A Python Ping Tester

We have been having a lot of short network dropouts lately, something that is rather troubling when playing online games.

The GUI for a little ping tester tracking the stability of our household internet.
The GUI for a little ping tester tracking the stability of our household internet.
I was wondering just how prevalent the issue is, just how good or bad is the service at any given moment. I know I can download any number of network testing utilities, but what is the fun in that? Maybe just write something!

The little app is a Python/Tk gui. It simply pings an IP address and plots the results. The program is nothing serious, but it does the job. I have included the Python code below, a simple example of a Tk GUI.


The code is written for Python 3.5 or better as it uses the subprocess.run() method that was introduced with 3.5. This method just makes getting the stdio output so much easier. There are native ping libraries available for Python, they do require running the script in administrator to allow low level socket use. By using a subprocess I avoid that, if not quite as neat a solution.

Any IP address can be pinged, I am currently using which is a Google DNS server. Using this server pretty much guarantees the issue is the local network, not an issue at the server end.

The results? Our local net is not looking too bad. There are periods when a cluster of dropouts occur, each lasting a minute or two. You can see one of these on the screen cap above. Fortunately these are unusual and not the norm… At least so far. I may update that evaluation when I get more data.

Tragedy on Mauna Kea

First word came through a mountain staff mailing list used to let everyone know about safety conditions of the mauna…

Mauna Kea Wreck
A wrecked Toyota pickup truck about a mile below Hale Pohaku

Hawaii police dept. requests the public to avoid the Maunakea access road for the next 4 to 6 hours due to a major traffic accident. This accident is below the VIS on the access road. One lane is currently open going down the road.
– Mahalo from the VIS staff

Reading between the lines it is quickly obvious that this was a fatal accident and the police are doing a full investigation, the usual reason for such a long closure. Sure enough a notification soon came through the local emergency services alert system on my phone…

AVOID the Mauna Kea Access Road for the next 4 to 6 hours due to a major traffic accident. The entire roadway above the visitor center is closed while police conduct an investigation. – HPD Notification

A few more details showed up as messages flew back and forth on Facebook, this really is a small island sometimes. Knowing I would be up the next morning I expected to get the details first hand at breakfast.

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NASA Study Using Keck Telescope Hints at Possible Change in Water ‘Fingerprint’ of Comet

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

A trip past the sun may have selectively altered the production of one form of water in a comet – an effect not seen by astronomers before, a new NASA study suggests.

C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy & M45
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy passing by the Pleiades star cluster
Astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, observed the Oort cloud comet C/2014 Q2, also called Lovejoy, when it passed near Earth in early 2015. Through NASA’s partnership in the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the team observed the comet at infrared wavelengths a few days after Lovejoy passed its perihelion – or closest point to the sun.

Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology observed the comet C/2014 Q2 – also called Lovejoy – and made simultaneous measurements of the output of H2O and HDO, a variant form of water. This image of Lovejoy was taken on Feb. 4, 2015 – the same day the team made their observations and just a few days after the comet passed its perihelion, or closest point to the sun.

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A Walk in the Park

Several hours without transportation. My vehicle is in the transmission shop for a checkout, have been having some rough shifts. Stranded for the morning without wheels in the old industrial area I had no intention of sitting in the shop’s waiting area for a few hours.

Old Airport Beach Park Kona
Looking down the old runway at the Old Kona Airport Recreation Area
Just up the coast from the old industrial area is a large beach park. Called Old-A’s or Old Airport, it is the site of the original landing strip just north of town. Abandoned when the jet age rendered this airstrip far too small. The area was used for a while as a drag-strip, the old airport was eventually converted to a park. The old terminal building was renovated into a multi-use pavilion. The old runway is still there, now an enormous parking lot that fronts the rocky shoreline along one side and a community garden on the other.

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Venus Exits the Evening Sky

Over the next week Venus will be lost to the Sun’s glare. It is currently about 15° east of the Sun, but getting closer quite quickly now and becoming tough to spot in the sunset. The planet will pass through inferior conjunction on March 25th. The planet will appear in the dawn sky around mid April. When it does appear, it will spend the remainder of 2017 as the morning star.

Crescent Venus
Venus approaching inferior conjunction, 24Dec2013
Even when low in the sunset, Venus is worth picking up in a telescope. As the planet approaches inferior conjunction it shows an ever more crescent appearance to our earthbound vantage point. During the last days of visibility it will be a razor thin crescent, worth the effort to look.

Venus Events for 2017

  Date UT Separation Mag
Maximum Elongation Jan 12 47.1°E -4.4
Inferior Conjunction Mar 25    
Maximum Elongation Jun 3 45.9°W -4.3
Source: NASA Sky Calendar

Mercury at Superior Conjunction

Today Mercury will be at superior conjunction. After today the planet will reappear in the evening sky, rising high enough from the Sun’s glow to be seen around the end of the month.

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016. Celestron C8 and Canon 6D at f/10.
Superior conjunction is when the planet passes around the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth. For a few weeks the planet will be lost in the Sun’s glare, hidden from view.

As Mercury is on an orbit inside that of Earth’s it will see both inferior and superior conjunctions as it passes from the evening sky to the dawn sky and back again.

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Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves

When two bodies of fluid are moving in different directions interesting things happen at the boundary. The result is usually some sort of wave… Waves on the surface of the ocean or waves in the sky.

Waves on the sea surface are easy to see. Waves in the sky? Not so much. These waves are only betrayed if clouds form in the waves, revealing these structures.

Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves in the Saddle
Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves in the Saddle with Mauna Loa in the background. Photo by Joe Gargiulo, used with permission
This sort of wave is called a Kelvin-Helmholtz wave after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz who first investigated how these waves form. Yes this is the same Kelvin for whom the units of temperature are named. KH waves are visible all around us for those who know to look, from the surface of our ocean to the clouds of Jupiter, these characteristic swirling patterns are seen.

In the Saddle region over Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, there are usually two air masses moving in different directions. Below the inversion level the tradewinds push westward. While above the inversion level, usually about 6-7,000ft, the upper air moves to the east. Where these two meet there are often KH waves, and occasionally some clouds to outline these fascinating structures.