Comment assister au lancement d’une fusée à Baïkonour (gratuitement)

English version

Il y a en gros quatre manières d’assister au lancement d’une fusée à Baïkonour:

  1. Depuis l’extérieur du cosmodrome
  2. Avec une agence de tourisme accréditée à vous emmener à l’intérieur du cosmodrome
  3. En donnant un pot-de-vin au personnel de sécurité russe
  4. En entrant par effraction

Option 1 : la manière légale et gratuite (depuis l’extérieur)

Mes recherches concernant cette option n’avaient pas donné d’information utile, d’où la rédaction de cet article. J’espère qu’il aidera de futurs voyageurs à assister au fascinant spectacle qu’est le lancement d’une fusée dans l’espace. En résumé, même depuis l’extérieur du cosmodrome à près de 27 kilomètres de la plateforme, l’expérience reste des plus impressionnante et vaut largement tout le tracas de se rendre à Baïkonour par la route.

Selon moi, le meilleur point d’observation se situe sur l’autoroute à 18 kilomètres à l’est de Toretam. C’est l’endroit accessible le plus près du Départ de Garagin, la plateforme d’où sont lancées les fusées Soyouz en direction de la Station Spatiale Internationale. Il est aussi orienté parallèlement à la trajectoire de la fusée. En plus, c’est un endroit facile d’accès en voiture et un bon site de camping pour la nuit.

Point violet: Départ de Gagarin
Point vert: point d’observation

Les lancements de Soyouz (et probablement tous les lancements depuis Baïkonour) décollent tous puis orientent leur trajectoire vers le nord-est pour deux raisons. Premièrement, la SSI orbite la terre dans cette direction et deuxièmement, si quelque chose se passe mal durant le lancement, la fusée et/ou ses débris tomberont en territoire kazakhe et/ou en Sibérie, deux zones très peu populeuses et sous contrôle russe.

Option 2 : l’agence de tourisme

Plusieurs agences de tourismes sont accréditées par Roscosmos (l’agence spatiale russe) pour amener des touristes à l’intérieur du cosmodrome sur la plateforme d’observation à 3 kilomètres du lancement. Cette option est certainement la plus fiable et la plus sécuritaire, mais c’est aussi la plus cher (plusieurs centaines d’euros) et doit être réservée des mois à l’avance.

Option 3 : le pot-de-vin

Voir l’histoire détaillée ici

Selon mes recherches sur le terrain, payer le personnel de sécurité coûtera environ 13000 roubles russes par voyageur. À savoir si ce montant vous laissera passer à l’intérieur du cosmodrome ou vous jettera dans la gueule du loup, c’est une question à laquelle je ne peux pas répondre, car j’ai été contraint de l’abandonner à la toute dernière minute. Vos meilleures chances d’y parvenir est d’aller discuter avec les chauffeurs de taxis de Toretam, la ville kazakhe voisine au cosmodrome. Inutile de spécifier que cette technique comporte ses risques.

Option 4 : entrer par effraction

Le cosmodrome est localisé sur une grande étendue de steppes au milieu du Kazakhstan et à en juger par sa taille, je doute qu’il soit clôturé. Depuis la route jusqu’au Départ de Gagarin, la plateforme d’où partent les vols vers la SSI, il faut compter à peu près 27 kilomètres. Cependant, je suis certain que les Russes ont installé des dispositifs de surveillance pour sécuriser le site. Caméras thermiques, radars, patrouilles, etc. tout y est probablement pour au moins s’assurer qu’aucun cheval ni chameau n’entre sur le site (et force l’annulation d’un lancement); il existe certainement une manière de détecter tout être vivant se trouvant à l’intérieur du périmètre du cosmodrome.

Pour ma part, je ne voudrais surtout par me faire intercepter par les forces de sécurité. En plus d’être entré par effraction dans le cosmodrome, vous seriez aussi entré en territoire russe. Les risques sont énormes.

How to watch a rocket launch from Baikonur (for free)

Version française

There are basically four ways to watch a rocket launch from Baikonur:

  1. From outside the cosmodrome
  2. With a tour agency that has the required authorizations to take you into the cosmodrome
  3. By bribing the Russian security personnel to let you in the cosmodrome
  4. By trespassing

Option 1 : the legal and cheap way (from outside)

Researching this option did not lead to any usable information, hence this article which I hope will be useful to future travelers wanting to observe the amazing spectacle that is a rocket launching into space. To put is shortly, even from outside the cosmodrome some 27 kilometers away from the pad, it is still a marvelous experience and well worth all the trouble to get to Baikonur by road.

In my opinion, the best view point is located on the highway some 18 kilometers east of Toretam. Not only is the closest accessible location from Gagarin’s Start, the pad from which Soyuz rockets launch to the International Space Station, it is also oriented parallel to the rocket’s course. Moreover, this suggested location is easily accessed with a car and also a nice camping spot for the night.

Purple dot: Gagarin’s Start
Green dot: viewpoint

Soyuz launches (and probably all launches from Baikonur) all take off and then veer to the north-east for two reasons. The first being that the ISS orbits more or less in this direction and the second it that should something go wrong with the launch, the rocket or debris fallout will happen over the middle or Kazakhstan and Siberia, two areas very sparsely inhabited and under Russia’s control.

Option 2 : the tour agency

Several tour agencies hold the required authorization by Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) to bring tourists into the cosmodrome to watch a launch from the viewing platform, some 3 kilometers away from the launch pad. This options sure is the most reliable and safe way to watch a rocket fly into space, but it’s also the most expensive (you’re looking at several hundred euros…) and requires you to secure your ticket months in advance.

Option 3 : the bribe

Read the detailed story here (in French)

According to my field research, bribing the guards costs about 13 000 Russian rubles per person. Whether this will get you in the cosmodrome or not I can’t tell, because I had to back down at the very last minute. Should want to exercise that option, your best bet is to ask the taxi drivers in Toretam, the Kazakh town next to the cosmodrome. Needless to say, it comes with some risks…

Option 4 : trespassing

The cosmodrome is located in a very large swath of steppes in the middle of Kazakhstan and judging by its size, I doubt they’ve had the whole zone fenced off. From the road to Gagarin’s Start, the pad where flights to the ISS usually launch, it’s about 27 kilometers. However, I am certain that the Russians have some sort of surveillance equipment set up to secure the site. Thermal cameras, radars, patrols, it’s probably all there and given the amount of camels and horses roaming the landscape (you would want one to run into the launch pad with the countdown started), they must have a way to detect and deter all living things entering the perimeter.

I for one would want to get caught by the security forces there. On top of trespassing on the cosmodrome, you would also be entering Russian territory illegally. Attempt at your own risk.

Fixing a flooded iPhone 6 (or any other phone)

Your iPhone fell in the water and no longer works? Here’s how you might be able to fix it. My girlfriend had dropped her’s in the toilet (don’t ask how) and with a bit of patience and some chemicals I was able to get it working again. This little trick might also work with any other kind of electronics.

  1. Take your phone apart completely. iFixit has some very well made guides for most iPhone models. (If you don’t have the proper screwdrivers, spudgers, suction cups and things, Ebay is a good place to get them, they only cost a couple of dollars.)
  2. Take the logic board out.
  3. Look for water deposits and corrosion (bluish/greenish spots) on the logic board and everywhere inside the phone.
  4. Put that logic board and every other part that’s been exposed to water in a plastic container.
  5. Pour a generous amount of isopropyl alcohol (the higher the concentration the best) in the container so that the parts are completely submerged.
  6. Let them sit there for a couple of days, intermittently shaking the container to swoosh the alcohol around.
  7. Get a soft bristled toothbrush, dunk it in the alcohol and gently brush off all the corrosion that you can see. Pay extra attention to the connectors and the logic board, inspect them meticulously and clean them thoroughly.
  8. Let the parts dry for two or more days. (You can put the alcohol back in its bottle.)
  9. Put the phone back together, working in reverse from the guide you used originally to take it apart.
  10. Plug it in and hope for the best.

Hope this helps… If you have any other suggestions and if it worked with your model of phone or electronics, I’d appreciate it if you leave a comment.

Moving Linux on a windows drive for dual booting

README! There are many use cases for dual booting and guides for achieving it, this one concerns moving an existing Linux to a drive on which Windows is already installed and dual booting them. In other words, you will be combining existing Windows and Linux systems to coexist on the same hard drive.

I’ve been using the same hard drive for a while and transporting it from laptop to laptop whenever one would fail me (you can do that with linux). Now, after 8 years, I was fearing it was the actual hard drive that would break next so this time, I had to move my actual operating system to another physical disk.

Wanting to be able to dual boot into windows as well, I was stuck in a scenario for which there was not much help on the web. Here’s what I did:

  1. Resize your Windows partition using the disk management tool to make room for Linux and its swap. The new Linux partition must be larger that the one you are moving from.
  2. Reboot to a Linux live CD or GParted and create a bootable Linux and a swap partition (they must be primary) after the Windows partition.
  3. Clone you existing Linux OS partition from the old hard drive to the new.
    1. Plug in your old drive (external SATA, external disk case, extra hard-drive bay, etc.) but leave it unmounted.
    2. dd if=/dev/sdXY of=/dev/sdWZ bs=1M

      where XY is the drive letter and partition of the Linux OS you are moving from and WZ those of the partition you are moving to.

    3. Wait for a while, depending on the size of the partition, this could take a bit because you are cloning every single byte from one partition to the other. In my case, it tool a good solid two hours and half.
  4. Unmount and disconnect your old Linux OS hard drive. In case something goes wrong, simply popping it back in your computer will restore your setup just the way it was before.
  5. Mount your new Linux partition.
  6. From within the Live CD, restore the GRUB2 bootloader by executing
    grub2-install --root-directory /mountPoint /dev/sdW

    where mountPoint is where you new Linux partition is mounted and sdW is the drive where it resides.

  7. Since the partition’s GUIDs have changed you need to update the /etc/fstab file on your Linux with the new ones. Any file editor will do. Look up the new GUIDs for your new OS and swap partitions by running
    ls -al /dev/disk/by-uuid/
  8. Remove the live CD and restart the computer.  From within GRUB2’s boot menu, you should only see your Linux and not Windows, that’s normal. Boot your Linux OS.
  9. Run
    grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

    GRUB2 will scan your hard drive, find the Windows install and create a new boot configuration file. Now, when you reboot your machine, you will see Windows within the boot menu menu entries.

  10. Finally, since the size of the underlying partition holding your Linux installation has changed, the size of the file system has to be updated as well:
    resize2fs /dev/sdW

Done! Moving operating systems around and getting them to cohabit alongside each other is tricky and far from being straightforward so I hope this guide worked for you. You will most likely have to adapt it to your own situation and if you feel something you did could benefit others, please comment.

How to program a new Toyota transponder key

In need of an extra key for your Toyota? Avoid the dealer, they charge an arm and a leg for a simple procedure you can do yourself for free. Searching the web turned up a couple of techniques, but the one that worked for me was found in a youtube comment by user Nazareth434.

My car is a Toyota Matrix 2005 but apparently this procedure is valid for several Toyota models and years. If it did or did not work for you please let me know in the comments. And if nothing including this procedure has worked for you, don’t despair, at least your copy can open doors. Attach the key to a concealed spot under you car and save it for the “oops I’ve locked myself out”situation.

Procedure

First, you need a blank transponder key for your model and year. You can get one for 10$ or so through eBay or amazon. Then, have the key cut by your local hardware store and make sure it fits you ignition lock: you should be able to turn it all the way to the start position and hear the starter going without the engine turning on. With the master key (the black key, not the valet key, which is grey) and the copy in hand, install yourself in the driver’s seat and follow the procedure carefully. It took me about 30 minutes and many tries to get the steps right as there is timing involved. Persevere and and it should work.

  1. Insert the MASTER key in the ignition 5 times, leaving it IN the ignition on the 5th time. Do not turn the key. Don’t rush that step, do it slowly.
  2. Open and close the driver’s door 6 times, leaving the door closed on the 6th time.
  3. Remove the master key from the ignition. The security light should now be solid red to indicate programming mode. If it’s not, repeat from the beginning.
  4. Insert the new key in the ignition but don’t turn it. Do that step quickly as the computer only stays in this mode for a couple of seconds.
  5. The security light will resume blinking. After 60 seconds (maybe more, be patient), the light will stop blinking and turn off.
  6. Remove the new key, insert the master and turn the engine on and then off.
  7. Done! Test your new key. When you insert it, the security light should stop blinking and the car should start.

The theory

Its wrongly called programming a key but in fact, no key gets programmed by itself, its the car that gets programmed. Keys have an RFID emitter in them which outputs a unique identifier when prompted by the car’s anti-theft device’s reader upon insertion in the ignition. If that identifier is not in the car’s computer valid key identifier list, the car will not start.

What the procedure above does is putting the car’s anti-theft system in programming mode and then telling it that it should include the new key’s id in its list of permitted keys. This is done by doing a set of special steps with the master key in. If you possess the master key, chances are you are the master, but should you loose all you keys, there will be no way of starting the car again other than replacing the anti-theft computer; something the dealer will charge a lot for.