I don't think I could do better than my house in Longmont, Colorado right now. Weed's legal, we're rolling out a gigabit municipal fiber network, there's a skydiving dropzone 10 minutes from my house, a vertical wind tunnel ("indoor skydiving") an hour from my house, the food here is amazing and the gays can get married in the state now. Suck it, rest of the world!
Canopy detection turns out to be pretty easy. I just find the first place in the jump I'm doing less than 10 meters a second. It seems to be pretty accurate. I haven't got around to aircraft exit and landing, as my GPS source up until recently has been too bad to get decent data. I'll have to do a few test jumps (In the name of science!) with a new, more accurate phone and see if it's worth the effort now.
For output, I'm rendering to KML. I can display that directly on Google earth or OpenLayers or write my own thing to do it.
Once I have a decent data set, I'll also have to add some statistic gathering. The upcoming holiday time off might be worthwhile for cleaning up some of the code I have. Hmm...
By the way, Boies is still alive? I thought he'd been killed by a pack of rabid raccoons after that whole SCO debacle. Are we sure he's not actually rabid zombie raccoon Boies?
I fall like a brick, so it would be nice to be able to see just how much things I do on a jump affect my fall rate. I also do a lot of horizontal stuff -- tracking, wingsuiting, that sort of thing. The other day I dove out the door of the plane, held a steep dive for a 10-count and then leveled off and started tracking. I have a digital altimeter that tells me I was falling at 158 MPH at 9000 feet and 116 MPH at 6000 feet, but I really need more information on distance traveled and speeds at various points, to know how effective any particular technique is.
I think there's a GPS demo in the Android SDK. I just haven't been bothered with setting up a dev environment yet. It should be pretty easy to just log the points somewhere on the phone so that you can work with them later.
It's starting to feel like supersymmetry, though, where each successive observation seems to provide evidence against the hypothesis. There just hasn't been a particularly compelling competing hypothesis to explain what we're seeing.
People tend to think of science as absolute because it's kind of taught that way in school. We go over everything we have a solid understanding of and people don't get exposed to the edges where we're still trying to understand things very often. But there are really still a lot of things we don't understand about the world and universe we live in, and watching the scientific method at work can be confusing if you haven't been exposed to it a lot. I think scientists feel compelled to talk about these things as if they understand them more than they do, because, again, it's very hard to get a research grant to find the thing that you think has to be there but you don't know exactly what it is.
One of the things I do with Google Earth is install a GPS tracker on my cell phone and take it on a skydive. I use MyTracks to log my coordinates every second and use a little application I wrote to turn the MyTracks data into a KML file, detect where I deployed my canopy and drop a push-pin there and plot the jump on Google Earth so you can see the jump in 3D. MyTracks actually has an "Export to KML" option, but it doesn't handle altitude very well and just clamps your entire track to the ground. Apparently the developers didn't consider the "I'm 2.5 miles above the surface of the planet" use-case when they wrote the thing heh.
The cell phone isn't a great GPS tracker to use for this -- the GPS hardware in the Samsung Galaxy S5 I'm using now is actually almost usable. The S3 used to regularly lose 2/3rds of the points on my jump. There are custom skydiver GPS units available that have much higher accuracy, and they're used regularly in wingsuit competitions and stuff like that. It'd be really neat to plot an entire load of skydivers together on Google Earth and do a real-time replay of each one's position along their track during the jump. I could pull this off using the socket server method of putting KML into Google Earth and updating a new point for each wingsuit's location every second. It wouldn't even really be all that much work, but I don't really like how I'd have to do the design, and that's kept me from it.
I started digging around in the Gnu flex source code for fun recently. Even though it's pretty moldy and old and uses global variables all over the place while it's generating your scanner, I'd still rather use flex than anything else if I'm going to be parsing a complex file format. I'm looking at sprucing up its C++ classes a little bit. I know there are projects out there to do that already, but this is really more of an excuse to go digging around in its guts than anything else.