Assembly Atlanta Rail Trail Review – January 2024

I’m a walker. I picked up the habit not long after I left corporate life and I walk about 330 days a year, give or take some rain or a cold. So I heard that there was a new rail trail in my neighborhood, just opened before Christmas. I went to check it out.

Assembly Atlanta Gate 3

Assembly Atlanta is a new TV/film studio that is on the spot of the old GM plant in Doraville, GA. While I could find that there IS a trail with a nice bridge to cross, I had a hard time finding out how to access the trail. I checked their posts on social, and even put out my own questions, and didn’t get answers. So I went exploring.

I found one of a very few public parking spots in the area behind the “Blue Lot” of Third Rail Studios. It’s at the corner of Assembly Line Drive and South Rail Way next to a corporate office for a bedding company. This would be at the south end of the trail.

Behind Third Rail Studios

I started my walk by going down South Rail Way, taking a sidewalk painted blue with some bike path insignia that parallels the fence of the Norfolk Southern rail yard. That dead ends so I made a left onto Ruins Way west then on Industry Ave. Finally onto the actual rail trail. It starts off as concrete paved sections with the rail still embedded, and I liked the look.

I walked North toward the corner of Makers Way, paralleling the back of Third Rail Studios, where you pass under a big “Assembly” sign made from some old rail loading equipment. At this spot in the trail it is unfinished. You’re crossing over mud, dirt, rocks, etc. (Note: Photo is looking north).

Unfinished Path

Once pas under the sign and cross the dirt area, you continue northward with the Assembly Atlanta studios on your right. On your left are some industrial facilities, like the collision center on Peachtree Rd. From a walking perspective it’s an easy, flat, concrete surface that takes you across the covered walking bridge and out Gate 3 of Assembly Atlanta. The path / sidewalk dead-ends at Peachtree Rd. There is no parking at the northern terminus of the path, unless you use the lots for one of the supply shops or the music school. It’s not 100% “public” parking so I don’t recommend it unless you have explicit permission.

I turned around at the gate and made my way back, roughly along the same path. Round trip was 1.57 miles and 32 minutes according to my fitness tracker, which generated this map.

Plusses and Minuses

From a plus perspective it’s a nice, flat, well cared for walk. Excluding the spot still under construction. It has some urban feels to it while walking near the active tracks and office building, but you get a more rural feel near the bridge. As a plus, you could take a shorter route by avoiding the walk near the active tracks. You can also make it longer by going down the rail trail and coming back on Peachtree Road. That part of Peachtree Road is narrow and without sidewalks. I don’t think I would personally take that option.

In addition to that minus, I felt eyes on me the whole time. There are cameras peeking over the fences at Assembly Atlanta and I never felt I was in a private area. Obviously the fact that it’s unfinished is a minus if you have trouble traveling over loose ground. I also am concerned that parking is very limited. There are maybe 10-15 public spots near the office, but everything else is private parking so it didn’t feel it’s a super accessible trail. Another minus for me is that the whole time you’re walking by the studios you’re up against a high cement fence. I was hoping for a more, “go take a walk and see what’s happening at the studio” kind of attraction.

Last minus, it’s a noisy walk. You’ve got trains moving cars in the rail yard. It’s right in the landing path of PDK. Plus, the backside of the Peachtree Road buildings are running generators and air compressors.

Plane over the studio

My Takeaway

Good for PR to say you built a trail with your new construction. So some kudos to Universal and Gray. Maybe when things are busy at the studio it will be good for the people who work there. I’m sure we’ll see it used in productions. For me, it feels tough to just use if you want to walk in the neighborhood. Maybe if it eventually connects up to the Chamblee Rail Trail and you could park at City Hall it would seem more accessible. I didn’t see any signs of something like that happening.

If you have a different opinion or think I missed something, reach out to me on social media. I’m @N4BFR on X.

Tail of the Dragon – October 2023

Took my Tesla Model S and a friend up to Western NC / Eastern TN for some leaf peeking at the Tail of the Dragon this weekend. Was able to bring the DSLR along for some pics.

The Tail is a really nice mountain ride around the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I think it has better PR than some roads, but it was a fun trip. I thought the Tesla handled very well on the mountain roads.

I’ll also say the ride to and from the Tail is as good as winding through the mountain. The Foothills Parkway in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park leads to a beautiful lakeside drive before you meet the Dragon on the North side. To the south, once you wind down past the tail of the tail in NC you get a lovely riverside cruise on US-129.

Click the link for more.

If you prefer to watch via video, here’s a montage on YouTube.

iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch 8 Review

iPhone 14 and Apple Watch 8

Let’s start off with a true confession. I have GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I like to get new stuff and try it out. However, neither of these items are particularly new. So, why get the iPhone 14 Pro and the Apple Watch 8 now? Let’s take them in parts.

Back when the pandemic first started, I had an iPhone 10 (or is it X, I’m still not sure what I am supposed to say). Unfortunately something happened with it’s near field communications and I needed that. Not “I really want to have it” but “I have health related devices that use it, so I need it fixed.” Because COVID, I couldn’t get good help from Apple, the phone support sent me to the store, and the store sent me to phone support. You know the basic support circle-j***. I threw up my hands and got a Google Pixel 5 as a replacement.

Now, I like the Pixel 5. Fine phone with a really good camera. I think the Android platform lacks some of the fit and finish of Apple’s IOS, but nothing that was a real deal breaker for me. If it wasn’t for a couple of things I would have been content staying with Android. In fact, the transition from Apple to Android was much easier than the transition back. More on that in a moment.

What sold me on going back to Apple in general and the iPhone 14 Pro in particular were the emergency communications tools and the camera. As a ham radio operator I probably understand the limitations of wireless better than most people, but even then I have been let down by all the carriers while road tripping in places like South Georgia or the Blue Ridge Mountains. While I always seem to find a way in an emergency, I don’t like knowing I might go hours without coverage. The emergency messaging via satellite will help me fill in the gaps and give me peace of mind when I am on the road or in the mountains and that’s a huge value to me.

The other item I mentioned is photography, and I like to take pictures and videos so all types of changes in those areas get my attention. As I mentioned I am big on travel and one of the things I have been trying to do is reduce my load. When I go to the mountains for pictures I typically take a DSLR with tripods and computers to back up SD cards and it’s a lot of stuff. I felt that with the new camera – 48 Megapixels, lots of shooting modes and options, plus a much smaller footprint – I could break free of my DSLR. With a trip to England coming up, hitting 8 areas in 10 days, I wanted to keep my load low and this will help. The picture quality is very good versus the Pixel 5, not that the P5 is bad at all. See my first impressions blog post for a bakeoff. This article on PetaPixel gets into the upgrade benefits.

So, now you know why I made the switch. The how was painful, but it’s one time pain. Some brief takeaways:

– With the switch TO Android there was a nice tool to make the migration with a custom cable that connected the 2 devices. No cable here and I couldn’t even get the phones to talk to each other despite an app to promised to do that very thing.

– My wireless provider is AT&T Prepaid and they were not prepared to handle this type of conversion. The iPhone 14 Pro only uses and eSim while the Pixel 5 uses a physical one. I was without service for about 6 hours while I was sent from store to phone and almost back to store before a manager in Chat support saved me. I hope my experience became a support article so others don’t go through that pain.

Let’s talk a little about the watch. I had an Apple Watch 3 and it was fine. I didn’t feel like it was a critical device for me, and actually handed it down to a family member because I am more of a fan of mechanical watches. I did try a couple of Android watches, one from Samsung and one inexpensive knockoff. I wasn’t impressed and didn’t really integrate them into my lifestyle.

In the gap of 5 versions however, Apple has focused more on health apps and I have become more focused on my health. It was time to give the watch another try. A few week after getting the phone I went to West Farms Mall outside of Hartford and shopped the Apple store. My biggest question was, did I want to go with the Apple Watch Ultra or the Series 8. As much as I have that GAS I admitted earlier, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the extra $300 on the Ultra watch. First, I didn’t like the size. While I am OK with a big watch, that particular one just seemed very thick. Second, I didn’t need cellular connectivity on my watch. I don’t get separated from my phone that often that I need additional access, and I don’t want to pay the monthly vig for the privilege. Now in fairness, I don’t know if cellular activation is required, but it’s on more thing to break. So, I went with the base Series 8.

So far I am really pleased with all the integrations on the Series 8. Sleep tracking, exercise apps, health apps, controlling podcasts from the phone in my pocket, all good things so far. I also like the batter life. I charge it while in the shower and it runs most of the day without issues. Some nice watch faces too with different complications. That’s an area I want to explore more as I go.

So, outside of the computer (a custom built Windows PC with a bug that is fading) I am all in on Apple again. I’m not feeling like an Apple fanboy, just a user. One of the biggest lessons for me over the last year or so is that you may as well shop for the features you want and just be prepared to put in the time to fight with support, because no company these days is looking to have world class support.

The iPhone and watch are headed out on their first long road trip. I’ll update on performance if there is something significant to share. Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts on this, please send me a tweet to @N4BFR on Twitter and help with the conversation.

How Long for Long Pi – Part 2

In a previous blog post I considered how I might benchmark performance of different computers to understand how they compare across processor generations and maybe in the future across major architectures.

After experimenting with some different Python code, I found a version that is very consistent in it’s performance, seems to run on 1 core of a multi-core processor and can run on Windows and Linux. Here’s the version I am using for calculating Pi to 100K. I sourced it from this Stack Overflow thread.

#-*- coding: utf-8 -*-

# Author:    Fatih Mert Doğancan
# Date:      02.12.2014

# Timer Integration 18-Jun-22 by Jim Reed

# Timer function Start
import time

start = time.time()
print("Dogancan - Machin 100,000 Digits Pi Calculation Start")

#Original Calculation Code goes here

def arccot(x, u):
    sum = ussu = u // x
    n = 3
    sign = -1
    while 1:
        ussu = ussu // (x*x)
        term = ussu // n
        if not term:
        sum += sign * term
        sign = -sign
        n += 2
    return sum

def pi(basamak):
    u = 10**(basamak+10)
    pi = 4 * (4*arccot(5,u) - arccot(239,u))
    return pi // 10**10

if __name__ == "__main__":
    print (pi(100000)) # 100000

# calculation code code ends
# timer reports

end = time.time()
print("Dogancan - Machin 100,000 digits elapsed calculation time")

I expect to share all my raw data as I get it more in shape, but I am definitely getting some good first impressions. Let’s look at a summary of the tests on 5 machines so far, running Pi to 100K places using the code above on Python in a command prompt / terminal shell.

My PC NamePC TypeOSPi to 100K in X Seconds
(Avg 3 Runs)
TelstarRaspberry Pi 3Raspbian148.395
EdisonRaspberry Pi 4 8GBRaspbian111.263
TeslaIntel i7-7th Gen DesktopWin 1112.997
TeslaIntel i7-7th Gen DesktopUbuntu 2010.960
Charlie DukeIntel i7-8th Gen LaptopWin 1113.342
Charlie DukeIntel i7-8th Gen LaptopUbuntu 2011.627
MarconiIntel i7-12th Gen DesktopWin 116.152
MarconiIntel i7-12th Gen DesktopUbuntu 205.352

No surprise here on machine power. The more powerful the machine, the faster it processed. Now, I don’t think I have enough samples or data to draw a strong conclusion, but on the machines where I could run Ubuntu and Windows, Ubuntu outperformed Windows by at least 12% when averaged across the three runs.

Now let’s step it up an order of magnitude. How long will it take these machines to calculate Pi to 1 Million places. I used the same Python script, just changed the variable. Note on this run because of the long run times, I only ran the Raspberry Pi tests ONCE, the 3 other PC’s show an average of 3x runs.

My PC NamePC TypeOSPi to 1 Million in HH:MM:SS
TelstarRaspberry Pi 3 (1 Run)Raspbian5:12:57
EdisonRaspberry Pi 4 8GB (1 Run)Raspbian3:42:01
TeslaIntel i7-7th Gen DesktopWin 110:26:08
TeslaIntel i7-7th Gen DesktopUbuntu 200:18:21
Charlie DukeIntel i7-8th Gen LaptopWin 110:27:44
Charlie DukeIntel i7-8th Gen LaptopUbuntu 200:19:11
MarconiIntel i7-12th Gen DesktopWin 110:12:25
MarconiIntel i7-12th Gen DesktopUbuntu 200:08:57

One of the really cool pieces of data was the difference in the Marconi runs on Ubuntu 20 was 0.14 seconds from high to low.

The difference in the Windows vs Ubuntu really stood out this time. Here’s the 3 machines data individually:
Charlie Duke was 30.46% faster with Ubuntu
Tesla was 29.78% faster with Ubuntu
Marconi was 28.84% faster with Ubuntu

So, ultimately, I don’t know if this will mean anything to anyone but me, however I am enjoying this so far. Next steps:

  • Complete Household Data Gathering – Will run on Pi 1 and Pi 2, a 10th Gen Intel Laptop and a 2105 Mac Mini
  • Publish my complete data set.
  • Understand if I can port this calculation. Ultimately I’d love to try one of the old museum Cray machines to see if I can add those to the scoreboard.

If you have comments or thoughts for me on this, you can tweet me @N4BFR.

Telstar and Callsign Curiosity

Note: Initial post of this article was around 5 PM on April 20, 2022. I corrected the post around 6:20 to reflect the proper call sign.

In case you didn’t know, Telstar was the first satellite to do communications between 2 continents. It launched in June 1962 and lasted less than 9 months.

YouTube was nice enough to suggest this Periscope Film called “Behind the Scenes with Telstar.”

This left me with a few questions:

At 27:08 in the video the tech says “sending station identification” and you hear in Morse what appears to be DE KF2XBR.

Correction from initial post: I found a second video where you can hear the Morse Code and it’s clearer now. The call sign is KF2XCK as found in the linked video from AT&T Tech Channel.

I don’t know that satellites to this day that satellites have had their own callsigns, so I’m assuming this is the ground station call sign. That ground station was in Andover, Maine. (An additional Bell Labs Telstar video confirms at least the DE KF portion of the call.)

This raised a couple of questions for me. If it was a communications service, why didn’t it have a XXX#### type call that seems to have been given out at the time?

Why was if KF2*** when Maine is in the 1 call sign area? My guess is that KF2XBR would have been assigned to Bell Labs, and that would have been coordinated out of their New Jersey HQ. I looked at the 1961 and 1963 Call Books, but there are no K*2X* stations listed.

I’ll be doing more research but if I am to believe Wikipedia, all experimental call signs, not just amateur, were in this **#X** format.

I did find a later use of KF2XBR as part of a BellSouth permit granted by the FCC in 1990. These look like cellular telephone frequencies.

From reading through these FCC proceedings, it might say that these experimental calls were given out sequentially instead of by call region, because many of the calls listed were KF2X** calls.

An interesting fact I found when reading was that the US accidentally nuked the satellite after a high altitude nuclear test. Scientific American documented how the Starfish Prime test impacted Telstar, which launched a day later.

Upcycling to make the SpaceX Gate Sign

Back in January found an 80’s vintage airline gate sign in an antique store and decided to upcycle it into something that would fit in my tech center redesign.

Poor sign all unwanted.

I introduce the SpaceX Gate sign.

The sign was supposedly a Piedmont Airlines sign from Newark. It had no power or instructions but I knew I could get past that. Two power bricks later and the LED’s were working great. I reached out to the manufacturer but no luck on getting a manual. I powered along.

I reached out to AlphaGraphics in Dunwoody where one of my former co-workers had set up shop. They were great in going back and forth with me to get the sign elements just the way I wanted.

There are 4 possible “vehicle” inserts. Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Starship. There are 4 possible “gate” inserts, 39A at KSC, Pad 40 at CCSFS, Pad 4 at Vandenberg and Starbase, Texas. Here’s an example:

Prepared for the future!

I plan on updating this with the latest manned mission info, which is currently NASA Crew 4 as shown. The LED’s are updated with a slide out keyboard on the right.

You can see this in action and the entire build in a video on my N4BFR Vision You Tube page:

What do you think? Leave feedback on YouTube or tweet me @N4BFR.

Catching up on my YouTube Channel

I’ve been loading up YouTube lately with videos I have shot on the road. Here’s the latest:

I love this 4K time lapse with the natural sound of a sunrise in the park. There’s also a longer version for nature lovers.

I was lucky enough to be one of the operators for the W5B ham radio special event. Here’s what it looked like at the studio building.

I decided to spend some time fixing up a clock I got a great deal on. Here’s the first of 3 videos showing the fixup.

There are also a bunch of new shorts and some ham radio operating videos when you go to N4BFR Vision on YouTube.

Xiegu X108G HF Transceiver as a Shortwave Receiver

I purchased a Xiegu X108G HF Transceiver at the Dalton Hamfest from an estate seller. The radio appeared to be lightly used and in it’s original foam shipping container. I connected it to my LiPo battery and my dipole HF antenna to check reception. This video shows WWV on 10, 15 and 20 Mhz. All three frequencies were coming in to my location nicely on this Sunday morning.

My goal is to build this into a small kit with a battery and end fed antenna that I can keep in my car for when the POTA bug strikes me on road trips.

First impressions:

Sounded fairly good when warmed up. On first power up, I was picking up RFI bleeding in at 15 Mhz from a local broadcaster, whose transmitter is 6 miles away as the crown flies on 680 Mhz. That seemed to fade out as I switched around between the bands. I also toggled the preamp on and off, so I can’t isolate what the culprit is.

The best control of the radio seems to be from the Icom like microphone. I could switch bands, directly enter frequencies and try different modes like AM vs USB. I wasn’t impressed that USB was set to a 2.3 Mhz bandwidth by default, I prefer 2.7 so this was a little narrow.

The power on screen listed firmware from 2017 so I will be looking for options to upgrade that. It did not remember the frequency I was on when I turned it off and on, instead defaulting to 14.270 Mhz and LSB.

Dealing with an Instagram Clone

Saturday – February 12
I was enjoying a nice weekend on the beach when on Saturday Evening my cousin sent me this in Facebook Messenger:

That’s real me at the bottom and fake Insta-clone me at the top. She was nice enough to block and report the account that was asking for money. I figured, “hey, we reported this quickly, that should put this fire out quickly.” Ha! Just in case, I added a post of my own:

Monday, February 14
Home now and assuming that the now multiple reports of my clone have encouraged the Meta company to take action. Ha! The clone has not contacted me directly so I can’t find them to check on it. They did seem to pick my wife to hit up:

Now I have a name. Back into Facebook and Instagram to make some reports. I even reach out to the clone myself:

No response. The account remains. I add some background info to my followers.

Tuesday, February 15

It’s been almost 72 hours since the first appearance of the clone and the first report to Meta. The account remains on Instagram. I reported them again. I “escalate” to Twitter:

Wednesday, February 16

Escalation does not seem to have driven any action. I can confirm the suspect account has been reported a minimum of 5 times since Saturday. Another appeal on Twitter in addition to my daily reports,’

Thursday, February 17

It’s been 5 days since the fake Instagram clone account has appeared and I have not heard a single response from Meta, Facebook or Instagram. Today I try a new vector to disrupt this user. Since they are using a photograph I took on their profile, I have reported their profile for copyright infringement.

As of 12:05 this afternoon the copyright report is submitted:

and just to prove that I am reporting these daily via their tool:

Thursday, February 17 – 3:20 PM

Apparently Instagram cares WAY MORE about copyright infringement than stolen identities, because the picture I reported was removed in less than 3 hours. This is after FIVE DAYS of reporting the account. I hope this gives someone another tool in their tool kit to fight social media scum.

Let’s have a Happy Week

I’ve just had it with every ad on TV or streaming telling me how to vote, how the administration is handling the pandemic and just general tired of being down. So I’ve declared it “Happy Week” and I’m posting 2 songs a day to pick things up.