Jun 222013

Having recently sold my Yaesu FT-817ND and moved to a new QTH that did not have any backyard trees, burning the ether seemed like something I’d have to wait for. However, my father graciously let me borrow his Kenwood TS-140S and the matching auto-tuner.

With no trees I used some pipe my father also let me borrow to get something up 20 feet or so. My father also gave me an antenna that work work up to 40 meters but was quite heavy. I was also forbidden from modifying this antenna so I was left to hack one of my own together.

All day today, despite the horrid heat and humidity, later dogged by thunderstorms rumbling to the South, I tried out several antenna designs. Being that the pole was steel, I learned a valuable lesson in inductance and how it affects an antenna. I finally settled on a type of end-fed Zepp that uses coax to the top of the pipe and an 80 meter trapped end from an antenna I used at my former QTH.

So far I’ve been able to tune to 80 and 40 meters, though I’m going to have to rely heavily on the tuner to get 20 meters tomorrow. When day breaks, I may hook up a different end and try to get the 20 and 10 meter bands.

While I am using commercial power, giving me a ‘D’ class, I feel this Field Day is best going to be happy making QSOs with a quick, and fairly impromptu, setup that got me on the air.

I’m going to be operating SSB 40 and 80 meters, perhaps more depending on the auto-tuner, with a ‘1D’ class. I hope to get a few contacts and confirm the setup that I’ve worked on today.

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.

Sep 282009

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chris Matthieu, N7ICE, for HamBrief #47. We talk about my involvement with Wayne County’s Skywarn program, emergency communications, and other assorted rag chewing.

Thank again to Chris for the opportunity to talk about one of my hobbies!

You can find more information at:

Central Region NOAA Ham Radio Page

Sep 252009

Yesterday I started a 14-week class to upgrade my ham ticket to Extra Class. I’m fairly anxious to learn all the fun stuff and even have the chance to help my dad! He too is taking the class and while I’m at least 20 years everyone’s junior, I feel like I’m back in high school again.

We’re at what used to be an old Jr. High School, which is now an adult education and autistic center. Each room is stocked with the old desks of my elementary school (which is actually just across the football field and the street) and even came with the old classroomy smell of chalk and books.

It’s funny how when I reflect about the time great time I had in school, I repeatedly think of how nowadays I’m so damn interested in the things I cared nothing for (other than getting a passing grade). It’s a good thing I feel like I jipped myself out of only a few years of learning and not half my life. Perhaps it’s time to really think about night class. I’ve tried the online learning, but for someone who sits in front of a computer for countless hours at a day, a plastic chair and a desk/table might not be such a bad change.

But what? Philosophy? (Solar/Astro/Theoretical)-Physics? Business? Archeology? Electrical Engineering? So many choices. It’s like I’m a kid again, but this time with a hunger for knowledge. These days I lean towards Philosophy if I was to go for purely selfish reasons, but I know Business is probably the way to go.

With life hopefully slowing with what seems like the days of autumn, I’ll bring a focus back into learning and education. With any luck and lots of hope, my son will appreciate what I had such high disregard for growing up.

Jul 142009

“Introducing Patent Pending Search 2.0” by RedZ Revolution Search

They seek to provide results by website snapshots to speed up your access to accurate results. Do they find it or put me to sleep?

“…most people do not have the time to patience to read through page after page of text based listings.”

That’s why the real goal should be giving us the most relevant results first. While I see that the company is trying to move the decision making more towards the human mind, you can not get around the fact that human thinking is linear.

“The Web sites are the results instead of plain ordinary text, allowing you to sift through massive data quickly.”

A computer is able to produce and cycle imagery faster that our mind can comprehend, at least that’s the common understanding. It’s therefore our own mind creates a bottleneck in the flow of information and decision making, not the method of display in my opinion.

It seems from information provided on their site, that RedZ is focused on presenting the data in a visual way, rather than a textual format. So what’s new? Seems like a gimmick and even potential advertisers on the WebHostingTalk forum are not buying it either.

Several site statistic sources are putting their daily visitors in the tens of thousands, so you’d have to rely on their network to provide good numbers for your money. They also don’t charge of pay-per-click so as to avoid the chance of fraud, another key component of their pitch.

I’m not impressed with what they are looking to provide, especially when there is already quite a bit of thought about how a website’s design affects the human mind and decision making. I don’t want that to have an effect on mine, and I like my results to be normalized; it’s one less thing to worry about.

For me, RedZzzz…

How I got here:

I was brought to them by a tweet by @suedecrush.