Search Results: "Bdale Garbee"

10 July 2010

Jonathan McDowell: SPI 2010 AGM & Board Election

As SPI secretary I announced that nominations for the SPI board were open at the start of the month. The nomination period closes this Tuesday (13th July) with voting opening up on Thursday 15th. This year over half the board is up for election - 5 seats (currently held by Luk Claes, Joshua D. Drake, Bdale Garbee, Joerg Jaspert & Martin Zobel-Helas). So far I've received only 2 nominations, though I'm aware these things are often left to the last minute, so hopefully more will appear in the next few days. All anyone who wants to stand needs to do is drop a (preferably PGP signed) email nominating yourself and providing a position statement (which will all be published once the nomination period is over).

Oh, and if you're a contributing SPI member please do remember to vote once voting is open!

13 May 2010

Bdale Garbee: Debian and LWN

Since October of 2002, HP has sponsored a "corporate subscription" to LWN on behalf of Debian, and I recently renewed the subscription through April of 2011. As of this moment, 571 Debian Developers and Debian Maintainers are enabled to take advantage of this subscription. From discussion on IRC this morning, I gather one recent change hasn't been adequately communicated: I now allow Debian Maintainers to access the subscription. The process remains unchanged: If you are a Debian Developer or Debian Maintainer and want full LWN access at HP's expense, just go to and create an account for yourself (no money is required to create a user account). Then, send email to
containing your LWN account name. Sign this email with your key on the appropriate Debian keyring. Then, exercise patience. Eventually, I will process your request, and add you to the "Debian Project group" and send you an email acknowledgement. Likewise, if you retire from being a DD or DM, please let me know at the same address so that I can take you off the Debian subscription. I believe I've caught up on all pending requests, but sometimes things get mis-filed, so if you're still waiting and I haven't replied, please re-send your request.

12 May 2010

Bdale Garbee: First Customer Flight

Contratulations to Bob Finch and Nathan Dalrymple for becoming our first customers to fly a rocket using a TeleMetrum board last Saturday! The rocket was Nathan's stretched BSD Horizon flying on a CTI Pro29 6xl 305-H226-14A Skidmark motor as shown in this launch photo. I met both Bob and Nathan at the monthly club launch run by the Albuquerque Rocket Society at the same site in Rio Rancho, NM, earlier this year. That was the day I flew my first test flight with on-board GPS. They got excited about what they saw, and became two of our first customers for production boards. Other than some rough edges with our first-generation ground software, Bob reported that everything worked as expected, and the GPS location received in the downlink got them to within about 10 feet of where the rocket set down. In communicating their success to us on IRC, Bob said "MANY thanks to you guys, not only for the product but also for all the help getting me to the point of being able to use it !!". The pleasure is all ours, though, because after Bob asked us lots of new-user questions online, he wrote up his notes for us as "documentation for mere mortals" that will soon form the basis of a "getting started" section in our user manual. Pretty cool stuff!

27 April 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum in Stock

First, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that TeleMetrum is now the subject of a post on the Make magazine site. Very cool! As reported last week, I've been waiting for better GPS antennas to arrive, but heavy snow here in Colorado last Friday delayed delivery. They finally arrived, and as I hoped, they appear to completely solve our signal strength problem! So... [drum roll, please!]... I am very happy to announce that the first production build of TeleMetrum boards and starter kits are now "in stock" at the Garbee and Garbee web store, along with other products designed by the Altus Metrum community! Keith and I are still working on the new Java-based ground station software and user documentation for the system. Watch this space for updates. I hope we'll have both ready for download by the time customers actually receive hardware...

21 April 2010

Bdale Garbee: Web Store Open

I'm pleased to announce that the new Garbee and Garbee web store offering products designed by the Altus Metrum community is now open for business! Rocketry folks, please note that I refuse to sell anything that isn't in stock, so if you want TeleMetrum boards you'll have to wait a few more days. Keith and I just weren't happy with the GPS receiver performance using the patch antennas we selected for version 1.0, and I'm changing to a slightly better (and more expensive) antenna that we expect will make everyone happier. Parts are due by Friday, and so with any luck you should be able to buy TeleMetrum boards and starter kits early next week. In the meantime, we have TeleDongle boards and other accessories in stock now and ready to ship. Last week, Steve Conklin became our first customer by showing so much enthusiasm for TeleDongle over snacks at a conference we all attended for work that we pointed him to the web store under construction and he has already posted an enthusiastic blog entry about his plans! More as it happens!

9 April 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v1.0 Boards Arrive

The first production run of TeleMetrum boards arrived from our assembler today, and overall things are looking good! Unfortunately, I specified the wrong value for a capacitor associated with the new and improved 150mA 3.3 volt regulator. The resulting symptom was interesting to debug... everything seemed to be fine except that the GPS chip wouldn't talk to us. After some investigation, it became clear that the 3.3 volt power supply was taking much longer to stabilize than it should... long enough that the power-on reset circuit was relaxing before the supply was stable! The cc1111 apparently handles this just fine, but the GPS chip doesn't. Since the new cap is optional, just removing it caused everything on the first test board to start working! The ultimate solution will probably be to both replace the new bypass capacitor with one of the correct value, and to swap out the cap in the reset circuit for a somewhat larger value to ensure we have plenty of margin in the reset circuit. I now have 4 of the new boards completed, turned on, and passing initial tests. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to wrap up the rest of the required functional testing. I then need to focus my attention on a business trip all of next week... but if all keeps going well, we're very close to taking our first orders. Stay tuned!

16 March 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v1.0 Order Placed

I've been too busy (work, family, and fighting a nasty cold!) to write much text lately, other than the comments I put on launch photos uploaded to my Flickr stream, but the remainder of our testing of the prototype TeleMetrum v0.2 boards went really well! The only significant change we decided to make before going to production was to change the 3.3 volt regulator from a 100mA to a 150mA part. This will ensure adequate power for the companion boards we have planned, even when the GPS chip is in maximum power mode searching for satellites during a cold start. So... [drum roll, please] Keith and I just placed the orders for our first production lot of TeleMetrum v1.0 boards! With any luck, in 3-4 weeks we should have a pile of altimeters to sell, along with the associated TeleDongle ground stations already in stock. Stay tuned!

25 February 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleDongle v0.2 Boards Are Here

This afternoon, a box arrived from Advanced Circuits, containing 108 fully assembled TeleDongle boards! This is not only the first "intended for sale" build of hardware from the Altus Metrum family of projects, it's also the first time that I've ever sent out one of my board designs for someone else to assemble. I therefore approached the turn-on and test of the first board out of the box with more than a little trepidation... fortunately, for no reason! I'm immensely pleased to report that TeleDongle serial number 100 turned on and works entirely as expected! I celebrated by packaging it in a cool little Hammond translucent blue plastic box with a USB cable, yielding the first prototype of a fully packaged TeleDongle board such as we anticipate selling for use receiving data from rockets carrying TeleMetrum boards. We also intend to sell these boards as-is (flashed with default firmware and measured oscillator cal value) to folks who'd like a robust wireless link for their next microcontroller project, whether rocket-related or not. I will, of course, post something here when we're ready to start taking orders. Now we just need the weather to cooperate long enough to log more test flights of TeleMetrum. The new version looks great so far, but I want a few more flights before I'll be confident enough to place an order with our assembler for a run of those too... Stay tuned!

15 February 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v0.2 First Test Flight

On Saturday, I joined The Albuquerque Rocket Society monthly launch in Rio Rancho, NM. A friend, Mike, who lives in the area joined me for the launch. While the morning started off clear and calm, if a bit cold... the wind came up hard and we had to call it quits before lunch. But before the wind "blew us away", I managed to get one flight in. And it was an absolutely perfect test of one of my brand-new TeleMetrum v0.2 boards! My cut-down Hawk Mountain "Raptor" kit, renamed "G-Spot" last October during my quest to exceed 50 g acceleration, was loaded with TeleMetrum serial number 51... and launched on a Cesaroni 229H255WT-14A motor. The ascent was beautiful! I've put a few photos of the rocket leaving the launch rail up on flickr. However, despite a clear sky, we quickly lost sight of it! I managed to spot a bit of the smoke trail from the delay grain as the rocket approached apogee, but that was it! None of us at the launch saw anything after apogee! After losing sight of the rocket, I turned my attention to my computer, where we were receiving a solid telemetry stream. It quickly became apparent that the rocket was descending normally under chute. As it got closer to the ground, I started calling out elevation, azimuth, and distance numbers, but still nobody could spot the rocket. As expected, we lost the RF link once the rocket reached the ground. As various folks on the flight line wished me luck finding my rocket, I put the last reported GPS position into my hand-held receiver. Staring at the map display, Mike and I realized the rocket was far down range, near one of the roads into the site. We jumped into my vehicle and drove down the road to the point closest to the rocket's reported position. We then walked to where the GPS receiver said the rocket should be... And found the rocket within about 20 feet! That was well within the window of position uncertainty my hand-held GPS was reporting at the time. Things just don't get much better than that! We picked up the rocket, and returned to the flight line only a few minutes after leaving it. After dumping the data from the board's on-board memory, I quickly generated the usual plots, along with a kml file that can be viewed in Google Earth. The rocket reached 1881 meters apogee, or around 6173 feet, and the maximum acceleration was 19.5 g. It touched down nearly 1.3 miles down range from the launch rail, in sage-brush desert. I honestly don't think I would have found the rocket without at least the radio beacon. It was hugely gratifying that the GPS worked and let me walk right up to the rocket! I could not have asked for a better test of the new electronics! Later in the day, Keith flew a successful test of serial number 52 at a launch in Wilsonville, Oregon. We're very happy with these results! Weather permitting, I hope to get more test flights in next weekend at Hudson Ranch. Stay tuned!

Bdale Garbee: gspot-ars.png

28 January 2010

Martin F. Krafft: DistroSummit 2010 2010 has come to an end and I am looking back at an intense week of conferencing. A big shout out to the organisers for their excellent work. I think LCA (as well as DebConf) just keeps getting better every year. This does not at all discredit previous organisers, because they were the best at their times and then passed on the wisdom and experience to help make it even better in the following year. The week started off with the DistroSummit, which Fabio and I organised. Slides are forthcoming, as I failed to get them off the speakers right after their talks it s interesting how stress levels and adrenaline can cause one to forget the most obvious things. This is where experience comes in. I ll be there again next year, I hope, to do things better. The theme of the day was cross-distro collaboration, and we started the day a little bit on the Debian-side with Lucas Nussbaum telling us about quality assurance in Debian, alongside an overview of available resources. We hoped to give people from other distros pointers, and solicit feedback that would enable us to tie quality assurance closer together. Next up was Bdale Garbee who talked about the status of the Linux Standard Base. While I am really interested in such standardisation efforts, I realised during his talks that I had considerable difficulties paying attention because as organiser of the conference, I had all sorts of other things occupying my thoughts. I proceeded to tell the audience the room was mostly filled throughout the day with an estimated 40 50 folks, and I d say about half of them stayed throughout, while the other half came in and left the room between talks. I could not get the projector to work with my laptop after the upgrade to Kernel Mode Setting, and thus used the whiteboard to give a brief introduction to, talk about the current state of affairs, summarise the trends in discussions around patch management and collaboration, give an outlook of what s up next, and solicit some discussion. Sadly, just like during Bdale s talk, I found myself worrying over the organisation of the day, rather than actually taking in most of the discussion. Fortunately, others have written about the most important points, so I defer to them. Michael Homer then told us about GoboLinux s Aliens system, which is a way to integrate domain-specific packages with distro-specific package maintenance e.g. how to get APT to handle CPAN directly, or how to let YUM manage Python packages. The ensuing discussion was interesting, and we carried it over to the next slot, because Scott, the next speaker, was stuck in traffic. To summarise briefly: scripting languages have a lot of NIH-style solutions because it works for them, but these are a nightmare to distro packagers. One symptom of the status quo is that complex software packages like Zimbra are forced to distribute all required components in their installation packages, which make distro packaging, quality assurance, and security support even harder. I don t think we found a solution, other than the need for further standardisation (like the LSB), but the road seems to be a long and windy one. Laszlo Peter introduced the audience to SourceJuicer, a new build system used by OpenSolaris. The idea is that contributors submit packages via a web interface, kicking off a workflow incorporating discussion and vetting, and only after changes have been signed-off are packages forwarded to auto-builders and eventually end up in the package repository. This is very similar to upload ideas I ve had a while ago, which I ve started to (finally) implement. Unfortunately, SourceJuicer seems very specific to OpenSolaris, as well as non-modular, so that I probably won t be able to reuse e.g. the web interface on top of a Debian-specific package builder. After the break, Dustin Kirkland stepped up to tell us about his user experience of Launchpad. Unfortunately, I found his talk a bit too enthusiastic. Launchpad undoubtedly has some very cool features and ideas, but it s just one of the available solutions. The dicussion of Launchpad also dominated the next talk, in which Lucas Nussbaum told us about the Debian-Ubuntu relationship. While his presentation showed that the relationship was improving (Matt Zimmerman made the point that there are rather many relationships, rather than one relationship), I was a bit disturbed by the comments of Launchpad developers in the room, ranging from Debian is declining anyway to Just use Launchpad if you want to collaborate with others and not go down . There was a slight aura of arrogance in their comments which tainted my experience of the otherwise constructive discussions of the day. Overall I had a great time. Debian and Ubuntu made up the vast majority of attendants, with only a handful of representatives from other distros present. I wonder why that would be. One reason might be that around 70% of LCA attendants declared themselves Debian or Ubuntu users, and so there weren t many other distros around. Another might be that I still haven t spread the word enough. Let s hope to do better next year! Thanks to all the speakers. We may have organised the day, but you made it happen and interesting! Slides and recordings of the talks will be linked from the archived website when they become available (yes, the archive page does not exist yet either).

8 January 2010

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v0.2 All Here

Today, the panels of bare circuit boards, the paste stencil, and the last parts I need (the Venus GPS modules) to hand assemble first-article prototypes of TeleMetrum v0.2 all arrived! The parts for the first three prototypes are staged and ready to load, so my next step is to go use my CNC mill to rip up one of the panels into individual boards, then make up a fixture for the stencil. Meanwhile, the solder paste is out of the shop fridge warming up... For my friends in Colorado, this means I will not try to attend the NCR annual meeting this weekend. It's about a 6 hour round-trip drive from my house to Ault, and getting boards loaded and tested before I leave for New Zealand where Keith and I are scheduled to give a talk at LCA about our work takes priority!

31 December 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v0.2 Boards Ordered

Some quotes are in for professional SMT assembly of TeleMetrum v0.2, and I've had to reset my expectations. The shop I thought would be my first choice came in with a quote much higher than I expected. Another shop we've heard good things about gave us a much more reasonable quote, but can't get any made before LCA. So... This morning, I ordered some bare circuit boards and a paste stencil from the places I used quite successfully for v0.1. With any luck, they'll be in my hands in time to load a few boards before leaving for LCA. If all goes well, we'll put a set out for professional fab sometime later.

18 December 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum v0.2 Out for Quote

I just sent a data package representing TeleMetrum version 0.2 out for an assembly quote. Hope to have first article boards in hand before heading to 2010 where Keith and I are scheduled to give a talk about the project.

19 November 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum Progress

Keith and I have been pretty quiet about TeleMetrum for a while... but that doesn't mean we've been idle! In recent weeks, I've built up several more flight units and two more ground station boards, as noted in my production log. We're both trusting rockets solely to our boards and Keith's firmware at this point. In fact, we've accumulated a significant number of succesful flights, including a cool drag-race between 4" airframes at NCR Oktoberfest where we both put brand-new, nearly identical rockets fully at risk flying only TeleMetrum boards, and a flight by Keith the same weekend on a full-K Loki K350W moon-burner in which he set a new personal altitude record! I've also flown a board with 100-g accelerometer installed successfully in a flight that peaked at 52.8 g! We're now hard at work on a "next version" of the hardware, incorporating everything we've learned so far. There are a number of significant changes planned: To make all this fit, I'm stretching the board an extra 1/4 inch to a total outline of 1 by 2.75 inches. We're also moving all the connectors, the GPS patch antenna, and the beeper to the "back side" of the PC board. This is a win on several levels... it will allow us to have silk-screen labels for the connectors, will help protect the baro sensor from sunlight and the various surface mount parts from physical damage during rocket prep, and opens up more board surface area for component placement and routing on the "top side" of the board. In practice, this means that boards will be mounted on standoffs with all the active components facing "down" and the connectors facing "up." Before we'll be ready to build some of these, we need to get in some more flights to test the various changes we're making. In particular, the change in ejection charge circuit, and the GPS receiver chip and antenna choices we're now favoring. Unfortunately, Keith and I are now both into the time of year where launch opportunities come less frequently, even before we consider the weather. Meanwhile, Keith's firmware and ground station software are now doing nearly everything we've envisioned wanting from this project. It seems entirely likely that he'll be ready to declare "version 1.0" soon after we obtain and verify the functionality of our next version of the hardware... In the meantime, our friends at Woot have posted a really funny video combining material from a couple launches this summer of my 10-inch Goblin, on one of which we flew some of their screaming flying monkey dolls... Enjoy!

19 May 2009

Bdale Garbee: Launch Photos

I managed to break the LCD on my HP r717 digital camera a while back, but couldn't find anything that excited me as a replacement, so have been doing without and borrowing my son's camera from time to time. That changed recently... my new camera is a Casio High Speed EXILIM model EX-FC100BK. I've never been able to get the timing right to take photos of our rockets leaving the launch rails. I manage to get passable videos from time to time, and a lot of pictures of smoke trails... but WOW, the ability to take a burst of high-resolution still photos at a fast frame rate (some of which are even before the shutter release gets fully pressed!) completely and totally rocks my world! I just put a few of the best frames I captured at Saturday's launch up on Flickr. Enjoy!

15 May 2009

Bdale Garbee: Altus Metrum Logo

Thanks to my wife Karen's graphic design skills, and Keith's SVG-foo, the Altus Metrum group of projects now has a logo!

20 April 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum First Flight

Today was the season opener for Tripoli Colorado at their launch site on the buffalo ranch near Hartsel, Colorado. After huge snowfalls along the front range of the mountains in the last few days, we were a little tentative about going, but it turned out to be nearly perfect flying conditions! There was apparently much less snow this week on the high plains west of the front range, and by this morning the snow had almost entirely disappeared, the skies were clear and blue, and the winds were calm except for a few gusty bursts in the afternoon. This launch site is really something special, at 8800 feet above mean sea level, in the middle of a huge area of wide-open short grass prairie. We love flying there, and today the drive to and from the launch site through the snow-covered Colorado Rockies was just beautiful! Son Robert and I flew three rockets today, including his LOC/Precision Lil Nuke with added payload section on an Aerotech G54W-M reload, and our Polecat Aerospace 5.5 inch Goblin kit on one of the relatively new Aerotech I245G-M "Mojave Green" green-flame reloads. But by far the highlight of the day was flying my Giant Leap Vertical Assault on a Cesaroni J335 red-flame reload... with serial number 1 of TeleMetrum on board collecting our first-ever flight data! From the ground, it looked like a textbook perfect dual-deploy flight, with a small drogue chute out at apogee around 4000 feet above ground, and the main chute deploying at 700 feet above ground for a beautiful, soft landing only a couple minutes walk from the launch rail. The ejection events were controlled by a PerfectFlite MiniAlt/WD. The data recovered from it shows a big negative spike in the altitude right at apogee, coincident with firing of the apogee deployment charge. I have to assume this means the aft bulkhead on the avionics bay in the reconstructed coupler section isn't sealing well, and some pressure from the apogee deployment charge leaked in to the avionics bay "fooling" the altimeter into thinking the altitude was lower for a sample or two. Clearly, that needs to get fixed before that airframe flies again. Further evidence that we had a mighty kick from the apogee ejection charge was discovered when we went to clean the motor casing. The Cesaroni reloads are packaged in a plastic liner tube that slides into the reusable aluminum case. When we pulled the spent reload out of the case, it was significantly shorter than when it was loaded, suggesting that the ejection charge forced the forward closure on the reload backwards compressing the heat-softened plastic. This could be evidence that the reconstructed coupler was slow to separate from the booster airframe due to excessive friction? The flight data recovered from the TeleMetrum board looks great until apogee, when the data collection stopped. Since I flew firmware that was compiled and flashed on the flight line from Keith's latest git commit as of this morning, it's entirely possible that there was a software bug that caused data collection to terminate at apogee. We'll investigate that. But I personally think what actually happened is that we experienced a temporary short in the power supply at the time the apogee ejection charge fired. On extraction of the electronics sled from the avionics bay this evening, I noticed that one of the mounting screws has gone missing. If it wasn't snug enough, and vibrated loose during flight, it could have been torn loose at the time of the ejection event and shorted something as it rattled around in the avionics bay. The screw is now just missing, but may have fallen out when we were extracting data on the flight line just after the flight without being noticed at the time. So I'm not inclined to worry much about this, at least until we can get some more flight data! Keith post-processed the raw flight data and presented me with a plot showing two traces, acceleration and barometric altitude. The data from the accelerometer closely matches the published data for the motor we flew, which is a really cool result, and my 10-year-old son enjoyed figuring out why the rocket showed negative acceleration after the motor burn out but was still climbing. (See, there really is some science education hidden in the fun!) All in all, we had a great time, and it's totally cool to have data from a first flight of TeleMetrum! Can't wait to fly it again!

15 April 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum Mounted

Last night, I stayed up late reworking the avionics bay in my Giant Leap Vertical Assault kit. This is the rocket I set my personal best altitude to date of 14,141 feet above ground level with. The Missile Works RRC2 mini will move to a lesser airframe to keep it below 10k feet AGL since it's an early unit with the supposedly-buggy early firmware. In its place, I've mounted a PerfectFlite MiniAlt/WD to handle primary deployment duties... and serial number 1 of TeleMetrum! Meanwhile, Keith has completely rewritten the guts of the firmware in the last few days to eliminate FreeRTOS since it turns out to just be too heavy for our needs on this project. My board is now running a snapshot of his latest work, and in bench testing I've confirmed that it can do launch detect, log sensor data until the non-volatile memory chip is full, and dump the raw data over USB for analysis after a flight. Weather has been an issue in Colorado recently, but as soon as we get a decent launch day (maybe as early as this weekend?), I'm looking forward to flying this rocket on one or all of the Cesaroni I205, I540, and J285 currently in my box to get some initial flight data recorded. Keep your fingers crossed for me that the storm front headed towards us clears out by the weekend!

27 March 2009

Bdale Garbee: TeleMetrum Working

Keith and I have been plugging away for the last couple weeks turning on and testing the various bits of TeleMetrum, and I can now very happily report that we have all the hardware working! Amazingly, we got almost everything right in the hardware design. Only two things need to be changed. We need to be able to control the chip select line on the the SPI non-volatile memory chip, which means we need one more GPIO line to it from the processor. To free up a line, we gave up the ability to put the accelerometer in to self test mode. Two trace cuts and two jumpers to the current board implement this change. The last thing we got working just this evening was the ability to sense the presence of an ejection charge igniter. We need another resistor in each of the two sense circuits to form a voltage divider so that we don't overload the ADC input. Not sure how we missed that in our many design reviews! Oh well. To ensure robust ignition of the electric matches we prefer to use for ejection charges, we charge a 1000uF cap to a voltage higher than our ADC inputs can handle. Fixing this problem on the current boards requires changing the values of two resistors, then tacking extra resistor to one end of each of the existing ones and then wiring the other ends of the new resistors to ground. Since the resistors in question are all 0402 surface mount parts, this is a royal pain... but with my finest dental-pick soldering iron tip, and working under the inspection microscope, it is indeed possible. Alternatively, if the ability to sense igniter continuity isn't important, just leaving off R14 and R15 at least prevents the 3.3V processor from going whacko due to having 5V applied to two ADC inputs! I'm really impressed at how well these first two boards reflow soldered in the electric skillet in my basement came out. Getting the right amount of solder paste on the board is something I'm likely to get better at with practice, but so far we've only had a few (very obvious during inspection) shorts to clean up, and a couple poorly soldered pins. All in all, I couldn't be happier with how this has gone... and I'm really looking forward to flying one of these boards sometime soon as an auxiliarly payload to gather some initial flight data!