Sunday, February 21

Inter-Sentient Radio Communication

Lately I've been thinking a lot more about how other sentient life forms out there beyond our solar system are supposed to interpret any communication broadcasts out to the universe. Audio RF is a very simple modulation that eats up a lot of spectrum, to correct this we will be replacing a lot of FM channels with a purely digital solution in a smaller frequency range using a proprietary codec. The same for broadcast television. Where there was once a somewhat complex video transmission standard there is now an incredibly complex and proprietary (at least to the planet Earth) standard that offers much higher resolution in a relatively smaller frequency range. To test this I'd like to put some of our brightest physicists, radio astronomers, and electrical engineers in a room together with a generic but unidentified radio stream and ask them to make sense of it. I doubt they could - we create things therefore we have both the encoder and decoder right off the bat. Have fun doing it backwards without knowing what it is you're expecting.

I work in Voice over Internet Protocol projects. Typically VoIP is rarely transmitted over radio waves that could reach out beyond our atmosphere however when it does leak out there, I'm guessing that if whoever cares out there wants to decode the OSI model well enough to get at the packet data they would then have to understand the proprietary codecs used by VoIP providers like Google Voice and Skype.

Imagine you're on the spaceship Enterprise approaching an unknown space fairing vessel and you get hailed. Why do you know about how they communicate? It's easier on television writers, that's for sure. But really what universal method is there for communication? Are we all supposed to purchase transponders from a race of inter-galactic ware hawkers that just happen to be in the hood at the time we're jaunting about in space?

You would think telepathy might be a good way to go. It possibly suffers from some of the same problems that RF would, different chemistry and biological makeup may be a factor, meeting on a common plane could be a problem.

So far I can think of only transmitting at a certain frequency and registering a bias with a long transmit and a long silence. Then of course just putting binary out there. Are aliens big or little endian? When defining a float what determines the decimal place?

I'm guessing it will all have to come down to something like a super fast quantum computer that will define a billion very useful procedures to decoding radio communication and run through them all until it finds a suitable match. Even though these computers don't exist yet, this seems like the most feasibleness idea. Heck, only one side of the communication would need one.

Monday, February 16

Friday, September 26

Astricon 2008: My short and sweet summary

I'm really tired.. really excited about the people I met.. really warm.. really tired.

I can't wait to get home and kiss my girlfriend, pet the dogs, manhandle the cats, and go to bed. I don't know whats waiting for me when I land, but I know that later tonight.. I'll be able to lay down and wake up a full 8 hours later.

It was super awesome to meet so many people I know on #asterisk, and some I never knew existed!!! They were all pretty freaking fantastic.

They are boarding my flight.. but here's what I need to bring with me for next year.

  • My own access point, encrypted, on some crazy euro frequency.
  • Audio cables
  • Duct tape
  • A light bulb
  • A girlfriend
  • A micro server
  • Cables up the wazoo, audio, network, powe strips, etc..
That should do it :)

Monday, September 1

Yay and stuff

Sorry, yeh.. I hate titling blogs with lots of strange and wonderful topics...

First of all. T and I found a good place to get hitched.. and it's a secret. It's in Girdwood and we will only be giving the guests GPS cordinates and a date/time. I'm kidding. Seriously, we found a very nice spot to get hitched at a super neat lodge owned by an energetic woman who's gonna take care of a ton of stuff we don't really want to be involved with. I personally want to only deal with the following.

  • Find somebody to photograph the wedding
  • Find somebody to videotape the wedding
  • Find a tux
  • Tie skyefoil up in the closet until the wedding so she can't escape (June 2010)
  • Find some fancy shoes
  • Make sure tons of people I know can come
If you're afraid I'm going to forget to invite you then send me email, cause I might.

On another note, today I sold a 2 wheel utility trailer via craigslist. Deal sealed w/in an hour. I took the $75.00 from the sale and put it in my pocket. Later that day neighbor guy came by and asked if I wanted a truck bed toolbox. I reached in my pocket and handed him $75.00 and he installed it with me :)


I also started using a bunch of styrofoam that skyefoil collected in the shed to help insulate it, she is attempting to keep her plants in a somewhat better insulated shed this winter, so if you run into a plethora (yay, plethora) of styrofoam I'd like to get my mits on it so I can finish the job. Later this week I'll install new industrial hinges on the door and set up better fastners for the swinging doors which are mostly useless at the moment.

Check it.

When I'm done it should look like an inverse Death Star.


Tuesday, August 19

St. Paul Island Part III

I'm working on some Cisco and Motorola gear.. I'm reminded why I prefer other flavors of routers, switches, etc.. I'm going to propose a bit of a network change soon.

A while ago I mentioned to the head of the tribal corp that he should put some geocaches out on Saint Paul Island with a "prize" for FTF (First to Find) tourists on island. That was around 2 years ago. A few days ago I whipped out my GPS in front of a coworker who mentioned his wifes school hid a few geocaches on island. I was sooooo going to find them all.. GOTTA FIND EM ALL!

So I did... it was a pretty night and I was wishing Skyefoil were out here enjoying it with me. I took some pics tho!

From SNP2008

Me with a fur seal sprawled out on the ground behind me. I SO BRAVE!

From SNP2008

Some sort of Arts and Crafts project gone horribly wrong. These are supposed to be "seals" that grow when you put them in water. I'm sure it does, I just don't really want to find out what it looks like when it's larger and sopping wet.

Anyways.. It was a fun night, check out the rest of the photos in the album.

Saturday, August 16

St. Paul Island Part II

Take a peek at my gallery for a few more photos taken today. I went on a little nature drive. A walk would have resulted in me getting chased down and grunted to death by some bull seals.

From SNP2008

Wireless link between the airport and town side has been completely aligned and, due to interference, has a net throughput of 9mbps in full-duplex. I have to connect the backhaul to the corporate and public networks on the island next week and draw up a new network diagram with suggested changes.

I reconditioned my old servers I had out here and plan on putting them back in service. It will be excellent :)

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 14

St. Paul Island Part I

I got a contract with an old boss to head out to Saint Paul Island, AK. The job is to do say hi to old employees and get a wireless backhaul installed between townside and the airport 3.5 miles away. Not too difficult for most wireless guys to install, however Saint Paul Island (a.k.a SNP) has some amazingly dense fogs and blizzards that make fun of wireless signals and kick sand in their face. I needed strong equipment and decided for an all-in-one inexpensive solution that can be replaced easily enough when it either A: Blows away, B: Rusts off, or C: Falls victim to crazy SNP antics.

Yesterdays flight out to SNP was kinda relaxing. I played "Flight of the Amazon Queen" on my laptop via ScummVM. Ironic since the game is about the survivors of a small crashed plane. I also tossed back a few episodes of "Flight of the Conchords: Season 1".. I love those guys.

I landed, met the old boss at the airport (called poss camp) grabbed keys and booked it to their office to grab the wireless equipment I ordered and configure it for tomorrow. I dropped the equipment off at 106 (the house number I'm staying at) and dragged all my luggage into the house.

By this point, you're bored reading this.. let's spice it up a bit.

While I was at the office I inadvertently got signed up for the Softball game that night. The Company vs the Coneheads. Coneheads? oh.. they wear silly hats.. gotcha..

There was a white dense fog illuminating the area which didn't seem quite right for a game where a hard white object falls out of the sky randomly like a surprise hail ball from hell. But nobody cared so we played our silly little game. I'm a horrible catcher and all the spare gloves were preteen sized so I got immediately picked on for not being able to catch. The team coach, obviously not seeing how poor at softball I am, made me catcher. Last time I played catcher in softball the pitcher did such a poor job I was practically jumping to reach each ball before it bounced past me. Of course they thought I was a horrible catcher then too.. sigh..

I cought a few foul balls that headed my way, I panicked at a few balls that simply hit the ground right in front of me. It didn't seem right so I just stood there.. go me.. I finalyl redeemed myself by getting up to bat and putting the whomping on the ball a bit. I like to hit things. By the end of the night my legs were killing me.

This morning I woke up a bit late.. 10am.. and expected to work till around 9pm to make up for those hours. I configured the wireless devices and headed out to install one of them on a radio tower I needed to take a few things off of first. The fog outside was incredibly dencse, I had to use a GPS to draw a line between the two radio towers and find a visual reference between the two that I can use to align the first antenna with. It doesn't need to be accurate.. but it needed to be close enough so I could read the signal strength from the far radio tower.

Me showing off some fog.

Once I install the far radio and align it as best I can then it's a simple matter of heading back to the near radio and adjusting it's initial alignment until I get the best signal. I've had to use this trick often on SNP due to fog/hail/blizzards/etc.. I remembered an old trick when I was on the tower, trying to align a flat and wide panel antenna to a far off point. Since it has no point to it you have to use symmetry and the pole it's mounted on for the initial visual alignment. you focus past the pole and see where you want to aim it, making sure the symmetrical points on the back of the antenna have an equal distance to their side of the pole. In my case I had two screws on the back of the antenna to use. This gave me a 2 inch reference (between the pole and the middle of the back of the panel antenna) to use as a pointer toward wherever I was aiming. You focus far and see two poles then put the target between the poles. Then focus on the pole and make sure the antennas screws have an equal distance from the poles sides or center, whatever. The error factor is huge, but it works wonderfully for rough initial alignment. Go go magic geometry.

Years ago I installed some really huge radio antennas on the radio towers that made up the wireless backhaul a long time ago.. I had to take those down and the bolts holding them tot he tower were completely rusted.. a perfect oppurtunity to play with my rock climbing harness. I climbed up, crimped in, and froze my butt off while forcefully wrenching the rusted fasteners into submission. My hands and wrists are killing me. It took like.. 20 minutes. I know.. I'm a wussie.

I lowered the hardware to a co-worker and we fastened the new radio in place then headed to the far side. The guy I was with was having fun aiming the panel around while we drove around. I had a dc inverter in the truck so we powered it on and checked signal quality at a few points of interest between the two radio towers. Once we got to the far side we were happy to see, even at ground level, that the antenna was aligned well enough to link up with the far side, woot.

Tomorrow I will be doing the same thing to the far radio tower, stripping it then adding the new radio to it, aligning it the best I can, then realigning the near radio. I'm very confident that I can get 12mbps out of it.

Think about that kids, 12mbps between two locations, no hard line, no need to pay the telephone company, no monthly costs... It's a beautiful thing.