The Starry Night, 42
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01/26/2011: Nintendo makes a great observer's table. Who knew? Carlos, down in Miami, did, and he advertised some on Astromart. What you didn't know you needed is the case that comes with the DJ Hero (that's Disk Jockey Hero) "Renegade Edition" turntable. Seriously. Here's the thing: the legs are independently adjustable, they store inside a lower compartment inside the case, and the top is nicely foamed with cutouts for a notebook computer, cables, and assorted other astronomical widgets. The legs screw into the bottom and then adjust as needed. Photos to come.
I'd been looking at camping tables, folding tables, all sorts of lightweight tables. And telescoping legs, etc. The only folding tables with fully adjustable legs seem to be sold in the UK, and shipping to the USA costs way more than the tables. For about a third the price, this looks like it will do the trick nicely.
2/2/2011: A grab n'go Solar kit: Ever since I got back from Tennessee last October, I have not had a chance to do any sungazing. Trees. Once the Sun moved south of the celestial equator, the back yard has been pretty much hopeless as an observing venue. The Sun is still several weeks from moving back into view from anywhere very near the house. I remembered that LXD55 / Autostar outfit down in the basement bought on clearance from Meade many years back. It was sold in kits that included OTA's as large as a 10-inch F4 Schmidt Newtonian (a ludicrous overload for it, but plausible in some minds) so I figured it would have no problem at all with a 60mm sunscope. But first, there was the matter of making a mounting rail, wiring up a power supply, and fitting the mount onto a Gitzo tripod for portability.
All this and some sample images belong under the Staring @ the Sun label. So click on over there.
This will make a killer portable widefield DSLR mount, too. And that will be found here, by and by. The battery for both the LXD55 and the Losmandy G11 as well as cables and hand controllers for each share a Pelican case. There is a good bit of duplication in the barndoor kit, and if this power case is used with it, that kit can be simplified considerably.
2/13/2011: Computer meltdown! My 7-year old Dell 4300C flaked out last week. At first I thought it was just a C: drive issue but I quickly became convinced the problem also involved motherboard and / or RAM issues. Sorting it out looked long, tedious, and by no means certain. I replaced it with a Dell Inspiron 17r, a big, honkin' desktop replacement notebook with more RAM (4 vs 2GB), a faster CPU (i3 vs P4), and Windows 7 64-bit (vs XP SP2). Acronis backup and restore worked well, especially with the new machine's eSata port. One week on, all is ready to go back to work, and only a few utilities have declined to work in a 64-bit environment. There are alternatives and some fixes yet to persue.
I think this failure owes much to my neglect of the UPS. I bought that device in the middle 90's after a power failure cooked one of ETSU's Novell servers. I've changed the batteries in it once, and should have done so at least once more. One of the two 6v 7AH batteries would not charge above 4v, but the other was in good shape. I replaced both and put the still-serviceable battery to work powering the wifi/ethernet bridge. This is much lighter and a more appropriate use of resources than the 12v AGM motorcycle battery that was powering it. I am making sure the smaller battery will run it for at least 12 hours (if it is healthy, that should be no problem).
Then, while updating this page, I ran afoul of Win7's permissions, fumbled the adjustment, and spent two hours learning to invoke the elevated command prompt, to enable the default administrator account, to change its password, and to reset the permissions on about 100,000 files and directories so that Dreamweaver, Flash, and Photoshop can have their way with the files they use.
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