Mar 222011
 

I’ve set up a new domain today, w8fi.us, that I will use for shortened URLs. I had been planning on setting this up already but getting an invite into Bit.ly’s Pro beta, I felt compelled to act!

Mar 212011
 

With an empty house for the next couple of weeks I’ve taken to getting on the radio more. With my current situation I am restricted to indoor antennas and that itself creates a space restriction. The solution was to create a what amounts to an end-fed dipole using some RG-58 coax and stranded copper wire, both relatively random length.

The coax line is fed up the wall and taped up where the coax ends and stranded wire starts. From there the stranded wire is run along the length of the wall and taped up about 2 feet from the end. The end is then angled downward slightly, at say a 15 or 20 degree angle, and then taped again. This creates an inverted L configuration that’s oriented towards the South and while I can’t speak to why angling the end is effective, on 20 meters, I’m able to use a tuner to get about 1:1.3 to 1:1.7 on my SWR meter. Given that the antenna is indoors and fairly close to me I’m only putting out 10 watts, sometimes up to 15, on SSB with my Kenwood TS-50.

In order to get the most enjoyment out of my less than perfect solution I stick to PSK31 and seem to eek out 4 or 5 contacts a day. The furthest I’ve gone with this set up is Central Mexico but more typically I make it to the Southern states. Yesterday my waves landed in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. I was also able to make a 59 QSO to North Dakota which I was quite pleased about.

I also have an end-fed Zepp that’s made of zip cord which I tested in a similar configuration and to my surprise, it was actually harder to get it to tune, only getting 1:2.0 SWR at best. I think the key here is that in the EF dipole, the coax provides some shielding against various QRM from indoor devices. I’m no expert on the radiation patterns of antennas so any insight would be appreciated.

Some people get deeply saddened by their restrictions, always wishing they could be a ‘top dog’ and blast out 1kW of power. Me too. However, given the circumstances, and as hams often do, I make the best of the situation and do what I can. I’d even hazard to say I get a little more enjoyment making a QSO since they don’t come so easy for me. When the weather turns other cheek finally and offers a few nice days in a row I’ll set up on the deck outside and enjoy the free air and open space.

Until then, you can catch me on 20 meters in the evening, scouring the waterfall for your PSK31 signal.

Dec 112010
 

Cyber-Monday was upon us and I was doing my best to fend off the great deals flying around the Internet. I was doing a fantastic job until I saw the Lenovo X100e on sale for $400. I’ve been looking to replace my 7″ Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D tablet and the X100e seemed like the perfect machine to do that. It was known the 11.6″ notebook ate through the 6-cell battery in about 4 hours, and the AMD Neo would certainly keep your lap warm in the Winter. However, the Lifebook would get about 5 hours on its 6-cell and also got hot under heavy use. The considerably higher resolution screen and full-size keyboard were worth the trade-offs in my opinion.

Overall the product has the feel of quality you come to expect from the ThinkPad series. One big deal for me is the TrackPoint system, especially if I’m giving up my touchscreen capability. The keyboard is of a chicklet type, though I’m not sure why there is spacing between the keys. I would have taken a smaller form factor if that meant the keys would be right up against each other. Aside from smaller function keys, there’s also smaller Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, the rest are full size, including the two Shift keys.

In terms of system notification you’re only given a power light (backlighting the power button), a battery status, and a sleep/hibernate status. There’s no way to tell if your HDD is working or if you’re wirelessly connected, as you get with the T61. Some people have groaned about the D-SUB (VGA) port and that it should have been an HDMI, but I’m fine with it. All of my HD TVs have a D-SUB, and since this notebook was geared towards the business side of things, who typically find D-SUBs on projectors, not HDMI, it’s no surprise why it’s there.

Windows 7 was the only option available and it certainly held up to my expectations that it would run like a snail. The first order of business was to resize the main hard drive partition and get Xubuntu 10.10 installed. There are two other partitions in addition to the main Windows partition, a ‘boot’ and ‘restore’ partition. Having 3 primary partitions meant that I would have to first set up an Extended partition and inside there create those needed for Linux. The X100e has no disc drive but does boot from a USB stick, so that was my install media. The entire installation took about 1 hour, initial boot to reboot, and was considerably easier than previous Ubuntu-based installs.

And now begins the tedious task of getting the system to a place that I can do ruby development on, work some amateur stations using PSK31, check my mail, and generally use as an everyday device. In my next post I’ll detail the various packages and gems I had to install in order to get everything in a happy place.

Overall I’m quite pleased with the Lenovo X100e, even if it’s light on battery and heavy on heat. I have a feeling it will serve me quite well as a replacement of my tablet.