mandag 18. februar 2013

Visiting Chinese highlands - Part 1

China, October 2012

This is my tenth visit to China and my first time to the Tibetan plateau. My wife is Chinese and likes to go back to see her friends and family as often as she can. I tag along a few times and when I do we try to visit various places in China. This time Finnair had started a new route to Chongqing so we took advantage of the low introductory prices.


The city is popularly called the "Fog" city since it is foggy most the year, apart from the occasional rain. Trees and plants thrive here because of the mist and warm climate. Humans on the other hand does not appreciate the rain so much, although Chinese don't seem to not mind because they get fair skin when they're not plagued by sun. Fair, light skin is considered status in China, meaning you're a city person, not a farmer.

The city resides on the junction of the Yangtzee river and Jialing. Further down the river they built the Three Gorges dam, worlds biggest dam capable of supplying one third of China's power when it is filled up.

The official population is 40 million people, same as the taxi driver tells us, the worlds biggest city. Not, it is only around 6.5 million following the metro standard, far below Tokyo's 38 million.
This city has a beautiful monorail system connection most of the city's local transportation. Otherwise this city is mostly hillsides along the river, very beautiful and at night it is a spectacular view of lights. The governor here, Bo Xilai was very popular for how the city was prospering, bought a lot of trees which made the city look nice, but because of such spending the city also got a lot of debt. Unfortunately he was mixed up covering up his wife's murder of a British businessman and was ousted of Chinese politics.

Dazu grottoes

A Buddha sanctuary made in sandstone is amazingly well preserved considering this dates back to 650 AD. Because of it's design the rain and water would never fall onto the statues along the wall. The very little maintenance would be to carefully clear off mosses since the sandstone is fairly fragile.
I like the Chinese form of Buddha better than the Indian. In China, Buddha is fat and happy, always smiling and laughing.

Chengdu, Jiuzhai, Huanglong and Yancheng - Part 2

Then the trip went to Chengdu where we flew up to the highlands and visited the Jiuzhai and Huanglong national parks. This is for part two. Thereafter we visited my in-laws and friends in Yancheng and then returned to Chongqing for the flight back to Oslo.  


Flying the AR.Drone with a PS3 game controller

I am getting better at flying my drone. This time I made a little hack on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone so that I could fly it with the PS3 Controller's analogue joysticks. The whole project was easier than I expected and my god it works like a charm, it is so much easier to control with the wireess PS3 controller.

How does it work? I start the Freeflight application and I use the PS3 to virtually control that application. My phone connects the PS3 game controller via bluetooth and the drone via WiFi.

How to do it?

  1. Root the Android phone. That was the hardest part and my hack required flashing the phone
    • I used the "Restore" hack with the Nexus Root Toolkit from WugFresh
  2. Get the Six-axis Controller application for the phone from Dancing Pixels Studio
    • Pair the controller with the phone's bluetooth
    • Take a screenshot of the Freeflight in Piloting mode
    • Map the PS3 buttons and create the controller profile
      • Left and Right analogue sticks 
      • "Start" for "Takeoff" 
      • "X" for camera snapshot
      • "Triangle" for switch cameras
  3. Fly
    • Start Six-axis Controller app
    • Press power on PS3 controller, wait for sync
    • Insert the battery in the drone
    • Connect phone WiFi to drone
    • Start Freeflight 2.0 app, start piloting, start recording, recording to USB stick may add another flying minute.
    • Put phone in shirt pocket
    • PS3 controller
      • Hit Start to fly
      • Fly using sticks (Easy)
      • take pictures with X

søndag 3. februar 2013

Norwegians are born with skis on their feet

Yes it could make a complicated birth. Anyway, being a norwegian I thought it was time to try the skiing.

A nice sunday morning in Oslo, around -7 celcius, when I really couldn't find any excuse not to go.

My skis are the cheapest junk you can buy, around 800kr. They are "smørefrie" with cross pattern in the middle. You don't need to vax them, which basically means they never go fast.

I made a one hour trip along Maridalsvannet where my colleague Dag suggested I try. It was beautiful there and a trip I will definitely do again.

fredag 1. februar 2013

Drone Pilot To Receive First Air Force Medal of Honor Since Vietnam

Drone Pilot To Receive First Air Force Medal of Honor Since Vietnam

Read more:

It would take a while reading this article before you realize that this is a satirical paper similar to The Onion. Giving the Medal of Honor to someone playing a video-game in Nevada which is far away from the enemy, that seems like an insult to those who fought in Vietnam. I guess this is the soldier of the future, one with a high intake of coffee and delivery pizza.

Help, I am a drone pilot

This Xmas I was visiting Boston and NY. As Xmas gift I bought myself a new toy, a drone. In USA this toy cost me $299 while in Norway it would set me back 3000 kr, an easy choice to buy it there when the exchange rate is 5.5 kr/$.  

AR Drone 2.0

AR Drone 2.0 from Parrot is a small quad-copter you can fly with your ipad, iphone, android device. For extra fun this thing has two on-board cameras to film your voyages and stream them right back to your ipad while flying them.

First test flight

I downloaded the FreeFlight app on my ipad. I open the box and charged the battery. Easy to open and install the battery, then put on the indoor hull, because I will try flying this thing in my cousins garage. The indoor hull has an outer ring to stop it from hitting things with the propellers, but for outside this would be too big and catch the wind too easily.
With my ipad's wireless networks I find the ARDrone as an access point. I start the FreeFlight app, press Piloting and then "Take-off" and like magic it flies in a foot's height, awaiting my next commands. I turn it around and watch myself being filmed, in 720p HD, wow a really nice clear picture actually. Not just me I mean, but the quality of the recordings. I could imagine someone would use this to spy on neighbors, not me of course. Then I fly a little back and forth. It has a built-in proximity sensor to accurately control the altitude so this is easy to fly just pressing the controls up and down. Then I double-click the controller to make a flip which it does but hits the ground at the end of the flip. It detects the crash and does an emergency shutdown. I walk over and put it in the middle of the garage floor and then press "take-off" and it resumes flying. After approximately 7 minutes of flying the batteries are down to 10% and I take it inside to charge the batteries.

Flying outdoors

There's the picture of me enjoying outdoor flight, but enough for now, more about the drone later...