Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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Monitoring bushfires

January 29, 2019

Nowhere in Australia is immune from bushfires, but some places are deemed safer than others. The block of land I live in south-western Western Australia is relatively safe (no trees near the house, lots of hardstand surrounding the house, etc.), but nearby (within one kilometre) are high-risk areas of bushland and homes on hilly land that is just covered in trees, grasses, and native plants. I have a fear of bushfires, so over summer I listen for aircraft activity beyond what’s normal (‘normal’ is maybe a couple of light aircraft a day) and check various websites etc. to assess the danger. The risk on some days is worse than on others—particularly those days with strong easterly winds and high temperatures, and if there’s been no rain for weeks. Once the wind swings around and comes from the west, I start to breathe easier as the danger to my property from that direction is much less.

Here are some of the local and national sites I use to check various conditions and situations, in case it helps others who live in Western Australia:

  • a weather site (wind speed and direction, temps)
  • the Emergency WA website (https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/) for all sort of emergency reports in the state (the zoom-in feature is great)
  • the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (dfes_wa) Twitter feed for updates and links to emergency situations (https://twitter.com/dfes_wa)
  • occasionally the MyFireWatch website (http://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/) and the Sentinel website (https://sentinel.ga.gov.au/)
  • FlightRadar24 (https://flightradar24.com; there’s an app too), which is a plane spotter’s goldmine, but which I use to identify planes and choppers going overhead (most are just standard light aircraft, the RFDS planes, and the rescue chopper), but occasionally they are firefighting aircraft.

This sort of monitoring was not possible just 20 years ago. Google Maps and the ability for services to overlay other satellite data and create instant warnings has changed the game. Technology working for good!

The image below is a screenshot I took from FlightRadar of two firefighting aircraft battling a bushfire near Collie on 20 January 2019. By clicking on the aircraft icons on the map, I get the information on the left about the aircraft and the flight paths for the past hour or so.

Flight paths of two firefighting aircraft helping put out a fire near Collie, Western Australia

Update 5 February 2019: We had a bushfire close to our place (within 5 km — too close for comfort!) and I found that the FlightRadar24 website gave me accurate, real-time information on what the firefighting aircraft (including the massive air crane, ‘Georgia Peach’ [N154AC]) were doing. The Emergency WA website was only being updated every few hours, but with FlightRadar24 I could see what sorts of resources were being deployed to control this fire. And from the flight tracking I got some questions answered, like whether ‘Georgia Peach’ could refill from the ocean (she could)—she actually refilled her 7500-gallon tank at least 10 times (it takes her about 45 seconds to do this, which is pretty amazing). In the first screenshot below, you can see ‘Georgia Peach’ heading down from Perth and taking on her first load of sea water just off Myalup. In the later screenshot, you can see that she’s made the first of many sorties to refill off Binningup. The two Dunn Aviation aircraft (yellow water bombers) can’t take on sea water, so had to return to Bunbury Airport each time to refill with their fire suppressant, adding precious time to their ability to be effective. The Rotowest chopper circled the whole time—I suspect it was the spotter aircraft guiding the others where to best deploy their loads.

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Using VLC to split a video file

December 23, 2018

These notes are for me, for when I next need to do this (I always forget steps 7 and 8)! They are based on this CNET article in case it ever goes missing: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-create-video-clips-in-vlc/ and only apply to Windows.

Actually, the title of my post is a little misleading—as far as I can tell, you can’t split a video using VLC, but you CAN record sections of it, which is effectively the same. If you have a very large file, you may have to do these steps twice or more, one for each section you want as a separate file. (If anyone knows how to cut or split a video file using VLC [similar to how you can split/cut an audio file in Audacity] and without doing it in real time, let me know in the comments and I’ll test it and update this post with that information. I also couldn’t find a way to save the recorded video [original was mkv] as anything other than MP4—if anyone knows the VLC setting for that too, I’d be most grateful.)

  1. Open the video with VLC media player. Do not press Play. If it starts playing automatically, pause it.
  2. Make sure you can see the Advanced Controls (View > Advanced Controls).
  3. Use the slider to get to where you want to start recording the new video.
  4. Press the Record button (the one in the Advanced Controls panel with the red dot).
  5. Press the Play button.
  6. Let the video run to the point where you want to stop recording. It will run in real time, so you could be waiting a while if it’s a long video.
  7. Press the Record button again. This stops the recording and saves it to your hard drive. Yes, Record both starts and stops the recording. (The original video will continue playing in VLC if it hasn’t finished—you can stop or pause it if you don’t want to finish watching it.)
  8. IMPORTANT: By default, the recording saves to your default Videos or My Videos folder in Windows (what it’s called depends on your version of Windows). You can change this location: In VLC media player v2.2.4 (the version I have), you do this here: Tools > Preferences > Inputs/Codecs > Record directory or filename — click Browse, and choose the folder where you want your recordings to save.
  9. The file name will start with VLC, have date and time information from when you started the recording (e.g. vlc-record-2018-12-23-11h30m16s), and the original file name. Rename the file as required, then copy it to where you want it to go.

[Link last checked December 2018]

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Naming names: part 2

April 15, 2016

There’s a reason you should use quite different first and middle names for your children AND use names that are different from their parents/grandparents… Your descendants ancestors searching records for genealogical information will thank you for it!

Below is an image of the information I found in some South Australian records — I’ve confirmed the names and years of birth based on the parents’ names, but I can’t confirm dates of marriage/death etc. as there are SO many names the same, or variations of the same names! What a mess!

johann

Note the names of the parents… and then the names of the children. Note also how there are male and female variations of the same name (Johann/Johanna/Johanne and August/August), and repetitions (brothers: Johann Freidrich and Johann Friedrich William; father and son: Johann Gottlieb; mother and daughters: Johanna Caroline, Johanne Caroline, Caroline). Some of the repetitive names may have been the result of infant deaths, but it’s very hard to confirm this with so many names the same.

It’s possible that ‘Anna’ was christened ‘Johanna’ based on the pattern here. I think Maria and Hermann got off lightly.

See also:

[Links last checked April 2016]

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What a rip-off!

January 2, 2016

It’s like the airlines WANT local air services to fail…

What am I talking about? The exorbitant costs of flying between Perth, Western Australia and other locations within Western Australia — exorbitant compared to the costs to fly to the main cities on the east coast of Australia and to Los Angeles. Such charges mean people will choose not to fly to closer destinations and will either drive or not visit at all. And then the airlines will complain that they don’t get enough patronage and will close routes; these tourist destinations will complain that not enough people come to visit to make their industry sustainable; and investors won’t build hotels etc. at these destinations as not enough people go there. It’s a vicious circle.

In yesterday’s West Australian newspaper, Virgin Australia took out a full-page to advertise a fare sale to six destinations — Geraldton and Broome (both within my state); Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane; and Los Angeles. At first glance these fares seem like a good deal, but when you do the math, there’s something decidely dodgy going on.

Based on the fares and the distance to each destination, a one-way flight to Geraldton costs more than ten times the cost of a flight to Los Angeles! The table below shows the approximate distance to each destination; the one-way airfare advertised by Virgin today; my calculation of the cost per kilometre (red is bad, green is similar to the LA cost); what the airfare would cost if it was based on the same per kilometre rate as the LA fare; and what the difference is between the advertised cost and the cost per kilometre for that distance.

flight_costs

If the flights from Perth to Geraldton and Broome reflected the 4c/km of the flights (yes, you have to change planes at Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane) from Perth to Los Angeles, then, at approx $15 and $70 respectively, many more people would be likely to visit those destinations for a holiday, thus injecting huge amounts of money into those economies. If you fly, there’s a good chance you’ll rent a car/use a taxi, spend several nights in accommodation, spend money at restaurants and in shops, visit tourist destinations, etc. If you live in Perth, why would you fly to Broome for $199 (one-way), when you can fly across the continent to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne for $10 less each way? Every time someone in our local tourist industry sees ads like this, they must have moments of quiet desperation and frustration, and must wonder why they stay in the industry when the monetary attraction to travel further afield is so great. (And no, I won’t even mention the fares to Bali from Perth…)

Yes, I know that the real cost of a flight is more than just the cost per kilometre, and that it costs a lot more just to get off the ground and back onto it than it does to be in the air, and that different aircraft have different fixed costs. I don’t know these costs so I haven’t factored them in. But based on the costs that I do know and can calculate, we’re being penalised if we want to fly within our own state.

It just doesn’t make sense.

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You’d think they’d try to match what was there before

October 28, 2014

Spotted in Houston…. Not only is the lower case ‘g’  wrong,  but its size has altered the kerning between the first name and middle initial. Maybe they thought no-one would notice it on the upper concourse between the hotel and the convention centre.

image

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I like this quote

August 31, 2014

Attributed to Henry Ford: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”

henry_ford

 

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Ewww!

August 18, 2014

I was at an all-day seminar at Edith Cowan University (Mt Lawley Campus) in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday. This notice was behind every door in the ladies’ toilets close to our seminar room. I wonder what event(s) prompted someone to make this sign…. Ewww!

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