McGregor Test Stand Engine Test

Behind the Scenes with SpaceX Production, Testing, and Launches

Today marks the one month countdown to the SpaceX launch for the next NASA Commercial Resupply Services Mission (CRS-2). Pinehead is going get you prepped for launch by covering SpaceX from the outside, in. We are going to start with the big picture and drill down to various rocket/spacecraft components and launch preparations as we get closer to T-minus zero for CRS-2, scheduled for March 1st.

SpaceX is set up in several locations around the United States including a small Pacific island. Headquarters is located in Hawthorne, California. Their rocket testing facility is in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX has launch complexes at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California, and Omelek Island about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. They are also considering a launch site Brownsville, Texas located at the southern tip of the state. (more…)


Take Your Internet On The Go With Hot Spots

A few years ago I could only dream of being able to take the internet with me wherever I went, affordably that is. Now, not only do we see almost every fast food restaurant, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, and car wash (ok not really car washes) with internet access, but we have the ability to take wireless devices with us to create hot spots. Most of us have phone services that perform this luxury for us, however, with limited data plans, lack of LTE connectivity or grandfathered in data plans our cell phones might not be the ideal tools for wireless hot spots. Here is a list of a few ways (including your cell phone) to take the internet with you wherever you go. You’ll never again be without internet access to your laptop.


Tux Hired!

How to Get a Linux (Related) Job

Working in Information Technology over the last twenty years (and the last ten or so as a senior engineer or team lead in various organizations) has exposed me to a lot of resumes over that time. Over the last five years, one of the more common questions I am asked is “how can I get a Linux related job?”. I will attempt to address that in this space.

The most important thing to remember is that your quest for a Linux position at any organization is really no different than applying for any other I.T. position. Once you have identified the company and the posting (and a great place to get an idea of who is looking for Linux talent and with what experience, is The Linux Foundation), you need to focus on the attributes and experience you have that are directly applicable to the position you want. Your resume should then be tailored to highlight that experience throughout your career as much as possible.


Linux Penguin

OpenLDAP – Fixing or Recovering a Corrupt Directory

Let’s discuss OpenLDAP. LDAP is a wonderful thing, but just when you get to relying on it too much, BANG! You are dead in the water. It won’t restart after a system reboot, it won’t allow authentication with an account that you know worked just yesterday, or worse, your local server logins seem to hang or time out altogether.

So what do we do? First, you have to get logged in. If you are unlucky enough to have your local server logins tied to LDAP and they are no longer working (you did have a couple of local accounts with admin privileges right?), you are either going to have to use a backup local account, the root account or reboot your system in single user mode and login as root. If you don’t know how to do any of those things, we can visit that topic at another time. For the purposes of our exercise, let us assume you are logged into the LDAP server itself with elevated privileges. Here are some things to try: 


SpaceX Dragon

Comparing Heat Shields: Mars Science Lab vs. SpaceX Dragon

On August 5, 2012, the world’s attention was captured by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing. One of the key components in the multifaceted landing of the Curiosity rover safely on Mars was the Thermal Protection System (TPS), or heat shield, on the spacecraft carrying the rover.

MSL heat shield under construction. Note the grid work of sensors. Photo by NASA.
Sensors being added to the Mars Science Lab heat shield. Photo by NASA.

The thing people remember most about the heat shield is when it popped off the spacecraft and flung like a frisbee across the Martian landscape, landing with a plume of dust. Measuring nearly 15 ft (4.5 m) in diameter, the MSL heat shield was the largest to ever travel to another planet. That may sound impressive, when it comes to entering an atmosphere bigger is not necessarily better. While more resistance can act as a natural braking system the trade off is enormous heat build up on the spacecraft. And we’re talking serious heat here, 3360º F (1850º C), almost twice as hot as molten lava. (more…)

Linux Penguin

Changing MySQL User Password

Alright, so you’ve created a new MySQL Database, you’ve added a user, even granted permissions to the user. Yet, that user forgot the password to their MySQL user account. How do you change the user’s password? There are several ways to do this, one of which we can do without even entering the MySQL command console. This quick tutorial will show you three separate ways to change a MySQL user password



How To Use jQuery Mobile Panels

jQuery Mobile 1.3 has a great new feature called panels. Panels are very common in native iOS applications and most commonly seen on YouTube and Facebook apps. jQuery Mobile panels are extremely simple to use but there are a few things to be remembered when working with panels. Follow along below, or watch the video to learn how to use jQuery Mobile panels.



Getting Started With SDK And Building Your First Android App

Hello aspiring programmers! How cool would it be to write an app in Android? The great thing about Android programming is its freedom and portability. When I say freedom, I’m talking about its zero cost and open source nature. All the tools will be provided. You won’t even be needing an Android phone. A virtual machine is included to run your apps. Of course you can also run your app on your phone, your aunt’s phone, or on anyone’s you like. Maybe you’d like to try and strike it rich and publish your own brilliant app in the Google Play Market. What do you want to make? The hottest game? A cool productivity app? Something that could save lives? Ideas like these will fuel your learning. So think of something you might actually want to build beyond these tutorials. Are you ready? Through the rabbit hole we go.


New Linux Academy Course: Introduction To Bash Scripting And Linux Automation

It’s here! The long awaited and much requested Introduction To Bash Scripting And Linux Automation course. This course is at the 101 level and is very much geared towards anybody who has never done any bash scripting. We cover the basics, how to run scripts, conditions in bash scripting, loops in bash scripting, accepting user input, creating interactive scripts, practice examples, writing bash scripts that communicate with MySQL, and a little bit more. This is our first course that is “open ended” meaning if there is an “example” script that you would like a lesson for, the Linux Academy will add on to it!

Read More…

Merlin Engine Firing

Under the Hood with the SpaceX Merlin Engine

Most concepts at SpaceX are designed from the ground up and the parts are manufactured on site at SpaceX. The Merlin engine, which launches the Falcon rocket, is no exception.

Photo of Tom Mueller next to Merlin engines
Tom Mueller, posing with the Merlin rocket engines at SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters. Photo by Roger Gilbertson. Photo courtesy Tom Mueller via

The rockstar of SpaceX may be Elon Musk, but the lead man behind the fire power is Tom Mueller. He is the Vice President of Propulsion Development and founding employee at SpaceX. Musk sought Mueller out in 2001 when Musk decided to build his own rockets instead of buying some from the Russians. Musk caught wind of a rocket engine Mueller built in his garage and “apparently had a religious experience” once he saw it. If you didn’t know, Elon Musk used $100 million of his Paypal money to start SpaceX. That money was used to build the Merlin engine Mueller had designed. The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in the last 25 years. (more…)