- a blog by markus nolf
[posted: Thursday, 2018-04-12] [category: general] [tags: , , ]

the indonesian island of flores is wonderful! however, since it’s not very touristically developed, compared e.g. to bali, we’ve found it fairly hard to come by information for independent travelers, like times and prices for public busses or boats etc.
here are some bits of inforamtion that were *not* easy to find out even while we were on the island:

komodo national park: staying on komodo island
almost anybody will try to sell you a 1 or 2 day trip to komodo island and surrounding sights. be aware that you’ll likely only have about an hour on each island, so any real hiking or quality time looking for dragons is more or less impossible. there are official hiking routes taking up to 5 h round-trip, and you can even get a guide for the day and arrange any length of hike.
if you want to stay on komodo island (there are homestays in komodo village, and a cabin that’s run by the rangers), there are several options. in order of descending easiness and price, you can… [more...]

[posted: Monday, 2018-01-15] [category: travel] [tags: , , ]

we’ve just spent five weeks in vanuatu, largely off the beaten track, and wanted to share some first-hand and up-to-date travel information and tipps for independent travellers, from december 2017 and january 2018.

i’m typing this text on the phone to post it while it’s fresh, so proper formatting and some pictures will follow later.

general notes

online resources:
positive earth’s vanuatu aelan walkabaot (“island walkabout”) at has lots of information about accommodation, transport, and things to see on all the islands, even in very remote parts of vanuatu. the website is getting a little outdated, so prices have increased e.g. from 2500 to 3000 very p.p. for typical accommodation in the banks province, but in many cases it lists several options that other resources don’t, and in greater detail.

shefa travel at is run by the shefa province tourism office and has good travel info for efate, pele & nguna, emae & tongoa, and epi islands, including phone numbers to contact local-run bungalows directly. 

similar websites exist for the some of the other provinces, e.g. for malekula and ambrym in malampa province, but these seem to have a central non-profit (but nonetheless slightly more expensive) booking office and don’t give direct contact options.

there are apps that let you download web content for offline use, such as OffLine Browser for android. very handy for remote where we found cellphone reception and data connections to be very unreliable.


[posted: Friday, 2017-12-01] [category: computers & technology, science] [tags: , , ]

here’s a script to record time-series of balance measurements (weight data) using a Campbell Scientific CR1000 datalogger and a balance with an RS232 serial interface.
we have been using two dedicated scripts which vary slightly to work with two different balance models, the Mettler-Toledo MS8001TS (polled mode; should work with all current Mettler-Toledo balances based on MT-SICS) and the Kern DE35K0.5D1 (set to continuous output).

download: (.cr1 files, saved as .txt)
CR1000 script to log output from a Mettler-Toledo MS8001TS balance
CR1000 script to log output from a Kern DE35K0.5D balance1
CR1000 script to log output from four Kern DE35K0.5D balance1

if you just want to have a look at the code, the CR1 scripts are included in text form at the end of this post.

1note that, as it turns out, the strain gauge loadcell measuring system of the Kern DE35K0.5D balance makes it unsuitable for longer term measurements. to get an idea of the drift effect resulting from a continuous load on these balances, here’s a figure from a test run with constant weights: [more...]

[posted: Monday, 2017-08-21] [category: science] [tags: , ]

for the past 2+ years i’ve been working with the PSY1 Stem Psychrometer by ICT International. as with any precision instrument, calibration is a crucial step to ensure good data. however, we’ve found that with some older firmware versions, the PSY1 sometimes just dropped its calibration files and reverted to the generic factory-calibration, which reads at +/- 0.5 MPa absolute precision.
after some discussion with ICT, i’ve put together a little R script that allows the application of calibration parameters to an existing file which was recorded with any (or no) calibration. this way, you can recalculate proper water potential readings from already recorded PSY1 csv-files.

ICT PSY1 stem psychrometer: how to apply sensor calibration after recording a dataset

the complete script, documentation and more are available here: psy-posthoc-calib — bitbucket

[posted: Thursday, 2017-06-29] [category: computers & technology] [tags: ]

when you’re booting up a raspberry pi and have no display/cable/adapter at hand, it can be useful to navigate the start menu blindly using only the keyboard, e.g. to open a terminal and run a short command.

raspberry pi: raspbian jessie start menu screenshots

here are screenshots of the raspberry pi’s operating system and start menu, raspbian jessie (v. 16.02.2017, kernel 4.9) that you can use as a guide: [more...]

[posted: Monday, 2017-06-26] [category: nature, photo, video] [tags: , , , ]

cuttlefish are amazing creatures! here’s some footage of one of the resident australian giant cuttlefish (sepia apama) at bass point, shellharbour. it changes not just colour, but also forms seaweed-like appendages on its back to blend in with its new environment.

these three screengrabs from the video above show how much it changed in less than 30 seconds: [more...]

[posted: Wednesday, 2017-06-14] [category: photo, travel] [tags: , , ]

here are three photos of uluru (“ayers rock”) and kata tjuta (“the olgas”) at sunset. i have seen many perfect pictures and postcards of uluru before finally visiting the place, but it took nothing away from the sense of marvel and appreciation when we were actually standing in front of these massive rock formations!

uluru in golden sunset light