A return to model building and flying. Part 62

January 2010

B#x!!! computers

I am having more and more difficulty finding the time for any modelling. My Second Life business has taken off, and I enjoy that as much as the modelling, but it is very time consuming. The big problem with both hobbies, is that I rely on my computers for everything, they are hobby in themselves which I enjoy a lot. The following may go some way to explaining why I have so little time of late.It's to long a story to relate in a short fashion  So feel free to skip over this account if you have no interest.

If you read on, You will hear me constantly referring to a 'disto' , this is not a misspelling of bistro, it stands for distribution, because Linux distro's are in effect a bundle of different parts tailored to different needs, so there many different flavours ( I see we are back to bistro again ) each one a distro, and carrying a brand name , like Debian, Suse, Red Hat, Ubuntu Mandriva, to name but a few.

Leading up to Christmas I was hit by an upgrade problem, and not your ordinary one. Simply put, a Linux system is comprised of separate bits, the operating system itself, and the X-windows system that sits on top and amongst other things displays the desktop, of which there are many and various. The desktop this is what people see on the screen, in Windows x,y,or z flavours probably think of as 'The Computer'. Windows has similar system but only one choice of desktop: what you are given!

Now Linux, contrary to what you may think, moves forward not so much in large steps as galactic bounds at times. KDE3 was my desktop of choice sitting on  Ubuntu (hence Kubuntu which has served me well for a considerable time). The KDE development team suddenly had a, lets reinvent the wheel, moment, and jumped to KDE4 and I hated it! I'm sure it will be great in the future... But right now I don't want a Windows 7 look-alike even if it is infinitely more configurable and better...!

Too much of what I found useful every day, is now either broken, or non-functional, or in a form I find awkward to work with, even my favourite file manager which was truly awesome to work with, was suddenly reduced to.... slightly better than  Explorer.....! (that's 'not' Internet Explorer which is another can of worms) The weeping a wailing could be heard on the other side of the planet.

For the first time since the late 90's I was actually considering going back to Windows in the form of Windows 7.Those that know me will know how serious that was. Now, having tried said 7, I still find it over bloated, and annoying to use, sometimes silly in the way it presents itself, not logical, over patronising in the way it nags you to death every time you want to do anything, and I immediately begin to miss the sheer functionality and configureabilty of my beloved Kubuntu Linux, with it's error messages that actually tell you something useful, no nannying, or hiding the guts of it away beneath layers of obfuscation, not being told all the time this is not approved, If I want to fiddle and break it, I can!,  no finding a  media player that never has any codecs to play anything, and countless other niggles. Linux just keeps working... as long as no one decides to do something 'really' clever with the the development. KDE4 was leap too far too soon.

There followed several months of trying to find a replacement that would still install with my old version of KDE3. I might point out that I could use any number of Linux distro's that use the Gnome desktop (like Ubuntu) and have no problems, but I just don't like Gnome, as stable and practical as it is, it just makes me feel I'm working with one hand tied behind my back. One thing about Linux, there no lack of alternatives and choices.

I was desperate to stick to the underpinnings of Ubuntu, if for no other reason the than the excellent updating  and application installation system, and the truly vast software repositories I can have access to, plus I am reasonably clued up on it's internals. I could use Debian, but I always find it a bit sink or swim, and I have enough problems as it is.

Things were getting a bit fraught as my system was already ageing in computer terms and support for the version I was running had already ceased, and I was two major releases of the distribution behind. it was creaking like an old ship, and I knew a major failure in my system would mean being left with no suitable replacement. In the mean time I had taken the precaution of making  automated backups of everything to an external drive. Fortunately! as it turned out.

hard drive

After Christmas the inevitable happened... a hard drive failed! The offending beast is pictured here. I will ceremonially butcher it later to make sure no data on it gets in to anyone else's hands. It had to be the main drive didn't it! This necessitated a quick boot to another cobbled together distro of as close as I could get to my old one on the other drive in the same box. The symptoms I had on the failing drive were sudden inexplicable screen freezes or not booting up occasionally. This all became more frequent until it just refused to boot any more.

Numerous attempts to install a remix version of my desktop with the latest Ubuntu beneath had failed with a corrupt X server with no screen to attempt a rescue. I had nearly given up at this point.

So another month of searching and experimenting, ended I up in effect going backwards to an ultra simple desktop. I picked up a copy copy of Linux Format magazine, not cheap, but is one of the few Linux magazines that has just the right balance for experts and beginners alike and has free DVD's that actually work and are useful. Almost all Linux distro's now come as bootable CD or DVD; just stick it in the drive and switch on. That way it's possible to try before you commit yourself, or irrevocably alter you existing set up, what ever that happens to be? This one had a copy of
Crunchbang Linux on it; not a beginners distro at all, as there are no desktop icons or a desktop at all to speak of, and none of the comforts of a modern all singing all dancing desktop. In a way, by removing all the fluff, it becomes a very direct system that gets you there usually in two button presses.  But this  is anything but old fashioned and has all the power of the latest distro's. It will run happily on my eee netbook at a remarkably fast speed, on a desktop PC it is blindingly fast. So now at least I can work with a desktop I have some comfort with, even if everything else around me fails.

work station

  Left - Kubuntu Linux with KDE3 desktop    |     Right - Crunchbang Linux with Openbox desktop
I was watching an episode of Sanctuary at the time :)

Although it may seem like I was expending an awful amount of time, and I can hear the calls of why not just use Windows? Well (A) I'm stubborn and (B) every step taught me something, and most of the alternatives I tried all worked fine. But with a Linux system it's as much about what feels right for you, and does it do what you want? if not it's changable, and no one is going to stop you; or just try another one. It's almost like looking for a comfortable pair of shoes that look good as well as feel good

So what was the point in writing this drivel that none of you are interested in? It's lesson in the the need to back up important data! In my case personal stuff, and my years of magazine scans; plus system configuration files, so I can get up and running again asap.  I just cannot afford to loose any of it!

Hence my unashamed advert for Drop Box. Although I use more serious forms of backup, this is is far easier to use for the average person, and as far as I can tell it's one of the few services that will work on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it is truly simple to use, and also has a great advantage if you work on more than one PC. It has so many uses I haven't quiet got round to working out the best way utilising it yet, but it did contain some of my system configuration files before the drive went down. I had only just installed it, and was trying it out at the time. So I was able to reset my reserve drive with a minimum of fuss.

These web pages as well as two other sites are now kept there. So if the house burns down, the website host is consumed by a meteor strike and I loose everything, if I can get to 'any' PC, laptop or Internet café, I can carry on working with them. Unfortunately I would have to pay to store the collection of model scans as they run it several GiB and as I can get no income from them that has to be done by other means.

Don't take my word for it, you can find out all about it here, and it's free to open an account with 2 GB of storage, want more and you pay of course, but it may just be worth it depending what you want back up or share? So wander over and take a look at what it is all about, click this link. Drop Box If you cant find a use for it I will be very surprised :)

And now for something completely different

A Nice Book

TR book      tr book 2

Bought this hard back book as a Christmas present to myself,  because I am sure it will not go to re-print once sold out. It covers Control Line Vintage Team Racing quite well, and it's relationship with full size racing aircraft. It also has lot's of hand drawn illustrations, which I have always liked for more reasons than I can go into here. Also has lots of drawings that could be used a a basis for models, not many plans though. It's available from Taplet Publications UK

Four Stroke

On the few days it's been suitable to even go flying. I have been trying to find a foolproof way of hand starting my ASP30fs. The tank size is a bit small still, just can't quite get the through the full schedule with it stopping in the overhead eight or cloverleaf, but the model flies well now and engine rarely misses a beat. It's a long time since I felt this confident with a stunt model. And after all these years, I have discovered a way of evening out the inside and outside loops, something that always eluded me in the past no matter what I tried. If I can prove it beyond doubt, and find a way of making it easy to apply, I may share it with you.

I seem to be creeping closer to a solution to reliable hand starting. A) it needs to be wet.  And recently discovered B) it likes the choke closed to keep running after it initially fires. Back flicking or forward both seems to work depending on the state of floodedness. As it happens to only come with an RC throttle I can just hold it half closed to start it, the throttle internal spring keeps it fully open once it's running. Just need some sort of clip to hold it in a fixed position just for starting, so it can be flicked free once it finds it's feet. 

My last attempt as on a very cold day at the field with numb hands, the engine doing it usual sulk after it's initial burst into life. All feeling for where the compression is, or was!  goes out the window, which makes flicking a bit problematic. When it does decide to fire and run, it's usual with gentlest of flicks. I just have to find the right combination of how much to flood it, how hard to hit it and what angle the prop has to be at. It's like learning all over again from scratch and feels like the old days of getting to grips with diesels, and later the new fangled glow motors. :) Once running I can't fault it, it has a remarkable amount of power, much more than I anticipated, and is so steady it imbues me with confidence. Can't be bad! I'm sure I'm doing all the wrong things with fuel, just using my standard 10% nitro 18% 50/50 castor/synthetic mix,  but I'm not buying yet more glow fuel when I have a considerable number of 5 litre containers stuck under my work bench!

asp fs throttle

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