Rules lawyers and old wives tales

The regulations concerning flying are dense, confusing, impenetrable, and where they aren’t self-contradictory they leave terms undefined and open to wrong interpretation. So it’s not too surprising that most pilots (and instructors) rely on a collection of old wives tales and wrong impressions, and that arguments are frequent and bloody on rec.aviation.ifr.

Last week, our flying club sponsored an FAA Safety Seminar on how to fly the new GPS systems. Our “rival” club Artisan just installed Garmin 530s on all their aircraft, and we’re all jealous as hell. So we got the guy who trained all of them on how to use the Garmins to give us a seminar on the basics. Now, he’s probably spent a lot more time studying the regulations than I have, but something he said looked just plain wrong to me.

The FAA has certain requirements that specify when you have to file an alternate airport, in case you can’t complete the instrument approach at your destination. It’s a bit of a stupid regulation, because in actual fact there is no regulation saying you have to actually divert to that airport if you decide you can’t make your destination, but I guess it serves the purpose of getting you to look at and think about alternatives in the area. In the GPS naviation world, the FAA recognizes that the reason you might not be able to complete the approach at your destination might be a GPS failure, either in your plane or in the system, which would mean that you can’t do a GPS approach at your alternative. So if you are required to file an alternate, that alternate must have at least one non-GPS approach that meets the criteria for being used as an alternate. (Not a big deal for me, since I always look for airports with ILS approaches for alternates.)

So far, that makes a lot of sense. You can see the reasons, and it adds redundancy and safety and eliminates single point of failure errors. But here’s the bit that looked dead wrong to me: He said that if you go to the alternate, you’re allowed to use the GPS approach if your GPS is working, but you’re not allowed to use the GPS to navigate the missed approach procedure if you have to “go missed” (abort the approach) there. I suspect he’s misinterpreting a rule that says you have to be able to navigate the missed approach procedure without GPS if your GPS fails.

TiVo Phase 2

Came home and the TiVo had finished updating. I entered all the Season’s Passes from the other TiVo – or at least the ones I could: you can’t enter normal Season’s Passes (SPs) for shows that aren’t currently on the schedule, and many of our old SPs are no longer valid. But there were a few surprises – I couldn’t find either “Red Green” or “As Time Goes By” on the schedule, even though we recorded both of them a few days ago.

After I entered the Season’s Passes, I switched the cable input from the old TiVo to the new one, and the coax RF cable from the new TiVo goes into the RF modulator. It’s already recorded a show. Woo hoo!

Phase 3 will be when the new USB wireless network dongle I ordered from TiVo arrives, and I can start sharing TiVo shows between the two TiVos. I can hardly wait.

Getting my TiVo on

A few weeks ago, I bought a used Series 2 TiVo to replace the bedroom Series 1. The main impetus for this is to use the ability to watch programs recorded on the TiVo in one room on the TiVo in another room.

By coincidence, I also happened to have a 180Gb hard drive sitting on my shelf which I thought would be a good addition to the new TiVo. Unfortunately the Series 2 TiVos don’t have a second bracket, power connector, and ide connector so for simplicity I thought I’d replace the existing drive with the big one.

Unfortunately in order to do the drive replacement, you need a WinTel box that you can boot with a special Linux boot CD with mfstools 2.0 on it. I had the CD, but unfortunately until a few days ago my Windows box was out to lunch. Dropping an older and less capable video card brought the Windows box back, so it was time to get this thing done.

I stuck the 180Gb drive in the Windows box and booted it with the Ultimate Boot CD and tested the hell out of it using IBM’s DFT and Western Digital’s drive testers, and it passed everything. That’s a good start, because the reason it was on the shelf is that the Linux 2.6 kernel didn’t like something about the way it was partitioned (it was fine in 2.4).

Then I put the 40Gb drive from the TiVo in the Windows box and copied the image to the 180Gb drive using the mfstools. I put the 180Gb drive into the TiVo and confidently screwed the cover on, and tried to boot it.

Oh. Bad news. I don’t see anything. Dammit! I unscrew everything and put the original 40Gb disk back in the TiVo. And I don’t see anything! Panic time. Is there any chance that I mixed up the “from” and “to” in the copy? I don’t think so. But what else can it be? I conclude that the TiVo image on both drives are now screwed up.

After some frantic Googling, I find has a “InstantCake” CD, which for $20 gives me a iso image that I can burn onto a CD, boot my WinTel box, and it will install a TiVo image on the hard disk with no sweat. Ok, $20 for a bit of instant gratification seems like an ok deal. I do it, slap it back in the drive (but this time nothing is screwed down) and find that I’m still not getting anything on the screen. But just for the hell of it, instead of plugging the RF-out of the TiVo directly into the coax going to the TV, I plug the composite-out of the TiVo into the RF modulator that the DVD normally plugs into. And lo and behold, I’ve got a signal. Makes me wonder if the original copy wouldn’t have worked. Also makes me think that the RF modulator is screwed.

So I do the guided setup and while it’s doing its first “daily call”, I screw the drive back to the drive bracket and put the top back on. And activate the service on-line. The daily call is taking forever, so I go to bed.

I woke up this morning to find that the daily call had completed, but evidently before the TiVo service had gotten the word that I’d activated the service. So it was upgraded from the software version 5.x which was on the InstantCake ISO to 7.2.x, it was still showing it as having no service, and still named “Family Room” (which I presume was the previous owner’s name for it). So I did another daily call, and before I left for work it was showing that now had an account in good standing, and it was named “Bedroom2” like it was supposed to. But still no shows in the guide.

I’m hoping that when I get home tonight the guide will be updated and indexed so I can start the tedious process of entering all the Seasons Passes that were in the other TiVo.

BTW: If you ever need a money making idea, come up with a way to take Season’s Passes and thumbs and shows from your Series 1 TiVo and put them on your new Series 2 TiVo.

Update: I forgot to mention that at one point during the proceedings, I tried using the RF cable with the gold plated connectors that came with the TiVo instead of the crappy one that came with the TV, and suddenly the RF modulator works well too.

That was relatively painless.

My Belkin router has needed rebooting twice in the last two weeks in order to restore wireless connectivity. I’ve experienced this before – I’ve had 4 or 5 routers before, and every one of them (except both Linksys, which were dead as soon as I got them) has, after a year or so, gotten to the point where it needs frequent rebooting. The rebooting gets more and more frequent, until eventually I give up and replace the damn thing.

For some strange reason, I decided to give Linksys another chance, but this time I decided to pay a few extra bucks and buy it from the local Staples. That way, if and when it craps out, I can take it back. Providing it behaves like every other Linksys I’ve bought, and is noticably faulty in the first 14 days.

I plugged it in, and set it up as a copy of the existing one. Even copied the MAC address. Unplugged the existing one, plugged this in, rebooted both the router and the cable modem, and the new router got the same IP as the old one had (thank goodness) and everything seemed to be working exactly the same. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.