Cruising to Alaska – Juneau

Cruising to Alaska seems to be on a lot of people’s bucket list.

Back from a nice long two week vacation (I think the longest one I’ve ever had) where we flew from here to Seattle, rented a car and drove down to Portland, OR to hang out with some friends for a few days, then back to Seattle to begin the cruise with my sister, brother-in-law and one niece.

We set sail on Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. It’s a pretty big boat ship, and the biggest that we’ve been on so far.

Royal Promenade on the Explorer of the Seas
Royal Promenade on the Explorer of the Seas

After a day of cruising, we arrived at Juneau, Alaska. We had about 8 hours in port here. Connie stayed behind to explore Juneau a bit and I went on a Bike and Brew excursion offered by Cycle Alaska that I really enjoyed. The bike ride was about 8.5 miles along fairly flat terrain. Got to ride at a pretty easy pace and rode through some nice areas. Much of the ride was on the road, but with wide shoulders and relatively light traffic, it was pretty easy going.

Heading to the start of the bike ride
Heading to the start of the bike ride
On the road
On the road

We rode out to a beach area on the west side of Mendenhall Lake where we got to see a fantastic view of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Lake
Mendenhall Lake

The lake gets its colour from silt collected/produced by the glacier. The water is pretty cold too.

From there it was back onto the road with a brief detour onto a trail, and then finishing at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. We dropped the bikes off at a bus parking area a short distance from the visitor center and had some time to walk over, enjoy the views of the glacier and explore the visitor center.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center

There are trails that take you almost right up to the glacier, but I didn’t have time to wander down these. In the visitor center, there are displays and exhibits that tell you all about the glacier and surrounding area. Pretty cool place.

From here, it was back into the vans for the trip back to Juneau and the “Brew” part of the excursion. We ended the excursion at a place called Alaska Fish and Chips Company where we got to sample some beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company and one from Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka. We got to sample the Summer Ale (nice refreshing Kolsch style beer), White Ale (Belgian witbier style) and Oatmeal Stout (really liked this one) from Alaskan Brewing and a Spruce Tip beer from Baranof (this one had some interesting flavours and notes).

Here’s a map of the route we took on the bike.

After this, it was off to meet Connie at the Catholic Cathedral in Juneau. Tiny little church. It’s the smallest Catholic Cathedral in the US. Because of time constraints, she stayed for Mass while I went to take the trip up the Mt. Roberts Tramway (she had already gone up there by now). From the bottom, you go up a couple thousand feet to Nature Center where you can wander the trails, enjoy the view and grab some food.

Mt Roberts Tramway
Mt Roberts Tramway
About halfway up the Mt Roberts Tramway
About halfway up the Mt Roberts Tramway
Juneau from the top of the tramway
Juneau from the top of the tramway

I wandered the trails up at the top for a bit, but didn’t have time to go too far.

Carved totem
Carved totem
Hiking the trail
Hiking the trail

There are several miles of trails that you can hike along. After exploring the gift shop a bit, it was time to head back down.

Heading back down the tramway
Heading back down the tramway

Met back up with Connie on her way back from Mass, and we headed back to the boat ship.

It was a pretty good day in the first port of call of the trip. I would have liked to explore Juneau a little bit more, but I’m glad I got to see what I did. I’ll just have to go back another time.

Next stop: Cruising to Skagway, Alaska.

Climbing the Laravel learning curve

After checking out several different PHP frameworks, I settled on using Laravel for redoing the x-ray equipment tracker that I use at work. It’s been a TODO project on my list for quite a while now and for the past couple of months, I’ve been studying the Laravel docs, writing up the redesign of my project and trying to put together some code.

I’ve managed to learn how to use Laravel enough to implement some simple tasks such as displaying lists of the x-ray units stored in the database. It’s actually been surprisingly easy, and I haven’t really had to write a whole lot of code. For the simple tasks that I’ve implemented so far, Laravel has done most of the heavy lifting. I just write the code to say what I want and how to display it, and Laravel does the rest.

So far most of the work I’ve had to do was in redoing the database schema to match the conventions used by Laravel’s Eloquent ORM. That mostly involved renaming tables and indexes, and trying to figure how to define the relationships in the model files.

Still have lots of learning and work to do, but I’m making progress. Baby steps.

Going wireless on the desktop

Broadband Internet service at the new house comes from Home Telecom in the form of their Velocity Fiber service. They offer up to 1Gbps service, but we opted for the more modest 50 Mbps plan which is more than sufficient for our needs.

Installation at the house went pretty smoothly, but could only be installed at one point in the house in the form of a CAT5e cable. I was expecting something similar to Comcast where the broadband would come in via coax and cable modem. In retrospect, I probably should have asked.

I chose to have the installer put the drop in the structured wiring box, figuring I could route it through the rest of the house pretty easily from there using the CAT5e wiring that was run through the house for phone (there turned out to be some kinks in that plan, but that’s a story for another post).

The room that’s become my office and where my desktop is, unfortunately, doesn’t have a CAT5e drop in it (oversight on my part during the planning process). That meant to get online, my computer would have to go wireless for the first time.

Since I couldn’t find where an older USB WiFi adapter got packed away, I did some shopping around and picked up a TP-Link Archer T8E PCIe card from Newegg. Looked like it would be a decent performer and the reviews mentioning Linux said the card worked fine under Fedora and Ubuntu.

Installation of the card was quick and painless, but I couldn’t get Fedora to bring up the card, even after a fresh install of Fedora 24. The kernel detected the card, but the drivers wouldn’t work with it.

A bit of digging showed the adapter uses a Broadcom BCM4360 chipset, which wasn’t supported by the b43 drivers.

Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4360 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter [14e4:43a0] (rev 03)

A little more searching brought me to this gist containing a script for installing Broadcom’s wl driver. Downloaded the driver source, compiled and installed, and the WiFi interface popped up. Didn’t even have to reboot the computer. The computer was back online.

The Broadcom wl driver and associated kmod/akmod files are also in the RPMFusion non-free repo, which seems to be catching up with the Fedora 24 release now.

With the proper drivers installed the T8E card is performing pretty well, even with the computer chassis almost directly between the card’s antennas and my wireless router. I’m able to get pretty much the full 50 Mbps from the Internet and can see about 7 other WiFi access points in the neighbourhood. Not sure about what kind of signal strength the card is seeing from my WiFi router, but it’s at least enough for a solid connection. Haven’t tested transfer speeds on the internal network yet but that should still be pretty speedy.

speedtest_20160702

Despite the minor driver snafu, I’m pretty happy with the way the card is performing in the computer and under Fedora. Not quite the “works out of the box” experience I was expecting but still pretty painless.

Moved in, time to unpack

Moving day #1 went off pretty well yesterday, with only a brief interruption by rain towards the end of the unloading at the house.

Got up early, brought the dogs and a few more things to the house, then off to get the truck rental from Home Depot. Got pretty much everything from the apartment loaded up into the truck. Towards the end, I was a little worried we were going to run out of room, but everything that needed to go managed to get onto the truck.

There are still a few odds and ends at the apartment, but those can all be loaded into the cars over the next few days.

Now the process of unpacking begins. Lots to do to get the shack and office set up.

In two weeks, Moving day #2 to get all the stuff from the storage unit to the house.

Count down to moving day

All the painting is done at the house, the second bathroom is all filled in and patched up, and next weekend we’ll finally be moving out of the apartment and into the house.

This past week we’ve been bringing a few things up to the house a car load at a time and working on getting the house ready for moving day. I did the epoxy paint thing to the garage floor today (managed to finish up just as the rain from Tropical Storm Bonnie arrived) and installed the last of the ceiling fans today (four total).

After giving the garage floor a few days to cure, we can start moving things back into the garage.

One fun thing we did to the kitchen island was cover it with chalkboard paint.

Looking forward to getting settled into the house finally.