9 Apr

Cherokee 140 Cruiser SOLD!


I’ve decided to upgrade. I’ve found a very pretty Grumman Tiger that cruises at just over 150 MPH, so it is time to sell the Cherokee. I’ve put together a page that covers all the details. I’ve loved learning to fly with N3480Q and highly recommend it to anyone as the perfect first airplane. A few of the best features:

  • New custom leather interior – gives it that “new plane” smell – $5000 value
  • New Electronics International CGR-30P engine monitor – $5000 value
  • New Reiff engine pre-heater – $1000 value

As you can see, I’ve put over $10K into this airplane in the last year. The engine is high time, so I’m only asking $25,900 for it. If you’re in the market for an excellent starter-plane, give me a shout.

Update: The Tin Dog has gone to a new home! It now lives at KCAC at Johnson County Executive Airport. I wish it and its new owner all the best!

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11 Jan

Flying With ForeFlight 6.6

A couple of weeks back I posted about the pending release of ForeFlight 6.6 with synthetic vision – a feature that adds a virtual reality view of the terrain ahead. As promised, the new app arrived a couple of days after Christmas. I immediately paid the $25 annual fee for the SV subscription and downloaded a 266 MB file containing the terrain data. Unfortunately, it’s been horribly cold and cloudy here, so yesterday (1/10/15) was my first opportunity to fly since the release.

I took The Tin Dog (our nickname for the Cherokee 140) and flew up to nearby Cameron Memorial Airport (KEZZ), back down over Smithville Lake and back down to Roosterville International Airport (0N0). My yoke mount broke so (as you can see in the picture below) I wound up clamping the iPad to the glare shield. It makes for a funny juxtaposition between 1970s and 2010s technology.


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8 Jan

Article In Flying Magazine

Just over a year ago I had the controls on the Cherokee freeze up on takeoff. I (obviously) lived to tell the tale, and Danny Windham – my boss at Digium and a fellow pilot – suggested I submit my story to the I Learned About Flying From That column at Flying magazine. The article appeared in the December 2014 issue as “Locked Controls” and is now available on the Flying website here.

While the experience that I wrote up was terrifying, the process of turning it into an object lesson for other pilots was lots of fun. Flying works with a professional aviation artist, Barry Ross, to create custom art for each I Learned About Flying From That article. I sent him some pictures of the Cherokee along with a re-creation of the “ahah” moment, and he did a fantastic job of turning that into a work of art. (I will have to note my daughter’s objection here – she was the stand-in for the mechanic in the pictures we shot, and was quite incensed that her image was replaced by that of a male mechanic. Sorry, kiddo.)

For anyone who dreams of a future as an aviation writer, don’t quit your day job. I purchased the original drawing from Barry for roughly twice what I was …

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7 Jan

Product Design Shaming: Delta Airlines

I have to fly to Huntsville a bit later this month. Due to the uncertainty of the weather and the time-critical nature of the trip, I’m going to have to fly commercial. So this morning I went and found an itinerary that I thought would work and sent it off to a colleague for confirmation. About an hour later he got back to me and told me that it worked.

When I went to buy it, Delta’s site threw an error indicating that my session had timed out. I figured it would do that. What annoys the hell out of me is that they didn’t save any of my selections:

Start over? WTF? I now have to go and re-enter all the basic information.  Even if they killed the session, they could have cached the data necessary to re-create my previous search in the hidden fields or in a cookie. That’s just bad design. Shame upon whatever code weasel at Delta failed to consider the value of their customer’s time and effort.…

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29 Dec

First 3D Printed Enclosure

My wife is awesome. I have to say that up front. In fact, I can’t say it enough. She rocks. She’s the coolest person on earth. Why? Lots of reasons, but most recently because she got me a 3D printer for Christmas. I’d been wanting to try my hand at 3D prototyping for some time, and I was looking at options for creating enclosures for the avionics parts I’ve designed so the timing was perfect.


The printer is a Da Vinci 2.0 Duo from XYZPrinting. It has dual extruders (the things that melt and “print” the plastic) so it can do multi-color printing. It’s one of the recent crop of consumer-level models that have made 3D work accessible to those without the money for professional gear or the patience to build their own from a kit. At $799 it’s a pretty expensive toy, but not insanely so.


For the design side of things I’m using a consumer CAD package called ViaCAD 2D/3D from Punch! software. It’s not on the same level as AutoCAD but then it only costs $99 and it certainly supports the features I need. It includes a number of getting-started tutorials, and there are plenty of helpful Youtube videos showing specific techniques. While I’m a long way from mastering it, I’ve been able to put …

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23 Dec

Wifi IMU Boards Are In Already!

A week ago I wrote a post about my first attempt at a PCB – a simple carrier board for the ESP8266 Wifi module and Pololu’s MinIMU-9 attitude sensor. Well, the board showed up last night – only 9 days after ordering them from Dirt Cheap PCBs.  They sent 11 boards and it cost a whopping total of $33 including shipping. I soldered one up and – believe it or not – it worked!

I already see several things that I will want to do differently on the the next batch:

The 5v regulator is unpopulated in this instance, as I’m not using the LCD display. I should have included a jumper to connect +3.3v to the +5v rail, as that’s how power is delivered to the IMU and/or other I2C devices. I had to run a wire between the two here.

I should have included a header that allows me to independently power and connect with the ESP8266. As it stands, updating the firmware will require hooking onto the individual pins on the module.

Out of habit I soldered 90-degree headers to the programming pins on the Arduino Pro Mini facing out. I should have put them on facing inwards (towards the Atmel chip) as I want to enclose this in a very small enclosure. (An enclosure that …

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20 Dec

Adding Respoke to WordPress

My day job is pretty cool – I’m the product owner / manager for Respoke, a new API that makes it easy for developers to add live communications features – voice, video, messaging and peer-to-peer data – into web and (soon) mobile applications. Respoke uses a number of cutting-edge technologies including WebRTC to provide what we call web communications. So far most of the use cases we’ve seen involve business communications: customer service, sales, tech support, distance learning, remote interviews, etc. Those are all very cool, but I want to try something a bit different.

I want to create a WordPress plugin that turns my blog into my personal communications portal. The portal would allow visitors to see my presence (online, offline, busy, etc.) and to start a text conversation that can be upgraded to include voice, video, screen sharing, file transfer – all the collaboration and communication features that usually require separate applications like Skype or GoToMeeting. I think there’s a huge opportunity to revolutionize personal communications, so why not start with a plugin for the most popular blogging platform?

For the MVP (minimum viable product), the plugin will consist of a “Talk To Me” widget and a server module to generate Respoke auth tokens. The widget will show my status and allow visitors to send a message. …

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19 Dec

ForeFlight To Add Synthetic Vision

For the past 18 months I’ve been using ForeFlight Mobile and the Stratus ADS-B / GPS receiver as a navigation and situational awareness tool. Originally built as an “Electronic Flight Bag” or EFB – basically a digital chart system – ForeFlight has evolved into the premier mobile application for flying. Paired with the Stratus, ForeFlight offers flight planning, navigation, in-flight weather updates, and (limited) traffic. Earlier this year they incorporated backup attitude, altitude and (ground) speed features that make use of the Stratus’s AHRS and GPS sensors. Today they announced the imminent arrival of another key feature: synthetic vision.


Synthetic vision is perhaps the ultimate situational awareness tool: it presents a virtual view of the landscape and obstructions ahead. When operating at low altitude in the dark or in poor visibility, SynVis can be a lifesaver. Controlled flight into terrain (or CFIT) is still one of the major causes of GA accidents. Adding a detailed view of what lies ahead can save lives and reduce cockpit stress levels.

The new version (6.6) is scheduled to ship shortly after Christmas and will require a (very reasonable) $25/year subscription. You can read more about the new features at ForeFlight.com.…

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16 Dec

First Attempt At A PCB


For the past few weeks I’ve been playing with different designs for a Wifi-connected inertial measurement unit (IMU) to use with the open source EFIS I’ve been hacking on for the past year. After breadboarding several designs I decided to take the plunge and create a custom printed circuit board (PCB). Breadboards are great for first-stage prototypes, but they’re too fragile for field testing – especially for an IMU.


Most modern PCBs use surface-mount technology which can be a bit of a bear to solder. To avoid that, I went with a very basic design that used through-hole mounting and lots of pre-made modular components. If I was designing something for actual production this would be nuts, but for hand-assembled components it should work out reasonably well.

For the design, I used an online CAD program called 123d.circuits.io. While probably not ideal for complex designs, the tool did a reasonably good job of simplifying the process for a noob like me. It starts by having you create a schematic, then has you assemble the footprints for the selected components into the actual board layout. I ended up having to create a number of new (well, forked) components to represent the various modules.

Once I had the design reasonably complete, I downloaded Gerber files. (Gerbers are the standard …

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15 Dec

MySQL Installation Madness

I’ve probably installed MySQL at least 500 times in the course of my career. Today I hit on a new (to me) chain of issues that had me about ready to throw in the towel and go with Postgres. I was in the process of setting up this blog on a new VPS running Ubuntu 14.04. When I tried to install the database the apt-get command failed, complaining that it was unable to configure mysql-server-5.5.

Ok… So in digging into that, it turns out that the version of ‘logger’  that installs with Ubuntu is apparently prone to errors. It had to be reinstalled using:

apt-get --reinstall install bsdutils

It also turns out that a package called ‘dialog’ is not required (as in, not a formal dependency) but causes the installation to go awry if its not available. So:

apt-get install dialog

But even after those simple fixes, MySQL refused to run for more than a few seconds. After googling for quite a while, I discovered that MySQL’s InnoDB engine and the OpenVZ container system used by VPSDime are — sometimes — incompatible. To get the database to run properly, you have to edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf and add a directive disabling native AIO (whatever the hell that is):

innodb_use_nativr_aio = 0

Once I made that change, MySQL fired up and ran …

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