Alex headshot

AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

Fun with flying

2005, flying

I had my first night flight tonight; and I'm well on the way to the 45 hours required in order to take the PPL test. The night flying qualification will mean that I'm able to fly at night, which hopefully won't be necessary most of the time (flying at night is about as fun as driving at night) but is always good to have, especially when you can do it in the 45 hours.

It's also useful travelling with a GPS; in this case, the RoyalTek RBT 3000, along with a PocketPC and Memory Map software. What's nice about this unit is that you can record where you've been in the GPS receiver, and then download the track afterwards. (It's technically possible to do this with the PocketPC as well; but the PocketPC's battery life sucks and I don't think leaving it turned on and talking via bluetooth would do the battery any good. Instead, I leave the GPS unit storing where I've been, and then power up the PocketPC if I need to get an exact fix of where I am (bearing in mind that I fly with the up-to-date charts and know roughly where I am all the time, of course :-).

Track of my first solo flight

I played around with Python and the Python OpenGL binding to generate routes of where I'd been; but it was pretty sketchy at best. Recently, however, I've found that GPS Visualizer does a much better job than I did, and it also hooks into Google Maps as well. What's even better, you can view it as an image, a Scalable Vector Graphics file, and (if you've got Google Earth installed) a KML (google earth) map; you can also see the route directly in Google Maps.

The Google Maps API is pretty cool, but you need to sign up for a Google Maps key before you can serve maps from your server. What's worse is that the key is directory locked; so you can't serve the pages from a different directory (which hopefully will change in the future).

Anyway, my next project will be to catalogue all my flights in a database, and then have them served up via Google Maps automatically. I'll probably use Ruby on Rails to give it a go. Watch this space...