Keep plugging along

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I spent some time playing around with more code for the FieldDay app with functionality and built a few different skins to see what felt right, what I liked, etc. Gitlab was down but everything seems to be working smoothly once more! I also have started helping Erin out with research on the wetland birds and ways of applying the thermal camera. While we need more information from Oli, we were able to consolidate some of what we do know into a more concise idea. A bit ago I also did a little background research on Googles project loon and found that our idea for balloons is still very viable as the max hight is around 20miles up and with the largest mounting in Iceland being only 7miles, I think our chances are still good of getting a usable tech.

Another progress update…

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The web visualization app has made leaps and bounds. it now displays points on screen from a PostgreSQL database using Iceland 2014 data. I had to integrate the front end and back end to prevent the need for multiple servers running; there were also issues with cross-domain requests. I also modified the data API to conform with the filter specifications we talked about in our last meeting.

Gitlab restored!

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Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much work on the Field Day Android Application. In order for work to be done on that, Gitlab has to be working. Gitlab is where all of the repositories of our code live. And at the beginning of last week, Gitlab was broken.

Gitlab broke due to an accidental upgrade. It was upgraded on hopper from 7.14 -> 8.01 which is a massive upgrade. In versions > 8, there are 2 proxy servers — one the serves git requests (merge, commit, etc.) and one that does authentication. So, that broke Gitlab because there were additional configuration files to create and edit after that upgrade. So, I attempted to downgrade to the version we were using before (7.14) with yum. That was a bad idea. The downgrade with yum isn’t bulletproof and messed up some config files in the process.

Sigh, I upgraded back to 8.01 and tried to find the error. Apache, proxies, and web sockets. Gitlab uses proxies and web sockets, something that Apache (the web server running on hopper) isn’t particularly great at right now. Gitlab really wants to use another web server called Nginx (really, really wants to use Nginx). It even comes bundled with an Nginx install. I tried and failed many times to configure Apache to work with Gitlab and sockets and proxies, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t change the web server on hopper because there are other things relying on it.

I decided that Hopper is probably not the best place to put Gitlab. Alas, I moved it to Dali. Dali has a lot of space and is not running any web servers.Everything on the user side is the same, it just lives on a different machine now.

Fortunately, Gitlab comes packed with a way to create a backup of everything and restore from a backup. I created a backup of the current database, repositories, etc on hopper, installed Gitlab on Dali and restored from the backup I created. Poof. 8.01 is now running on Dali and can be accessible at I even went ahead and set up email notifications for push requests to repositories for the projects in field science and others that I’m working on.

Also, 8.01 is a whole lot better that 7.14 and much prettier!

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.35.30 PM

Android Fragments

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Last week was cut short because of Mid-Sem break, so there’s only a couple days worth of updates. What I’ve mostly been focusing on is trying to draw out the shells of what I think the new Field Day application should look like. Trying to figure out what which classes to create, and how those classes will communicate with each other. For example, if we want to have a sensor class that will create a new instance each time a sensor is connected with the device. And will that class communicate with the communications library, or will the activity communicate with the communications library?

I’ve also been working on learning more about Fragments and whether or not they will be useful for the application. Should each skin be a fragment? What good does that do?

Week of 11 October 2015

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Lots of little things this week. I upgraded my laptop to El Capitan so I could install the latest and greatest Android development toolchain, worked on the latest to/from Oli email, discussed soil probes and measuring glaciers with a group of you, considered balloons for aerial imagery and Internet service, listened to Jay Roberts of the CIL pitch me on adding a “wilderness” like component to our work in Iceland, and worked with Sally Southard in Alumni/Development on identifying likely places to apply for funding.

A Higher Elevation

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In dealing with tScreen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.52.53 AMhe issue of improving internet at Skalanes I did some research into the topography between the Skalanes lodge and the ferry station where the internet antenna is. I used google earth to draw a line from the ferry station to the lodge. It turns out that the are some mountains over 2,000ft in between which could be a large Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.08.31 PMobstacle in the implementation of a balloon. Although the signal ‘curves’ it still seems like it would be hard to make the internet here more reliable this way. The screenshot on the left shows the topographic 3D map from the ferry station, looking down the fiord towards Skalanes.

Next I looked for the telephone wire running to Skalanes which, I believe, is in the google earth image on the right.
A few more things about arctic terns:

average mass is 100g

105.63 F mean body temperature according to Body Temperatures of Antarctic Birds Carl R. Eklund (1942)

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Birds: Winged and Feathered Animals by Suzanne Slade and Kristin West


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I’ve been looking at the poster submission for SIGCSE 2016. SIGCSE(Special Interest Group for Computer Science Education) is a conference that as the name indicates,cares about CS education and pedagogy. Since we’ve recently had some experience in writing about computer science education because of the paper,it makes sense to submit a poster to SIGCSE. I’ve been bringing together all the bits and pieces of usable material for this project,with the primary source of data being the XSEDE paper and related bits. We already have a plethora of prose,both used and unused,about CS pedagogy and our take on it, the task now at hand is compiling them into an existing poster. There’s now a folder in Drive for SIGCSE,and it’s where I’ve been putting all relevant material.

The poster deadline is in 9 days,so the clock is ticking on this one….


Progress Report 10/4-10

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During this week, I actually got to use the thermal camera! It’s super cool to just look at the thermal output from things I would never have imagined was detectable. This includes tracking footprints from the thermal signature left by our feet, the heat given off by the switch panels in CST, tracking living things such as squirrels and people, and trying to identify factors that effect the thermal signature of humans. Thick clothing seems to obfuscate heat, making other places seem to give off more heat. For example when my friend was without a coat, their face registered as 87 degrees F (on the surface) and torso around 82 F, whereas with a coat, torso was practically indistinguishable from ambient temperature (Ok maybe +10, but my point being that coats reduced heat output. I forgot to record this data precisely.), and their head warmed up to 92 +-2 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m still unclear on which birds exactly we will study, and will probably leave that decision to the ecologists in Iceland and perhaps Erin (if she has a preference). Once we know that, it might be possible to more accurately model the birds with maybe a local animal with similar insulative properties and heat output, but that remains to be seen…


In the mean time, I’ve tried to track squirrels with only a thermal camera and my success was very limited. The first problem was that it is hard to find a fixed focus at which the squirrel appears sharp. This might be fixed with the balloon-tether idea which would yield a fixed height from the ground and thus static focal range. However most pressing was the battery life on the camera. I had trouble getting 5 minutes out of the device. If this is standard, we might need to design a new battery, and if it’s a result of slow degradation of the battery, maybe we should purchase a new one. Next week I’ll be sure to post pics of us looking for small animals and how well that works!

Progress Report 9/27-10/3

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Apparently Erin and Charlie are talking to the Maintenance Dept. here at Earlham College about using their thermal camera. This would be an ideal solution, because it removes a huge amount of reinventing of the wheel. It would possibly take decades to get to the level of refinement found in a real thermal camera. In the mean time, I’m mostly waiting on info from the ecologists in Iceland who will tell us which birds we can actually study in Skalines. Until we have an idea of what birds to study, I’m not sure what kind of progress I can really make.

Progress Report 9/20-26

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In this week I explored more options for thermal imaging. None of these seemed particularly promising, many of these are either expensive, inaccurate, slow, or the range is limited. So far the thermal sensor options seem to be a “pick any two” of the following options: range, accuracy, cost. Unfortunately, because picking up the thermal signature of a small animal at a sizeable range requires a significant amount of all three, there’s either going to need to be a massive engineering breakthrough on my part, or a massive budget. The same problems persist for other parts of the camera, for example, the optics. Focusing long wave IR requires exotic materials which cost an enormous amount of money to procure individually or manufacture.


My conclusion is that thermal imaging is a field with an extremely high barrier to entry. I doubt that I have the skills or expertise to surmount the difficulties I’ve touched on, and I hope that another solution will present itself.

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