The Garmin InReach Mini 2 keeps fascinating me beyond the 9 blog entries I made last year, so needless to say, I took it with me to a recent vacation in the Austrian alps. While experimenting, I had two interesting insights that I thought I should document here: Message time context and where around the globe SOS emergency messages are being sent.
One thing I kept asking myself was if the time shown next to an incoming text message is actually the time the message was received or if it was the time it was sent. On mobile phones that use a cellular or Wifi network, these are usually the same. Over satellite, however, there can be a significant delay delivering the message for two reasons:
In recent months, satellite services for smartphones have been hyped a lot. While surprising for many, including me, this didn’t come out of nowhere, and a lot of companies have worked on this topic for quite some time. 3GPP has also picked up the topic a few years ago with study items in 3GPP Release 15 and 16. Now, with Release 17, the LTE and 5G NR air interfaces have been extended for use over satellites. The term for this in 3GPP: Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN). So let’s have a look at what has actually been specified:
Over the past years, a lot has happened to ensure that the BIOS firmware of notebooks, workstations and servers can be updated without great fuzz. An automatic downloader and installer is now part of the update procedure of ‘that default operating system’ used by most people. On the Linux side, many companies these days upload their BIOS update files to fwupd.org, which is used as a repository by the firmware update client of major Linux distributions.
So far, so good… However, even though the number of manufacturers supplying images to fwupd.org is rising, there is still room for improvement, and it seems that manufacturers have different amounts of ‘Linux love’ depending on the device series. Let’s take the Lenovo Thinkpad line as an example and the devices I have at home. Sadly, depending on whether a notebook is from the X-,T-,L- or E-series, Linux firmware update support ranges from excellent to, well, let’s say rudimentary, even for the latest and greatest devices.
When SATA SSDs where still in fashion a few years ago, a power-on drive password could be set in BIOS, which was then stored on the drive. While this didn’t encrypt the data, and every notebook manufacturer had its own way to translate what was typed-in to what was stored on the drive, it was a common function. As the world moved on to NVMe M.2 SSDs in notebook, it looks like this has become an optional function. While I could activate the password on my somewhat more expensive Samsung SSDs, the option disappears from the BIOS setup screen when I put-in an SSD of another manufacturer. But it looks like the story is more complicated.
I’m running four Nextcloud instances, all of them in separate virtual machines on Ubuntu 20.04. The problem: Ubuntu 20.04, despite still being rather young, comes with PHP 7.4, which has been declared end of live recently, and Nextcloud has announced that they will no longer support this PHP version in their next release. So while I would probably still have a year or so to do something about this, I’ve decided to be proactive and do a release upgrade of the operating system to Ubuntu 22.04, which includes the latest and greatest PHP version (8.1) at the time of writing. As expected, there were a few bumps along the way and the Apache web server installation on all instances needed some manual tweaking after the OS upgrade. The interesting touch: Even though the virtual machine images were very similar, each Apache installation required a different nudge.
I’ve been virtually flying on VATSIM for some time now, and the small Diamond DA40 is great fun, especially for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operation. With its Garmin G1000 flight management system, flying Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) to and from larger airports is also a lot of fun, especially since the software was updated to the “NXi” version in the simulator last year, which supports pretty much the whole range of IFR procedures. It’s also fun to be the ‘odd-duck’ in the traffic flow, as the DA40 is obviously much slower than airliners, which has air traffic controllers sweating a bit to squeeze me into an approach queue on a Friday evening. The downside: Due to the relatively low speed of the DA40, the number of airports to fly to and from in VATSIM is limited by the time it requires to fly between them. So the obvious ‘next step’ was get into a somewhat faster plane.
Starting at some point in December last year, I suddenly started to get Chrome crashes on a Windows 10 installation running in Virtualbox virtual machine. Over time, the crashes got more frequent and annoying, so I started an investigation. What I found out totally took my by surprise.
Recently, I decided to buy an emergency radio receiver that would double as a radio for the kitchen. On of the main “must have” features for me is of course to be battery driven, so it will still work should power fail. There is a wide choice of radios for this purpose but the more I looked, the more I noticed that I would like to have a number of features beyond just a battery driven radio.
So here we go, it’s 2023 and this blog has once more moved to another host. Initially started as a blog on Typepad in 2005, it has so far moved to a hosted server platform on which I installed WordPress (2016), to a virtual machine I could administer on my own (2018), and then, two years ago, into Docker containers on a VM (2021). Now it was time to move on again!
In episode 3, I’ve looked a bit on how flight planning and navigation software for ‘the real world’ can be used in a flight simulator. Using such software is a huge step beyond the built-in navigation tools when it comes to flying in the simulator as realistically as possible. Next in my list of things to improve was radio communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC). MS Flight Simulator 2020 has built in Air Traffic Control, and interaction with it is done by selecting pre-formulated requests and answers from a drop down menu. That’s not very realistic and lightyears away from the challenge of talking to real people at the other end of a radio channel. But there’s a fix for that: VATSIM.