My wife and I, along with a handful of friends and associates, went camping in Kootenay National Park over the long weekend. We did two amazing hikes (more about that further on) and a lot of typical “hanging out”. I recently bruised my ribs playing soccer (it’s a yearly injury, though usually in hockey) so while the girls went river rafting, I caught up on my reading.
I recently finished reading Armageddon: the Battle for Germany, 1944-1945, written by Max Hastings. It’s an engaging non-fiction history of the Allied fight following their victories in Normandy. In fact, the book was so engaging that I fell four weeks behind in reading my Maclean’s subscription. While spending the better part of the day reading Maclean’s I read an article by Peter Mansbridge about a book he had just started reading titled 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. My immediate reaction was that perhaps I should pick up the book. It would be rather fun to see how many places I had already been and where else I should be going. Apparantly 34 of those places are in Canada, one of which is Banff. So I’m already down to 999 places.
As I mentioned earlier, we did two great hikes in Kootenay National Park; the Kindersley Pass loop (17.7 km) and the Stanley Glacier Trail (11.0 km return). Both hikes have amazing views, low traffic and are well worth the effort. As I sat at the top of the Kindersley Pass (pictures and more hike details to follow in a few days), it struck me that there are probably 1,000 places in Canada that should be seen before you die. In fact, there are probably 1,000 places in each of Canada’s provinces and territories. Sure the pyramids are probably amazing and Machu Picchu was definitely amazing (I did the 4 day Inca Trail hike in 2002), but have you seen the view from Kindersley Pass? Thus far, it rivals anything I’ve seen outside of Canada.
One of the nice things about having a popular blog is that you can get a lot of questions answered simply by putting the question out there on your blog. No, I don’t mean my blog. I’m thinking more along the lines of JWZ’s blog. Sure you can Google for your answer if it’s something general, but for specific problems nothing beats having actual people offer solutions. JWZ was struggling with some CSS issues last month and got an answer the next day. How great is that?
Another popular blogger that makes use of the helpfulness of strangers is Philip Greenspun. Philip is a GA pilot and has asked lots of questions about places to fly in the past. But I had to laugh at his latest posting about the best way to add a 802.11g access point. He got a bunch of answers ranging from a cheap Linksys to an Apple product to building something himself.
The funny part about this post, however, is in reading how the Macintosh fanatics recommend a $130 product when a $25 product will do. And when Philip comments as such, the fanatics just keep on trying to convince him. What is it about these Mac people that they insist on purchasing something simply because Apple makes it? If the prices were close, I could perhaps understand. If it provided far more functionality and that functionality was required, I could probable understand. But when a simple solution is required, why not choose the best tool for the job at the best price? It’s like everything is a hammer to Mac fanatics. Need to pound in a nail, use the iHammer. Need to put in some screws? Just use the iHammer to hammer them in. Need to drill a hole? Just use the iHammer until you’ve got a large hole. Need to cut a board? No problem, just use this iHammer to hit the board enough that it breaks in two. You get the idea. Oh, and the iHammer is the same as the cheap metal one you can get at Home Depot except it’s three times the cost and Apple makes it. Ya, sign me up.
My Flight Sim Yoke USB arrived this afternoon. Kudos to PC Toy Shop for shipping it so fast. And it doesn’t hurt that I live in a neighbouring province (which makes ground shipping not as bad you might think). If you are looking to buy PC accessories online, I recommend PC Toy Shop without question.
Anyway, when I got home last night, I plugged my new yoke into my undocked laptop and was delighted to see that the Linux USB subsystem recognized my yoke and created the appropriate /dev/input/js0 device. And when I read from that device and moved the yoke around the typical array of random characters appeared so all looked good. Next step; try running FlightGear.
I started up FlightGear with the “auto coordination” option enabled since I don’t have rudder pedals (yet) and voila, I was flying with a yoke. Just like that. I have a pretty stripped down kernel but my yoke worked just fine. I didn’t bother trying the yoke with any other applications since I am only interested in using it to ‘fly’.
If you are having issues getting your Flight Sim Yoke USB (from CH Products) to work, feel free to contact me. I am currently running Gentoo Linux with the 2.6.12 kernel. I’ll try and document what’s required along with a review of the yoke later once I’ve had time to ‘play’ with the yoke. In the meantime, see you in the virtual skies… I’ll be the one practicing IFR stuff.
I’m hoping to use FlightGear to practice some basic navigation and to work on my IFR procedures. However, to date, I’ve always been a keyboard pilot and trying to do anything with precision on the keyboard is impossible. More so with a laptop keyboard. So today I purchased a Flight Sim Yoke from CH Products. I briefly looked around for somewhere local here in Calgary but ended up purchasing the yoke from PC Toy Shop out of Vancouver. PC Toy Shop had a good selection of products, offered cheap shipping via DHL and their pricing seemed on par. And to my delight, I ordered the yoke and they shipped it mere hours later.
When the yoke arrives and I get it set up (I run Linux so it might be a few hours of frustration) I’ll document my experiences and a product review of sorts. I did some preliminary checking and the yoke seems to run under Linux so I don’t expect too much in the way of trouble.
I used to be an avid Slashdot reader. I still somewhat read Slashdot, but only via my RSS aggregator and if I see a title that looks interesting, I click on the ‘Complete Story’ link, read the brief and then click on the actual article that Slashdot is referencing. That’s the limit of my Slashdot interactivity. Am I abusing their service? Perhaps. But then again, I still have 155 page views left on the 1000 page view subscription I bought a few years ago.
Anyway, why did I stop reading Slashdot? Because Slashdot is a neverending battle between four groups of people: people bickering back and forth about which technologies are better (ie. MS vs Mac vs Linux vs whatever), people fighting for ‘Slashdot karma’, people who just plain n00bs and regular people just looking for information. Take this article on the Optimus Keyboard I read today over on Slashdot. The first dozen or so comments from readers are about the cost of a good mobile phone/plan. It really is nothing more than ridiculous speculation around a comment made by the keyboard manufacturer. In any case, long gone are the days when the site was relatively small and the comments were insightful and honest. That said, every once in a while (read: rarely) there is a really funny comment, though you can find that sort of thing anywhere.
For those who continue to read Slashdot, here’s a blog entry on how to read Slashdot. If you are looking for an alternative to Slashdot, try Digg or kuro5hin.org. There are tonnes of others. Though realistically, the best alternative to Slashdot is to simply use an aggregator to source the articles yourself. Of course, I could care less if you quit or not, but if you are still not convinced to give up Slashdot then read through this article on quitting Slashdot. It worked on me.
If you find yourself with a few extra minutes (between 15-20 minutes required), I highly recommend listing to Joe, who has a podcast called ”Fly With Me”. Joe is a new Captain (though in his first shows he’s a first officer still) with a major airline. If you’re curious which airline, just Google for which airline has a Flight 541 to Maui. In any case, Joe’s podcasts are very entertaining, probably more so for non-pilots or anyone who’s never flown in a small plan.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to fly jumpset (I was a ramp guy for Canadian Airlines in high school), you’ll know that this is pretty much how it is up there. And if you haven’t flown up in the front, then take a listen. You’ll be entertained and will likely learn some stuff.
And even if you are a pilot or think you’ve heard it all, I have absolutely no doubt that you’ll still find Joe’s podcast entertaining. And if you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of Joe’s work, and wonder what he doing flying instead of broadcasting.
Glenn posted an entry this afternoon, which was in response to an entry by Sam, whose blog I just started reading (thanks Glenn for pointing out that post as it wasn’t included in the RSS for Sam’s blog). I found both entries interesting as I had never thought about leadership from the pilot perspective.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if you removed the flying references from Sam’s post you could title the entry ‘Good Leader, Bad Leader’. Whether you are a flight crew captain, a tank commander or the lead developer on a project, it’s all the same; if you have people that report to you one way or the other, you are a leader whether you want to be or not. As such, you need to accept all the responsibilities that come with being a leader, not just the cool ones like ‘I get to tell the driver where to go and the gunner what to shoot at’.
One of the best part of being in the Canadian Army long enough to make Sergeant is that I received formal leadership training. I think that pretty much anyone who tries can be a good leader, all you have to do is follow what the Army calls the ‘Principles of Leadership’. Great leaders, on the other hand, are good leaders that have a natural ability; that can never be taught.
Anyway, back to Sam’s list of 6 traits that a good captain (GC) should have. If you look at the Army’s list, Sam’s points are all pretty much covered off. For example, Sam’s point #6 is that he ”…cares about his crew and takes care of them”. The Army calls that ”Know your soldiers and promote their welfare”. You get where I’m going with this. While you can take the general principles and specialize them for a particular job or trade, in the end what you are looking for is a good leader, whether that leader is the captain of an aircraft, a tank commander or a lead developer for a team of programmers.
And finally, if you are interested in the Canadian Army’s Principles of Leadership, the list is given below (the US Marines have a similar list I believe):
- Achieve professional competence
- Appreciate your own strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement
- Seek and accept responsibility
- Lead by example
- Make sure that your followers know your meaning and intent, then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission
- Know your soldiers and promote their welfare
- Develop the leadership potential of your followers
- Make sound and timely decisions
- Train your soldiers as a team and employ them up to their capabilities
- Keep your followers informed of the mission, the changing situation and the overall picture
Wolfenstein Enemy Territory is now my new favourite game of all time. That’s a bold statement but if you’ve played it, you know what I mean. And if you’ve never played it, you’re missing out. It’s multi-player, which is a necessity, and there are lots of servers with lots of players. The graphics are good but still run on older machines. And best of all, the game play is far superior to Quake3 or Urban Terror.
What really sucked about Urban Terror was that no matter where you went, there were losers who simply sat there with their sniper rifle and killed you as you exited your team’s spawn area. While that may seem like ‘just part of the game play’, it sucks for overall enjoyment, especially given how hard it is to combat that. If faced one of those sniping spawn campers you first hard to figure out where he was, which typically takes two or three deaths (insert serious cursing and swearing at this point). Then you try the frontal assault, but given that he’s well established in some sneaky position, he sees you coming and takes you out before you can get into a good counter position. Finally, you figure out a sneaky back route that gets you to his position where you can slice him up with your knife and have a good chuckle. Unless he’s been smart and moved, in which case you start all over again from scratch (insert more cursing and swearing).
You still encounter some of this online with Enemy Territory but now you have several things to counter this. You have more players and with more targets presenting themselves, the sniper has to choose and some of us are bound to get through. You also have five different types of characters (soldiers, engineers, medics, field ops and covert ops) you can play, each with characteristics that contribute to the overall battle. And you are scored on what you contribute to the game not how many kills you get. This was the absolute best decision that the game designers made; with scoring based on how well you play your character, there is no longer a draw to the high powered scopes on sniper rifles because a sniper with a high kill count could be easily out played by an engineer who blows up all the bridges or a medic who runs around the battlefield healing everyone. And because of that, Enemy Territory is a true multiplayer game where you can simply rely on one or two good guys or act independently.
So if you run Linux only (like me) and are looking for something to occupy some free time, check it out. But be warned; the first time you play it, you’ll find that your entire day slips by and suddenly it’s 2am and you’ve missed lunch, dinner and your bedtime.
Recently, I (along with the other guys) have been growing a bit bored with Urban Terror. When we play locally we are able to vary the maps we use, but even then, a lot of maps are far too big or don’t support bots or are still rather boring. And on the Internet, there are tonnes of Urban Terror servers, but not a lot of players. Or if there are a lot of players, they are all spawn camping, sniping cheaters. It’s a lose, lose, lose situation; literally. I think people are moving onto newer FPS games; so that’s what we did.
Mike suggested looking at Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which is only a few years old and would run reasonably well on the developer workstations and on my P4 2 GHz Latitude notebook (it is, after all, all about me). It was there that I discovered Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, which is a free, stand-alone multiplayer game written by Splash Damage. I don’t know much about the project other than the game was originally going to be a retail expansion pack for Return To Castle Wolfenstein but the project was cancelled and the good folks at Activision decided to give it to the world for free. How cool is that?
In any case, Enemy Territory is very cool. It’s always team based; you’re either part of the Allies or the Axis. And players can choose various types of characters to play, foot soldiers, engineers, special ops, etc, and each characters have various weapons and skills. And over time, the players’ characters gain experience and perform better. And you can choose to simply play a single scenario or have mini-battles that affect an larger campaign. Overall, my initial impression of the game is that it’s very cool and since we’ve only just begun exploring the various features, things can only get better.
I’ve been busy the past few weeks. So much so, all the have written blog entries from the past week or so are still sitting half done as “Drafts”. And to be honest I’m not sure I’ll ever catch up. So I think I’ll just restart from today and simply edit the old entries when I have days like today where I’m too busy to come up with something truly original, relating to the days events.