Half duplex nerd

Watches for flying

Posted on 03 Dec 2005.

I'm close to finishing my quest for a private pilot's license, and am still looking for a good watch to wear.

From personal preference, I want to have

  1. GMT/UTC time for weather and such

  2. Timers, preferably two or more

  3. Countdown timers, for things like fuel changes

  4. Readability, under widely varying light and also with polarized sunglasses

As noted in my dive watch review, the Seiko fulfills #3, but that's about it. The Orient and Omega both do the job, or close to it. There's also the approach of a dive watch with a GMT hand, which provides 1,3 and part of 2.

However, you have to keep in mind that a fancy watch is really unnecesary. As with dive watches, the need for an elaborate flight watch with E6B slide rule and many dials is long gone. Flight watches now serve as affectations, wish fulfillment, jewelry or (rarely) functionality.

From Salon's "Ask the Pilot":

What is the purpose of the complicated watches I always see pilots wearing?

Their purpose is this: to tell them what time it is. Many pilots feel these gaudy little devices are an essential part of their uniform, perhaps a tribute to the days when goggled aviators used their watches to … I don't know. For a number of years I owned a Mickey Mouse watch as a kind of quietly irreverent protest to this practice (it also was the only kind I could afford). My red-bezeled Swiss Army watch also does the job wonderfully. Watches are required as backups to the ship's clocks, but nothing more elaborate than a sweep hand is needed.

(Of course, he's flying an airliner with more compute power and instruments than I'll ever have. My last Archer had the 'classic six' plus GPS and a stick-on stopwatch.)

Or, as Philip Greenspun puts it:

Q: What do you get when you cross an ape with a pilot? A: An ape with a big watch.

He goes on to advocate simple and readable, which I agree with. Taken to an extreme, you can get watches from Bell & Ross which are styled to look like flight instruments:


Nice. A pity they cost thousands of dollars, though. And don't have GMT. Or timers. Or alarms. Just the looks, ma'am.

I also flew with a Timex for a while:


(This one) You can also get different WW2 plane logos instead of the B17 - see this page of listings.

This is actually an OEM Timex Expedition, for $65. It's readable as heck, has a backlight for both analog and digital, and can keep track of two timezones. (E.g., GMT). The curve of the digital impairs legibility a bit, but it's pretty damn good.

These days, the only need for a complicated watch is if you lose instruments, have an ancient plane (e.g. Piper Cub) or demand to Look Like a Pilot. Once again, watches are jewelry. Pick one that's readable, functional and cheap. If you're flying, you need the money for airtime anyway.

  • Aviation, Watches, Essays

Breitling and analog-digital

Posted on 03 Dec 2005.

For a long time I've lusted after a Breitling B-1 watch:


A TimeZone review is here. It's a nice analog-digital combo, but vastly overpriced at 3,000USD or so. Hard to justify unless 'readable with night vision goggles' is a must-have for you.So that's right out. That's just waaaay too much money for an (admittedly nice) quartz watch. Here are some of the alternatives I've found so far:


This is a Timex, which I've seen in person - reasonably nice, super cheap ($70 list!) and you can turn off the digital for a cleaner appearance. Timex has never had the austere simplicity of a Seiko, but it ain't bad and the price is right. Then there's the Orient CVZ00002J:


Much better. More readable face, good luminosity, better hands, very readable. 100 to 150USD. (Roachman has it for sale.; you can also find it for about 100 on ebay) Does not have a backlight for the digital portion, alas. (See the comments for Hari's nice take on this as well!) Note that, on ebay, one seller lists this as model 'CVZ00002J0'. I'm unsure which is correct. The image above is a link to this review.

On that review thread, someone mentions that Citizen now has something similar, the Citizen Wingman VI. Now, I have a Citizen flight watch, the Navihawk Blue Angels:


It's nice, and was the apple of my eye for a couple of years, but it has some annoying limitations - there's no backlight and no lume, you can't read it at night! However, the new Eco-drive version does. After searching for a while, I found two models of it:

(Images are links to the reseller I found, about 300USD each) Not bad. It has a backlight now, though the hands are a bit thin and the face is still harder to read than I'd like. Still and all, getting better. (See Hari's comment - he likes his quite a lot) Then there's the Omega X-33:


(TimeZone review here.) Solves all the problems, has multiple timers (very nice for things like flight time, time per tank, leg time, etc) and an alarm loud enough to be heard while flying. Even has a backlight!Too bad it costs, erp, 2600 USD. Well, so much for that idea.


If you've got the cash, get the Omega. The Citizen is well priced, usable and just not quite right. I'd probably lean towards the Orient for close-enough and cheapness.

And I really like the Orient in blue. Very nice aesthetics.

Page update log

  • Reviews, Watches, Aviation

Added Google analytics to the site

Posted on 03 Dec 2005.

I've now added Google analytics to the site, meaning that the header for the blog now has 2 Google javascript links. If this bothers you, please contact me and/or block contacts to www.google-analytics.com.

I don't think it's a problem - the data is anonymous, and the information is tremendously interesting to me. I'll be posting snapshots here once some accumulate.

  • News

Blackberry categories blow chunks.

Posted on 30 Nov 2005.

In the main apps review page I said that the OS4 apps had category support. True, they do. However, after using it for quite I while, I have to say that they blow compared to PalmOS.

Much harder to find/use/create. One of the virtues of the palm was the easy of switching categories, and the blackberry lacks this. They're effectively useless.

  • Blackberry

Apple broadband tuner

Posted on 30 Nov 2005.

I know this has been posted to every Apple blog on the net, but in case you missed it already: Apple has released a small app that sets the TCP window parameters higher.

Or, in plain English, it makes broadband connections faster.

It's free. It's small. You can uninstall it.

I've installed it, but need to test and see what the results are. From results like this you can see that TCP windows are critical:


(Image borrowed from http://www.psc.edu/networking/projects/hpn-ssh/)

Gotta love Apple sometimes.

  • OSX, Networking

Test post for email notification

Posted on 25 Nov 2005.

Hmm, missed the oh-so-subtle 'notify subscribers' dropdown it added. Hmm.

UPDATE: Notify is now the default. Cool.

  • News

SRV records for Asterisk

Posted on 25 Nov 2005.

I just added SIP and IAX2 records for phfactor.net to UltraDNS, so in theory you can SIP-dial pfh at phfactor.net and it'll work...

Got the idea from slacker, and found the details on the wonderful VoIP wiki.

Looks like we'll convert over to Broadvoice VoIP for all phone - been using their BYOB $6/month plan and a cheap Grandstream 102 with good results. Noticed that Wired Test top-rated them (Broadvoice, that is) and am now shopping for a good Wi-Fi VoIP phone, suggestions welcome!

  • News, VOIP