Thoughts on the Brightline Pilot bag

Recently I purchased a Brightline Pilot bag. Two other pilots advised me against it because it “had too many pockets”. Still, I went ahead and purchased it. Much to my regret I’m going to have to return it. There are too many outside pockets but I could live with that. The problem lies in the number of inside compartments and how they arranged them. When I saw it, I became sad because I knew I could cope with that during a flight.

I probably would not have bought it if I had the chance to examine it myself prior to the purchase.

The TSA alien student process

I’ve recently completed the TSA alien student process which is required to start a private pilot’s licence training. This article explains how the process works for someone already living in the US. You have permission from the TSA to have a introductory flight lesson with some instructors before you need to sign up for this program. I hope to be able to clarify how the process works and what to expect. This is for information purposes only. I make no claims on its accuracy.

After you’ve selected your instructor or a flight school, ask him/her if they joined TSA’s alien flight school program. If not, they will have to do it. It took TSA one day to add my flight instructor to the system.

After that you need to:

  1. Create your account with the TSA at https://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov/.
  2. Fill in your details such as passport information, VISA information and make sure you attach scanned images of both the passport and the VISA. This will make the process go faster. If you don’t have a scanner, try CamScanner for the iPhone. I used it and they accepted it.
  3. Find your instructor/flight school on the list. The Course ID# is usually PPASEL if you’re enrolling in a private pilot licence course for land (not sea) airplanes. You have to write down the plane make/model. I don’t think the TSA will care if you switch from a Cessna 172N to a 172SP or a Piper Warrior during your training, but switching planes during training is not a good idea anyway.
  4. Submit the request. The button may be hard to find, but after you click on “Save Record”, click “Home” and then you’ll find a submit button on the table where your CFI is listed.
  5. Wait for the TSA to look at it. It may take a few days. In my case it took 1 day. You’ll get an email asking you to pay the application, which is $130 at the time of writing. Go back to the website and click on the button to submit payment.
  6. After you’ve paid, the TSA will send you an email with instructions. The email I received had bogus instructions and I discovered that after I’ve called a local flight school.
  7. Go to https://www.natacs.aero/afsp/find_location.asp and find a location nearby (this can be quite hard).
  8. Click on the link on the right (city name) and click “AFSP Enrollment”.
  9. Fill in the form with the exact data you gave the TSA. Any mistake will cost you. “AFSP Training Request #” can be found on the last email you received from the TSA under “Training Request ID#”. At the time of writing, the cost for handling the fingerprints is $99.
  10. Call the collection center and schedule an appointment to take fingerprints.
  11. Bring the passport, VISA, TSA email and AFSP form with you to the appointment. If everything looks good, they will mail the fingerprints to the appropriate place.
  12. Wait for an email from the TSA saying you can start training.
  13. When you get an approval, call/email your CFI and tell him you’re ready to fly! You’ll need to give him/her copies of your passport and VISA and you’ll need to take some pictures.
Total cost: $229 USD.

 

Flight clubs are not eligible to join the program. The only person who can join the program as an instruction provider is a flight instructor or a flight school (part 141, I think).

I’ve been told that the TSA will visit flight schools and ask questions about this. I believe the FAA will never verify if you’ve joined the TSA alien flight student program. It’s hard to understand what this process accomplishes, though. One tends to believe that it’s another security theater. IMHO this money could be better spent on a 1.5h flight lesson.

If you wish to pursue an IR or multi-engine rating, you will have to go through this process and expenditure again, unless you become an US citizen in the mean time.

 

sysctlbyname(3) (and others) from Python

Several times in the past I needed to query sysctls from Python. I was unhappy that this was not possible because the Python standard library didn’t include a sysctl function. I even created a Python module just to do this. :-) Of course, you may already be thinking “ctypes! ctypes! ctypes!”. Yes, that’s what I’m going to talk about.

ctypes is a Python module to access foreign C types and functions, namely sysctlbyname(3). It’s easy to work with, here’s an example:

from ctypes import *
libc = CDLL("libc.so")
size = c_uint(0)
libc.sysctlbyname("kern.ostype", None, byref(size), None, 0);
buf = create_string_buffer(size.value)
libc.sysctlbyname("kern.ostype", buf, byref(size), None, 0);
>>> buf.value
'FreeBSD'

 

Python ctypes are available in Python 2.5 and up.

aimon – ACPI AI Boost monitoring for FreeBSD

It’s about time that I release this project to the wild. It’s a really simple thing, nonetheless.

aimon is a system monitor much like MRTG, but specifically designed to monitor acpi_aiboost(4). acpi_aiboost(4) reports these values under FreeBSD and is present on several ASUS workstations and servers.

So, if you want nifty graphics about your server temperature, voltage and fan speed, this is for you. 

Here’s an example of how it looks like:

If you’re interested, the project home page is: http://fnop.net/~rpaulo/aimon/.

Apple’s CalendarServer on FreeBSD

I’ve come across a blog post by Roy Hooper that explains how to setup CalendarServer on FreeBSD. I haven’t tried it yet, but I suppose it should work without much effort.

For those who don’t know, CalendarServer is a WebDAV server that implements the CalDAV extensions. This basically mens that you can register a bunch of users in your CalendarServer and using iCal or Chandler (to name a few) you can send invitations to meetings, share calendars and other nifty things that could help you organize better your company.