Category Archives: Technology

I’m going to Vandenberg!!

A couple weeks ago, I saw a tweet from NASA asking for people to volunteer for a NASA social event covering the launch of the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) Satellite at Vandenberg AFB on the central coast of California. Me loving all things NASA, I went ahead and applied for the chance.

At first, I was put on the waiting list with a promise of keeping me posted if people didn’t accept the invite. I didn’t think much of it until today when I got a Twitter notification that I was added to the SMAP Social group on Twitter. Sure enough, I checked my email, and there was the invite! I was so floored that I was accepted for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get my tour of the facility and post information here for all to see.

In the meantime, I need to read the press release to get up to date on the mission specifics. Oh, and you better believe the Gorn is going to be there too.

Stay tuned on Jan 28 and 29 for coverage of the launch here at!!

Orion Away!

Orion waiting to be launched at the Kennedy Space Center (Courtesy NASA)

Orion waiting to be launched at the Kennedy Space Center (Courtesy NASA)

So excited that NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully completed its first test out of the Earth’s Atmosphere to an elevation of about 3600 miles. I for one already deeply miss the Space Shuttle and am looking forward to people being back in space to the Moon and to Mars. I certainly hope it happens in my lifetime and that those astronauts are returned safely to Earth.

Extreme Tech has a great roundup of photos and videos from the test.

Camera Obsessed-ish

My trusty point and shoot camera, my Canon SD850 IS is on it’s death throws. I’m sad because it has been an excellent camera since Daniel bought it for me back in 2007. I’ve loved the photo quality and for my level of photo skills it has been perfect. But now, the focus function on it is on the fritz and the camera is essentially useless. It no longer focuses on anything and most of my photos are now blurry if I take it.

It’s sort of worked out since my phone takes excellent photos and I haven’t traveled anywhere that requires a lot of photography in a long time. Now that my trip to Europe is coming up, I have again thought about getting a camera. I’d like to get a real camera with lenses and all that, but I’ve never been one to sit there and lug around a huge bag of stuff. I’ve always preferred to take something out of my pocket and take a few quick photos and be off to the next stop. Granted, I’d love some upgrades to the Gorn photos, but not necessarily something that I’d spend a fortune on.

I’ve seen a new Canon point and shoot, the SX-700 and based on it’s 30x optical zoom and 16.1 megapixel sensor, it seems like the one for me. Add to it WiFi uploading to your phone, and I think I have the best of both worlds. It’s also currently on sale this week – so might check out Best Buy or another online retailer on Black Friday to see if I can get some additional money off and have something for the trip.

Maybe I will talk myself into spending the extra 200 bucks on a DSLR, but no telling! Once I do get a new camera, I’ll certainly post some test photos!

The Brave Little Comet Lander

If you haven’t heard, the European Space Agency sent an orbiter called Rosetta to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Over the past 10 years it has been preparing for it’s mission to map the comet as well as send the Philae probe to its surface. On Nov. 12 Philae landed on the surface of the comet three times as it bounced due to low gravity and it’s harpoons not firing. Unfortunately it landed in the shadows of a cliff and at this angle did not have enough power than a few days of observations and is now in hibernation mode.

Some great information is on the ESA site, and I for one hope that Philae will catch a break and get some solar energy as 67P gets closer to the sun and they will get a second chance to collect data. It’s like the Spirit Rover on Mars which had its panels covered in dust and it got stuck in the sand. I keep hoping that one day we will be able to get it going again or at the very least, future astronauts will repair it and memorialize its location.

iPhone 6 Mania Part 3: The Line

The story so far: Apple releases a new iPhone and me being at the end of my two year cycle and with my camera issues on my iPhone 5, I was ready for a new one. Excited about the 6 and 6 plus, I then struggle for a week trying to decide which one to get.

Friday morning rolls around and I had plans that I was going to get up at 530am and head over to the mall by 6am to guarantee myself a good spot in line. Once my alarm went off, I had other ideas in mind. I decided that I would just go around the time the store opened and take my chances. Last year, I had heard reports that people were able to go into the store after opening and pick up a phone with no issues. So with the weather cool, I headed out the door and arrived at the mall right at 8am. The first thing I noticed was that the parking lot at the Brea Mall was surprisingly full for so early in the day. Second, I noticed the 12 police cars and the HUGE line of people waiting outside.

I parked and headed for the end of the line which was around the side of one of the Macy’s buildings. Immediately, I was thinking this was a bad idea – the line was certainly longer than the last time I waited for a phone back in 2010. I was hopeful that transaction times would improve and I’d be able to avoid staying in line for 7 hours.

So I waited.

And Waited.

The first two hours the line moved pretty fast, and then around the 4th hour the line grinded to a halt as they moved us into switchbacks in the parking lot.

Waited some more.

The only thing saving me was the guy in front of me who liked to smoke. He would go off for a while and then come back. I would then go take a break and use the restroom and then come back. We did this for the entire time we were in line.

Waited some more.

Finally after 7 hours I was inside the cool air conditioned mall (outside temp 91 degrees, I was also getting a nasty sun burn).

Once inside the mall, the line moved fairly quickly – 45 minutes to the front of the Apple store and then 20 minutes to do the trade in for my iPhone 5 and then get my 6 up and running. Inside the store, the helpful Apple person asked if I wanted to at least see the 6 plus even though they did not have one for my carrier. I picked it up and immediately knew I made the right call with my iPhone 6 with 128GB of storage. 128 seems a bit excessive, but since I plan on having the phone for two years, I am planning for the unexpected.

Despite the waiting and the heat, from my perspective everything went way smoother than before. The biggest challenge was the people who were buying phones with Cash off contract to ship to China. It was like they were hoarding phones and those of us who just wanted a new phone had to suffer and get a sunburn for no reason. Hopefully the next time they will release the phone at the same time in China, and I will just pre-order again and avoid the standby line!

After using my phone for a few hours, I am already used to the bigger screen size, but I haven’t seen anything that wows me – part of that is because I restored my old phone onto my new one, but also I haven’t had a chance to look at all the new features of the phone and iOS 8.

Space Shuttle Carrier Retirement

Sploid has a great reminiscence and some great photos of the Space Shuttle Carriers which NASA has recently retired the second one, carrier SCA 911. I have fond memories of standing at Disneyland on September 21, 2012 as the other shuttle carrier, NASA 905, flew over Los Angeles and Disneyland on the final “Tour of California” for the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it landed at LAX and then was towed to the California Science Center.

Check out the photos at Sploid or read more about the Shuttle carriers at NASA’s site. Below I’ve embedded my photos of NASA 905 (and the Endeavour) as they flew overhead as well as a video recap of the LA flyovers (which sadly miss Disneyland, but show Angel’s Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, Universal, LAX, and the Hollywood sign).

iPhone 6 Mania Part 2: I missed it!

I set my alarm for 1145pm so I could wake up for iPhone pre-orders, but by the time I made it out of bed and realized why I had set my alarm, the 128GB black iPhone 6 Plus were gone. I could still pre-order, but then I’d get it shipped to me in several weeks – Unacceptable! The regular iPhone 6 were available so I figured you know what, I’ll just wait until they come in at the store so I can a) feel both phones to decide what I really want and b)trade in my 5 on the spot and not have to deal with a third party check some time later.

I went to bed finally convinced that my decision was the best one. Now I have another week to think and re-think about which one I really want. #firstworldproblems indeed. After seeing my friends Samsung Galaxy Note and then another persons regular Galaxy, I am back on the iPhone 6 bandwagon. No need to get the super big screen the 4.7 is plenty big!

(Check back later in the week when I talk up the virtues of getting a 6 plus)

iPhone 6 Mania Part 1: Bigger Phone and a Watch

Yesterday was the annual Apple phone event and it did not disappoint. I miss the old 2008 days when we didn’t really know what was coming ahead of time. I’m in my upgrade year for my phone and with my camera showing increasing pixel issues (and my point and shoot completely dead), I was excited about what might be coming from Cupertino. I refuse to admit I am an Apple fan boy, although I have been completely happy with my iDevices over the past 6 years. Matter of fact, I still think my iPhone 4 is my favorite of all of my phones (antenna gate and all.) My 5 was bigger, nice, and lightweight, but I never did really care for the black finish which was prone to wear and tear.

This year they have announced two new iPhone models – the 6 and the 6 plus. I am not sure which one I really want to get. I have seen people with their Android phones that were the same sizes as the two new phones and both look positively huge. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been staring at the 4″ display for the past two years. I decided to make some mockups of the two devices and carried them with me to work today to show some friends. A lot of people were interested to hold them and see how they fit in their pockets. I noticed that the 6 Plus really wasn’t that huge in my pocket compared to the 6 dimensions. So I am leaning towards the 6 plus in the largest size the 128GB version. I noticed that Apple sells a MacBook Air that has the same amount of memory which frankly blows me away.

The other item revealed was the Apple Watch. I had not been interested in any sort of wearable device as I love an analog watch (haven’t worn one in months though as my battery is dead), but I am always open to the next big thing that I didn’t really know I needed. I mentioned in January that there didn’t seem to be anything on the horizon that I was hankering for. I’ll admit since I was not able to make it through the whole live stream (and instead watched live tweets and blogs) it didn’t really sell me on the need for one. Add that to the fact that it launches next year and it starts at $395 makes me think twice. I’ll let it stew for a bit and maybe when it actually launches or when they are on version two I might be frothing for one. Remember I waited until the second gen iPhone and iPad before I took the leap!

So much hemming and hawing before pre-orders of the phone on Friday. Not only that, but I am determined to trade in my phone this time so it doesn’t join the others on my shelf to sit for years.