Southeast Linuxfest 2024

Another Southeast Linuxfest is wrapped up and I had a great time again. Saw a bunch of new faces at SELF this year, which was nice. Attendance seemed about the same as last year. As usual, the hallway track was pretty active.

New sponsors this year were AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux. I’ll have to try them out on some of the older hardware I’ve got that Fedora doesn’t like to install on now.

Back this year was System76, showing off some of their hardware and one of their Launch keyboards, which looked really nice. Might have to get myself one. I’d love to get one of the Thelio systems.

In addition to the great talks this year, the grand opening of the new Charlotte Microcenter happened to coincide with SELF and there was much buzz. The new Microcenter isn’t very far away away and fairly easy to get to. Very nice store, very big. I somehow managed to get out of the store having only purchased a 5 port ethernet switch and an Arduino Mega clone board.

As usual, we had the W4L special event station running at SELF making FT8 contacts throughout the weekend. The amateur radio test session went pretty well too despite the room being a little on the frigid side, with 12 out of 16 people getting upgrades or new licenses.

And of course, it wouldn’t be SELF without Fred. Joining him this year was Larry the Cat.

Seeing the third Saturn V

There are only three Saturn V rockets left in the world. One is at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center. That one I’ve seen a few times. I never get tired of seeing the Saturn V there.

Another one is at Space Center Houston, which I got to visit a few years ago. There I learned that there were only three left in the world. Since this was the second Saturn V I’d seen, I thought to myself “Well, now I have to see all of them.”

The third, and final Saturn V I got to see is in the Saturn V Hall at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Outside the Davidson Center where the Saturn V is located is an equally impressive but slightly smaller mockup of the Saturn V. Makes the building easy to find if you’re exploring the Space and Rocket Center.

Saturn V mockup outside the Davidson Center at the US Space and Rocket Center

After going inside the building and up the stairs, you’re greeted with the massive business end of the Saturn V rocket once you turn the corner to enter the exhibit hall.

The base of the Saturn V with the huge F1 rocket engines
The flamy end of the Saturn V rocket

In addition to the Saturn V overhead, there are lots of displays and exhibits telling the history of rocket development and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

View from the tip of the Saturn V rocket
Pointy end of the Saturn V rocket

The Saturn V never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of seeing one.

The US Space and Rocket Center is a great place to visit. There’s lots to see and do there. The Rocket Park (like Kennedy’s Rocket Garden) was having a lot of work being done, but it’s still a fun area to wander around. Check out the Saturn IB and a mockup of part of Skylab (made from pieces that were used for training in the Neutral Bouyancy Simulator) on display in the Rocket Park. Walk around the Shuttle Park where you’ll find a mockup of a Space Shuttle with the external tank and boosters when we were there. Highly recommend going to the US Space and Rocket Center if you’re in the area (or even if you aren’t).

Oh, and bring a banana to leave for Miss Baker and Big George.

Next quest: See all the Space Shuttles. on display I’ve already seen the Shuttle Atlantis at KSC. Three more to go.

Two and a half days at Disney World

Got to spend two and a half days wandering around parts of Disney World over the weekend.

Drove down to the Orlando area Saturday, stopping at IKEA in Jacksonville on the way to check out cabinets that we’re planning on putting in the laundry room at some point.  Of all the IKEAs we’ve been to, the one in  Jacksonville is a bit of an oddball, since it’s only a single level.

Stopped at Skycraft Parts & Surplus in Orlando to browse.  Really wish there was a store like that here in Charleston.  I’d probably end up spending a lot of time there.

After checking in to the hotel and getting unpacked, we headed off to Disney Springs to pick up my Epcot ticket and trade in Connie’s old 4-day Park Hopper pass with one day left from back when they didn’t expire for a new ticket.  Spent most of the evening wandering around Disney Springs and had a good time. 

Tasty tip: Stop at Cooke’s of Dublin and get the Hog in a Box.

The next day (Sunday) we went to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  We had tickets for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue later in the afternoon so they let us in to park early.  We spent our time before the show resort hopping to check out and wander around some of the nearby resorts.  Took a boat to the Wilderness Lodge, and then to the Contemporary Resort.  From there we hopped on the monorail to the Polynesian Resort where we had lunch, and then the Grand Floridian Resort (very fancy place).  Finally, we got back on the monorail to go to the Magic Kingdom where we walked around the entrance a bit (didn’t go in) and then caught the boat back to Fort Wilderness to meet up with friends.

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue show is an entertaining hour and a half or so of music, song, and dance accompanied by an all-you-can-eat dinner of fried chicken buckets, pails of ribs, bowls of baked beans, corn, and mashed potatoes, and topped off with strawberry shortcake.

We all quite enjoyed the show and the food.

The next day, Monday, was Epcot Day!  Epcot is our favourite Disney park.

Spaceship Earth at Epcot
Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Epcot Day started off bright and early with us arriving at the parking lot gate at 7:30 AM, right when the parking lot opens.  The parking lot Cast Member asked us how we were doing, and Connie responded with an enthusiastic “We’re awesome! We’re at Epcot!”  I guess Connie’s enthusiasm was contagious, because she waved us on by and we didn’t have to pay the $25 for parking.

After parking close enough that we could walk to the entrance, we waited for the security lines to open, then hopped on the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center and back.  The ride offers a nice view of parts of Disney World and on the way back makes a loop through Epcot’s Future World.

About 10 or 15 minutes before the rope drops, the gathered crowd is entertained by the JAMMitors, a percussion trio playing on trash can lids and pails.  Then, at 9AM the rope drops and the crowd rushes into the park.

Any way you do things, spending the day at Epcot is tiring.  We took it easy, weren’t rushing anywhere, took breaks, enjoyed rides, and were still exhausted by the end of the day.

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival was happening while we were there, so we got to sample a few dishes while we wandered around.

Pro tip: If you’re buying stuff at Epcot, you can have them delivered to Package Pickup (located at The Gift Stop by the park entrance) and pick up your goods on the way out.  That way you don’t need to lug things around while you’re exploring the park.  The cut-off time for getting purchases sent to Package Pickup is 6PM but if you’re going to do it, have your last purchase sent to Package Pickup well before that.  If you’re staying at one of the Disney resorts, you can have your purchases sent to your resort which makes things even easier.

Wrapping up the evening was the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show.  Last month there was an announcement that the IllumiNations show was going to be retired in 2019 and replaced with something else.  It was important enough to Connie that we see the show together that we cancelled the cruise we had planned for May 2019 to make the trip to Epcot instead.  The show was a fantastic spectacle of music, fireworks, lasers, video, water, and fire.  Really big fire.  It’s a pretty awesome show and definitely worth waiting around for.

Spaceship Earth at night
Spaceship Earth at night

Spruce Goose and other planes

About an hour away from Portland, in McMinnville, OR is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’ famous H-4 Flying Boat (aka the Spruce Goose) as well as many other planes, rockets, and aviation related artifacts.

The Spruce Goose (made mostly of birch) is enormous.  It’s probably one of the largest planes you’ll ever see in person.

H-4 Flying Boat (Spruce Goose)
H-4 Flying Boat (Spruce Goose)
Spruce Goose tail section
Spruce Goose tail section
H-4 cockpit high above
Spruce Goose cockpit high above

Its 8 propeller engines are puny compared to the wings they’re mounted on, and the plane’s fuselage. It’s hard to imagine that even 8 engines would have provided enough power to move the H-4, but fly it did.

Four of the H-4's 8 engines
Four of the Spruce Goose’s 8 engines

There are plenty of other planes to see in the museum, both military and civilian.

Biplanes under the wing of the Spruce Goose
Biplanes under the wing of the Spruce Goose

There’s a 21 seat DC-3A (originally belonging to United Air Lines) that you can walk through to get a look at what commercial passenger flight would have been like in the 40s and 50s.

DC-3A
DC-3A
SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird
A-10 Warthog (BRRRRRTTTTT)
A-10 Warthog (BRRRRRTTTTT)

When you need a break from wandering around, airplane seats scattered about the museum provide nice, reasonably comfortable places to sit (and with a good deal more leg room than in an airplane).

The Space Museum takes you through the history of rockets and space exploration, starting with a replica of Goddard’s first liquid fueled rocket, a V-2, a Titan II (used for the Mercury Redstone launches), the Apollo space program, and others. There’s also an IMAX theater (a full-sized one) that shows some pretty good movies. 

There’s a lot to see at the museum, and you can easily spend an entire day and then some exploring all the exhibits both inside and outside.  If that’s not enough for you, go hit the waterpark and slide out of a Boeing 747.

Worth a visit if you’re in the area. Plan on spending at least a half day. Take your time and spend the whole day if you can. Make sure to catch one of the IMAX movies.

Visiting the VintageTEK Museum

During my vacation to Beaverton, OR, I got to visit the VintageTEK Museum with a local friend.  The museum relocated recently to the Tektronix campus, which seems to a fitting place for it to be.

The VintageTEK museum is a pretty cool place with a fair bit of space to show off their collection of old Tek scopes, test equipment, tubes, CRTs and other equipment beginning with an original Tektronix 511 CRT oscilloscope.

Tektronix 511 CRT oscilloscope
Tektronix 511 CRT oscilloscope innards

Many of the scopes and gear on display are static, but quite a few of them are operational and interactive.  In a side room you’ll also find a Tektronix electron microscope and a Digital PDP8.

Tektronix electron microscope
Tektronix electron microscope
Digital  PDP 8/e
Digital PDP 8/e

A new offering by the museum is an instrument lending  program for students. If you’re working on a project and need some test equipment, you can borrow it from the museum. Available equipment includes scopes, DMMs, function generators, counters, and power supplies.

We also got to see the back area where they have a huge collection of equipment and parts, and where they work on restoring equipment.

Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. The museum volunteers are friendly and know a great deal about the equipment in the collection. Their regular hours are on 10AM-6PM Thursday and 10AM-4PM Saturday, but they’ll also open upon request.