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.

Mar 112011
 

After installing Sphinx 1.10 on OSX Snow Leopard, I attempted to run the initial indexer and got the following error:

dyld: Library not loaded: libmysqlclient.16.dylib
Referenced from: /usr/local/bin/indexer
Reason: image not found
Trace/BPT trap

The fix was found after a little googling; just run this command:

sudo install_name_tool -change libmysqlclient.16.dylib /usr/local/mysql/lib/libmysqlclient.16.dylib /usr/local/bin/indexer

Take into account the location of your Sphinx install, but after this runs you should be all set.

Update
I also just discovered that you’ll probably have to run the same command to get search working as well.

Feb 242011
 

This year Wayne County will have 4 Skywarn training sessions, the first two in Garden City, the third in Livonia, and the last training in Trenton. Please see below for all the information. If you have any questions, please feel free to get a hold of me. If you live outside of Wayne County, please see the list at the NWS Outreach Website to locate a training session near you.

02/26/11 Saturday 10:00AM

Sponsored by Wayne County RACES and Garden City Emergency Management
The Maplewood Community Center
31735 Maplewood
Garden City, Michigan 48135
Located West of Merrimen Road.  (Maplewood is mid way between Ford & Warren roads)

03/26/11 Saturday 10:00AM

Sponsored by Wayne County RACES and Garden City Emergency Management
The Maplewood Community Center
31735 Maplewood
Garden City, Michigan 48135
Located West of Merrimen Road. (Maplewood is mid way between Ford & Warren roads)

04/11/11 Monday 7:00PM

Sponsored by Wayne County RACES and The Livonia Amateur Radio Club
Livonia Civic Center Library
32777 Five Mile Road, Livonia 48154
Located East of Farmington Road.

05/06/11 Friday 7:00PM

Sponsored by Wayne County RACES and The Motor City Amateur Radio Club
Westfield Center
2700 Westfield Rd.
Trenton, Michigan, 48183
Located north of West Rd. (Westfield road is between Allen Road and Fort Street, behind the Trenton Library)

Thanks to the National Weather Service, Wayne County RACES, Garden City Emergency Management, the Livonia Amateur Radio Club, and the Motor City Amateur Radio Club for helping to get our spotters trained!

Jan 232011
 

For some time now I’ve thought about and spoken of a new way for Skywarn nets to gather and report their information. Most NCOs (Net Control Operators) simply use a pencil and paper to take check-ins, reports and locations changes. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more reliable than a piece of lead, some paper, and a battery powered radio. After all, when all else fails… amateur radio!

Reliability is the strongest foundation a service to the public can have and the Skywarn program is top of the class in that respect. However, when building a house, you do not build a strong foundation and then precede to spend your days in the basement, unless of course that’s where your shack is! As such, I think it’s important that we try to augment our foundation with as many effective tools as possible so we can do what we’ve volunteered to do, save property and lives.

This new tool, what I’m calling the KWiXS Skywarn Reporter, will allow NCOs to log check-ins, reports, and location changes into an online interface that is capable of relaying that information to anyone else logged into the system. This could be emergency managers, NWS employees, other Skywarn members, or any other authorized person. The goal of the software is to create paths along which information can flow freely with high availability. Communities that are downwind of a storm system can get even more lead time by getting alerts of reports that have been entered into the system. There will not however be a method for real-time chatting, there’s NWSChat for that, or you can always use RF if it’s urgent.

One of the key features is integration of the data into a Google Maps interface. With GMaps a user will be able to quickly see reports, county conditions (green, yellow, or red), and the location of the storm using NEXRAD radar data. There’s also the possibility of integrating APRS data so spotter’s out in the field can have their location tracked. There are many other potential features, but that’s where I put the call out to all hams, skywarn spotters, emergency managers, and NWS employees. I want to know what else could be implemented to provide the most effective tool. It’s not likely everyone will be appeased, and there will most certainly be those who want to stick to the RF way of doing things, and that’s OK. This system will never be meant to replace what trained Skywarn spotters do, nor what ham radio does for Skywarn, it’s merely there to augment the system and improve upon our mission, saving property and lives.

I have this wonderful piece of software envisioned in my mind, but I wanted to share that vision, to allow it be modified and grown into something used not just by our Skywarn program (in Wayne County), but across the country. I welcome any suggestions or comments and will most certainly welcome any programming support. It has only taken a few paragraphs to describe how the system will work from a high level, but it’s actually quite complicated to make sure all the moving parts play nice together. The more help, the better the software!

You can post your comments, ideas, suggestions, complaints or any other thoughts to this blog post, or email me directly at w8fi [at] kritikal [dot] com.

Jan 142011
 

So after almost a whole day of banging my head on my desk, I’ve come to realize the error I was getting:


org.apache.solr.handler.dataimport.DataImportHandlerException: com.mysql.jdbc.CommunicationsException: Communications link failure due to underlying exception:

** BEGIN NESTED EXCEPTION **

java.io.EOFException

was related to the old version of the MySQL JDBC connector I was using, 5.0.8. It turns out it doesn’t recognize the netTimeoutForStreamingResults parameter, causing my executions to die a horrible death after 600 seconds, the default setting. Upgrading to the latest connector, 5.1.14, solved the problem and I’m happily importing my million records of data into Solr. Yay.

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.

Nov 092010
 

Saw someone on Twitter need this, so I whipped something up pretty quick. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.

You run it with:
ruby adif_to_sql.rb [ADIF_FILENAME] [MYSQL_TABLENAME]

You just specify the ADIF file and the name of the MySQL table name. The script creates an SQL file that can be imported directly into MySQL.

Get the script here: http://www.kritikal.com/ham/adif_to_sql.rb

Cheers!

Jul 012010
 

So I’ve always loved the idea of StackOverflow and other Q&A site clones. They are simple, to the point, and makes it very easy to get an answer to a burning question. I know there are plenty of amateur radio themed forums, but those are really designed for discussion, not really a quick Q&A.

But now, there is a site where you can ask any and all amateur related questions and hopefully get a quick answer: BaconFrying.com.

It’s just getting off the ground so there aren’t too many questions there now, but the hope is that more people use it as another resource to get help quick when working on a project, or settings up an antenna, or even help with getting their license. While these kinds of sites live or die on the fact that people want to post their question there, instead of through another medium, such as Twitter or the various forums out there, they more importantly rely on the fact that people actually get their questions answered.

It can sometimes be a ‘catch 22’: if there are no questions, there’s nothing to answer, and if there are no answers, then people will not post questions. I’m hoping I can lean on the 21-century amateur radio community to help jump start the site and get it moving along.

If you have any questions please post them there, even if you know the answer! There’s no harm in answering your own question, and in fact, tends to be the case with most hams who seek out the community through different avenues. Did you come across a new bit of information that helped you become a better amateur? Just post up the question or problem that it can help solve and then provide the answer.

As is the case with any website that is wholly dependent on user-generated content: the more people that use it, the better it gets!

I’m always open to comments and suggestions about how to make the site better, so please don’t hold back!

Thanks and hope to see your questions on BaconFrying.com!