Kilauea

This is a bit out of order, reporting on our trip to Volcano National Park on the Big Island in Hawaii.  This was before Hurricane Irene, but I am just getting to it now.

We flew from Maui to Kona on Pacific Wings airline, which the kids now call “Best Airplane Ride Ever”. We flew on a 9 passenger Cessna 208B (a Cessna Caravan single engine turboprop).  The pilot was also the counter agent, baggage handler, and ground crew.  Thinking about it afterwards, it is no wonder that it was a little tricky getting a reservation through Travelocity, our party accounted for 6 of the 9 seats!

We rented a minivan and drove around to the Hilo area, to a rental in Hawaiian Beaches.  This is pretty much at the end of the road in nowhere.  No ATT cell coverage, and no Verizon either. We looked at local attractions for a day and then went to Volcano National Park to visit the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting, more or less, since 1983.

The current lava flows are from the Pu’u O’o crater, which is in the east fissure zone, and more or less inaccessible without a several hour hike.  Not clear it is a good idea to go there anyway, since the sulphur dioxide concentrations can be lethal within a mile or so if you get downwind.

The main caldera of Kilauea is about 400 feet deep and 2.5 miles across.  Towards the southwest side, there is a smaller crater called Halema’uma’u, which is about 250 feet deep.  Inside Halema’uma’u there is a vent about 500 feet across, and inside that, there is a lava lake whose height fluctuates with volcanic activity. The day we were there the lake level was about 550 feet below the top of the vent.

Overlooking Halema’uma’u there is the Volcano Observatory, and the Jaggar Museum, from the patio of which you can watch events.  Here is a photo I took around 7:15 PM.

Halema'uma'u at dusk

Earlier in the day we drove down the chain of craters road until the end:

Road Closed due to Lava

Across the street there is a sign that is worth reading:

Warning sign

And a short walk to the cliff is  worthwhile as well:

Lava Bridge

Our trip to the volcano was delayed by a couple of hours because the car wouldn’t start.  The dashboard merely said, helpfully, “badkey”.  The remote controls still worked, but the car wouldn’t recognize the RFID chip or whatever is inside these newfangled Chrysler keys.  Alamo rentals was full of warnings not to get the key wet, but we hadn’t.  Alamo sent a local towing company to our out of the way house with a new minivan and took away the old one.  Probably a replacement key would have been sufficient, but we had rented in Kona which is three hours away, rather than from the Hilo office.  Thank you Alamo for taking  care of us, but I guess I am old fashioned.  I’ve never had a mechanical key break and I don’t understand the attraction of the electronic version.

Haleakala

We’ve recently returned from a family vacation to Hawaii.  Cathy and I went to Maui and the Big Island for our honeymoon, and we returned to those islands with the kids, 20 years later.

On August 14, we drove up to the top of Haleakala (“House of the Sun”). This is the 10,000 foot volcano on Maui, and the sunrise is reputed to be spectacular.  We got everyone up at 2:30 AM and got to the top at 5AM, in time to get a parking space in preperation for the sunrise at 6AM.

It is cold up there, even in August

Bundled up on Haleakala

Before sunrise, the sky is quite interesting:

Sky above Haleakala

Then, just as the sun rises, the domes of nearby Science City light up, but not yet the ground.

Science City on Haleaka, first rays of the sun

And here is the sunrise itself:

Sunrise on Haleakala

And for those who keep track of such things, there is no cell coverage by ATT at the top of Haleakala, but Verizon works just fine.

Networking during Hurricane Irene

Hello from within our modest tropical storm Irene.  Here it is just windy and rainy.  The power went off about 4 hours ago, right in the middle of the coffee maker cycle.  I dumped the rest of the water in the reservoir into a pan and brought it a boil on the gas stove, then poured it into the basket. Worked fine.  Without power you have to start the gas stove with a match, and the exhaust fan doesn’t work, but that is OK for minor cooking.

After about 15 minutes, the little UPS on the ethernet switches and FIOS router stopped working.  The FIOS optical network terminal kept running on its own battery.

I suspect this little neighborhood in Wayland is pretty low on NStar’s list of power problems, so I wheeled out the generator to the garage entrance. This is a 6KW electric start machine.  We haven’t needed it for several years, since a round of tree limb triming in town dramatically improved power reliability.  Unfortunately, the generator battery is ten years old,  and hasn’t worked for the last five.  I’ve never been successful in pull starting it unless it was already working, so I gave it a jump start from the DR field mower.

The generator plugs into the house via a 30′ pice of 10-4 cable with 30 Amp connectors.  The house connector in turn is wired to a manual transfer switch that moves 10 circuits from line to generator.  When the house was built, we thought pretty carefully about what to power:

* boiler controls, to permit hot water to work

* refrigerator

* freezer

* kitchen outlets

* outlet near the TV in the family room

* outlets in master bedroom

* outlets near the computer equipment in the basement

* outlet in the study (for my computer!)

* … and I don’t remember where the other two circuits are.  Note to self: find out.

Plus there is 300 feet of 12 gauge extension cord running across the lawn to the neighbor’s house to power their freezer.

This all made sense, but things change, and the house wiring hasn’t.  The FIOS ONT is in the utility room, and there is no generator outlet in there.  So now there is a 25 foot extension cord connecting it to the server outlets.  Similarly, we moved the freezer so now there is another extension cord connecting it to a powered outlet.

The little UPS is a problem. When the power came back on, the UPS hasn’t switched back. It just beeps fitfully. Note to self: a cheap UPS from Best Buy is probably worth every penny!

My son Alex was so offended by the lack of power for the family iMac that he’s moved it to the floor of the MBR and figured out which outlet is live. He also moved the Time Capsule that supports upstairs WiFi, and then I had to show him how to interpret the patch panel diagram to get it plugged into a live network port.  Cathy doesn’t approve of kids using the internet during a power outage,  but I figure I should reward initiative.

The home server had been up for 242 days, but it hasn’t restarted.  I will have to go troubleshoot.  The only difficulty with this is that we don’t have DNS service for the inside machines.  For talking to the world, we can just switch to Google’s DNS at 8.8.8.8, which is easy to remember.

The roof is leaking, but it is the place that just happens to drip into the kitchen sink.  Is that good planning or just luck?

I don’t know whether to expect FIOS to stay up long term or not.  The fiber goes to the local CO, which has lots of batteries, but I don’t know if there are active components between here and there, and I don’t know what is upstream from the local CO.

Updates:

The home server came up fine, and if you wait long enough, ssh to it works.  The problem is that its upstream DNS is the server in Win’s basement, which is down right now.

One of the smoke detectors is unhappy about the lack of AC power.  It probably needs a new battery, but it is the one about 14 feet off the ground in the loft.  I can reach it with the extension ladder, but that is out in the rain behind the house.  Ah well.

So far the chicken coop hasn’t blown over, and the run is still standing.  The chickens, sensibly, are staying inside.