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2010/03/31 Powder Day at Heavenly
π 2010-03-31 00:00 in Snow
Snowforecast.com had predicted up to 26 inches at heavenly and up to 30 inches at kirkwood. Arturo and I decided we had to go check it out, but due to past bad experiences with Carson Spur closing during big storms and making it hard to reach Kirkwood, we went for South Lake Tahoe.
Turns out the storm was late and we could actualy have driven to Kirkwood that evening. Bummer...

The next morning, Heavenly reported 18 inches and kirkwood 20 to 24 inches. We figured 18 inches was good enough and we'd be better off skiing the trees at Heavenly than fighting the crowds that were likely to have gone to Kirkwood.
Well, Heavenly was ok but not great or epic unfortunately. The asshole who reported 18 inches probably also told his wife that he was 18 inches... Maybe they put the dipstick sideways at Mott Canyon.

looked promising
looked promising

yes, we're going to ride this today :)
yes, we're going to ride this today :)


In some places under Sky Express, it felt like 6-10 inches with ice under and in others it was maybe a foot.

On one of my first runs, I rode a very big rock, and it put a pretty deep and wide gash in my board. Riding flat sections after that sucked ass due to drag:


Doesn't look like much, but slowed me down a *lot*
Doesn't look like much, but slowed me down a *lot*

The first 2 runs in Mott were pretty nice but not stellar. It was a good day, but disappointing compared to what it could have done in other places like Kirkwood. Bummer...

Waiting for the gate
Waiting for the gate

Mott got tracked out after one run. IT also didn't look so deep
Mott got tracked out after one run. IT also didn't look so deep

At least the view was nice
At least the view was nice

First run down Mott, gold run style:




Nice little run with Arturo down Aries Woods:


At least Heavenly had the nice views going for itself still:






The day wasn't bad, but it just wasn't anywhere close to epic, which was a bit disappointing. Oh well...

Here are the snow days stats for Our Day At Heavenly.

See more images for Powder Day at Heavenly
2010/03/30 Lawyers Are Weird
π 2010-03-30 00:00 in Public
So, after spending about 5 hours testifying as a witness on what I knew about the empeg about some patent lawsuit, whatever court or neutral party paid me some $46 dollars for my time then.

As for the hours of research that I did separately for the defending lawyers to find them links and old info that helps them, they can't pay me for that because it would make me a biased witness. On one side I understand, on the other side, it sucks. The irony is that by supoena'ing me as a witness, they get my research for free...

But the best part is that the $46 check was addressed to the wrong name (typo), so when I pointed me out, they sent me another one via priority overnight for $46 check. That priority overnight may have cost $30 to $40 or so when regular mail would have been fine.

Oh well...

2010/03/28 Five Spider
π 2010-03-28 00:00 in Cats, Public
This time I got a video Five chasing and eating a spider.

Ok, I had to grab the spider from the ceiling where he wouldn't get to it, but after that he did his job :)

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2010/03/20 Flight and Snowboarding weekend Mammoth
π 2010-03-20 00:00 in Flying, Snow
We had a nice early spring weekend coming up and while I was pissed off for not being at kirkwood enjoying the fresh powder last weekend, I made plans for flying to Mammoth this weekend.
I owed Arturo a flight there since he had never gone, so that was a good time to make good on my promise, and thankfully he was able to come that weekend, so it was a plan.




plane was quite loaded, getting the snowboards in was 'fun' :)
plane was quite loaded, getting the snowboards in was 'fun' :)

Mammoth 1
Mammoth 1

Mammoth 2
Mammoth 2

Mammoth 3
Mammoth 3

Mammoth 4
Mammoth 4

Mammoth 5
Mammoth 5



The conditions at Mammoth were typical spring: a mix of icy, corn, and slush. The second day was actually pretty icy due to some pretty strong winds which kept the temperatures low and prevented much the ice from melting.

Honestly, the conditions weren't great and Mammoth would totally rock on a powder day. It's however unlikely that I could fly there just around a storm without getting stuck there, but I plan to try one day :)

Anyway, Arturo had a great time discovering Mammoth with snow, and as a piece of advise don't play the "name this peak" game with him: you will lose flat out :)

We covered most of the mountain, except some really boring/icy parts (although we did do some other very icy parts too :) ).


All pictures are georeferrenced. You can just click on them to see their location on a map.


we saw the Mammoth skiing later :)
we saw the Mammoth skiing later :)












nice view, but a sucky icy ride down
nice view, but a sucky icy ride down

Cloud 9 Express was shut down but we got on top of it
Cloud 9 Express was shut down but we got on top of it

Here are the snow days stats for Day1 and Day2.

Here are a couple of runs off chair 23:




The flight back was interesting: we had 50mph winds on the peak of Mammoth and wind was due east, which meant potentially sizeable mountain waves over the Sierras and we were on the wrong side of them (mountain waves can smack your plane down much faster than you can fly out of them).
Mountain Waves, how to recognize and deal with them are subjects of entire books, but on that day they were hard to see due to low moisture (no clouds to give clues) and the wind was strong enough that they could potentially cause up and downdrafts of 1000fpm or more (note that in our case we were flying against the wind, which is much harder).

Anyway, I called the FSS folks (flight weather forecast), and watched a few planes crossing the Sierras without being smacked on the ground, so I felt confident enough to go up and try crossing back to go home (with a backup plan of coming back if things looked bad).
We first headed north towards Mono lake for a scenic flight and so that we could come back via Yosemite and lose the "name the peak" game with Arturo :)
I was able to pick up some nice updrafts from the mountain wave while flying up hwy 395 and with 15,000ft of altitude in the bank, it felt reasonable to start crossing. I basically was pitched up flying at 90kts and the downdraft was gentle enough that it allowed us to mostly maintain altitude (it would go up and down 500ft, which was reasonable).

The flight back made for some nice pictures:



the nice crater by mono lake, much nicer as seen from the sky
the nice crater by mono lake, much nicer as seen from the sky





lenticular/rotor cloud visible on the leeward side of Tahoe
lenticular/rotor cloud visible on the leeward side of Tahoe



not quite maintaining altitude with a good pitch up and 45kt headwind
not quite maintaining altitude with a good pitch up and 45kt headwind





Despite the strong headwind over the Sierras and the scenic detour, the flight was 1h45. It was quite nice to be on my couch, stuff unpacked, having dinner and looking at my pictures a mere 3 hours after we left the slopes.

2010/03/17 Chat....
π 2010-03-17 00:00 in Cats
Yes, you're almost a tiger. Except not quite...



See more images for Chat....
2010/03/13 DD-WRT on my WRT600N
π 2010-03-13 00:00 in Linux
My wireless router was acting a bit flaky so I rebooted it and it came back without mounting its USB key. So, I try again and this time it doesn't reboot.
Argh: my main wireless router and internet gateway gone...

Ok, in my case it's not that bad since I have 3 wireless gateways, all of which can do the job (they work in parallel), and 2 internet gateway.

But still, I had to fix it. I figured the flash got corrupted, so I figured I'd flash a more recent build (I was running some ancient 10923 from almost 2 years ago).
Unfortunately, flashing it wouldn't bring the router back, but I was able to see the CFE boot loader for a few seconds at a time and could tftp a new build (after doing the 30-30-30 nvram reset).
A few hours later, I realize that my router isn't coming up at 192.168.1.1, which it's supposed to do after a wipe/flash, but eventually I notice it still comes up as my old wireless network, which is supposed to be impossible afer 4 nvram flashes.

Some time later, I finally realize that it's actually my power supply that is goign bad, which explains why the unit was still booting, even flashing, but failing to do a full boot most times. Strangely enough the flaky power also prevented an nvram wipe/flash.

A new power supply later, I finally get the unit to flash and boot. I install the recommended 13064 from the wrt firmware recommendation page. This is where wrt goes wrong, I know dd-wrt somewhat but their docs and organization just sucks:

  • the build that was recommended on their main page is actually not that good a build according to some forum FAQ which I found much much later. The so called peacock thread is also a good read.
  • there are [regular brainslayer stable uilds, and then special eko builds or eko's builds of BS's snapshots, kernel 2.6 builds, VINT builds, NEWD builds, and NEWD2 builds.
  • Oh, did I mention that if you really pick the wrong one, you can brick your router? Nicely the WRT600N can't be reflashed by serial port via a special JTAG cable you'd hand connect on the motherboard, but it seems that it's better at giving a tftp boot to reflash even if the current firmware won't work (some other routers will just require serial flashing then).
  • after that you have the micro builds, the mini builds, the nokaid builds, the voip builds, the usb builds, the BS mega builds, the eko big builds and the eko mega builds. What does each build exactly do? This the full list is really documented nowhere. The wikipedia dd-wrt page actually has some info since the main dd-wrt page doesn't in obvious places, but even then all mega builds aren't the same: it's per router and per version. *Update*: this page actually has good info on which build has what now.
  • my old mega build was 5.3MB, the new one is 7.6MB or just enough to fit in my 8MB flash
  • Now, the build comes with jffs2 but jffs2 requires around 364KB for its data structures (that's huge BTW), so this is the second time I get a dd-wrt build with jffs2 where I end up with exactly 0KB free on my jffs2 filesystem, making it 100% useless. Really, a jffs2 build that doesn't leave ANY room for any jffs data? On a 8MB router no less?
  • from there I can use the standard build without really knowing what I'm going to lose in the 3.3MB of missing code, or try a special eko build. But which one? Now you start looking in the forums to see which build of the day may actually be not too bad (this can be several hours worth of reading).
  • Now, you still don't know which build really has what, but you just flash the biggest one that will fit and hope for the best.
  • In my case, I thought I needed everything and ended up putting the mega build since I realized that I didn't realy need jffs2 afterall since I had USB and a USB key that I could just mount at /jffs.

    But I wasn't out of the woods, the release I got had issues with wireless code as pointed out later to me on the forum where I was told that I misread one of 4 FAQs that apparently fix some of the incorrect information on the main site.

    Long story short, it was over 10 hours of work.

    DD-WRT rocks for features, but its main documentation sucks and getting the "right build" can really be pain in the butt if not an exercise in futility when you need several things to work all at once (in the upgrade 802.11N over 2.4GHz started sucking for me, I only get 2.6MB/s when I used to get 6MB/s).
    Thankfully the board members are helpful but the poor guys are probably overwhelmed by both people who don't know or understand anything and then the people who do but have problems with getting the wrong build off the web site, or being just plain confused as to which build will actually work for them.

    Now, back to features, the list is nothing short of amazing. As much as it can often suck to find the optimal build and make it work, as much as the featureset dd-wrt gives you is absolutely impressive:

  • full wireless routing of course
  • 802.11N with channel width for 2.4 and 5GHz (when it works at least)
  • support for most wireless routers out there
  • full USB support on my WRT-600N including installing mips debian software from a huge repository on my USB flash key, or USB printing, USB storage of all kinds of course, and even USB serial support (I run minicom in a screen session to monitor my other server)
  • thanks to the above, I replaced the built in DHCP and DNS with full ISC DHCP and DNS so that I can slave my zones and static mappings from my other linux server
  • DDNS, all kinds of revenue generating hotspot setups
  • BGP (!)
  • ssh, sshd, syslogd, telnet, http, https, ftpd, 802.11x
  • jffs2 if you have enough flash, MMC hack soldered on GPIO pins on the board
  • nfs, cifs, plus any kernel module you can find compiled on the net
  • full IPv6, tunnels, ethernet over IP tunnelling.
  • channel bonding, WAN port assignment per port
  • full firewalling, UPnP port forwarding, rate limiting, port knocking, and more
  • nstx (IP over DNS), wake on lan for your other machines
  • etc...
  • Nothing beats dd-wrt there, but you have to earn your dues by finding the right build and getting it installed :)

    2010/03/11 One Year Of Solar Panels
    π 2010-03-11 00:00 in Linuxha, Solar
    Today is the one year anniversary of the Solar Panels Turnup, so I thought I'd gather a few stats to see how they did (unfortunately the full house monitoring system only became active more than 2 months later, so I don't have full stats).

  • Cobalt Power Estimated the panels yearly production at 8114Kwh for a year. I was a bit apprehensive during the quotes because of our weirdly shaped roof and shading issues from nearby trees, but in the end we got exactly 8700Kwh a year later, or almost a 600Kwh production beyond the estimate. Great!
  • Cobalt Power estimated our federal tax credit to $11,235 (the CA tax rebate is directly taken off the initial bill). I just got my taxes done and our tax credit was $11,746. this made the panels around $500 cheaper than quoted. Great again! :)
  • According to PG&E, we used around 1600Kwh since last year (i.e. we used about 1.5 months' worth of electricity), but due to the time of use credits (summer daytime electricity that we mostly produce is worth more than night and winter electricity), we actually got a $40 credit for the year, so we won't owe them anything outside of the monthly connection charge ($10, which is much cheaper than batteries and being off-grid). This year the $40 is lost but next year, they'll actually owe us whatever credit we get (i.e. we get a check back).
  • At this rate, we should break even in 5 years.
  • So in a nutshell, the system performed great so far. Cobalt Power definitely underpromised and over delivered and we're apparently done paying electricity bills from now on.

    Here are the not quite yearly graphs (as a reminder you can zoom in by selecting a rectangle with the first mouse button and zoom out with the second button).

    As a slight repost, below is a graph with production start and end (hour the sun starts hitting the panels and when it sets past the roof). Note the one hour jump on Nov 1st because of the daily savings change.


    Production hours:


    Production Kwh (nice to see that March is getting a lot more sun):


    Last, but not least this page lets you get all the daily starts (note, you need to change the top preset to 3, 6, or 12 months to get useful data, last day doesn't show anything).

    See more images for One Year Of Solar Panels
    2010/03/04 Company Ski Trip at Squaw
    π 2010-03-04 00:00 in Snow
    Day 1 was disappointing. There were 12 to 18 inches of fresh snow and because of poor organization and a stupid bus driver that needlessly stopped us in Auburn for almost 30mn, by the time we got to Squaw there was actually a traffic jam and it took 45mn to drive from hwy 80 to the Squaw entrance (a mere few miles).

    It was already 10:30 by the time I made it to the first lift and by the time I got to the top, most powder had been well tracked out by hordes of local who had come that morning. Fairly disappointing :(

    The snow was till good, but I sure wasn't swimming in powder like I was hoping. Later that day, the sun got overcast and the melted powder started icing up. Very sad... (and due to the fact that Squaw is way too low altitude-wise).

    nice and sunny in the morning, melted the powder
    nice and sunny in the morning, melted the powder

    even the back was pretty skied out
    even the back was pretty skied out



    Track for Day 1

    The next day, I just used to explore the edges of Squaw had had not gone to, espespecially as the main front sucks anyway since you're funneled back to a bunch of flat sections.

    Riding Silverado was interesting: the terrain was very challenging since it was easy to get cliffed out and ski patrol didn't go out of their way to mark that side of the mountain. There lots of spots with slopes beyond 60 degrees but leading down to a mixture of ice and rocks :-/ A couple of times I ended up in a not so good spot and had to carefully get out of it.

    Thankfully the snow did not ice up on the second day and I got to see most of the edges of Squaw. The one lowpoint was that the bolt holding the back plate of my NXT flow binding came out again, and I wasted close to 45mn doing a field repair. Thankfully I actually had the right tools and a set of the very special screws and bolts required (so I'm not carrying that heavy backpack for nothing :) ).




    I took the line down between the gondola and cable car. A bit low on snow, but more scenic and different
    I took the line down between the gondola and cable car. A bit low on snow, but more scenic and different

    Track for Day 2

    See more images for Company Ski Trip at Squaw

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