Introducing ProjectUAV

Over the extended Winter break, playing with a tiny toy quadcopter, my lifelong chronic fascination with things that fly has been rekindled. As a result, I’ve undertaken to put together an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle based on currently-available hobby components. This just strikes me as an awful lot of fun, but folks keep asking me “why?”
Frankly, if you know me at all, you know that my answer to this is, “Why not?”

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Being Loud Again

For more than a year, I’ve let this lay fallow. I’m doing projects, so I need to be documenting them here.

For my next post, I’ll be introducing what I’m currently calling ProjectUAV, my RC-Helicopter-based drone. Eventually, too, I’ll start telling you about the wine casks I have, and abut making them into furniture.

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Merry Christmas from Afghanistan!

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I wear a bowtie now.

Bowties are cool.

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Thanksgiving Dinner

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It was tasty and filling. I have a lot to be thankful for, in the form of three of my Marines whose worst complaint post-blast is a lack of sleep and constant headaches. I dont mean to minimize their problems, but it could have been much worse. We haad some company at our table. General Amos is the current Commandant of the Marine Corps.

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An Update About Updates

So here I am in no-bullshit Afghanistan.

I’m at a place called Camp Dwyer – this is really enough information, OpSec-wise. Despite the fact that I am a no-bullshit school-trained 0311, I almost never actually leave the wire on patrols. I am in the very worst sense of the word, a Fobbit. I regularly have access to two military networks, both of which block LiveJournal and my own ‘blog even during morale hours. There is an Internet ‘cafe’ (no coffee is served and in fact no drinks are permitted, so why they call it a cafe is beyond me) run by contractors at the behest of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation folks. It is two miles away from my end of the base, and usually I can’t be bothered.
There is WiFi up in my neck of the woods, which I am using right now. It’s for-pay, which strikes me as ridiculous as the signal they’re asking me to pay for is already being paid for by the US Taxpayer, and anyway the rates they charge are OUTRAGEOUS. But here I am, using it.
I generally cannot read LJ. Or post to it. I spent last night getting a bit caught up, but I do not anticipate paying the monthly fee for the WiFi around here, and so LJ reading and updates are likely to be thin on the ground. Strangely, I have better luck with G+.
More personally, I’m doing well. I’m very busy, and somehow keep making more work for myself by speaking up about things that are messed up. I met the Commandant and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, which was pretty alright.
I know that the PMRP Halloween Big Broadcast is coming together, and I really look forward to hearing about it when the thing goes down, and hope you’ll all break many legs.

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Naptime!

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We’ve flown and flown and flown, and now we’re at Manas Forward Air Base in Kyrgyzstan for a little while before heading further forward. Manas is incredibly cushy in exactly the way we always joke about the Air Force. There’s air conditioning in every single tent, including the tents where the toilets are set up.
Earlier today I had joked with a dear friend on Google Talk that massages were a world away, for somebody else. Not true! I have an appointment for one two hours from now!
Here’s a picture of cozy naptime in the air conditioning. Note the camouflage Red Sox ballcap.

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QR Codes for Postal Addresses

So, I’ve generated a few QR Codes for my mailing address in Afghanistan. In this most recent example, I’ve generated a smaller code (fewer corner indices) but exploited the 30% error correction to make part of the code human-readable. It’s got my initials, and a very small “AFGHANISTAN” so that when I employ this trick for return address labels again when I get home, you all will be able to tell your leftover Afghanistan labels from the ones that are appropriate for stateside use.

Check it out:
Scan Me!

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reCaptcha for Word Claws

So, in an effort to make commenting more useful on Word Claws, I’ve set it up to use reCaptcha. I’ll check back in a week and see how much spam commentary there is, but now folks who follow through LJ syndication will be able to comment there, and people who don’t follow through LJ will be able to comment here (without signing up for YET ANOTHER ACCOUNT SOMEWHERE)

So family and such will be able to follow this blog, and that should be somewhat useful, if it actually stops spam.

–J

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Charging Electronics in the Field

These days, we all carry electronics with us lots of the time. Many of us use a smartphone, as an ultraportable way to stay connected.
This is no different for Marines.
For myself, I take no fewer than three electronic devices with me out into the field:

  1. A first-generation Motorola Droid (“Sholes”)
  2. An old Sony PRS-300 book reader
  3. A ContourGPS HD digital video camera

These are all small, rugged and well-loved. Another commonality that they share is that they need to be charged periodically (the ereader can go weeks, while the other two need almost daily charging) and take USB for charging.

I first turned to a home-brewed solar charging solution, using an SLA battery, a solar panel and some bits and pieces purchased at SwapFest last year. This actually worked really really well, but that battery is heavy and the solar panel is both bulky and fragile – it broke at the end of my first field op, the glass shattered. This was still useful though, as it meant I had a handful of car-to-USB gizmos handy, and a couple of USB cables for charging things. When I could, I’d hook my geegaws up to whatever vehicle I could – note that HMMWV’s don’t have accessory outlets, so I had to connect to the utility van we’ve got, discreetly. I’m going to try and get some wiring harnesses to add accessory outlets to our HMMWV’s for exactly this purpose, again discreetly. I don’t need the motor pool coming down on me.

After this attempt, I went commercial, and picked up a Kiwi Solar Gizmo at the base PX. At first, this seemed pretty idea, being small and fairly well-designed. The trouble is that it simply didn’t seem to work. I charged it from mains power first, and that worked beautifully exactly once for charging my phone. After that, it simply couldn’t get enough sun to even charge its own battery fully. I’ve literally had the thing in the window of my barracks for a week, and it still shows only half a charge. It’s probably not worth your time if you’re looking to charge your phone with solar power.

Just yesterday, I received another, more expensive and better-reviewed solar charger, so on this next field op, I should be able to give that a shot. We’ll see how it holds up.

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Green Shardmind Figure

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I finally succeeded, after four different molding attempts, and easily two dozen casting attempts, at making a translucent green shardmind figure!

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