, M97/M108, M51 (can definitely see the spiral structure), Sunflower, M94, Cocoon galaxy, NGC 4565 for the first time in a decade or more. Seeing Jupiter through it was a real eye-opener, with finely detailed belts with bays and festoons. A beautiful sight.

This scope is so easy to set up and take down, it’s pretty much a grab’n’go scope for me. I’ll be moving onwards my 6″ and 8″ scopes and a few of the eyepieces that I no longer use to make room for the new scope. I do foresee an equatorial platform in my future though, especially if I’m going to do video astronomy with this scope.