August 20th, 2017

#5811: Raspberry Pi is pretty nifty

So, this afternoon, after finishing with the computer room closet, I dug out the Rasperry Pi kit Mrs. Fungus got me for Christmas and put it together. Not sure if it's a 2 or a 3, but it's nice, even so.

Hooked it up downstairs to the monitor on my PC tinkering desk. It booted right up. Installed Debian Linux per the instructions and--to my delight--had little trouble getting it to connect to our WiFi. I was able to read the Fungus using a computer the size of a deck of cards.

I'm going to experiment more with it, of course. One thing I'd like to do is to try running the Pi off the USB charger I've installed in the Jeep. That should work; and if it did, I could then find a way to mount a monitor and really get nuts.

The one bit of trouble I had with getting the thing to connect to our network? When I typed our password I used the shift key for the capital letters, and for some reason that didn't work; but when I used shift-lock, those capital letters worked fine. Probably some weirdness with the keyboard settings that I'll have to work out, but it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Did not have a lot of time to fool with it as Mrs. Fungus came home about the time the OS install was 90% completed. But now the Pi awaits me having some free time to fiddle with it...which means I may actually get to tinker with it again in October, or maybe January. But it comes with a full suite of productivity applications (word processor, spreadsheet, etc) and it seems like it'd be fast enough to do word processing on. The Pi has four USB ports so I can hook up an external hard- or thumb drive to transfer files. I could conceivably use the Pi as the "Monk's Cell" computer, the machine on which I can only write.

Understand, this little computer is a bit less powerful than El-Hazard, the mini-ITX computer I built for $160 in October of 2011. It's got a quad-core processor but 1 GB of RAM, with a 32 GB Micro SD card for nonvolatile storage. But El-Hazard works great for torrents or word processing; and I bet this little gizmo will, as well. I can't wait to try it out.

Gonna have to come up with a name for it, though. Another anime world name--it'll come to me. No rush.

#5812: How to make a camera obscura.

It's so simple a 12-year-old can do it.

Step one: get a cardboard box and either some aluminum foil or an aluminum can.

Step two: Cut a hole in one side of the box, about 3" square.

Step three: If you're using the can, cut a 4x4" piece of aluminum from it. If you're using the foil you need about that much foil. Either way, put a pinhole in the aluminum and then tape it over the hole in the box such that the pinhole is centered in the cutout.

Now you can stop here and have a perfectly usable solar observatory. Stick your head in the box such that the pinhole is pointing at the sun, but not blocking the image, and you'll see the image projected on the other side. You can tape white paper there to make it more visible.

What I like to do, though, is to cut another hole in the box, perhaps 5x5 or 6x6--depending on how big the box is, as the image will be bigger for longer boxes--tape some white paper over that hole, and seal the box. Now you can hold the thing up to the sun and look at the image projected on the white paper without sticking your head in the box. What you've just made is a crude sun funnel without any active magnification.

This is the safest way to view the eclipse. It costs virtually nothing to make, and the nature of the camera obscura actually gives you a bigger image to look at. I made one when I was in grade school using nothing more than what I'd read in Peanuts comics as a guide.

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What a coincidence dept: not realizing that today is the 40th anniversary of the Voyager project, I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture last night.

That was the first time since about 1988 that I watched that movie. You know, it's not a bad story; there's just too little of it for a 131 minute movie. It takes too long to get the Enterprise out of drydock; then once the ship leaves Earth orbit, it takes too long to get to the meat of the story. And most of the time between leaving Earth and getting to the story is spent on "gee whiz look at the scenery", where it rapidly becomes painfully obvious that the actors are standing on set looking astounded while stagehands wave lights around.

It's like, okay, we get that V'ger is huge and powerful. We don't need to spend thirty minutes on long slow tracking shots of the Enterprise moving through it.

Something funny that I noticed: during the long time where Enterprise was flying over the V'ger-scape, Bones would periodically come to the bridge. He'd walk on from the turbolift, stand there for a few minutes, and then leave again without saying a word. One time he was delivering Chekhov after fixing his injured hand, but the other times he came and left apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever. He wasn't included in the dialogue, nor had anyone summoned him. This made sure he was present for the major developments but there wasn't any story logic to it.

Of course he's kind of a supernumerary since Nurse Chapel is now Doctor Chapel, and she was the ship's chief medical officer until Kirk shoehorned Bones in. Oh well.

Wrath of Khan is next. I henceforth will probably skip the not-so-good movies, which basically means I'll watch that and Voyage Home and call it quits. Numbers 3, 5, and 6 were really not all that entertaining. #3 is notable only because it's the first time they blew up the Enterprise, and otherwise I thought it was pretty unpleasant. #5--the whole anti-religion thrust of the story ruined it. The entity they find is not God, merely a god-like being. (Maybe it's a roque Q or an evil Dowd or something.) In any event, trying to sell Uhura as "hot" was a stretch and the whole story was pretty lame. #6 was bad because the story was a tired retread of an already-overused trope: "military people conspire to foil peace efforts because military people like war and hate peace!" Minus extra points for giving Valeris (who basically took the place of Saavik, who'd already been played by two different women, as Spock's protege) the worst hairstyle in Starfleet history.

Seems a bit of a waste after buying a box set of the movies on DVD, but if I'd bought only 1, 2, and 4 it would have cost more than the box set did.

Incidentally, seeing Motion Picture on DVD revealed some image quality issues. They weren't digitizing issues; they were in the original print of the movie. These problems were invisible when watching a VHS image on a 25" CRT, but when you watch a DVD on a 50-inch LCD, they're manifest. Minor distractions, though, not serious image defects.

That first movie does have the best music of all the movies, though.

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As always, busy busy. Need to hit the shower.