Barnyard BBS

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Photo 10,000!
6/30/2007 10:57:00 PM

I've done it.  Tonight, I rolled the D80's odometer.  It's been 10,000 photos already.  Oddly enough, it's only taken about 9 months to do it. For those of you interested, here's what photo 10,000 looks like:

D80-10000.jpg

It's the Longwood Gardens fountains, during one of their summer shows.  I pledge my next Guinness in honor of the next 10,000. 

Weekly Hydroponics Update: Total Destruction
6/26/2007 10:51:00 PM

I learned an important lesson this week.  Don't mix renovations with hydroponics.  Don't think that you can get away with it.  It just doesn't work.  It's similar to dating your best friend's ex... you just shouldn't try it.

Here's the situation...

We're renovating the house at the moment.  We've been gutting and reworking some of the rooms.  This weekend, I decided to be ambitious.  I thought that we'd attempt the bedroom and the guest room simultaneously.   Since we planned on installing new bamboo floors, this meant that we needed to empty both rooms. It's tricky to empty two bedrooms in a three bedroom house at the same time.  Most importantly, the guest room is where the plants have been living.

We initially moved the aeroponic unit into the living room.  This was fine for the first few hours, but it wasn't going to last very long.  Although I really do love aeroponics, and I think it's a great technique... It does have some limitations.  For example, since the roots are free; they don't have much tolerance for a system shutdown.  A normal plant has soil as a "reservoir" for dry times.  Aeroponic plants have no such cushion.

I knew that the plants would need the pump reconnected within a few hours, or there would be problems.  I set up a temporary solution.  This wasn't a wise idea.  In attempting to move the unit, we encountered a big problem.  Hydroton was spilled.  Water was spilled.  Plants suffered.  I have regrets.

We'll be restarting the hydroponics within a week or two.  Although I mourn the loss of our plants, it will be refreshing to start from scratch with the lessons that have been learned.  Here are a few thoughts for the next go:

  • We'll grow everything from seed.  We unknowingly brought in aphids when we transplanted outside plants into the aeroponic system last time.
  • We'll plant fewer tomato plants.  I never realized how huge they can get.  We'll plant one or two, not the five from last time.
  • We'll be starting everything in the MegaGarden.  I like the way the 125W fluorescent works for young seedlings.
  • Although I haven't made any decision, I'm investigating strawberry varieties.  I know it will take a while, but I want some strong plants that are everbearing.
WMPH Boycotts MusicFirst Coalition
6/21/2007 8:17:00 AM

Super 91.7 WMPH has become the first radio station in the country to take a stand against the Music First Coalition.  Hopefully, this is the start of something much larger.

From the WMPH website:

The National Association of Broadcasters is fighting efforts by musicFirst, a new coalition of recording artists, including Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Natasha Bedingfield, demanding performance royalties from radio stations. "Congress has long recognized that radio airplay of music generates millions of dollars in revenue for record labels and artists," said Dennis Wharton, NAB spokesman. "Were it not for radio's free promotional airplay of music on stations all over America, most successful recording artists would still be playing in a garage."

WMPH and many other stations across the country are saying NO to this insatiable greed. The musicFirst coalition of artists is attempting to hurt the radio stations, disc jockeys, and fans that have always been their greatest ally. Radio has done so much to promote their careers by playing their music frequently, interviewing them, and mentioning their concerts and events on the air. Artists make their money by record sales and performing at concerts. Without radio's free publicity for over 60 years, most artists would likely be neither rich nor famous.

Hopefully this will open up airplay for smaller artists who appreciate what radio gives them.  Most people aren't aware of this, but musicians do not pay to get their music on the air.  It's all done for free.  The radio station doesn't receive any payment for promoting the artists.  These lobbying groups need to be stopped.  These are the same people who sponsored the Feinstein-Graham PERFORM act (to gouge satellite providers) and the recent changed by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that will put an end legal internet radio though massive royalty rate increases (see www.SaveNetRadio.org).

Here's the good news:  WMPH may be a small station, but their big action is getting some big attention.  I'm keeping a list of sites that pick up the story.

06/20/2007

06/21/2007

Weekly Hydroponics Update: Tomato Bloom!
6/19/2007 6:23:00 PM

It's been a long time, and I'm finally able to report that the tomato plants have started to think about producing actual tomatoes!

But seriously... The tomato plants have grown huge.  Even with the recently extended frame structure, they are reaching close to the light again.  Take a look at this photo:

HydroRoomAA.jpg

We've been trimming the tomato plants back, and removing some of the poor growth.  However, they're still huge.  Everything is doing well.  Despite their huge size, do remember that these plants were mere seeds in the middle of April.  Realistically, they are about 9 weeks old.  It's been an active 9 weeks.  We've continued adding supports as they have grown. It's a lot of twine and Velcro.

Here's the really good news, blooms are starting to form.  Blooms mean that tomatoes can't be too far behind.  Take a look at this one:

HydroRoomZ.jpg

I have no time estimate on the tomatoes, but it's nice to see that they are in the mood to produce.  I'll post a followup, as always.

Although it's not going to be for a while... The next time I tear down the TurboGarden for a full refit, I'm planning on making some modifications.  I've found that the roots of the tomato plants are "finding their way" into the water return fittings.  This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but the roots are dense enough that they actually cause water to "build up" in the top tray (due to lack of drainage).  When I have the chance, I plan on making a second drain in the unit, to ease such problems.  I'll also put smaller plants adjacent the drain, rather than big honking tomatoes with big honking roots

In related news, the basil is doing fabulously.  We originally weren't sure what to do with the last "slots" in the TurboGarden, so we planted some herbs.  Here's a shot of the basil growing happily:

HydroRoomY.jpg

Sourceforge Reached 2,000 Downloads
6/15/2007 8:09:00 AM

Splendid news!

My ASP.Net Controls Project on SourceForge has reached over 2,000 downloads...

The controls project contains:

  • The Content Control - A client-editable region that you can use in your web pages.  It makes maintaining content easy for the average user.
  • The Blog Control - An easy way to insert a full featured validating blog into your site.  It allows your site to feature a blog, rather than your site being forced to run through a blogging package.
  • The Gallery Control - An easy to use and very advanced photo gallery.  It features automatic sizing based on client resolution, categorization, and Flickr synchronization.
Internet Radio Equality Act: Letter to Mike Castle
6/13/2007 6:13:00 PM

Here's a letter that I've just sent to Mike Castle (Delaware's Representative) in the hopes of securing his support for the Internet Radio Equality Act.

Dear Congressman Castle,

I am writing you today in the hope that you will support the "Internet Radio Equality Act" that has recently been introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee and Don Manzullo.

The royalty rates that the Copyright Royalty Board has recently approved will have far-reaching ramifications if they are permitted to stand.  The rate schedule that has been approved is so unreasonable that it makes continued operation of legal internet radio impossible. The schedule unfairly targets internet radio, and the rates are several times higher than those for similar markets (such as satellite radio or terrestrial FM).

As background, I am a volunteer with Super 91.7 WMPH.  WMPH is owned and operated by the Brandywine school district, and is operated as an educational station.  I am responsible for all our streaming infrastructure.  Since we are a very low power station (100W), our internet presence is our primary way of reaching our audience.  The same is true of both FM and pure internet stations all over the country.  I do not wish to lose internet radio.

At this point, legal internet radio will become untenable unless action if taken to reverse the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board in the very near future.  The rates are scheduled to take effect on 07/15/07 (with huge retroactive clauses).

I hope that you can support the "Internet Radio Equality Act".

I appreciate your time.  Thank you very much.

-Ben Yanis

Please contact me if I can be of any assistance or offer any clarifications.

Followup (06/19/2007):

Mike Castle has sent me a reply.  He (very diplomatically) declined to answer my concerns.  See below for the full text.

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the Internet Radio Equality Act, H.R. 2060. I appreciate learning your views on this issue.

As you know, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) recently announced new statutory royalty rates for certain digital transmissions of sound recordings for the period of January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2010. The implementation of these new rates marks the
expiration of a previous royalty rate agreement specifically designed to benefit webcasters. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act permits the Board to reconsider its decision, and parties affected by it may appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

H.R. 2060 would overturn the CRB's decision and create a new system of royalty rates for webcasters that would take into account the impact of rates on the diversity of internet radio programming, localism, and competition. This legislation was last referred to the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 26, 2007. Like you, I believe it is important that internet radio users have access to fair and equitable services. Please be assured that I will keep your view in mind and closely follow this legislation to ensure that it strikes the
right balance between allowances for webcasters and intellectual property rights.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me and feel free to do so in the future on this or any other important issue. For more information on current issues and my efforts on your behalf in Washington, D.C. and Delaware, please visit my website and sign up to
receive my e-newsletter at, www.castle.house.gov.

Sincerely,


Michael N. Castle
Member of Congress
MNC:jc
Weekly Hydroponics Update: Big Honking Tomato Plants
6/12/2007 6:16:00 PM

Here's the news from the growing room this week...

The pH is quite stable.  I've gotten it down to "business as usual".  Here's my current thinking on the pH control for the aeroponic TurboGarden:

  • Ideally, the plants would like a pH of about 6.5
  • The plants continually lower the pH in their normal life cycle (tomato, strawberry, eggplant).
  • My water at the house is approximately pH 6.8-6.9.
  • I no longer adjust the wate's pH down when making a water change; the plants will take care of it themselves.  The pH isn't far outside the ideal range, so I can get away with it.
  • Every day, I check the pH.  I'll usually add about 20ml of pH increaser at a time, as necessary.  Since the main reservoir is approximately 25 gallons, this is a reasonable amount to add.

The tomato plants are honking huge.  As you may remember, I expanded the lighting support frame a few weeks ago.  I added almost two extra feet to accommodate the rapid growth of the tomato plants.  Here's a photo from this morning:

HydroRoomV.jpg

The tomato plants are huge (approaching 5' tall).  We've actually been pruning them back to keep them from getting in the lights "burn range".  Oddly enough, they have not flowered yet.  I'm expecting that when they finally do flower, we'll be looking at a huge crop of tomatoes.

The strawberries are fruiting frequently.  We're probably getting about three berries per week from each plant.  That may not sound like much, but they are still immature.  My older strawberry plants (in the back yard) produce a far greater quantity.  However, they do have a two year advantage over the aeroponic youngsters.

The eggplants are growing.  No eggplants yet.  The herbs are looking herb-like.

HydroRoomW.jpg

Our lettuce is still doing well, but is not long for this world.  The time of the great cutting is approaching quickly.  It's just as well, aphids have been a continual problem in the MegaGarden (they originally arrived on the backs of the strawberry plants that we transplanted).  Although the Organocide has helped, the aphids are tenacious.  Not for much longer though, as we're about to cut down their whole habitat.

HydroRoomX.jpg

New Flickr Account
6/8/2007 6:20:00 PM

After some careful deliberation, I've finally started a Flickr account of my own.

In case any of you aren't familiar with it, Flickr is a photo sharing site.  They're probably the biggest one out there.  They were recently purchased by Yahoo, as well.

I've set up a "pro" account, mostly because I want people to be able to download the originals.  I intentionally went with Flickr because of their strong ties with Creative Commons.  As you may have noticed, I release all my photos under a Creative Commons License.  I want people to be able to freely share my stuff, if they find it to be useful.  This is the same reason that I explicitly encourage downloading in my gallery.  I want to make content accessible.

Flickr will help serve my purpose.  Although I personally prefer my photo gallery to that of Flickr; they do bring something big to the table... They have a huge audience and they are directly integrated into the search facility of Creative Commons.  This should let a lot more people find my stuff, and hopefully pass it along.

Here's a link to my photos

FlickrAccount.jpg

Don't worry, I'm not stopping with the BarnyardBBS photo gallery, nor am I stopping development of the ASP.Net GalleryControl.  BarnyardBBS will always get the updates first, and the Flickr account only contains a subset of the total.  Flickr is for sharing the "broad appeal" photos with as many people as possible.  BarnyardBBS will always be home.

If you're anything like me, you're probably thinking that cross-posting so many photos will be very tedious.  That's why I'm not planning on doing it.  I've written a program that uses the Flickr API to automatically post updates from my regular photo gallery.  It scans the database that runs the photo gallery, and posts updates when necessary.  It's even smart enough to update my photosets with recent photos, to keep it fresh.

Don't worry, I'm going to share.  It's going to be a new feature of my open source ASP.Net GalleryControl in the next release.  Thus far, it's worked pretty well (as I've already posted over 500 photos to Flickr).  At the moment, it's running in the background on the webserver, waiting for updates.  As soon as it's stable, I'll make it available to everybody else using the GalleryControl.

Update: I've published an update to the ASP.Net Gallery Control that includes the Flickr Synchronization support.  It's available in the usual place, http://testdrive.barnyardbbs.com.  Unrelatedly, this update also contains improvements to the Blog Control for linking to Digg and Del.icio.us, as well.

The New Shed Has Arrived
6/7/2007 6:13:00 PM

Although this post is almost a full week late; it's time to announce the arrival of our new shed.  Sorry that it's so overdue, but I've been building some things in the meantime.

Shed.jpg

Last Saturday it arrived.  Actually, it was a pretty interesting thing to watch.  The fellow who owns Sheds Unlimited arrived just as planned, right at 7 AM. However, he brought a crew that I didn't expect at all.  His entire team was Amish.

I've got nothing against the Amish, in fact, I respect them quite a bit.  However, these guys weren't regular Amish... They were Super-Amish. They had all the regular Amish goodness, but they wielded power tools.  If you think a regular Amish carpenter is good, you'd be amazed at the power of an Amish with an air-nailer.

They were finished by 9 AM.  Complete.  The photo above was taken just before they departed.  It's really well made, and I'm quite happy with the results.

I've started getting the workshop set up.  I've picked up several of the large tools from my parents' home in North Coventry; and I'm putting it all together.  Soon I'll be able to start work on even more outrageous halloween projects.

That reminds me... I've never posted the pictures of my new pneumatic monster... I really should do that. 

Weekly Hydroponics Update: Business As Usual
6/5/2007 6:41:00 PM

This week has been rather uneventful in the hydroponics room.  Things are going well.  The tomato plants still haven't started producing tomatoes, but they sure are huge.  They're over 4' tall now, so when they finally start blooming, we should have some real production.

The strawberries are producing.  It's not a lot yet, but they're still young plants; so it makes sense.

Fair Warning:  Chinese eggplants have thorns!  I didn't know that.  The domestic eggplants are friendly, but the Chinese ones are spikey. 

Regarding the aeroponic bed:

The pH steadily declines though the week.  I've come to realize that this is normal, and nothing is wrong.  I don't have enough of a biology background to explain it; but I do know enough to regulate it.  I still check the pH daily, and adjust (upward) as needed.  For reference, the Milwaukee pH meter is still terrible.  I don't even use it anymore.  It's officially branded a piece-of-crap.  I've gone back to doing the "color change" chemical tests exclusively.

Here's the latest photo of the aeroponic bed:

HydroRoomU.jpg