Dave Bullock / eecue

photographer, engineering leader, nerd


Mt. Wilson: 14 Miles, 4700 Feet of Elevation Gain = Fun!

Yesterday Penelope and I hiked to the top of Mt. Wilson. It was a tough hike, but well worth the views, plus it's always nice to get a good 6 hour workout!

We started our hike from the trailhead on Mt. Wilson Trail road at roughly 9:30 a.m. The first two miles of the trail was highly trafficked with dozens of day hikers. This part of the trail is also barren thanks to a recent fire and in the morning the sun really beats down on you.

After a mile and a half we passed a fork down to the First Water swimming hole. Once past First Water we hardly saw any other hikers.

3.5 miles into the trip we reached Orchard Camp. This was the halfway point so we stopped and had some snacks and hydrated. We met two mountain bikers at Orchard Camp, they were the only folks on bikes we saw during out hike.

After snacking we headed up to the Winter Creek trail intersection. The last half mile before the intersection was the hardest part of the hike. The trail was narrow and exposed at times and there was little tree cover to shade us.

Once at Winter Creek trail we were excited to only have another 1.7 miles to go and we headed up the half mile and 500 feet of elevation gain of switchbacks to the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. We followed the old road a half mile and then we took the small trail the final .7 mile up to the peak.

I always let Penelope lead because I tend to walk to fast and tire myself out and she's great at pacing us. For the last leg of the hike she was doing double time and we made it up to the peak quickly.

Once at the top I saw the parking lot and the tourists that drove up and said, "Wait you can drive up here?" Of course I knew there was a road up, but it was still funny at the time. Once at the peak we sat at a picnic bench and ate our lunches before heading down.

Going down the mountain is obviously faster than going up. What took us over three and a half ours to go up took us just over 2 hours to come down. We arrived at the trailhead seven hours after we started out, which includes roughly an hour for our snack and lunch breaks.

So the final stats: 6 hours of hiking time, 14 miles and 4,700 feet of elevation gain. It was a fun hike, although not as visually stimulating as Mt. Baldy. I'm not sure if this will be a repeat hike, but we definitely plan to drive up and do the observatory tour at some point.

View From Mt. Wilson Peak

San Gorgonio rises above the smog in the distance in this photo taken from the peak of Mt. Wilson on Sunday.

Dave and Penelope on Mt. Wilson Peak

Dave and Penelope stand happily atop Mt. Wilson after hiking to the top in just over 3 hours on Sunday.

Mt. Wilson Antennas

A wide array of antennas cover a hill close to the peak of Mt. Wilson.

You can view more photos from our hike to Mt. Wilson here.


San Gorgonio: Backpacking Fun Up Fish Creek

This weekend my wonderful, beautiful backpacking wife Penelope and I hiked to the peak of the tallest mountain in Southern California: San Gorgonio.

We have been training every weekend for this backpacking trip by taking nice long day hikes. The difference between our day hikes and the San Gorgonio summit was its 24 mile length compared to the 6 mile trips and of course the fact that we were carrying heavy packs.

We started out early Friday morning and drove up the 38 and then seven miles on a dirt road. This road took us to the Fish Creek trailhead where we parked and started our ascent.

The trail was beautiful and green with a nice gentle climb of about 1,800 feet in six miles. We didn't see another person the whole day we were hiking. Fish Creek trail is definitely less crowded than the other routes to the top.

Once we got to Mine Shaft Saddle we headed down to our campsite at Mine Shaft Flat about a mile and 600 vertical feet downhill. We set up camp and cooked up some dinner, which was quite good despite consisting of various types of ramen noodles and a package of spicy salmon.

The next morning we headed about a half-mile down the trail towards Big Tree camp to fill our water bottles. The water was flowing nicely and was icy cold and fresh. We filled up our containers and then used an MSR MIOX to purify the water.

What I failed to notice was that the test strips which detect the level of chlorine ions made by the MIOX were expired by two years. This caused us to keep adding the MIOX solution and our water tasted like it was fresh from a pool. It ended up being ok to drink, but not the most pleasant experience. Better than being dehydrated or getting Giardia!

The next morning we ate breakfast, broke down camp and headed up to the trailhead where Fish Creek trail intersects with the trail to the summit: Sky High View trail. Once at the intersection we unloaded our packs and stashed our gear, bringing only food, water, first aid and emergency supplies, my ham radio and the SPOT messenger.

The SPOT was nice to have, it allowed us to send our family our position throughout our trip. If there was an emergency we could have also used it to ask for help of request a rescue.

Once we had unloaded our packs, the four and a half mile 3,500' elevation gain hike was actually pretty easy. We made it up in roughly two hours despite Penelope feeling a little tired at the end, probably from low blood sugar.

At the peak we rested, took some photos and ate lunch. We chatted with some boy scouts and their troop leader. I then made contact with someone in Huntington Beach via the Catalina amateur radio repeater.

We also met a nice Israeli astrophysicist named Amri Wandel. Amri happened to be in the LA area teaching a class at UCLA called "Astrophysics and life in the Universe." He hiked down with us and we had a very interesting conversation about Black Holes, Quasars, Pulsars, Unified Field Theory and much more. He has some interesting papers about to come out that I will likely cover for Wired.com.

On the way down we made good time, only stopping once to grab our stashed gear. We made it down the mountain in about four and a half hours from the peak to the trail head. In all we hiked 17 miles on Saturday and about 24 miles total.

We had a great time and we are looking forward to backpacking again soon. We plan on bagging Mount Whitney around this time next year and Half Dome some time before that.

San Jacinto as seen from San Gorgonio Pe

San Jacinto stands tall in the distance as seen from San Gorgonio peak at 11,500 feet last Saturday.


Programming the Adruino and TLC5940 for LED Fun

Recently I wrote my first Arduino program to fade LEDs. Arduino is an open source electronics platform designed to be easy to use by "artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments." Basically it's a microcontroller that can be easily programmed to do fun things.

I am using a low cost clone called a Bare Bones Arduino. One of the best parts about the Bard-Bones Arduino clone is that it comes in a kit. Soldering stuff together is fun!

Previously I wrote about my adventures with a BASIC Stamp. The Arduino is very similar to a BASIC Stamp, but uses the C programming language instead of BASIC. This makes it more powerful and extensible.

In the past I had only written one program in C to control some serial port extenders. Writing in C for this Arduino project was a lot of fun and it showed me how similar C is to PHP, which I have been writing extensively for over 10 years.

The program I wrote was based on some code from Peter Mackey at Pixelriot. I changed it up a bit so I could control the LEDs fading on an individual basis. I then made it do a Knight Rider fade (see video below). Here is a link to my version of the Arduino 5940 code.

A short video showing pulsing LEDs triggered by an Arduino controlling the TLC5940 chip.

The code controls a Texas Instruments TLC5940 chip. The TLC5940 is an LED controller that can fade up to 16 LEDs to over 4,000 levels of brightness. You can chain the chips together to control around 400 total LEDs.

This first program is actually a proof of concept for a project I'm working on. I can't really talk too much about the project, but it will involve a whole mess of LEDs and an old school public art installation.

Currently I'm working on a new Arduino project that is a multipurpose long exposure, intervalometer and sound and light trigger for Canon cameras. I'll post more about that when it's done.

I'm really enjoying both writing in C and playing with electronics. Microcontollers are awesome.

Bare Bones Arduino and TLC5940 On Breadboard

This Bare-Bones Arduino clone connected to a breadboard is controlling a Texas Instruments TLC5940 LED controller which in turn is pulsing the LEDs


Email Fun: Catch-alls, Joe Jobs, SPF and Spam

I no longer have a catch-all email address. For years the email (qmail) server that I run was set up to receive anything @eecue.com. So if you sent an email to asdflakhjflakjsf@eecue.com or dave_is_a_mean_person@eecue.com I would receive it. This was helpful as it allowed me to create addresses for every site that I submitted my information to, such as target@eecue.com, amazon@eecue.com, etc. That way if those companies sold my address to a list I would know they were responsible for the spam.

This seemed like a good idea until I started getting dictionary Joe Jobbed a few years ago. A Joe Job is when someone sends emails from your account to discredit you. In my case it was just a spam bot sending spams from random addresses @eecue.com. I don't think it was an attack on me, I just have a short domain name that has a catch-all address.

The joe-jobbing caused me to receive thousands of bounce messages. Today I finally decided to turn off the catch-all functionality in my email server. First I dug through my archived mail to find any important addresses that I still needed to receive mail at. I added aliases for the ones that would be hard to change. Any address that was easy to change I just logged into the site it corresponded to and changed it to my main address.

After getting rid of the catch-alls I set up a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record on my DNS server. SPF is a record on a name server that tells mail servers which IP addresses are allowed to send email for that domain. Luckily I only ever send email from my personal mail server so that was easy to fix.

These changes should greatly reduce the amount of spam and joe-job bounces I receive.


blogdowntown Historical Fun

I totally failed to mention that I am now writing for blogdowntown. This is in addition to writing for blogging.la. I am going to continue posting content relevant to LA on blogging.la and I am going to be posting Downtown history related tidbits to blogdowntown. I will also be linking to my posts on those to blogs from here and if the content is relevant to multiple outlets I will post unique versions of the content on each site.

My first post on blogdowntown was of a spoon that I bought on ebay. I posed a few questions to the readers and they were answered quickly. I am planning on doing a series where I scan historical public domain photos of Downtown from my collection of old books and post them along with a modern version of the photo's subject. I am now going to try find a way to take a photo down 3rd street from Bunker Hill, if that is even possible.


Binary Fun



Subverting Vista Kernel For Fun And Profit

Joanna Rutkowska

Joanna Rutkowska gave a highly informative talk at Black Hat called "Subverting Vista Kernel For Fun And Profit." In the first part of her talk, she demonstrated an attack on Vista's code signing feature that requires any code that is loaded into the kernel to be signed by Microsoft. Her attack did not take advantage of an implementation bug or a vulnerability, but instead used the built in raw disk write access to change a few lines in the pagefile. Once the pagefile was altered and the changed data was read back into memory she was able to load any code she desired into the kernel. She stated that this didn't mean that Vista was insecure, just not as secure as Microsoft says.

I talked to her for a few minutes today about her talk and asked if she was going to be releasing the code, and she said she didn't see the point of doing that. Her goal was not to provide people with a way to hack systems, but to alert the community and Microsoft of a flaw in the system. She also mentioned that she is in active informal discussions with Microsoft and they are aware of the problem and the potential solutions she laid out in her talk, but she didn't want to comment on what they were going to do about it.

Joanna Rutkowska

The second part of her talk covered a proof of concept root kit called Blue Pill that takes advantage of the extremely powerful new virtualization features in the new 64 bit AMD processors. Blue Pill takes a running operating system and completely virtualizes it beneath a Hypervisor which can then be used to intercept certain system calls and execute arbitrary code nearly completely invisible to the user. As the system is truly virtualized on the processor level and not in kernel and userspace, the virtualized system has direct access to the hardware (except for calls the hypervisor is intercepting) and detection would be non-trivial to say the least. Although she did her research on the AMD processor, she said the same attacks would be possible on the new Intel chips, although their virtualization implementation was not as powerful.

where do you want to go today?


Desert Fun

Just got back from a birthday shooting trip in the desert. Penelope and I had a great time, but I'm glad to be back at home in my air conditioned loft with running water. Photos coming soon.


Food and Fun Photos

Penelope and I ate at Kobe Ramen last night. It was ok, but I think we should have tried the noodles instead of random small dishes. In other news I have posted a bunch more photos from the last year that I have been hoarding: