May 122010
 

Another year has come and gone and mid-May is upon us once again, meaning only one thing: It’s time to give in to my EM addiction at the Dayton Hamvention.

The Crew Grows

This year will be the first time my brother Dave, KD8MZT, will be going and I’m pretty excited to see his face when we arrive. He’s been to several local swaps lately since getting his ticket but I don’t think he understands the sheer magnitude of Hamvention. Of course, this means the drive will be a little tight in the back but I don’t think either of us are going to mind much. As an added bonus, he will get his new vanity call, N8DAH, while we’re down there, so he’ll be due a new name badge.

Shenanigans on the Road

Every year I like to do something different while we trek along I-75 South for four and a half hours. This year will be no different and thanks to my father’s obsession with making his truck more connected than a EmComm command post, we’ll be rocking PSK31 on HF, along with several other digital modes and voice. Perhaps I’ll get my first mobile HF contact!

I suppose I’ll also be connected to the good ol’ Internet for chatting it up with others en route but I really do want to focus on the amateur radio aspect of this and stay away from the web, except of course when posting random tweets or pictures.

Hopefully the rest of the crew will not be too harsh as I try to get some video of the trip, starting bright and early at 4am.

Scavenger List

As with most years, I don’t have any ‘needs’ but certainly a lot of ‘well if I happen to see it for the right price’ items. Lots of magnets, perhaps a used mag-loop antenna, various memory cards, micro-drives, and maybe even a 6-meter radio that’s easy to use on digital. I never really go with anything in mind to get but always come back with a handful of things and a huge grin. I don’t think there’s a single ham who can say they don’t love digging through a box of ‘junk’ looking for great ‘stuff’.

Antenna-Helmet

Oh yeah, it’s back, and this time with twice the radiating power! Not only will I have my TH-F6A attached to the center antenna, but I’ll also have an antenna mounted on the helmet visor for APRS. Using my RadioShack HTX-420, an OpentTracker+ and Argent Data System GPS puck with power supplied by a 12 volt lead acid gel cell battery.

I’d like to see what it would take to trickle charge the battery using solar panels that will be mounted on the side of helmet. Just a little something to put together while I’m there winding down after each day. If I’m feeling very adventurous, I’ll set up my laptop with it so I can RX/TX messages too.

Tweetup!

Yep, I’m trying to get a bunch of people together, but that’s all I’m going to say since it’s a TWEETUP! If you want more info, follow my twitter @kritikal for more info. I suppose you could just watch the lifestream on the right hand side, but where’s the fun in that?

T-minus 4 hours!

I’ve compressed what I wanted to say but I should get some sleep before we venture out on the road.

73, safe travels, and see you there!
Andrew, K8DJK (soon to be W8FI)

Nov 302009
 

So the August issue of QST had an ignition switch timer that was very easy to build and implement. I thought this was perfect for my car so I didn’t have to worry about disconnecting my OpenTracker+ and Icom 228 from power when I didn’t want to use it. There was just one problem, there was no way to make it optional; sometimes I don’t want to use APRS.

First a note about the parts list. There is a 10k ohm resistor (R6) that is not there, but shown in the schematic and PCB (if you order one from Far Circuits like I did).

Now, onto the problem of making my APRS optional. After perusing the circuit, my father and I thought best to dremel away the trace between Q2 and ground. The only concern is that the transistor would not like floating but we’ll test that further once it’s finished. After drilling new holes for the switch between the transistor and ground, I put the components to the board and everything looked good.

The next step would be to put in a 6 terminal rail in a large project box so I could control up to 3 devices with the timer switch. Of course, everything has powerpoles on it so I can quickly dis/connect devices and radios.

Final installation should be on Thursday before our Extra class and I’ll post up some pics of my handy work on Friday.

May 022009
 

With less than two weeks left until the Dayton Hamvention, it’s time to think about what will be needed, what will be wanted, and what would be cool. Aside from last year’s insanity of doing the whole thing in one day, we’ll have the 3 full days at the swap/convention on top of having a day prior to check out the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum. I’ve not been there since I was small when my father won the major prize at Dayton, maybe returning will bring good luck!

This year I retired the tried and true, but tired, RadioShack HTX-420. It was a great first radio and will always be a great back up. I’ve acquired a nice set of accessories for it including a TinyTrak II and GPS for it. I’ve longed for the radio my father and his freinds all use, so in place of the old HT, I will be armed with my new Kenwood TH-F6A. I’ll be needing a headset for it, something of decent quality, rather than an MFJ special, hi hi.

The last thing needed this time over last year has already been given since we’ll be spending 4 days down in Dayton, rather than the one I was allowed to have (my XYL was 7 months pregnant). It sure will be nice to document our travels, our adventures, and our return, without that rush to get back in just one day. I can say the drive back last year was not fun near the end at 3am.

I’ll also be streaming live video of the trip down and up via ChaserTV for those people who just can’t get enough of someone driving through Ohio. On top of that video, I’ll be recording random videos and taking pictures, in sort of a documentary form. I’m thinking something in the way of how I came into ham radio (not that I had a choice with a father and grandfather both being hams) and where it has taken me. I’m working with someone to help on the editing and should have a source for release soon.

Aside from the usual gear, we’ll be using APRS all the way down/up so we can be followed for eyes in chairs and receive messages for when my 3G service goes out. I’ll be active in several chats, both IRC and XMPP and be fully online when coverage allows. I’ll be updating my Twitter with live photos and updates and if anything needs anything, just hit me up there and I’ll keep an eye out.

As with the past few years, I’m hunting for a cheap tablet computer. Perhaps a Fujitsu Stylistic or something similar to have float around the house for quick weather checks and email. I’d also love to tie in some home automation and remote control for the random electronics. As I previously mentioned, I’ll be looking for a good headset for my HT so I can go hands free while I’m there as well as when I’m storm chasing.

Speaking of storm chasing, it might not hurt to get two webcams for a good price. I’d still love to try out the “3D storm chasing” if it didn’t cost that much. Perhaps a window mount for my Inspeed anemometer too, or just another one all together, we’ll see how the pocket of cash holds out!

Of course, I’ll be sure to save enough to get my years worth of 2600 from the van and a few cups of the wheat beer they serve out of the trailer near the bar at the corner of the arena.

It will be fun to again see people you only see in Dayton, a chance to quick up real quick and ask about any great deals. I’ll no doubt pick up some small pieces of this or that while I’m there, just to haggle, and hey, I’m a General now so I’ll be looking at a whole new kind of amateur use.

We’ll see you down there!

Mar 252009
 

Yesterday I tested out the key addition to my storm chasing arsenal, streaming video.

ChaserTV.com is my new home for streaming all of my storm chases this year. I chose them not only because I favor their choice in technology, Flash Media Encoder with a cloud-based infrastructure, but because of their open support for the chaser. Other services require non-compete and exclusivity agreements, something I’m not really about. Might work for some people, but I’m just a leasurely chaser who isn’t out to make a buck, but won’t mind if a few float my way.

The primary concern was my switch last year from Sprint to AT&T for cellular serivce. I was able to use Sprint’s EVDO Rev.A last year to pull down radar data without a problem, even while chatting it up amongst other chasers. There’s no doubt the EVDO blows the socks off of 3G (they’re both technically 3G but I’ll just use their industry designation) in terms of download, but can be fairly equal in the upload. For downloading, AT&T is quite behind but so long as I can get the data I need, when I need it, then I’ve not much to complain about.

So with my father, grandfather, and several other chasers/watchers, watching, I set out to stream my drive home from work. The first issue was that I failed to set my bitrate… 3G doesn’t like it when you try to upload at 650kbps apparently. After pulling over and going down to 100kbps I was able to stream with little to no stuttering or stalling. Success!

The next step is going to be testing the uploading of video while downloading radar content and maintaining chat via SpotterChat. Perhaps I’ll give that a go this weekend on my trip up to the Nation Weather Service for a SkyWarn meeting.

The one problem that presented itself was the lack of SpotterNetwork updates. While I did have the client open, and was even able to manually send an update, it failed to send automatic regular updates of my position. The client looks kind of janky in my opinion, like something you’d see the AOL skriptkiddies in the mid 90s using. I toy with thoughts of writing my own client in Ruby and Shoes, perhaps if the Earth’s rotation slows and we get some more hours in a day.

This past weekend I installed two NMO mounts into my trunk lid and currently have a 1/4 wave and 5/8 wave dual band antennas. One will be used for my Kenwood TM-733A while the other for APRS and listening to other frequencies. Eventually I’ll have two 1/4 wave dual-band antennas on there so the wind won’t bother the thin aluminum they used for the trunk lid.

Once the APRS is up and running full time in my vehicle I’ll not have to worry about sending SpotterNetwork updates directly as it will just pick up my APRS updates. I’m looking at ways to integrate SpotterNetwork, APRS, and Twitter and I’m currently working on the Twitter implementation of that.

The last peice to all of this is getting my wife involved. Next month I’ll be taking her with me to the SkyWarn training in Garden City so she can get familiar with the cloud structures, radar signatures, and what it’s all about. This is also so she won’t be as clueless should I be gone on a chase when severe weather heads for the area. After that I’ll teach her some basics on radar imagery so she can help navigate when we go out on a few chases this year. I’m really excited to bring her along so she can see that I’m not actually driving INTO the tornado, as has been previously thought.