New fish tank headed my way…

and this one’s got a gigawidget located underneath!  It’s called a Protein Skimmer to be exact.  I’ve been reading about them for several years now, and it seems to be the de-facto standard in reef keeping these days.   Also called foam fractionating, the process involves creating LOTS of tiny bubbles and passing them up thru a column of water.  In this process, the bubbles become charged, which causes the organic compounds in the water to stick to the bubbles.  This way, the bubbles scrub the water column on their ride to the top, where they are excreted into a reservoir for later disposal.  The end result is a frothy foamy stinky brown soup that your likely quiet happy to have OUT of your reef tank.  Protein Skimmers are the holy grail of reef-keeping!

Over the next few post, I’m going to detail the tank move, incorporation of new inhabitants and issues that surrounded the process.


King Harald’s “pairing” legacy paves the way for HID’s

When King Harald “paired” Denmark, Norway and Sweden under one kingdom, he could not have imagined the legend he created for himself. Today, King Harald Bluetooth Gormson is a household name…at least his middle name is. That pairing, circa 970, firmly imprinted his page in history.

Today, Bluetooth has matured thru several iterations to the current 2.1 standard.

So what’s the Gigawidget you ask. Well as I’ve discussed with friends for years, it now looks like we (humans) will take our place as “nodes” on Personal Area Networks or PAN. Teams around the world are developing Human Interface Devices (HID) that will monitor everything from heart problems to brain activity. This is good news for a friend of mine, who’s been threatening for years to build a network “leash” for his laptop and kids, warning him of proximity or zone boundary exceptions. e.g. someone lifts my laptop bag while eating a sandwich at the airport….or little Sarah has wondered too far from her parents.

Powering implanted HID devices like this opens an entirely different conversation. Once the Gigawidget is implanted, the battery won’t last forever! While Bluetooth 2.1 has significant improvements over previous versions by reducing signaling and paring rates, 5-500 times less (Sniff Subrating), it still takes juice! Maybe some type of Electromagnetic Induction charging system can be developed. Then you could “sit” yourself closely to the charging station and re-radiate yourself until fully charged.

Prepare to be “integrated” into the network!


Seeking Pictures of GigaWidgets in this world

I’ve decided to start collecting pictures of GigaWidgets I run across, and am asking for help from all of you “surfers” as well. Send me what you’ve got, along w/ a short description of the GigaWidget, where you found it, and what it does.

Good Times ahead,

SquirrelISM Band long range RC

Google Analytics vs. Other Statistical Packages

Not really a conversation about GigaWidgets, but…Lately, I’ve been asked by several people why Google Analytics shows different data than “other” analytics packages. This is a good question, and there are multiple reasons why this would occur. First, let me say that I did not realize wold was a word, until I mistyped “would” above, and spell check was OK with it…anyway.

Most available analytics packages vary in data collection and reporting methods.  Selcecting the right package/s for your application should start with you deciding what you want to see.  This is probably true for more than just “Analytics” packages.  There are thousands of ways to look at and compare data….and only 24 hours in a day. Decide what metrics are important to you, and then spend some time understanding what drives those metrics into conversions and produces the returns you seek. (page views, request for information, subscriptions etc…)

For example, Google Analytics shows you, by percentage, users bandwidth or circuit they used to “surf” your site on. That’s neat and all, but not very interesting assuming you’ve designed your site according to the common standards used in the last 10 years. Useless is a better way to put it. Not to mention the fact that the term “Cable Internet” is completely meaningless due to the nature of the medium and it’s Layer 2 (OSI) access methods. In reality, Cable Internet could mean anything from 256k to 50M(the bandwidth they like to brag about deploying in select cities).  I’m not saying they won’t get there, it’s just about the demand.  back to topic…

Again, decide what you want to see, then work on how best to cull the data.

A few things to know about Google Analytics (not unique from other SE’s or Stats packages)

Google Analytics -
-is a cookie based analytics package. This means that it will NOT track all users to your site if they have cookies disabled.
-depends on 3rd party image loading to be enabled in the users browser. If they have disabled this, Google Analytics will not track their session.
-is a cookie based analytics package. A repeat I know, but this also means you won’t see duplicate “hits” from users who visit your site thru a proxy or other gateway that has a “pool” of IP’s assigned to it. With other packages, these visits could/would show multiple visits to your site, when really it was just one user.
-calls data sets what it wants to. This may mean other Analytics packages define data sets differently. For example, Google defines two visits, 29 minutes apart, to the same page, as a single visit. Other packages will certainly handle this differently (read 2 visits) Wow, that’s twice the amount of traffic to my site..nice………hrmmm…wait a minute…I haven’t sold twice as much?!
-uses 1st party cookies, or cookies generated by the site your visiting. Other stats packages may use 3rd party cookies, or ones they picked up from the party they came to before yours (probably store bought not home made!) Many browsers will block these “store bought” cookies for security reasons, hence no traffic reported for that users visit.
-calls the Mother server (Google Corporate server named Mother) every time a user visits a page. This may not be the case on other packages, assuming the user viewed the page from his/her cache.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the major points on Google Analytics, it’s time for you to decide what data is important to you, and how you will use it to drive more traffic to your site. Common indicators to use for performance analysis are:

Total Sales Volume in a given time period, usually 1 Month
Total visits to site
Visit duration
Most abandoned page/s
Using these metrics, you can begin to look at “trends” and correlate those trends into performance information for your site, and your bottom line. I’m sure you’ll come up with more as you analyze your statistical data.

Over time, the trends will be more informative, once the site has a chance to settle down and the internet community is fully aware of your new site. e.g. SE’s, Robots, Spammers, etc…The key for you is going to be Trends. Look at the data as percentage based values, not absolute. This will bring out the statistical side in you, provide a clearer picture of what’s happening to your site, and impress your friends with your high level “Statistical Analysis” skills!


Is the BMW X3 (E83) compatible with the Apple IPhone

This question comes about as a friend of mine owns a BMW X3 and Apple IPhone, and is having a some issues with his set-up. In short, it appears the answer is NO. I’m not going to spend alot of time on this, but the short of it goes like this.

While only an issue with late to 9/06 models, (they claim to have fixed it…) still a great example of a broken GigaWidget! The bluetooth protocol is a standard, and BMW is having trouble following it. What they (BMW) now says is the IPhone is not compatible with the X3 models built before 9/06. The broken implementation occurs on the BMW side. When the X3 continues attempting to pair with the phone, even if the phone is out of range. I liken this to my Treo 650 which alerts me with text, and leaves the back-light on until I acknowledge the alert or the battery dies. Nice work Treo! Anyway, back to the X3. The result is a dead battery. The cost, $900.00 for a new TCU. I suspect a software flash would fix the issue.

Anyone have more info on this?


BMW attempted a flash of the TCU on the X3, to remedy the Bluetooth issues with the  IPhone….no go.  The TCU would not take a current version of the flash.  Sounds like they have more issues at hand than just bad firmware.  Changing hardware often has got all kinds of ramifications!

John Kanzius QSO w/ non evasive Cancer Treatment

Apparently, you can communicate with cancer cells on the standard calling frequency of 13.56MHz (jk) 60 Minutes aired a special last night on John Kanzius (a HAM friend) and his work on non evasive cancer treatment. It appears he may really be on to something! Not new news for ARRL members. See the Feb 08 issue of QST.

John started the design shortly after he himself was diagnosed with Leukemia. The banging of pots and pans at 4:30 a.m. signaled “inventor at work” for his wife. And here we are today…”largest research organizations in the world” are conducting and evaluating research around his concept!

In a nutshell, as I understand it, the area to be treated is injected with nanoparticles which attach themselves to the cancer cells. The area is then exposed to a specific frrequency (13.56MHz/power configuration which cooks the cells, leaving the non-cancerous cells in the surrounding area unaffected! Apparently, targeting the nanotubes on cancer cells is trickier than we’d like. One thing they have to overcome is that the designed “seeker” molecule will also target normal cells in tissue. Now that’s a GigaWidget! Keep at it John!

Are you using QRP levels? SSB or FM? :)

I’m not surprised that a fellow HAM came up with this. Our hobby is full of Elmers with plenty to contribute!

A few quick links for those that want to research more on this.
John Kanzius research site

CBS spot

Good work John.

Cell phones on airplanes – Why does the FAA not change the regulations?

I was on 4 planes in the past week and began to really think about why the FAA does not allow cell phones on airplanes. As the flight attendant went thru her normal spiel about what can and cannot be used, the folks behind me began to have a heated discussion about the dangers of cell phones affecting the cockpit instrumentation. I listened in, and thought how ridiculous it is that not only is the FAA propagating lies, people are believing them! Then it occurred to me. The FAA has dropped the part about “may interfere with sensitive electronics in the cabin” or something to that affect.

Think about it. If your cell phone could possibly, remotely ever pose a threat to the operation of an airplane, don’t you think they’d just take it from you at the gate, or require it to go in checked baggage? Of course they would! This alone makes the presentation of their rule ridiculous! The least they could do is come clean and give the real reasons behind the rule.

The real reason is the FCC. With the range of CDMA wireless, a phone traveling at speeds greater than 300mph could quiet easily confuse the cell network roaming faster than the protocol was designed for. ( I suspect) This would put significantly more load on the cell network than it was designed for. Coupled with the latest round of “all you can talk” cell plans, that may spell disaster for cell operators. I already suspect their networks can’t handle a majority portion of their customer base going to the latest plans. The FCC has allocated special frequencies for “air to ground” transmissions, making the use of cell phones in airplanes technologically possible. It just hasn’t been implemented widely. Likely due to cost. If they can’t give you a pack of pretzels due to cost, they sure as hell aren’t going to add cell technology to airplanes! Here’s a quick link on the FCC standing as it relates to cell phones in airplanes.

In closing, I’ll also say that I almost never fly without seeing someone on the plane getting and sending text messages, while in the air! I guess you would call that “Air Mail”


Winderze – Windows Mobile PC ICS and DUN

As I don’t run a Windows workstation day to day, this issue was not readily apparent to me. It seems that the technology shift from AT Command strings to Ethernet involved with the 3G Protocol has caused quiet a stir with DUN users. Windows Mobile DUN discussions.

As you see further down in the responses, a staff member responds putting several questions to bed. He goes on to say that the 3G radios are designed to use Ethernet rather than AT commands for “radio” to “client” based communications. This puts the Linux users in the cold. Many devices are still in use that require the AT command set for control and communication.

Mentioned as well, as if it was an excuse, is that the newer radios don’t even support Serial AT commands. Maybe if the OS authors had continued to include the support for DUN, the hardware would have followed suite? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It isn’t bad enough that they’ve pushed the use of Ethernet and 3G down Mobile users throat’s, the battery technology isn’t up to par, and the coverage area is minimal!

Thanks Winderz, I’ll stick w/ my Mac!

APRS on the road

Well, over the weekend, I took my APRS GPS THD7 conglomeration on the road with me to Nashville, out of Memphis. What I first noticed is that the range of our local repeater system has limited use with an HT (handheld) Not so surprising, but I wish it wasn’t the case. I’m going to have to set up an external antenna, probably 5/8 wave, to extend my reach.

When in Nashville, I was able to hear alot of stations broadcasting packets, but only had my packets repeated twice. Again, I needed a larger antenna to get out. On the way back to Memphis, I had one packet repeated near Oakland, TN. Not sure who is operating that repeater.

As of now, it looks like the repeater coverage for this kind of “travel” tracking is not adequate. I’m going to be getting with the local HAM club to find out how I can help.

I’m thinking that we can use some of this old WLAN gear I’ve got laying around to distribute more “internet gateways”, as long as others can come up with the digi-peaters and we can get roof rights where we need them. Always the challenge for HAM’s with no budget!


Tracking Gigawidget

Here’s an old concept re-instituted. This past weekend I pulled my THD-7 out of storage, along with the Garmin GPS and made some cables. To do what you ask…

We’ll, the D-7 has a built in TNC. This means it can parse data input from a serial device and modulate it over the 2 meter airwaves, for location, bearing, temp. and a few other variables. All this is done using the APRS protocol.

After getting things connected, and waiting awhile for the GPS to boot and lock onto several birds, I was transmitting my location for the world to see! Several folks have been kind enough to write modules that interface with Google Maps service, so you can log onto their site and view your current location in real time! How cool is that.

You can also broadcast text messages to your friends using the APRS protocol. I haven’t tried this yet, but will later this week. From what I understand, if you know the route between you and your friend, and you’re close enough, you can specify a route for the packets to take and ease the load on the network.

More later…