07.31.2008 19:54

Lightwave animation of TEGA sample delivery

Today was the first TV press conference of landed operations of Phoenix that I did not directly participate in. I helped way before hand, but didn't do anything for it in the last few days.

The SSV team produced a nice new animation of the sample delivery to TEGA of the material with ice. I'm still helping by converting RKSML arm motion to Lightwave scene files with keyframes (.lws)...

Then the SSV team created a new computer model of a TEGA cell and did a blend with the lander.

Here is a closeup showing one TEGA cell.

Then here is the sample being vibrated down into the sample holder.

For the full details, get the movie from here and/or watch the whole press conference when it becomes available on iTunesU.


TEGA sample delivery by SSV [youtube]

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.31.2008 19:17


The idea is good, but the interface is confusing. I'm still more of a fan of the JPL Planetary Photojournal.

Check out the new nasaimages.org... a collaboration between NASA and the Internet Archive.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.31.2008 17:32

OneGeology - geologic map of the earth

Mother Earth gets undressed - A database of geological maps of the world has been made freely available. [Nature]
The project has accelerated the development of a new web language,
Geoscience Mark-up Language, to allow countries to share their data
and make them freely accessible. The collaboration hopes that this
will make mineral extraction opportunities easier to spot, which has
made Australia, Brazil and Canada particularly keen to participate,
says Jackson.
GeoSciML... another markup language. http://www.onegeology.org/ and Cookbook 1: How to serve a OneGeology Level 1 conformant WMS using MapServer. Version 1.1

Hmmm... Not seeing detail useage instructions and the site does not like Firefox 3. The FAQ section could really use a section pointing potential *users* of said data to some instructions.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.30.2008 16:33

super light weight camera monitoring

For StarDot cameras, if you just want to watch images coming from the camera without all of their complicated web code, try this.
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5">
<img src="http://cam1/netcam.jpg">

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.30.2008 10:18

Canadian Right Whale effort

First I've heard in the press about this work. Thanks to Roland for the link.

Saving whales from deadly ship collisions [CNN Tech]
"It's like living beside a train track. After a while you stop hearing
the trains go by," said Angelia Vanderlaan, a doctoral candidate in
oceanography at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Since the whales
were not budging, Vanderlaan and other marine mammal experts designed
a plan to encourage cargo ships to take a short detour around them
during certain months of the year.
While the ATBA is a voluntary plan, the Dalhousie scientists can
monitor on their computers which ships are complying and which ones
are ignoring the zone. Through technology called the Automatic
Identification System, ocean vessels transmit their speed, direction
and type of ship every three seconds. The telecommunications company
Bell Aliant donated and installed special equipment on cell towers
near Cape Sable Island to help the researchers track activity in the
"Subsequent to 31 May 2008, we have very clear evidence that several
vessels that used to transit the ATBA are now voluntarily avoiding the
area. This is a very good sign," said Dalhousie oceanography professor
Christopher Taggart.
Chris Taggart's web page and the article Whales for the saving - Dal research demonstrates need for speed restrictions
Their research is having an international as well as local impact. The
paper, "Vessel Collisions with Whales: The Probability of Lethal
Injury Based on Vessel Speed," by Ms. Vanderlaan and Dr. Taggart, was
published in Marine Mammal Science earlier this year and is being
cited in a court case in Hawaii concerning a high-speed ferry and
potential humpback whale strikes. Their work is also being used to
mediate a dispute between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and the White House regarding vessel speed in
certain areas of the American east coast.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.30.2008 09:33

Randy Pausch and Alice 3.0

Alice 3.0 sounds pretty interesting and maybe it will run on Linux and/or Mac. I was excited that the original Alice used Python, but it was always just windows based, so I never tried it and I missed out seeing that the Building Virtual Worlds class at CMU did when I was a Visiting Scientist there back in 98/99. EA's Hit Game 'The Sims' Will Help Make Computer Science Education Fun
PITTSBURGH - March 10, 2006 - Carnegie Mellon University has entered
into a groundbreaking collaboration with Electronic Arts Inc., that
has the potential to revolutionize and reinvigorate computer science
education in the US from middle school through senior high and beyond.
EA has agreed to help underwrite the development of Alice 3.0 - a
popular, object-oriented, Java-based computer-programming environment
created by Carnegie Mellon researchers - and provide essential arts
assets from "The Sims" - the best selling PC video game of all time.
The Sims content will transform the Alice software from a crude, 3D
programming tool into a compelling and user-friendly programming
environment. Development for Alice 3.0 will begin immediately and will
span the next 18 to 24 months. Experts say that when the
transformation is complete, the new programming environment will be in
position to become the national standard for teaching software
I finally managed to watch this... Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 16:56

Val Schmidt's Master's Thesis Defense this Friday

Val Schmidt's Master's Thesis Defense - Underwater tracking of humpback whales with high frequency pingers and acoustic recording tags Friday, August 1, 2008 at 10:00am in the Visualization Classroom room 130, within the Chase OE Laboratory.
A long-baseline acoustic system has been developed for the tracking of
humpback whales that have been tagged with digital acoustic recording
devices, or DTAGs, providing quantitative measures of submerged whale
behavior. The system includes three acoustic sources deployed from
small-boats that follow the whale after the animal has been
tagged. Integrated GPS provides positioning and synchronized operation
of the sources. Time-encoded signals from the sources are recorded
along with whale vocalizations and ambient noise on the whale
tag. Time-of-flight measurements, as measured by the tag acoustic
data, are converted to range from the whale to each source with a
nominal sound speed. A non-linear least-squares solution is then
solved for the whale's position. The system is demonstrated with data
collected from a tagged animal in the summer of 2007.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 16:46

Mounted netcam

This is a $7 camera mount.

Looks like the camera needs to have the window cleaned and a no-reflective backing behind it for evening imagery.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 13:28

StarDot camera on the USCG Healy

Here is an example of a StarDot camera in action out in the field. This is the forward looking view from the USCG Ice Breaker Healy.



Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 11:54

StarDot netcam - initial tests

I've done an initial test of the StarDot SC 5MP. I've come to the conclusion that I need to clean the lens and clean my office window!

First off, I used the video output with a standard def Sony TV monitor to get the rough focus. SD is a bit tough to do the focus. Initially, the video would not really sync. Rebooting the netcam got the video to work just fine. No tripod, so this is blurry...

I setup the camera to take the full resolution images through the web interface:

Here are two sample images from the camera. I've downsampled them for my blog, but they illustrate the blurry image (from not cleaning everything), and the strong spherical distortion from the wide angle optics. The results are pretty good. Now I need a ladder and some Windex.

Just a couple notes about the netcam system. It is not strong on security. You will need to put this behind a NAT or other firewall. The box runs a stripped down uCLinux with BusyBox:
% telnet cam1
BusyBox v0.60.0 (2007.10.30-21:37+0000) Built-in shell (msh)
% uname -a
uClinux netcamsc 8118 Tue Oct 30 14:35:29 PDT 2007 m68knommu unknown
The open ports:
% sudo nmap -sS -sR -sV -O -PI -PT cam1
9/tcp   open  discard
23/tcp  open  telnet   Linux telnetd
80/tcp  open  http     Boa HTTPd 0.93.15
512/tcp open  exec
Thanks to Dale C., I was able to grab images with wget for testing:
% watch -n 10 wget http://camera/netcam.jpg
watch will run the wget command every 10 seconds. Pretty simple way to grab some frames.

Here are the details of an image (just because I can... )
% identify -verbose netcam-11.jpg
Image: netcam-11.jpg
  Format: JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group JFIF format)
  Class: DirectClass
  Geometry: 2592x1944+0+0
  Resolution: 72x72
  Print size: 36x27
  Units: Undefined
  Type: TrueColor
  Endianess: Undefined
  Colorspace: RGB
  Depth: 8-bit
  Channel depth:
    red: 8-bit
    green: 8-bit
    blue: 8-bit
  Channel statistics:
      min: 0 (0)
      max: 255 (1)
      mean: 103.572 (0.406164)
      standard deviation: 60.0907 (0.23565)
      min: 0 (0)
      max: 255 (1)
      mean: 102.451 (0.40177)
      standard deviation: 65.5453 (0.25704)
      min: 0 (0)
      max: 255 (1)
      mean: 104.497 (0.409791)
      standard deviation: 63.6873 (0.249754)
  Rendering intent: Undefined
  Interlace: None
  Background color: white
  Border color: rgb(223,223,223)
  Matte color: grey74
  Transparent color: black
  Page geometry: 2592x1944+0+0
  Dispose: Undefined
  Iterations: 0
  Compression: JPEG
  Quality: 77
  Orientation: Undefined
    create-date: 2008-07-29T11:35:44-04:00
    jpeg:colorspace: 2
    jpeg:sampling-factor: 2x2,1x1,1x1
    modify-date: 2008-07-29T11:35:44-04:00
    Profile-APP10: 32 bytes
  Tainted: False
  Filesize: 887.096kb
  Number pixels: 4.80542mb

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 10:11

Right Whale ruling

Looks like this has already scrolled off the page as I can't find the original. From: Maritime Monday 121

Haight’s Maritime Items has: USCG may not ignore right whales when designating routing measures - The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a decision of the federal District Court that had sanctioned the failure by the US Coast Guard to consider the impact on the endangered North Atlantic right whales in its designation of ship routing schemes. Various environmental advocacy groups had brought suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for failure to issue an emergency rulemaking requiring ship speed reductions in waters frequented by the right whales and against the Coast Guard for failure to consider the impact on right whales in its designation of vessel routing measures under authority of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act. The District Court had granted motions for summary judgment in favor of the two agencies. The environmental advocacy groups appealed. The appellate court found that the failure of the Coast Guard to consider the impact on right whales in its designation of vessel routing measures constituted final agency action and was thus reviewable. It remanded the case to the District Court to review on the merits the allegations of the environmental advocacy groups regarding the Coast Guard’s responsibility to consider the impact on North Atlantic right whales in its designation of vessel routing measures. Defenders of Wildlife v. Gutierrez, No. 07-5278 (DC Cir., July 18, 2008). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200807/07-5278-1128311.pdf

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 09:44

NASA's 50th birthday

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.29.2008 09:41

Franconia and White Mts

This weekend, we got to go up to the White Mountains and Franconia. New Hampshire is a beautiful state, even if the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in 2003. The gorge was spectacular and the Lost River caving was a blast. We made it through all the cave, even the lemon squeezer. Too much to do and not enough time.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.25.2008 10:42

More camera experiments

Rob B. has lent me a StarDot NetCam SC 5MP camera to try out with my new office view. I need to get this camera up and logging asap. We are building a camera to mount this inside my window so that no housing is needed.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.25.2008 10:36

Garden update

Several people have noted that I have neglected the garden pictures this year. Maria and Edwardo did a little planting for me while I was gone and I did an emergency weeding and planting dash despite the rain. I've got 5 planters of seeds started for late crops. Fingers are crossed.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.25.2008 10:31

Flying back from Tucson

I tried to get some outdoor images, since I hadn't seen the out of doors much for two months. Here are some pictures from the flights home.

Gotta go West to go East. Here is Nevada coming in towards Las Vegas.

And a cloud picture.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.25.2008 06:57

Phx hand off

After 56 days straight working on Phoenix without a day off, I'm back home. I've handed off the 5 projector screen to Jake et al. It looks like it is going well. Jake here on the right is controlling the big screen via Apple Remote Desktop via a laptop on wireless.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.24.2008 14:04

seq and fuser

For listing out series of sols for the Phx mission, seq really is handy. This little unix program lists a range of numbers. The mission uses 3 digit numbers for the sol directories.
% seq -s " " -f '%03g' 43 58
043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050 051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058

From: Lazy Linux: 10 essential tricks for admins, which also talks about fuser. fuser lists what processes are using a file. The opposite of lsof (list of open files).

And a little trick for new macs. If you want to email the serial number and ethernet MAC address of a new machine to your admin that is keeping track of hardware (or yourself incase it is stolen), try this command:
system_profiler -detailLevel basic SPHardwareDataType \
SPNetworkDataType | mail -s "New mac hardware report for `hostname`"

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.23.2008 17:57

SQLITE tutorial

I told Gwennie that I would give her a quick SQL tutorial. She is another mac user (there were many at the Phoenix Sience Operations Center... probably over 100 Macs at the SOC). So here it is and this assumes you are running on a Mac and are comfortable on the command line.

See also: http://www.sqlite.org/sqlite.html for a quick tutorial

First, the Mac comes with Sqlite3. You can use either the Mac one or the one from fink. They are pretty much equivalent.
% type -a sqlite3
sqlite3 is /sw/bin/sqlite3
sqlite3 is /usr/bin/sqlite3
Sqlite is a great database program to use when learning SQL. There is no database server to setup. It uses a file for the database and if you don't like what you did, just delete the file. Note, that sqlite2 and older use an ASCII database format and are really slow (and have very large db files). Let's get started!
% sqlite3 demo.db3
sqlite> SELECT 1+1;
sqlite> .quit
Not so exciting, but it is a start. You have to specify a file to use as the database, but if unless you do something to the database, it won't create the file. SELECT is the basic lookup command. You can do basic math with it. You can also get the current time.
2008-07-23 22:33:56
Some quick SQL convention notes. SQL reserved words are typically done in all caps and comments start with '--'. SQL statements end with a ';'.

Now we need to make some tables so we can do something a bit more interesting. This makes a 3 column table. The .schema command lists the tables in the database.
sqlite> CREATE TABLE somedata (aNumber INT, aFloat REAL, aString VARCHAR(30));
sqlite> .schema
CREATE TABLE somedata (aNumber INT, aFloat REAL, aString VARCHAR(30));
Now put some data into the table:
sqlite> INSERT INTO somedata values (1, 1.001, "a first string");
sqlite> INSERT INTO somedata values (6, 42.000001, "another string");
sqlite> SELECT * FROM somedata;
1|1.001|a first string
6|42.000001|another string
If you want to write out a csv file that you can import into Excel or some other database, try something like this:
sqlite> .separator ", "
sqlite> .output foo.csv
sqlite> SELECT aFloat, aString FROM somedata;
sqlite> .quit
% cat foo.csv
1.001, a first string
42.000001, another string
% open .output foo.csv
The next thing to look at is WHERE to limit searches to a subset of the data.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.23.2008 17:40

GMT is 20 years old

Hello GMT users-
GMT quietly passed a major milestone sometime earlier this month.  20
years ago (in early July 1988), Walter and I released GMT version 1.0
to an unsuspecting group of students and scientists at Lamont-Doherty
Earth Observatory.  The first years GMT was used mostly at Lamont but
slowly migrated to other places as graduating students and various
visitors took 9-track tapes with them to their new institutions.
The official global launch of GMT did not take place until October 8,
1991 with our EOS article; hence we will hold off on the wild parties,
logo competitions, and other nerd trivia until we get closer to the
official 20-year anniversary in 2011.  Stay tuned!
Paul Wessel, Walter Smith, and the GMT team

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.22.2008 09:03

ogg and Apple

Apple's iTunes on the Mac does not play ogg?!?! I'm having to run Audacity to play a podcast.

Also, the UNH IT team says that their VPN is not compatible with that in Mac OSX 10.5.
To the best of my understanding the Mac built in VPN will work with
generic PPTP VPNs or a Mac server IPSec VPN.  What we run on campus is a
Juniper SSL VPN.  The Mac's built in VPN software will not connect to
it.  It needs to connect via the web Browser.
This big move to Browser RAS does not thrill me.

And the UNH travel expense Excel spreadsheet does not seem to be compatible with MS Office 2008 for Mac.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.21.2008 17:44

Mac - Hiding the dock and menu bar

From Jake and Kenny: How to hide the menu bar and Dock on a Mac. [macworld]
Have you ever wanted the ability to hide the Dock and/or the menu bar
on an application-by-application basis? That is, when you launch
iPhoto, the Dock is hidden, when you launch Google Earth both the Dock
and the menu bar are hidden? This can be useful when working on a
smaller screen with a program that requires most of the screen for its
visuals, or if you just find the Dock and menu bar are cluttering your
view of things.
While there are a number of third-party programs out that purport to
do just this- ASM and MenuShade come to mind - it's actually quite easy
to do yourself. It just takes a couple of simple edits in one file
within the given application.
I made a copy of the Stickies application on my desktop.
  % cd ~/Desktop/StickiesCopy.app/Contents
  % emacs -nw  Info.plist
Then add the lines that say 'HERE:'...
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
And the options for that variable:
  • LSUIPresentationMode 1 - Hides Dock. Dock will appear if mouse moved to where it is located.
  • LSUIPresentationMode 2 - Removes Dock.
  • LSUIPresentationMode 3 - Removes Menu Bar and Dock.
  • LSUIPresentationMode 4 - Hides Menu Bar and Dock. Menu Bar or Dock will appear if mouse moved to where Menu Bar or Dock is located.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.21.2008 09:23

NOAA RNC disruption

Trackback: RNC disruption, not as bad as it sounds? [panbo]

I'm not sure what this means yet. All caps as the USCG sends its announcements. Note to the USCG: Putting URLs in ALL CAPS is not going to work. Most web servers are case sensitive on the text after the host name.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.18.2008 12:03

Free online google earth NOAA charts for continental US



Make sure to zoom way into an area or you will only see the bounding boxes.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.18.2008 07:52

TWIC and foreign students on ships

In the case of TWIC cards for Research Vessels, I really wonder what the DHS was thinking. Their cost-benefit model must be 'interesting'.

Quick Takes: Pentagon Pledges to Limit Restrictive Contracts, Oceanography Students Declared Not to Be Threat... [Inside Higher Ed]
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has agreed to lift the
designation of some foreign graduate students in oceanography as a
security threat. The designation prevented the students, enrolled at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, many from countries
considered close U.S. allies, from doing certain research work in
harbors. While officials at MIT and other universities have called the
designations absurd, the government didn't lift them until asked to do
so by Rep. Brad Miller, chair of the Investigation and Oversight
Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee. Miller
released various letters on the matter, praising the lifting of the
classification and calling on the government to take steps to avoid
hindering graduate students in similar situations.
And interesting read to go with this: Homeland Security Cost-Benefit Analysis [Schneier on Security]
The Pentagon has issued a policy statement that contracts for research
with universities should not generally have restrictions on
disseminating research findings unless the research is classified.
Now we need to keep some sense as to what is classified vrs unclassified. I've experience people putting unclass data on the class networks expecting me to get it from there. Um, no!

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.17.2008 09:53

Neptune LNG terminal construction

Work begins on 2nd local off-shore LNG site [NewburyportNews.com]
Carrying the 170 workers of Caldive, the global sea drilling company
from Quincy, the live-on construction barge Lone Star Horizon is now
in position for the project. It was towed out Tuesday night for Suez
Energy North America, according to company spokeswoman Carol
The site of the terminal - named Neptune - was challenged by the
fishing community, which objected to the loss of fruitful waters to
the energy industry, but then-Gov. Mitt Romney authorized the LNG
terminal on the site in December 2006. He also approved a second
terminal site to the south that has been built and began receiving the
tankers last month.
The Neptune site will consist of a buoy system at which the LNG
vessels will moor and discharge natural gas by using onboard
vaporization equipment, according to Suez Energy. The natural gas will
be transported via a 13-mile pipeline connecting to the existing
pipelines through Salem.
http://www.neptunelngconstruction.com/ by SUEZ
Neptune will implement vessel restrictions, including:
    * Speed restrictions to avoid striking marine mammals and sea turtles;
    * Downward lighting to minimize light attracting sea birds at night; and
    * Vessel shutdowns in the event of a marine mammal sighting.
During construction, two marine mammal observers (MMOs) are on duty on
each construction vessel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to
visually monitor for the presence of marine mammals and sea
turtles. At night, the MMOs use infrared scanning devices to monitor
for the presence of marine mammals and sea turtles in the construction
area. In addition to visual observations, Neptune has installed a
series of acoustic buoys in the construction area that automatically
monitor for the presence of the endangered North Atlantic right
whale. If a right whale is detected, the MMOs are notified
immediately, and vessels will be placed on heightened alert.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.16.2008 09:39

Phx Robotic Arm

I've headed away from the Phoenix project and am now back in the world of NOAA. However, I am still paying attention to the mission. Phoenix is a fantastic mission from a science perspective.

NASA: Robotic arm on Mars Lander shuts down to save itself - As weather window starts closing, scientists move to fix problem and speed up tests
After receiving instructions for a movement that would have damaged
its wrist, the robotic arm recognized the problem, tried to rectify it
and then shut down before it could damage itself, according to Ray
Arvidson, a co-investigator for the Mars Lander's robotic arm team and
a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
NASA engineers yesterday worked to send new instructions to the Lander
so the robotic arm would come back to life and proceed with a new set
of instructions. The team is now waiting to see whether the code
resolved he problem.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.16.2008 09:24

NOAA Tides Course

After my little exploration into tides I need to read up on tides. NOAA has an online course. This is a quick overview that will help people get at least the basics.

Tides and Water Levels

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.15.2008 11:08

Vessel Noise journal paper

Our latest paper is just out:

Hatch, L., C. Clark, R. Merrick, S. Van Parijs, D. Ponirakis, K. Schwehr, M. Thompson, D. Wiley, Characterizing the Relative Contributions of Large Vessels to Total Ocean Noise Fields: A Case Study Using the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Environmental Management, May 2008.
In 2006, we used the U.S. Coast Guard's Automatic Identification
System (AIS) to describe patterns of large commercial ship traffic
within a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary located off the coast of
Massachusetts.  We found that 541 large commercial vessels transited
the greater sanctuary 3413 times during the year. Cargo ships,
tankers, and tug/tows constituted 78% of the vessels and 82% of the
total transits. Cargo ships, tankers, and cruise ships predominantly
used the designated Boston Traffic Separation Scheme, while tug/tow
traffic was concentrated in the western and northern portions of the
sanctuary. We combined AIS data with low-frequency acoustic data from
an array of nine autonomous recording units analyzed for 2 months in
2006. Analysis of received sound levels (10-1000 Hz, root-mean-square
pressure re 1 lPa  SE) averaged 119.5 +/- 0.3 dB at high-traffic
locations. Hightraffic locations experienced double the acoustic power
of less trafficked locations for the majority of the time period
analyzed. Average source level estimates (71-141 Hz, rootmean- square
pressure re 1 lPa  SE) for individual vessels ranged from 158  2 dB
(research vessel) to 186 +/- 2 dB (oil tanker). Tankers were estimated
to contribute 2 times more acoustic power to the region than cargo
ships, and more than 100 times more than research vessels. Our results
indicate that noise produced by large commercial vessels was at levels
and within frequencies that warrant concern among managers regarding
the ability of endangered whales to maintain acoustic contact within
greater sanctuary waters.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.14.2008 14:09

Neptune deepwater port

Official vows LNG pipeline work will not interfere with Race Week
Neptune, which is owned by parent company Suez Energy, is building a
deepwater port approximately 10 miles off the coast of Gloucester. It
will consist of a buoy system where LNG vessels will moor and
discharge natural gas by using onboard vaporization equipment. The
13-mile-long sub-sea pipeline that will cross into 0.36 miles of state
waters under Marblehead's jurisdiction will be used to tie into the
existing Spectra Energy pipeline system's HubLine, which will deliver
the natural gas to consumers in Massachusetts and throughout New

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.11.2008 10:06

Phx update

Progress on the Phoenix Mission Success Panorama
Scientists have totally different goals for their data. As much as we
love the images from spacecraft, the cameras are not there to send us
pretty pictures. They are there to send us data. Each pixel in an
image is a number, a measurement of how many photons of a certain
wavelength range of light reached the camera detector. When scientists
process images, they are very, very careful about what they do with
those numbers. What the amateurs do to blend images together -- to a
scientist, that's fudging the data. Not that the scientists dislike
what the amateurs do -- in fact I have seen in many operations
facilities where science teams have printed out the image products
produced by amateurs and posted them on their walls!

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.09.2008 14:37

phx updates

hoenix sol 43 update: Lots of imaging, hacking at Snow White, first touch for TECP, and more by Emily Lakdawalla [Planetary Society blog]
* The Mission Success Panorama is, as of this morning, complete --
  that is, all the data bits are on Earth. Work still remains to
  assemble it, and Mark has some ideas for things he'd like to shoot
  again to improve it, but we can now assemble a full, 360-degree
  panorama of all of Mars that Phoenix can see in full color.
* A tiny sample was delivered to the Optical Microscope on sol 38
  ("tiny" was what they requested). They had to wait a couple of sols
  for the wet chemistry lab to be ready (done with its first
  analysis), and then delivered everything else that was in the scoop
  to the wet chemistry lab on sol 41. Mark says that delivery was
* The Thermal and Electrical Conductivity Probe (TECP) on the robotic
  arm finally touched soil on sol 43. The team is "excited to finally
  have that in play."

Fast-Track Phoenix Mars Ice Test [Aviation Week]

I don't believe that Phx has rasped yet other than to do sprinkles... so I don't think this is right (at least not quite yet)
Phoenix also was commanded to rotate the scoop into a third position -
this time to place the drill-like rasp on the backside of the scoop
against the ice. The rasp, just like an ice carver would use on Earth,
then rotated several times per minute to scrape additional shavings
out of the ice. The arm was then commanded to heap the scrapings into
piles, each with 10-20 cu. cm. of ice mixed in with the soil. This
equates to between two and four teaspoonfuls of ice in each pile.

Mars Lander Runs into Tough Digging [space.com]
or the past day, Phoenix has been using its robotic arm to scrape away
at a hard icy surface on the red planet, trying to claw enough dirt
out to pour into its onboard instrument. So far, it has only
accumulated small piles of shavings, which it has not been able to
scoop into the oven.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.08.2008 12:20

Presentation on the big screen

Today we did another presentation on the big screen for a group of technical people visit the SOC here in Tucson. I sit in the back running Apple Remote Desktop (ard) to a 8 core intel mac with three ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards with 256MB of VRAM each. I am definitely not pushing these cards the slightest with my series of still images.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.07.2008 20:14


We had a training session today and I learned a new (old really) unix command that is in fink thanks to Gwennie...
% fink install cowsay
% cowsay -f moose "Welcome to New England"
< Welcome to New England >
   \   \_\_    _/_/
    \      \__/
           (__)\       )\/\
               ||----w |
               ||     ||

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.07.2008 09:29

Papahanaumokuakea marine sanctuary

The new Papahanaumokuakea managment plan... this is the only mention of AIS.
Activity EN-2.3: Integrate additional automated monitoring systems and
ship reporting systems for all vessels transiting the Monument.
Existing automated monitoring / ship reporting systems will be
utilized for vessels transiting the monument and that are so
equipped. Many "larger" vessels are required to carry and utilize
Automated Identification Systems (AIS). As mandated through the
Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), the use of Automatic
Identification Systems (AIS) is required on all commercial vessels
greater than 65-feet. As USCG and Naval researchers develop and expand
the systems to collect, manage (sort) and distribute this information
through shore based and satellite technologies, its use will be an
effective tool to monitor ship traffic within and around the monument.

Does the following mean AIS, LRIT, or what?
* 404.5 Requirements for a vessel monitoring system.
(a) Requirement for use. Effective August 28, 2006, an owner or
operator of a vessel that has been issued a permit for accessing the
Monument must ensure that such vessel has an OLE approved, operating
VMS on board when voyaging within the Monument.  An operating VMS
includes an operating mobile transmitting unit on the vessel and a
functioning communication link between the unit and OLE as provided by
an OLEapproved communication service provider. Appendix B to this part
404 provides information regarding OLEapproved transmitting units.

(b) Installing and activating the VMS. Only a VMS that has been approved by OLE may be used. When installing and activating the OLE-approved VMS, or when reinstalling and reactivating such VMS, the vessel owner or operator must: . (1) Follow procedures indicated on an installation and activation checklist, which is available from OLE; and (2) Submit to OLE a statement certifying compliance with the checklist, as prescribed on the checklist. . (c) Interference with the VMS. No person may interfere with, tamper with, alter, damage, disable, or impede the operation of the VMS, or attempt any of the same. . (d) Interruption of operation of the VMS. When a vessel's VMS is not operating properly, the owner or operator must immediately contact OLE, and follow instructions from that office. If notified by OLE that a vessel's VMS is not operating properly, the owner and operator must follow instructions from that office. In either event, such instructions may include, but are not limited to, manually communicating to a location designated by OLE the vessel's positions or returning to port until the VMS is operable. . (e) Access to position data. As a condition of authorized access to the Monument, a vessel owner or operator subject to the requirements for a VMS in this section must allow OLE, the USCG, and their authorized officers and designees access to the vessel's position data obtained from the VMS. Consistent with other applicable laws, including the limitations on access to, and use of, VMS data collected under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Secretaries may have access to, and use of, collected data for scientific, statistical, and management purposes. . (f) Authority for installation and operation. OLE has authority over the installation and operation of the VMS unit. OLE may authorize the connection or order the disconnection of additional equipment, including a computer, to any VMS unit when deemed appropriate by OLE. . (g) Activities Regarding Vessel Monitoring Systems. Effective August 28, 2006, the following activities regarding vessel monitoring systems are prohibited and thus unlawful for any person to conduct or cause to be conducted: . (1) Operating any vessel within the Monument without an OLE typeapproved mobile transceiver unit described in this section; (2) Failing to install, activate, repair, or replace a mobile transceiver unit prior to leaving port; (3) Failing to operate and maintain a mobile transceiver unit on board the vessel at all times as specified in this section; (4) Tampering with, damaging, destroying, altering, or in any way distorting, rendering useless, inoperative, ineffective, or inaccurate the VMS, mobile transceiver unit, or VMS signal required to be installed on or transmitted by a vessel as specified in this section; (5) Failing to contact OLE or follow OLE instructions when automatic position reporting has been interrupted as specified in this section; (6) Registering a VMS or mobile transceiver unit to more than one vessel at the same time; (7) Connecting or leaving connected additional equipment to a VMS unit or mobile transceiver unit without the prior approval of OLE; and (8) Making a false statement, oral or written, to an authorized officer regarding the installation, use, operation, or maintenance of a VMS unit or mobile transceiver unit or communication service provider.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.06.2008 23:06

4th of July

This year, I spent the 4th with much of the Phx team up at Jerry's. Rob and I had a combined birthday. No good fireworks pics this year, but I did get this of the pool and city lights.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.06.2008 22:55

biosphere 2

This morning, I paid a visit to the Biosphere 2 build and took the tour. Here is the typical view of the main room. It's a lot bigger than I was expecting. This is quite the enigneering feat.

Check out the wild structure that supports the building.

The rain forest is very impressive.

There be monsters outside.

Luckily the biospherians had an airlock to protect them from the outside:

Definitely worth the trip.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.06.2008 22:19

Another TV crew

We had another camera crew come through the operations center today. This group had a large boom/crane for their camera.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.05.2008 11:28

UNH support web page

Excellent... I submitted a help request about UNH VNH and the web page gives:
Software error:
1 at /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.7/Custom/ARSPerl.pm line 200.
For help, please send mail to the webmaster (root@malachite.unh.edu),
giving this error message and the time and date of the error.
Ouch. Then I went to the service that checks computers on the UNH network for security vulnerabilities:
Access forbidden!
You don't have permission to access the requested object. It is either
read-protected or not readable by the server.
If you think this is a server error, please contact the webmaster.
Error 403
A very useful cgi.
Q: Why do I have to pay for my Macintosh client when the Windows client is free?
A: Only because the Windows client is freely distributable.  There is
no viable Macintosh product that is free.  We are keeping a close eye
on some other Macintosh clients that are still in development.  Once
they are released we will assess them and make note on this site if
another alternative exists.
So I have the CISCO client, how do I connect UNH? Sigh.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.04.2008 15:44

Stereo pipeline underwater with the USCG Polar Star ice breaker

Just ran into this image on my computer from Alex's paper Mars Pathfinder Robotics Visualization Applied to Submarine Archaeology in 1999. The figure suddenly has extra added relevance. First, this is the oldest publication that I know of that demonstrates 3D model reconstruction from stereo vision. Second, Alex adapted the very same stereo pipeline for his project as is now being used on the Phoenix Mars Lander by the Ames team that I helped start with Eric Z. way back when. And 3rd is that a group of people from CCOM (including Monica) will be going on the Healy very soon for arctic multibeam mapping. The object in the figure is part of one of the propeller shafts on the Polar Star ice breaker, which is a part of the same fleet.

Note: Thanks to Alex for pointing out that this is the Polar Star, not the Healy.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.04.2008 07:11

Video switchers and html5

Video switchers bring order to a complicated multiroom system. There is a Mac Mini below with a 4 port keyspan serial device that lets me ask for a video source by name and place it on a destination by name. Forexample, I can ask for the laptop connector to go to lcd5 (one of 5 screens on a wall). This is all documented so that I was able to execute a change request with a telephone conference and it all worked on the first try.

But mainly I am using this image as an excuse to try out html5 for the first time. I just found Kroc Camen's design post that talks about the figure and legend tags.

Hopefully this will put a legend on the image when you mouse over:

3 Extron switches in the Phoenix SOC

This didn't seem to work. The html:
  <legend>3 Extron switches in the Phoenix SOC</legend>
  <img src="http://schwehr.org/blog/attachments/2008-07/phx-vip-switchers.png"/>
But as a stand alone html5 document, this sort of works, but it is not exactly what I expected.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
    <title>Example document</title>
        <legend>3 Extron switches in the Phoenix SOC</legend>
	  <img src="http://schwehr.org/blog/attachments/2008-07/phx-vip-switchers.png"/>

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.03.2008 21:38

mars.arizona.edu gets RSS

Quite the timing. On Monday, I saw mars.arizona.edu on Lori's computer while she was working in the Visualization and Image Processing room. The site is a nice updating list of all the Mars news at the UofA (which has got some volume). There wasn't an news feed that I could find, so sent the admins of the site a short note. Turns out that they were already working on it. They sent me a preview link and have finished setting up a cache system for the RSS feed to handle the load. Thanks to Scott and Matt:


Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.03.2008 18:46

Fixing AIS encoding in noaadata

Many thanks to Miguel Eduardo Gil Biraud for pointing out that my AIS encoding functions were wrong. I've rewritten the routines and it looks a lot better. Here is an example of encoding from within python:
from decimal import Decimal
import ais.ais_msg_1
import aisutils
params = dict(
       MessageId = 1, 
       RepeatIndicator = 2, 
       UserID = 636010380, 
       NavigationStatus = 0, 
       ROT = 0, 
       SOG = Decimal("8.3"), 
       PositionAccuracy = 0, 
       longitude = Decimal("-4.4078229999999900"), 
       latitude = Decimal("36.679735000000000"),
       COG = 332,
       TrueHeading = 336,
       TimeStamp = 0,
       RegionalReserved = 0,
       Spare = 0,
       RAIM = True,
       state_syncstate = 1,
       state_slottimeout = 0,
       state_slotoffset = 0 
bv = ais.ais_msg_1.encode(params)
print aisutils.uscg.create_nmea(bv)
Here is the result:
Then as a check, I can decode the generated message:
% ais_msg_1.py --decode '!AIVDM,1,1,,A,1aNRwS001COclaFDw@8Lv:P02P00,0*12'
        MessageID:          1
        RepeatIndicator:    2
        UserID:             636010380
        NavigationStatus:   0
        ROT:                0
        SOG:                8.3
        PositionAccuracy:   0
        longitude:          -4.407821666666666666666666667
        latitude:           36.679735
        COG:                332
        TrueHeading:        336
        TimeStamp:          0
        RegionalReserved:   0
        Spare:              0
        RAIM:               True
        state_syncstate:    1
        state_slottimeout:  0
        state_slotoffset:   0
rl.se/aivdm is a web decoder:

Bug reports are always welcome. Now I need to get through another set of reports and also get commstate and rot working correctly again. I removed the code for those two features a long time ago and it is time to bring them back.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.02.2008 23:57

Queen of the Night flower

Tonight was the big night for the Queen of the Night flower to bloom. This is a once a year event and very impressive with dry desert lightning in the distance and candles all along the paths of Tohono Chul. The local news covered it:

Free event tonight at Tohono Chul for night-blooming cereus flowers [azstar]

Here is my best photo of the flowers. Some of them did not smell much, but others were very strong.

Me next to the flowers.

There were quite a few critters out tonight. Lots of people said they saw snakes, but we didn't see any. Did get to see a tarantula.

We only saw one moth this evening despite Jeff's best attempts. This is a Male Sphinx moth. [wikipedia]

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.02.2008 21:37


This isn't really the kind of thing that I do, but I am around a lot of people who are into flow visualization. In a post today by Rob, he mentioned pyclimate.

There is a nice Geostrophic demo:

Now it just needs the flow visualization techniques of Colin Ware and Dan Pineo:

Note that this 2nd image is a bit old. They've done a lot more since that one was created.

Also, I'd never noticed the GrADS grid package before looking at pyclimate.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.02.2008 17:41

Non-mission color Peter Pan

The Planetary Society has a big update out today: Phoenix Sol 36 Update: Scraping in Wonderland, Next Steps for TEGA

This is quite the article. The mission is not ready to release the complete Peter Pan. Not all images have been downloaded. However, James Canvin has done a color mosaic that is in the update.

Go to the above article to check it out.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.02.2008 11:18

UofA Mars Website and Flickr

The UofA has a Mars website:

The site has a little panel of images driven by a flickr page. Neat idea.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.02.2008 09:50

thoughts on choosing which programming languages to use

Trackback: Choosing a programming language by Roberto for similar yet different opinions.

Monica recently wrote on her blog about picking a programming language: Perls, Pythons, and Rs... Here my thoughts on some things to consider when choosing a programming language (and code libraries too). The answers to these questions and how to prioritize them will vary greatly from person to person even within the same group or company.
  • How is it to program in the language? Is it fun or painful?
  • How maintainable will the code be?
  • What platforms will your code be able to work on (Mac, Linux, Windows, etc.)
  • What are the options for compilers and interpreters?
  • Will you need a license / $$$ to develop and/or run the code?
  • How mature is the language? Too new can be trouble
  • How many people can you get access to discuss issues with? Locally? Via the internet?
  • What kind of tools support the language? Debuggers, editors, development environment?
  • Will it perform well enough for the task(s) at hand.
  • What is the expected lifetime of the project, programming language, and any company that controls it?
  • Can you or someone you pay get access to the internals?
  • Can it run without a graphical interface?
  • Does it support graphical interfaces?
  • Can it talk to databases, network protocols, and hardware that you require?
  • Job requirements? (e.g. are you required to use ADA or COBOL?)
  • Do you have a pre-existing code base? Can you start fresh?
  • How will this programming language impact your career?
  • Can you use this programming language for other tasks?
  • What is the labor pool like? Can you find someone competent to hire if you need help and can afford it?
  • Is the source code diff'able? How can you compare two versions of LabView VI's?
  • Are you up for learning a new language? How soon do you have to be productive?
  • Can the language interface with your other tools?
I can only answer the above in my own frame of reference and for right now. A key point is that I have to work with multiple languages daily!
  1. python is my primary language. It's a low stress, fun language that gets the jobs done
  2. bash/sh gets a lot of use, but I try to default back to python when ever possible
  3. SQL is critical, as putting my data in PostgreSQL/PostGIS keeps me sane
  4. C++ when I have to for speed critical loops and hardware interfaces to write. I try to use it as little as possible
  5. make helps me keep tasks straight
  6. I'm working on my JavaScript/AJAX/JQuery skills as that makes the web go better
  7. XML and XHTML for data organization - Basic HTML knowledge is a must
Why python? That's a tough one to boil down, but here is an unordered overview of my current view:
  • It's fun/relaxing compared to other languages I know
  • Expressive and powerful syntax that lets me write fewer lines. Strong but easy to use object-oriented syntax and namespaces
  • Easy to read and I like the indentation for block structures (I hated the indentation thing for about two days back in 1996)
  • Lots of easy to use database interfaces that all work the same way
  • Advanced database interfaces if I need them
  • For scientific programming, I have access to scipy, scientificpython, gsl (gnu scientific library), R, proj, and matplotlib (plus many more)
  • Integration with C and C++ is very good. ctypes for easy tasks, swig for big pre-existing libraries, and CPython for total control
  • Making reusable python packages is easy
  • Friendly, open community of programmers
  • Well supported on most OSes and comes with all Macs and most linux distributions
  • Easier to teach good programming skills than most other languages
  • Lots of graphical interface libraries
  • Python scales well to very large programs (my largest to date is 60K lines of code and that is small compared to many other projects)
  • Python is open source with a liberal license and there are a lot of other python programmers out there
  • No license file or dongle to fail
Python is not perfect and neither are any of the other programming languages, but python works very well for me. Remember too that speed of a system is often more about algorithms and data structures. As long as you have some way to create more complex data structures (e.g. with easy access to C/C++), then you can find the areas of code with speed problems and address it.

Perl vrs Python

I have only one real complaint about python where perl is better. In perl, replacing some text throughout a file is a simple one liner. Here I am replacing SGI rgb image files with jpeg images in a bunch of VRML files:
% perl -pi -e 's|T.rgb|T.jpg|g' *.wrl
How can I do this as a one liner in python?

  • Just because you pay for a product, it doesn't necessarily give you any protection or support.
  • Some more languages that I have used that influced my above comments: Lisp, m68k assembly, mips assembly, Fortran 77, Basic, ADA, Pascal, csh/tcsh, Java, TCL, AML, Lex/Flex/Bison/YACC, Matlab, LabView, and Verilog.
  • If you know of articles discussing language choice, let me know. Here is one to kick it off: Why Python? by ESR [python.org]
  • I really don't view MS Excel as a proper programming environment even with Visual Basic in the mix. I treat is just as a reporting tool.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.01.2008 12:23

Neptune LNG off MA

Clough wins Neptune LNG deal
Australia's Clough Ltd. recently won a contract from Norwegian Advanced Production & Loading (APL) for offshore installation support activities associated with the Neptune liquefied natural gas (LNG) Deepwater Port terminal off the coast of Gloucester, Mass.
The work scope covers project management, procurement, logistics and
offshore installation engineering services.  Clough's subsea
construction vessel, Normand Clipper will carry out offshore
construction activities including the installation of two submerged
turret loading buoys, associated gas risers, umbilicals, suction
anchors, mooring chains and wire segments.
Australian Firm to Construct Offshore Facilities for Suez's Neptune LNG Deepwater Port

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.01.2008 12:16

Whale research

The R/V Auk and R/V Foster are busy researching whales. Here are some quick database shell tricks for working with the AIS data. First the Auk:
% echo "select userid,name from shipdata;" | psql ais | grep -i auk | tail -1
 369871000 | R/V AUK
% echo "select userid,AsText(position) from position where userid='369871000';" | psql ais | tail -1
 369871000 | POINT(-70.4727383333333 42.4551733333333)
And for the Foster...
% echo "select userid,name from shipdata;" | psql ais | grep -i foster | tail -1
 369912000 | NANCY FOSTER@@@@@@@@
% echo "select userid,AsText(position) from position where userid='369912000';" | psql ais | tail -1 
 369912000 | POINT(-70.394915 42.4191533333333)
It is interesting that the Auk space pads their vessel name and the Foster does not ('@' signals the end of string) and the Foster leaves off the R/V.

I leave it as an excercise for the reader to use pyproj to calculate the distance between the vessels.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.01.2008 11:45

Figure troubles

I received a tif image for release that was supposed to have a white background behind the text. On the desktop, the icon had a white background but photoshop CS3 had it come up black. Here are the two views combined:

At the time, I wasn't able to check was going on, but looking back, it appears that the image has an alpha/transparency layer that is not being followed the same by all tools. First I tried indentify from imagemagick.
% identify WCLcell.tif
WCL cell.tif TIFF 1346x893 1346x893+0+0 8-bit DirectClass 1.55928mb 
That doesn't tell me much, so I went for tiffinfo from libtiff:
% tiffinfo WCLcell.tif
TIFF Directory at offset 0x18f208 (1634824)
  Subfile Type: (0 = 0x0)
  Image Width: 1346 Image Length: 893
  Resolution: 150, 150 pixels/inch
  Bits/Sample: 8
  Compression Scheme: LZW
  Photometric Interpretation: RGB color
  Extra Samples: 1
  Samples/Pixel: 4
  Rows/Strip: 2
  Planar Configuration: single image plane
  Predictor: none 1 (0x1)
This tells me that there is likely some transparency troubles. The Apple Finder shows nice view that proves the transparency theory.

For some reason, this transparency really caused trouble with the upstream tools. I am not sure why this happened.

To solve all the issues with this figure, I started over from scratch with the photograph of the WCL in Photoshop. The background did not extend far enough to the left to give me a place for my labels. I cloned and copied the left edge about 5 times. To blend the joins, I made liberal use of the smudge tool. I then went to the top of the image and use the eye dropper and paint brush to remove some minor shadows.

Using this updated background, I brought the image into Illustrator and added thick lines with no arrows for the location of parts. For labeling, I used Helvetica and pushed the font size up as high as possible with the space available. I think this turned out well.

A few thoughts on making instrument figures like this:
  • Start with the best image you can get
  • Make sure your final product is a flattened image without transparency
  • Keep the background simple and uniform to not distract from the object
  • Use the largest font that you can get away with
  • Keep your lines short and distinct.
  • Spread the lines as evenly across the image as possible
  • Only use arrow heads when you can make them large
  • Lines should be a fairly heavy stroke and a bold saturated color
  • Arrange labels in a pleasing manner. Perhaps following a spline
  • Have fun with it
The results are archived here: PIA10916

Posted by Kurt | Permalink

07.01.2008 09:16

Morning hike

To beat the heat, I took a hour long morning hike a little ways up Pima Canyon starting at 6 AM. It was already mid-to-upper 80's.

This would be a very pretty location to live...

I followed that up by breakfast at the Westward Look resort and was heading towards work at 8 AM.

Posted by Kurt | Permalink