Archives For January 2014

Helping The Homeless

January 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Ever since I noticed it snowing this morning, I’ve been frequently thinking about how J-Man is doing tonight.

I visited with him Monday afternoon and kept him company for about an hour and a half.  I learned that he had only spent two nights in the shelter, which surprised me, because I knew the (temporary) shelter would have been open to him for at least five nights.  He said he wanted to return to his tent because the shelter wasn’t “permanent” and it’s availability was dependent upon the weather.  (FYI: The shelter he stayed in is located 20 miles away.)

He also said that when he was not at the shelter, someone had paid him to perform some work around their shop — so he actually earned cash-money as well.  He was super-excited about earning some “spending money” (as he called it) but was quick to note that it was temporary too.

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Given all the recent press about the National Security Agency (NSA) practically wiretapping the world, I thought it was time to investigate available options for keeping my private data private.

I’ve been aware of the ownCloud product for some time and thought it was time to explore it’s functionality and determine how it rates given my needs.

But first, what is ownCloud? ownCloud is an open-source, secure file syncing and sharing service that you install and manage on your own hardware.  Basically, it’s your own private cloud running on your own hardware.  (As compared to using a cloud-provider that may or may not be selling your data to assorted government agencies.)

Why Raspberry Pi? RPis are very small, low power Linux computers which are easily configurable to meet many basic desktop or server applications.  In this case, running ownCloud.  Plus, I happen to have a spare one on my desk at the moment. 🙂

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As a Ham Radio operator and a Linux enthusiast, my options for programs to log QSOs is somewhat limited.  Unlike the Windows environment, there are only a handful of Linux logging programs to chose from.

I had initially taken a liking to CQRLOG for it’s powerful logging features but quickly became disappointed with it’s system requirements.  Namely, it won’t run on a Raspberry Pi — especially when operating side-by-side with FLDIGI.  While I don’t use a Raspberry Pi as the primary computer in my shack, I’d like to have that low-power option should I need it. (Such as, for a Field Day.)

Ultimately, I decided upon Xlog not only for it’s ability to run on systems with less horsepower but also in part because of it’s speed and simplicity of use.  I also liked that it uses a flat file for the log instead of a database on the backend.  (However, check back with me when I have several thousand contacts and we’ll see how that flat file holds up.)

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Helping The Homeless

January 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Following up on my previous Helping The Homeless post

This afternoon I stopped by to spend some time with my newest acquaintance, J-Man (as our mutual friend has nicknamed him).  I delivered a couple more propane bottles and instructed J-Man not to worry about conserving them — because he was going to need it this week.  I watched the expression on his face change from joy (from receiving more propane) to disappointment as I delivered the weather report for the week.

I figured two bottles of propane would last his Little Buddy Heater two nights as I intended on seeing him again Wednesday to deliver two more bottles.  J-Man welcomed that news but I quietly loathed the idea of him spending several nights in sub-freezing temperatures.  I knew that others were looking to find housing for him during the cold (based on his conversation) but I didn’t know what they would come up with, since I’m not aware of any shelters in the immediate area.

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Not knowing when I might actually get on the trail to complete another activation, I took advantage of another nearby mountain to complete back-to-back activations.  So with the help of K4KPK’s Pine Mountain SOTA Guide, I made Pine Mountain outside Cartersville, GA my second activation of the day.

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My son is nearly 8 months old and I’ve had neither the opportunity, nor a cooperating schedule since he’s been born to either get out in the woods or even contemplate completing a Summits On The Air activation.  Knowing it would be sunny and clear skies, I decided I would brave the cold temperatures (< 40deg F) and constant breeze for an opportunity to play radio at the top of a local mountain.

So with the help of K4KPK’s Vineyard Mountain SOTA Guide, I selected Vineyard Mountain outside Cartersville, GA for my first stop.

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Helping The Homeless

January 13, 2014 — 4 Comments

This afternoon, after work, I spent an hour with a homeless man.

On it’s face, that statement doesn’t appear to be a big a deal, but if you knew my history with homeless people, you’d understand why this was/is such a big deal to me.

It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for the plight of the homeless — it’s just I’ve traditionally kept my distance from homeless persons and chose to support them through donations to organizations that worked directly with them.  I’ve had no reason to trust the homeless, as I have not been presented with any reason to do so — until know.  That changed when a friend told me about a homeless person he knew living behind a store nearby.  But it wasn’t that my friend told me he had helped a homeless person that drew my attention — I know how he feels about helping others.  It wasn’t that this homeless person lives behind a large retail store in an affluent city — there are homeless people in all cities.  It wasn’t that this individual is so close to where I work that I could have possibly had a chance encounter with him in the past (I haven’t).

It is because now I know his name.

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I created AutomatedRaspbianInstaller (back in July) because there was (at the time) no documentation or known solutions on how to create a completely automated installer for Raspberry Pi. Having tinkered with unintended installations of Linux in the past, I thought this could be an important addition to the Raspberry Pi community.

Creating a new image from scratch can take upwards of 45 minutes from my 3mbps Internet connection at home. I wanted a “fire and forget” solution that would download all the required files and install a minimal, base system without requiring me to check in on it from time to time to answer questions. Hence, AutomatedRaspbianInstaller.

However, it seems the individual that created the original installation file (that I based my script on) is no longer active on the (official) Raspberry Pi forums as evident by the updated instructions accompanying the Raspbian Installer. Although they have left instructions on how to obtain the old (2012) image my script is based off of, it would seem my script has become a bit dated.

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Happy New Year!

January 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

Do you ever think about writing a new blog post and then think there is something else you’d rather be doing?

Yeah, me too…