Tuesday, March 31, 2009


As usual when I come up to Barrow, I end up working ridiculous hours. Yesterday, for example, I ended up working until almost 11:00pm. Right around 9:00, I finally got something working and instead of leaving it 'til the morning, I had to get it up and running. There is a lot going on around here and some of the researchers have been here well over a month getting their data and still have several more weeks until things start to shut down. It is pretty windy and cold up here and I have been watching the weather in Fairbanks where it seems like Spring is threatening. I haven't gotten much walking in up here since almost all of my work this time is in the older building which is only about a hundred yards from the hut where I'm staying. I was told that the volcano erupted again and folks up here were wondering if the plane would be able to make it in today. I'm still here 'til tomorrow so there is time for things to settle down. I have most of what I had wanted to get working done except for one chunk of software. I'm still trying to think of a good way to install that without disrupting the production network. One of the things we did yesterday was putting a captive portal on the BASC wireless network. This morning, several people unaffiliated with BASC came by to ask what was going on. We had distributed the information to the visiting researchers yesterday afternoon with flyers in the labs and an email message. So I guess there were some other users on the wireless network. One of the problems sharing a building with a college.

It is always interesting to come up here to see what people are working on. It is usually pretty interesting especially when compared to administrative stuff at the university. Well, I'm exhausted....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Springtime in Barrow

The prevailing winds were such that I was able to get to Barrow on yesterdays flight. There were a lot of people in the airport trying to get re-booked on flights heading south and there were a lot of planes parked at the Fairbanks airport. Much more than normal. The flight up was pretty empty, in fact, when we arrived in Barrow, only 4 people got off of the flight. The plane had stopped at Prudhoe and was almost completely full of people trying to get home after their shift got involuntarily extended by Redoubt. The flight from Fairbanks to Prudhoe only had 17 people on it.

Once I arrived, I did get the new flow collector box up and running as there was a bug in this release of Fedora that didn't like static IP addresses. Since it was set up with a static address, it was unreachable from my office once it was restarted. Flow-tools 0.68.4 is installed as well as FlowViewer and I'm just getting started on the installation of Netreg. All open source software. I gave up trying to get Flowscan installed since it kept on reporting a problem with the format of the saved flow files. I used to run it in the past but used cflowd instead of flow-tools. Cflowd is no longer supported and the original developers recommended the use of flow-tools. Hopefully, I can get Netreg installed in the next couple of days.

Unlike Fairbanks, it is still winter here in Barrow with temperatures floating around -30°F even though there is a fair amount of sunlight just it doesn't seem to be adding much warmth. I think my walking is done for the month of March since I'm not scheduled to return until April 1st. But I'm more than satisfied with my March total on the Nike+ site of 191.47 miles.

Hopefully, I can get everything I need to done while I'm up here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Heading to Barrow (maybe)

I am, supposedly, heading to Barrow tomorrow morning but with all of the Redoubt activity, I'm not really sure. The flight went up this evening and Alaska Airlines has already canceled the Anchorage-Fairbanks leg of tomorrow morning. Maybe they are leaving the plane in Fairbanks tonight instead of going all the way to Anchorage. Maybe I should look at tonight's flight status. I'm working hard getting the netflow collector up and running plus some sort of analysis tool. Right now, I have Flow-tools and FlowViewer installed on another server and it looks pretty good. I also plan on setting up the NetReg package on the same server. I haven't looked at NetReg for years but I remember that it was pretty straightforward.

Not much walking today since I needed to get ready for the trip. Plus, I already have over 170 miles this month which isn't enough to win a virtual trophy on the Nike+ site. The leaders in the monthly challenges that I entered are almost 20 miles ahead of me. I don't have the energy to try and catch them and this trip gives me a good excuse. This month, I didn't have the benefit of being in a snow free place to give me a jump start like last month. Only two more weeks until the Beat Beethoven 5K run and I still haven't had much opportunity to run outside. Yesterday was a great day and most of the snow was gone from our road but I had my cooking class last night. I have been fairly successful in the WIN "Get the Point" program accumulating plenty of points to get a new laptop backpack. That would be great as my current backpack is getting pretty worn out.

Update - Just like I thought, AS 52 is stopping in Fairbanks on its way from Barrow. The Anchorage leg is already canceled so the plane will already be here tomorrow morning. Time to give my son the bad news that I will need a ride to the airport in the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mt. Redoubt

This webcam is located about 7 miles from the summit. The picture is from the Alaska Volcano Observatory web site.

Mt. Redoubt Blows

It turned out to be a beautiful day yesterday with temperatures warming up into the mid-20s. I took a moderately long (10½ mile), afternoon walk and it was absolutely great. There was a slight breeze but nothing like we've been having for most of last week. Plus the breeze was from the south. Speaking of southerly winds, Mt. Redoubt blew this morning starting at about 10:38 pm Sunday night, blowing ash to about 50,000 ft and the cloud is being carried north with the prevailing wind. I wonder if we will see any in Fairbanks? There are ash warnings for towns along the Parks Highway and Alaska Airlines has canceled a bunch of flights that pass through Anchorage. This is a webcam image from the AVO (Alaska Volcano Observatory) site from a webcam supposedly pointed towards Redoubt. Not much to see even though it is well after sunrise in Anchorage. They are saying that Anchorage and Wasilla will not see much, if any, ash but it is already showing up in places like the Talkeetna airport which is reporting light ash. Kind of exciting. I wonder if we'll see anything up here? I'm supposedly going to Barrow on Saturday but I'm not sure the flights are actually running.

Friday, March 20, 2009

1500 Miles and Motorcycles in the Arctic

Finally got a good "walking" day in today. I took the bus today so that is 3.4 miles right off the bat, then used the treadmill this evening for another 7.1 miles. I even ran for the last 15 minutes, something I haven't felt like doing for a couple of weeks. In January, I had just passed the 1k mark on the Nike+ and I had decided that I had set 2k miles as an achievable goal. According to the Nike+ site, there are about 350,000 users. Of those, about 25,000 have passed the 1000 mile mark. Only about 1900 have passed the 2000 mile mark. This seems like a good goal and worthy of a t-shirt. Anyway, I'm halfway there as I just passed the 1500 mile mark. Things usually slow down (exercise wise) once May rolls around since motorcycle season starts about then.

Last week, I read about a couple that came through Fairbanks on their way to Prudhoe Bay from the east coast on motorcycles. One was on a Yamaha R1 sport bike, and the other on a BMW F800GS dual sport bike. Both were equipped with studded tires and heated clothes, and they headed north just before the big snow storm a couple of weeks ago. They made it up and I assume they are now headed south after trucking the bikes back to Fairbanks from Prudhoe Bay. I guess I'm a wimp for not riding in the winter but I kinda like staying upright. Be sure to check out their great videos on their site, especially the one about riding on the ice (which I attached to this entry). No falls but some close calls and some great footage of the interior.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No More PT

I'm not getting too much walking in these days. The treadmill is getting boring and the Fairbanks weather does little to encourage walking outdoors. I did somehow manage to make my Nike+ March goal of 80 miles but I'm nowhere near last months total of 240 miles. Today, I had my last physical therapy session, so I walked to their office but I was pretty cold by the time I got there. The breeze was at my back for most of the walk back to my office so it wasn't bad. Movement in my shoulder is pretty much back to normal so they gave me a bunch of exercises to do and sent me on my way. Plus, they gave me a nice t-shirt. Since it was nicer on the walk back to my office, I took the scenic route back to extend trip to almost 5 miles.

I finally managed to get a flow collector running in Barrow but it's running on the backup phone server. Definitely not where I want it to be long term. At least it will give me a good start. I'm using flow-tools and want to set up Flowscan as well as a netreg type of service. All to be able to track bandwidth utilization. This was the beginning of step 1, i.e. being able to report usage based on IP address. Step 2 is to associate each IP address to a person and/or project.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I just received an email from the WIN for Alaska program reminding me to keep entering data on their "Get the Point" website. In past years, they've focused on areas such as improving nutrition, relieving stress, and getting more exercise mostly with in-person sessions. They do have the one-on-one IHP sessions but much of the rest seems to be focused on this online program. I think I have about 900 points accumulated so far but most of that is from activities. I am still trying to get a better handle on nutrition but sometimes it is pretty difficult. When I'm in Barrow, the easiest option is food at the college cafeteria. While it isn't that bad, it is still a bit high in fat and good fresh vegetables are rare. They make an attempt at a salad bar but the lettuce is usually somewhat unappetizing and most of the other ingredients are canned. But then again it's Barrow. Much of the restaurants up there are sort of in the same boat though what fresh vegetables they have are in a little better shape than at the college. Whole grains are a little easier to incorporate here at home as are the nuts and vegetables. Fruit is still a problem for me since it has quite a bit of sugar and, for me at least, that is a problem.

I'm still getting plenty of walking in though I'm about half of what I was doing last month. I had gotten started while in Texas and kept going hard for the rest of the month. Hopefully, I'll be able to get in some running this month. So far this month, just walking. My PT has me finally doing some upper body exercise mostly with stretchy bands. The good news is that I have full motion in my shoulder again with little pain but still some "popping" which can't be too good. Today was "Spring Break" for university staff so I spent much of the day running around town looking for car parts for my sons Kia. Four wheel drive has been broken for most of the winter. The four wheel drive is fixed now but a steering tie rod end was damaged during removal. Everything was covered with dirt and rust on this car so thank goodness for pneumatic tools. I don't know how I ever worked on cars without them. Just getting old I guess...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another Sunny Day in the Frozen North

Winter is still here in force. Lots of snow and temperatures around -25°F. A mild breeze reminds you that it is still really cold in case you get fooled by all the sunshine. The picture is a tethered balloon that a group is getting ready to launch. I'm not sure what it's for but it looks interesting. I ave only been partly successful so far as I don't have all of the information I needed. I just found all the documentation for the building paging system so I am hoping that I can get it set up and configured tomorrow. The unit I picked up for an off-site backup of the VoIP database has been working like a charm. I initially set it up in Fairbanks and was backing up over the WAN connection but now the device is local and should work more reliably.

Wednesday Afternoon - I have building paging up and running though not quite how I had originally wanted to do it. The PBX option was not specified when the building was built. The system is designed for a school so it all these school features such as timed announcements and different bells and chimes to be used for recess, gym, etc. Kind of interesting but a challenge due to the lack of documentation. There are several pieces that I can't set up since there are no directions. I figured out how to page just by almost randomly punching keys until something happened. Not a very scientific approach. I also set up a machine to display status that can be remotely updated. I had wanted to use RSS but the solution proposed wasn't quite what I was looking for.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back in Barrow

It took three attempts to get to Barrow from Fairbanks this time. There was a "winter storm warning" here that dumped a ton of snow with high winds. Lots of snow drifts everywhere and loaders trying to get the roads passable again. The flight this evening was the first one since Thursday evening so it was a completely full flight. And this was a regular jet not a combi. I guess a lot of people needed to get to Barrow. They even announced that luggage was being removed to stay within limits. I have lost two days so I think I'll need to stay here for couple of extra days.

I finished February with 239 miles on the Nike+ gadget and I think I won a couple more virtual trophies...

Monday evening - Well, very little walking these days. The hut where I'm staying is only about ¼ mile from the main building and the BARC is only about another ¼ mile further. The treadmill in the college gym is still in the same state (the belt slips badly) so not much exercise there. I have been feeling like I needed a break from the walking and this is a good opportunity to do so. The food choices up here are somewhat limited so my points on the WIN program are going to be down as well. Fortunately, I got a lot of points last month.

Things are really busy up here. All of the huts are almost full and the hut where I'm staying has about 6 people staying in it. The last time I was here in December, I was the only one up here at the research station. I guess people like the Spring sunshine better than the Winter darkness. There was a meeting that started at 7:00pm and went on until about 8:30. After that, I stopped by one of the other buildings and tried to get another connection up and running. Right now, I'm using one of the 700mhz boxes and except for the dns configuration, it seems to be working great.