Technobabble

Solar Ephemeris Back On-Line

Solar Ephemeris from the Wandering Minstrel Sidebar — March 24, 2018

Remember the Solar Ephemeris sidebar widget from the old Wandering Minstrel blog theme? The widget gave daily information about the sun cycle: you know, daybreak, sunrise, sunset and so forth. Well, I have it back on-line in the form of a sidebar link to a dedicated page that has the old widget code embedded in it.

I had some problems with making it work with the newer versions of the PHP server-side software that the ISP uses. There were some minor, but show-stopping changes to the software that killed the Ephemeris code that ran on the old Minstrel site. I spent a couple of hours debugging the code yesterday and now have the prototype running again in the “Solar Ephemeris” page. Click on the link or select the page from the sidebar. Disclaimer: it’s still a work in progress and is subject to formatting changes.

One of these days, I might start on an interactive widget where users can put in their own geographical coordinates to see the sun’s daily times for their location.

Eclipse Countdown Update

In anticipation of a second solar eclipse that we may travel to observe, I updated the Eclipse Countdown item in the Featured Pages in the right sidebar (or below on your smartphone) to include a countdown to the next American total solar eclipse. The previous counter for the Albuquerque Annular Eclipse next October is still there.

Newly added to the Eclipse Countdown page:


The next North American total solar eclipse event will take place on April 08, 2024. We’re planning to be in Kerrville, TX to view this event.

Damsel took the (clickable) image on the right during a previous eclipse seen from Casper, WY on August 21, 2017. At that time, we witnessed our first total solar eclipse and are eagerly anticipating seeing another in April 2024.

Time left until the Total eclipse begins in Kerrville:

Blogiversary #17 and
Autumnal Equinox

Blogging

Even though this is the “official” 17th Blogiversary of CB&D, we have a history of on-line presence several years prior to having a weblog. I started with an online webpage repository with photos of my grandchildren, some of our friends and radio/flying club activities a couple of years before we started to blog. I had an account at “Keyway” network with those items I mentioned. That was about in 1995 when Keyway was just getting started. Then, just about the time that Damsel and I were getting married in 1998, I found an Internet Service Provider where I could get my own website domain. I started up a family website which eventually became our family blog, the now defunct Wandering Minstrel and Cap’n Bob & the Damsel. I even had a Neighborhood Watch blog (also now defunct) to report on and deal with problems in our neck of the woods at the time.

Before blogging, I was already a software professional, but didn’t have many internet-specific code skills. I spent a lot of time learning commonly-used web languages: JavaScript, PHP, HTML, CSS, W3C Standards and much more. It was all fun and interesting. Then, by that time, blogging struck me as something we might like to get into. I started with BBLOG, a simple interface for on-line posting and after a while I discovered WordPress which resulted in our launching of the blog platform we now employ.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, now that we have upgraded the WordPress Theme to Blogstream, we’ve become inclined to post more regularly. Maybe we’ll be here for the NEXT* seventeen years?

* I should be well into nonagenarian territory by then.

First Day of Autumn

We learned from our landscape crew foreman when we first moved here that Arizona (our part of it, at least) has five seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer and Second Spring. The latter starts up around the September Equinox and lasts several weeks until the first autumn-like days show up in late October. The (clickable) image of the “Devil’s Tongue” cactus shows how it looked last year at the beginning of “Second Spring,” with one open flower and several buds around the crown of this barrel cactus.

In closing, we wish for you all to have mild weather, blue skies and green lights this fall season. We’re going to gird our loins for the return of the “snowbirds” that typically increase our local population from around 7K summertime heads to more than 25K during the late fall, winter and early spring months.

Motorhome Navigator Upgrade

Now that we have resolved some of the issues with our Thor Palazzo 35.1 Motorhome, we are anxious to get back on the road with it. We have a trip planned to head over to Bullhead City, AZ and then to Williams, AZ and return, which will keep us close to home in case we encounter additional latent problems with the RV. Hopefully, these (if any) will not be show stoppers, but things we can note and get fixed back home.

The original GPS we purchased for the motorhome is a Garmin Nüvi 2797 which is still operational and a very good unit with a companion smartphone app that works through bluetooth. We might have been content with keeping this unit which has served us well, but we had a bug planted in our ear by a You-Tuber we watch, Traveling Robert, who mentioned the RV-specific features provided by some of the new units.

I did some research and found that Garmin’s RV series GPS units have the RV-specific features we were looking for. We purchased a Garmin RV 1090 10 Inch GPS Navigator which has the RV specific features we were looking for and more. The most important features relate to where an RV can safely navigate, avoiding sharp switchbacks and low pass bridges, etc. I opened the box (left, clickable) and after updating maps and software via WIFI (no computer attached), I plotted out some routes to see how things worked. One feature is when you search for campgrounds, the unit already knows your RV dimensions and will show those places where you are going to have no trouble.

So now, we will be cleaning out the RV, mounting the new GPS up front, draining the black tank bleach solution and recharging it with the chemical packs plus some other things that need to be done before getting back on the road. I’m anxious to see how the new RV 1090 unit performs.

More Motorhome Maintenance

After our recent motorhome maintenance, I made the discovery that when I start up the 6KVA Generator, the house AC power was not switching from shore power to the generator, which is the normal behavior. It is my routine to start up the RV once a week and to start up the generator once a month and load it up with both Air Conditioners going.

I called the Mobile RV Service after a short attempt at finding out the cause of the problem myself because (a) I don’t have enough expertise and (b) I have been satisfied with these guys before. They do good work at a reasonable labor rate.

I was pleased when the dispatcher called me and set up an earlier-than-normal appointment with the same technician that helped us with the battery problem. When he showed up, he quickly found the problem: there is a junction box by the generator at the front of the RV that connects the generator output to the wiring leading to the relay that switches over when the generator is activated. As you may be able to see in the photo, a bad connection in the box overheated causing damage to the wires and wire nuts inside. This is the “before” photo but I don’t have an “after” photo because he worked very quickly and had everything buttoned up before I could take one.

When the work was done and everything performing as it should, the tech advised me that I should check the inside of the junction box in a few months to see if his work is holding up. I have that task on my list of things to do in the future.

When Damsel and I thought about what had happened, we thank God Almighty that a fire had not broken out in the generator compartment since the J-box is a plastic one rather than metallic as they were in the old days.

Updated WordPress Theme

Well, we’re updating the theme again. This time, I found a “modern” WP theme (“Blogstream“) that mostly meets my personal desires in what a theme should do and how adaptable it might be for my purposes. At the moment, it is still pretty much “stock” in that I am only using native widgets to facilitate the sidebar information. The colors and flag banner in the new theme are reminiscent of the old Stars and Stripes theme (image above right). There is a full-size image of the old theme here

For future upgrades and customization, I will have to learn the mysteries of widget production in order to include some of the old sidebar gadgetry such as the ephemeris and the random quote generator. I’m hoping that the old PHP and JavaScript code will be useful when I’m creating new widgets.

Let me know if there are any functions or other things that seem “broke.”