Fly on the Wall at Air Traffic Control
(Welcome to all the Puppy Linux users who surfed over through the puplet link)
I’m taking a post here to describe a project that I’ve been working on that I hope contributes to ufology in a small way, and attempts to do some pushing of X. In this case, I’m trying to improve the quality of data, Q in my X function (see above link).
I often hear about ufo sightings that are in some way related to aviation. Perhaps a commercial pilot saw something and asked air traffic control to verify it on their radar (Japan Airlines). Maybe something was floating near an airport (O’hare and Phoenix Lights). Or maybe military jets were scrambled to an area where a sighting had been made (Stephenville). In any case, it would be nice to have a convenient record of what was being said by air traffic control around that time.The ATCMP is an attempt at developing that sort of record.
The ATCMP uses off the shelf aviation-band radio scanners (provided by end user), combined with older-generation computers and open-source software to create a personal air traffic audio archive station. The project is designed to take the audio from the scanner and save it to the computer’s hard drive. At the end of the week, it burns all the saved sessions to a blank dvd, and starts over again.The benefit is that you have an ongoing record of conversations in a convenient audio form that can later be referenced in the event of potential sightings, all with minimal effort needed from the operator.
Although anyone can download and implement the software, I envision it as being most useful to groups like MUFON and NARCAP. MUFON has a network of field investigators spread across the country, and could potentially have a station set up near every significant airport in the United States. NARCAP is geared more towards people with aviation expeirence and who would likely be familiar with aviation communications.
I attempt to orient my projects in a way that is consistent with my outline of progress in ufology. I give an outline here. I believe this project increases X, by improving the Q factor, or quality of data available to investigators. I include control of data in my broad definition of data quality.
Anyone who has followed the ufo phenomenon knows there is a cyclical pattern to significant sightings. It usually starts out with a sighting made by a number of people, with at least some of them making reports. This is followed by a flurry of semi-serious media coverage, which is inevitably followed by less than serious media coverage. This is normally enough to get it off the front pages, and out of the public’s mind. Perhaps its media manipulation by the dark forces of the world, or maybe that’s just how the modern news cycle goes, but either way, it is often difficult to complete an investigation by the time James McGaha or Seth Shostack gets on Larry King’s show. In the event that there was some interaction with the commercial aviation, having access to the tower conversations could make it easier to verify facts provided by other witnesses, quickly, and without having to file a FOIA request.
I also think I am able to increase the D factor a bit with this project. D is for Dispersion of experience. ATCMP uses the Puppy Linux operating system as a base. I’m becoming a bigger fan of Linux in general, but really couldn’t have done this without Linux, and in this case Puppy. Using Linux should really lower the cost for someone to implenent a recording station, allowing more people to participate.
If you are curious to try the project, click on “ATCMP” at the upper right corner of this page. You will find a link where you can download the .iso file, as well as the instruction sets for the overall project and the installation. Since this is very new, I am especially interested in getting feedback from people who have attempted it regarding its ease of use and the clarity of the instructions.
More on Linux if you’re interested
There are several factors that really made Puppy Linux a natural choice for this project.
First and foremost, the whole thing needed to be inexpensive, so that it could be implemented on a wide scale. If we’re going cheap, that will impose some other obstacles. One of the easiest ways to get a cheap computer, is to get an older computer. I’ve picked up several junked machines off the sidewalk for free, but have also paid for some from craigslist and ebay.
Second is software size. If we’re going cheap and old, the machines we are working with may not have the most robust specs. Keeping the software small helps ensure that the machine will be able to keep up with the demands. This adapted version of Puppy is only 130 Mb, so it should run fairly easily on most machines (your results may vary).
Finally, we need reproducibility. Old machines are going to be plagued with old machine problems. The last machine you threw out probably couldn’t open its browser because it was clogged full of bloatware, spyware, and viruses, so its going to be difficult to ensure that the ATCMP would function smoothly on it. Using puppy helps get around that by providing a fresh operating system (Linux ala Puppy), as well as the scripts, programs, and files needed to do the recording. Puppy also allowed me to roll up the operating system as well as the scripts into an easy package by remastering the original Puppy 4.12 distribution.
Trying to do this with Microsoft products would have been very difficult. Widnows XP might work for this, but it would significantly up the price and probably strain the machine. I could have gone with an older OS, but where am I going to get licenses for versions of Windows 2000 to work on the old hardware.
In the end, Puppy fit the bill for all my needs. But there is also a lot of other things on that disk. Its got some office suite programs, a chat client, a wiki, a torrent client. Really you should check out puppylinux.com and puppylinux.org to get the scoop.