I must have really bad luck with equipment, or something.  The 19th flight lesson was short because of the rapid onset of darkness (stupid wintertime!).  The 20th was fogged out with visibility of less than 500 feet.  The 21st was only 30 minutes long thanks to a weak engine.  Needless to say, I won’t be flying that particular airplane for a while.

If there is a silver lining out of all of this, its that I’m really learning not to trust the engine in the aircraft I fly in, so I’m extra paranoid about finding an emergency landing spot each time I hop in the cockpit now.  I guess that’s something to be thankful for, right?

I managed to go to a new airport and put a plane into the fix-it shop in this installment of flight training 101.

First up I got to go to San Carlos, just a quick hop up the peninsula from Palo Alto, and just close enough to completely throw off my check list for landing.  Other than one completely hosed approach, things fared fairly well.  Well, I think I did OK, anyhow.

This morning I headed out in the same plane as flight 17, and no one had flown it since I brought it in the night before.  After doing all the checks, the instructor and I took off and headed for Livermore.  About 1200 feet and a half mile from Palo Alto the instructor and I had this conversation:

CFI: Did you pull the power back?

Me: Not that I know of.

CFI: Level it off.  We’ll check some things.

Me: OK.

CFI: Hmm, that’s not right.  We’re missing about 150 RPM.

Me: So I guess we’re heading back to the airport?

CFI: Affirmative.  Let’s go now.

After all of that, it was a quick, and slightly unnerving rush back to Palo Alto to land.  It seems that the engine on this plane decided to start losing power, and did it slowly and smoothly enough that I was at a loss to explain what happened.  It also led me to do a forward slip, which is a pretty scary thing to do, to get down to the runway, pronto.  It was the shortest and most eventful flight I’ve had so far.

The most recent flights were more of the same: flying the pattern, learning how to properly setup to land and then takeoff again.  Should be getting easier, but I’m still finding ways to blow the base to final setup and then to be a bit early on roundouts at landing.

One exciting new event that happened was my near-night flying where I began losing spatial awareness, cutting my downwind leg short, and ending up a little closer to the runway than I’d like prior to landing.  That was a bit rough, but nothing compared to the student ahead of me who wandered out onto the active runway in front of the plane ahead of me.  He had the tower asking him what he was doing, then having the plane ahead of me abort his landing.  I politely slowed down as much as I could, buying some time for the other student to get out of the way.

Hope I don’t do that when its time for me to solo!

Recently I went through a setup related exercise for work where I needed to get a Windows Media Center PC to talk to a Media Center Extender. An extender in Microsoft’s view is a device that attaches to a TV and enables interacting with a Media Center UI without the PC actually having to be in the same room as the TV. There have been a few of these devices shipping for a couple of years so I thought this would be a cakewalk. Boy was I wrong, really wrong.

I spend nearly two hours hooking up the Media Center PCs to my home network, getting them to see each other, display on the TV, then share content amongst themselves. Once that got done I added the Xbox 360 as my “extender” and had it talk to both Media Centers, as well as my home server PC. And next thing I knew another three hours was gone. I had very little to show for this time warp, other than a lot of cabling, noisy boxes, and a rather sore backside (me with the hardwood floors and all). In the end, I did get music, photos, and video up and running on the Xbox 360, but only from one Media Center PC at a time.

It seems that the Xbox 360 can only talk to one version of Media Center at a time. Trying to get two of them to cooperate, both an XP and the Vista version, met with utter failure or a host of “go to this web site, download some stuff, then come back and try again” messages. It was painful and I think I know why no one tries this at home. If I had to buy this stuff on my own I certainly would have taken it back for a refund by now.

It all works now, and I’m on my way to understanding how the different boxes work (or don’t) together. But my quick lessons are: one Media Center is all you need, sharing is tough, and PC’s don’t always love TV displays. Oh, and that the Xbox 360 is the noisiest thing I’ve ever heard in the living room.

Xbox 360