Josef “Jeff” Sipek

IFR Alternate Minimums

As some of you already know, I’ve been working on my instrument rating over the past 5–6 months. As part of it, I had to figure out and understand the regulations governing when an alternate airport is needed and the required weather at the destination and alternate airports.

The first part is answered by 91.169(a) and 91.169(b). To give you taste of the regulations, here is (b):

(b) Paragraph (a)(2) of this section does not apply if:

(1) Part 97 of this chapter prescribes a standard instrument approach procedure to, or a special instrument approach procedure has been issued by the Administrator to the operator for, the first airport of intended landing; and

(2) Appropriate weather reports or weather forecasts, or a combination of them, indicate the following:

(i) For aircraft other than helicopters. For at least 1 hour before and for 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 2,000 feet above the airport elevation and the visibility will be at least 3 statute miles.

(ii) For helicopters. At the estimated time of arrival and for 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival, the ceiling will be at least 1,000 feet above the airport elevation, or at least 400 feet above the lowest applicable approach minima, whichever is higher, and the visibility will be at least 2 statute miles.

Clear as mud, isn’t it?

The second question (the required weather at the destination and alternate airports) is answered by 91.169(c). Don’t worry, I won’t quote it here.

Since the text of the regulation is not easy to read, I decided that the best way to understand it is to make a flowchart. As I fly airplanes, I’ve ignored any part of the regulations that is about aircraft other than airplanes.

The result:

Clearer? I certainly think so!

The one big thing to keep in mind about this flowchart is that not every approach can be used during planning. This is a semi-large topic of its own.

In short, any approach that you aren’t authorized for, the plane isn’t equipped for, or that has a NOTAM saying that it isn’t available, effectively doesn’t exist. As far as GPS approaches are concerned, if you have a TSO 129 or 196 GPS, then you have another restriction—you cannot plan on using GPS approaches at both your destination and your alternate.

I found it useful to write this down and in the process truly understand the rules. Hopefully, you’ve found this useful as well. Needless to say, you should not rely on this flowchart without verifying that it is correct. Regulations sometimes change, and people sometimes make mistakes when making flowcharts to visualize said regulations. (If you find a problem, let me know!)

One final thought: just because the regulations don’t require an alternate airport doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have one anyway. Weather often seems to have a mind of its own and a propensity to prove forecasters wrong.

Google Traffic, iOS edition

Several years ago, I wrote about how Google gets traffic information and how to turn off this location reporting on Android phones. Since then I’ve switched to iPhones. While I normally use the built-in Maps app, I keep Google Maps installed as a fallback—just in case.

I upgraded my phone recently and so I spent some time going through all the apps and making sure they worked and didn’t have more access than necessary. This is when I discovered that the Google Maps app for iOS defaults to collecting location information and sharing it with Google. Given my previous post, this isn’t really surprising.

Turning it off

Anyway, as with the Android post, here are the steps to limit Google’s collection of location information.

First of all, in Settings → Privacy → “Location Services”, I changed Google Maps’s permission to “While Using the App”. If I’m not using the app, then it doesn’t need to know where I am.

Second, in the app itself, go to: Settings → “About, terms & privacy” → “Location data collection”. That’s right, this setting is buried in what appears to be a page with the boring legal notices.

And then turn off the the toggle:

That should do it…at least assuming that Google honors the settings in its own app.

iPhone 7 "Review"

I stopped by an Apple Store nearby, and played with the new iPhone 7 for a couple of minutes. Why? I have an iPhone 5s which is still working, but it is lacking some nice-to-have features. I got the 5s back in the day because I got fed up with my Galaxy Nexus—it got unusably slow, and I wasn’t really a fan of the screen size (it was too big). That’s right, I wanted a phone screen that was smaller so I could use it with just one hand. The iPhone 5s fit the bill perfectly.

Now, it is 2016 and the 5s is getting a bit old and the 7 just came out. Should I upgrade? The iPhone 7 is better in just about every way, but the screen…it’s bigger than the 5s’s. (Yes, I realize it’s the same as the 6 and 6s.)

Trying it out

My main goal with playing with the phone at the store was to see if I was OK with the size. I made sure to type on the keyboard both one-handed and two-handed, browse some websites (mostly scrolling around), and see which screen locations were hard to reach.

The new home button is certainly interesting. It is a fingerprint reader (this is nothing new by itself) with haptic feedback. So, “pressing” it results in a similar sensation to what the physical button provided in the previous models. It’s not the same exact feel, but it was surprisingly good. It felt like the feedback was coming from near the home button, not just the whole phone vibrating.

The phone certainly felt bigger than my current one. The test drive wasn’t long enough for me to make a determination based on this alone.

One-handed operation

While playing with the phone, I made an interesting “discovery” about my one-handed use of phones. Apparently, I hold smartphones one of two ways. If I am typing, I hold the phone further down; on the other hand, if I am mostly scrolling, I hold it closer to its center of gravity. Needless to say, this affects how far on the screen my thumb can reach.

When I’m holding the phone near the center of gravity, all icons (see above screenshot) except the top row and the Maps app are easy to reach. The Mail app is essentially impossible to reach without shifting the phone in my hand. The remaining ones are doable, but it takes more effort than just moving my thumb over.

If I’m holding the phone lower down (e.g., because I was just typing), then the top two rows of icons are hard to use—with the top left corner (i.e., Mail) being impossible to reach.

There is an accessibility option (called “Reachability”) which shifts the whole screen down 30–40%. This makes the top two rows of icons reachable. (Once enabled, trigger it by double-tapping the home button.) While it is neat that this is available, it feels a bit like a hack.

Specs

When I got home, I decided to make a table of the physical specs. Specifically, the physical dimensions, weight, and the screen size. In addition to the two iPhones, I included the Galaxy Nexus (my previous phone) and the Samsung Galaxy S7 (the current flagship Samsung Galaxy phone).

Phone Size (mm) Weight Screen
iPhone 5s 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 112g 100mm, 1136x640
iPhone 7 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 138g 120mm, 1334x750
Galaxy Nexus 135.5 x 67.94 x 9.47 135g 118mm, 1280x720
Samsung Galaxy S7 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 152g 130mm, 2560x1440

When I first made this table, I was surprised at how close the iPhone 7 is to the Galaxy Nexus. Size-wise within a couple of mm! Weight-wise only a 3 g difference. The good news is, I can use my 2.5 years of Galaxy Nexus use as a guide to answer my question about the iPhone size. The bad news is, I didn’t really like the screen size on the Galaxy Nexus.

Conclusion

I think the conclusion is clear—I am going to wait to see if Apple makes a smaller version over the next year. Until then, I will stick with my 5s.

Concorde

I just came across someone’s blog post full of cool Concorde photos.

It’s a hard choice, but my favorite photo is:

Concorde

(The black and white photography and the unusual camera position in these images remind me of the Wernher von Braun photo I posted years ago.)

Happy 50th, System/360

It’s been a while since I blahged about mainframes. Rest assured, I’m still a huge fan, I’m just preoccupied with other things to continuously extoll their virtues.

The reason I’m writing today is because it is the 50th anniversary of the System/360 announcement. Aside from the “50 years already?” sentiment, I have a couple of images to share. (I found these several years ago on someone’s GeoCities site. It’s a good thing I made a mirror :) )

I also came across this video from 1964:

Google Traffic

Ever wonder how Google gets its traffic information?

traffic

Apparently, there are two sources. The first is the Department of Transportation. The second consists of Android users.

You can always check Google Location History to see what sort of data Google has. (Of course, they may always have more than they show.) Seeing the data can be a bit unnerving. Since I’m not really into giving Google more data than they already have to begin with, and I see no reason for Google to know exactly where I spend my time, I decided to turn this feature off.

Turning it off

You can find the setting by running the “Google Settings” app. That’s right, not “Settings”. Once there, select “Location”.

traffic

As you can see, I want to treat Google apps like any other vendor’s apps. As an added bonus, it looks like my GPS is on way less often.

Cake

I’ve had the following draft for a very long time. It’s time to publish it already, isn’t it?

Yesterday, I came across a site dedicated to Cake Wrecks — in other words, cake decoration attempts gone wrong.

The best ones I’ve found on this site include:

Dr Who
Dr Who
Dr Who
Dr Who
Dr Who

Spiral

From 3 days ago:

This morning in arctic Norway, onlookers were stunned when a gigantic luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. Veteran observers accustomed to the appearance of Northern Lights say they have never seen anything like it. It was neither a meteor nor any known form of atmospheric optics. Rumors that the spiral was caused by the botched launch of a Russian rocket have not yet been confirmed.

Spiral
(original)

Linus & Windows 7

You might have already seen this image, but in case you haven’t…

Linus + Windows 7

Microsoft tried to torpedo the success of the Japan Linux Symposium by launching their Windows 7 product that same day. They even had setup a big promotion booth across the street from the conference center.

During a break, we decided to make some fun of Microsoft and dragged Linus over there. When we arrived there, Linus was sold immediately on the product as you can see in the picture. At least that’s what the sales guy thought. He obviously had no idea who he was dealing with. But in the end Linus surprisingly did not buy a copy. Wise man!

Spock

Spock

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