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Tag Archives: app

Navigating Facebook

I joined Facebook on July 3, 2007, which means I’ve been a user for over seven years. It wasn’t terribly difficult to go through my Timeline and discover the date, but neither was it all that easy. I think I got lucky in finding the entry. Actually, since my retirement, I’ve been pretty much a daily user of Facebook. I’ve always been a little disappointed that it’s all but impossible to search your Newsfeed or your Timeline. This is especially egregious given that you can search in groups.

I’ve also been pissed off so many times because of how FB works, both in a browser and on my iPhone’s app, that I’ve found workarounds to deal with the way I get bounced around and have trouble returning to where I was when I decided to read something a little more in depth. So, the other day a friend of mine posted a description of what I had been feeling and I thought it was perfect. I told him so and I want to share what he said. Here ’tis:

I swear Facebook timeline is practice for a serious freaking bout of Alzheimer’s. You read something of interest that is cut off, so you click “… more” and read or watch something that makes you feel marginally more human and connected, you click back or close the pop-up and and they have redecorated, painted the walls (the lovely picture a friend took of a sunset or an odd shaped peanut) isn’t there but something sort of just as interesting is, and the dog you though you had (well the video of a puppy) is gone, and the thing your friend shared you wanted to like is also… POOF!

I swear Facebook is created by people who time travel and the time travel booths are sponsored by some sort of Alzheimer’s Anonymous reject group or something and want to inflict their version on the world as if that can be the new normal.

On the other side of the coin, there are lots of things you can do to organize yourself and the people and pages you follow and care about. One of the ways to do it is by building lists, or subscribing to lists others have built. One of the people who is, in my opinion, the most informed and engaged in using Facebook effectively, is Robert Scoble (aka Scobleizer). Here’s a blog post of his from nearly two years ago. He manages to stir up a lot of controversy, as evidenced by the comment from “mindctrl”, but also has a lot of really useful advice and analysis to offer. Not just for Facebook, either.

I’m still struggling with the “working out loud” thingy, but Facebook is definitely part of it. The main problem for me is that it also sucks me in and I use it to avoid doing the other things I want to do. That’s another story for other days. If anyone has thoughts about how Facebook works (or doesn’t) for you or how to make it more useful, I’d love to hear them. 

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Seen a Spaceship Lately?

Have you ever watched the International Space Station pass by in orbit? I don’t know about you, but there’s something majestic, even magical for me just watching it fly overhead. A bright object moving at nearly 5 miles a second appears very fast, even at a distance of hundreds of miles away, and it is awe-inspiring to look up and know there are humans aboard. Several years ago I remember seeing the Station, a Soyuz capsule, and the Space Shuttle all pass overhead as they moved toward a rendezvous and docking. During that mission there were something like a dozen people silently flying by far above my house.

Since my retirement from Rocketdyne, and the cancellation of the Shuttle program, my interest has drifted away some. After all, there’s nothing quite like watching a large, powerful vehicle’s engines roar to life and lift it off the pad into orbit in less than ten minutes. The Station is almost invisible by those standards. It’s already up there and it’s passage is almost mundane. There’s no smoke and fire. It’s swift, but it’s silent.

Recently, I decided to add an app to my phone so I could find out when the Station was flying overhead. Not sure why my interest returned, but it did. The app I chose is called ISS Spotter. It’s free and has everything I need to observe the station. Here are the three views I use the most, though there are settings and a help screen available as well. The first one shows the Stations position and direction of travel (along the thick yellow line) from above and against a map of Earth. It also shows (the blue dot) your location; in this case, near Los Angeles. It has a couple of other bits of functionality, but they’re not relevant to this post.

Orbital map of ISS

Map shows current orbital position in real time

The second view shows upcoming passes over your location (which, btw, it determines automatically using your phone’s GPS, though you can also customize it on the setting page [not shown] if you know your coordinates [and you care]). I use the auto setting and it works just fine. It even adjusts if I’m somewhere else. There are other settings available for time prior to passage for alarms, minimum peak elevations, and others. There’s also a star rating to help you decide how much effort you may want to exert getting outside to view the pass. One star means a pass you might find meh, while three stars indicates even the Magi might be impressed. Note, the next one I’m planning on getting outside for has two stars. As you can see on this page, it will be at a visible altitude (at its highest) of 68° and will shine at a magnitude (visible on the third view, below) of -2.9.

ISS pass notification and alarms

Automatic listing of visible passes in next 7 days with settable alarms

The third view provides everything you need to know to actually find the station, even if you don’t make it out when it first appears. You can also see here that this pass will last a total of six minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Plenty of time to freeze your ass off if you’re anywhere affected by the Polar Vortex, which I’m not.

Compass view of Forecast Screen

Compass view provides direction, maximum elevation, magnitude, and more

I had forgotten, but I got an alarm this morning just in time to go out around 0630 and watch it pass. There were two things that struck me as I stood out in the backyard. When I first spotted it, the Station was well out over the Pacific and, minutes later, it was well over Nevada as I went back inside. In the approximately three minutes I spent observing, that orbiting outpost of humanity and science traveled nearly a thousand miles. The other thing, and it happens every time I observe it silently passing by overhead, was I could swear I was able to make out her warp nacelles.


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