Tag Archives: tech & gagets

Digital Books

I have one of the first edition Kindles that I’ve had since last year. Previously I was using the Sony Reader and enjoyed using it immensely. The Kindle offers the exact same reading experience but with a larger selection of titles to choose from. Jeff Davis, KE9V of Signal and Noise, has previously mentioned The Radio Boys – the title of a series of juvenile fiction books published in the 1920s. Believe it or not, many of their titles are available for the Kindle. I read one and it was pretty entertaining. Another recent find in the Kindle Store was the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. That’s pretty amazing as the Tolkien books have long resisted being available in digital format. As I’ve said above, I enjoy reading books on the Kindle and it is a huge space saver – but it does not work for me when I am using textbooks. I have found that when I am using a textbook, I need to physically make marks (highlights, underlining, stars, etc.) as well as notes in the margin – it helps me learn the material. Many of the eReaders allow you to make digital annotations… but that is not same (at least for me).

Return of the ARSIB

It’s time to dust off the Amateur Radio Station In a Box (ARSIB) and get it ready for field day.
Back in 2006 I was inspired by other hams who had put together portable stations that were built inside waterproof containers, capable of multimode (phone, CW, digital) HF, VHF, or UHF operation, easily powered by 110v/220v AC or a 12v source, able to carry with one hand, and ready for immediate operation with minimal setup.
My prototype was the ARSIB which I used on several occasions.

The ARSIB was based around my FT-817 to provide complete flexibility of a minimalist operation on AA batteries if need be. For normal operations, the 100W Tokyo HyPower amplifier gets me were I need to be. I had a lot of fun with the ARSIB using it during an RV DXpedition and for a lighthouse activation.
I now want to take the ARSIB to the next level – fine tune the design a bit. In searching around I have found several sources of inspiration:

  • Notes on building a portable self-powered communications station suitable for RACES, ARES, remote station, or general QRP use
  • Second Generation EmComm Station
  • KA5CVH Portable

    For my second generation ARSIB, I would like to improve the inner shelving structure supporting the radio equipment. Another goal of mine is not to put any holes in the waterproof container, which has limited some of my arrangements inside the box. I also want all the equipment to be able to travel well, without worry of damage. I also need to clean up the wiring; power, audio, and antenna. Some more ascetically pleasing, but functional.

    I think the Dell Mini will serve as the perfect companion for the eARSIB.

    Ultimately I hope to use the eARSIB (“e” is for enhanced) for Field Day 2009. The plan now is to link with KD6EUG, Larry, up in the Sierra Nevada’s for Field Day. In addition to participating in the event, we will string up an antenna or two for his cabin/shack… and maybe even get an APRS weather station operational as well.

    Now it is time to make it happen!

  • Back in the saddle

    I -finally- got my HF rig working here at the Kansas QTH.

    Since arriving here back in July, I’ve been super busy. School (the Army’s Command & General Staff College (CGSC)) kicked in at the beginning of August. The last formal schooling I had was eight years ago – so I was a bit rusty at getting into the swing of things (i.e. reading, reading… and more reading). I’m also taking a complementarity master’s degree program in International Relations through Webster University (two nights a week). The good news is I was able to talk the XYL into taking the master’s courses with me. The bad news is that sometimes the master’s stuff chews up more time than my school work for CGSC.

    CGSC can be intense. September was packed with wall-to-wall learning, usually from 0830 to at least 1530. The schedule is starting to lighten up a bit.

    Today I was able catch my breath a bit… out of class at 1130. The sun was shining, a beautiful day. I had some antenna maintenance to do. A little bit of time on the roof and the majority of my HF problems were fixed. I’m now up on HF, except for 80M. I think a little work on my counterpoise will fix that.

    Back in the basement (aka The Scud Bunker) I hooked up my Icom IC-7000 to the new and improved HF antenna – bingo… all the problems I was experiencing in the past were gone. A QSO with KC2PBX, Pierre on Long Island, NY on 20M and then TI8II from Costa Rica on 17M, later with Ray, W1RAA from Tampa, FL. It felt good having some HF QSOs. I did a little more work with my station setup; hooking up the RIGtalk and RIGblaster Plug&Play. There’s more work to do and I should have time later in the week.

    Other news:
    - I’m switching from Windows to Ubuntu Linux. I WILL NOT UPGRADE FROM XP TO VISTA. Vista is a tool of the devil and I will have no part of it. My Toshiba laptop has been dual boot between XP and Ubuntu for a while, but had rarely been using the Ubuntu. I ordered a Dell Mini 9 (very tiny netbook) to help with school (writing papers in the library rather than goofing off in the Scud Bunker). The Dell Mini is coming with Ubuntu pre-loaded. Sweet. The next step will be setting up one of my towers as an Ubuntu server. Goodbye Microsoft.
    - I’ve gone Kindle. Both the XYL and myself have the Amazon Kindle. I like it a lot better than my Sony eBook. Getting the Washington Post first thing every morning is great. The battery life is a little to be desired. The best part is that I can read KE9V’s blog right on my Kindle.

    Ok – back to the books. I will get better at making frequent updates here.

    HELLO

    10 REM THIS IS A PROGRAM
    20 PRINT “HELLO”
    30 END

    Great post from Richard on his 30th anniversary of working with computers. Looking at the code above brought back many memories.

    My first computer was an Apple ][. I started out with a cassette tape player to load programs. Soon I got one, then two disk drives. The 300 baud acoustic cup modem. The 1200 baud Hayes modem. RAM upgrade to 48k(?).

    I really enjoyed exploring BBSs. Growing up in the 408 area code (the home of Silicon Valley) allowed me to connect mostly to local boards. However, their was one in Santa Cruz (called Moria?) that I used to call regularly until the phone bill arrived and was told to restrict my modem exploration to local calls only. I remember with the 300 baud modem I could read the text as fast as it came across the screen. The jump to 1200 baud seemed incredible. This was still before file uploads/downloads. Software was exchanged, but it was via 5.25" floppy disks. We used a hole punch to clip a hole on the left side of the floppy to enable the reverse side to be usable. I went to one of the early Apple conventions at the Moscony Center in San Francisco. I learned how to do simple programs in BASIC. For that I have to thank Ms. Watanabe - she was a teacher at Wilson Elementary in Cupertino and taught a weekly course that I attended. There was a game I used to love to play... kind of a Dungeons and Dragons type game where there was a 2-dimensional maze that you explored. The goal (if I remember) was to find the treasure before the dragon got you.

    When I get a chance to go back to Sunnyvale to visit family, two places I always have to go are the Ham Radio Outlet store and Fry's Electronics. On display at Fry's, amongst the aisles of stuff, is an old Apple ][. I enjoy the memories that the sight of the beige box brings.

    Items of interest

    Interesting post on W2LJ’s blog about his PDA. I have an assortment of PDAs:

    - Palm Pilot Pro that I got an upgrade kit for to make it a Palm III (new chip along with IR sync capability)

    - Palm IIIxe which I bought on eBay. It works well except that it eats up batteries even when it is turned off. I have used this PDA with my Kenwood TH-D7 to do mobile 2m packet and PocketAPRS.

    - Palm m130. This was the first PDA I had that allowed you to use an SD card. I have used this to program my TinyTrack APRS device.

    - Palm Tungsten 3 (or T3). First PDA with wireless connectivity, in this case Bluetooth. Also has a slot for an SD card. I used this PDA for mobile logging, mainly taking advantage of the voice recording function… I’d have a mobile QSO, pick up the Palm T3 and record a voice memo of the time, freq, callsign, and any other significant info. At a later point I used that to update my primary log.

    - Some variant of an HP PDA that has WiFi and an SD card slot.

    Also have an assortment of keyboards, cameras, and other doo-dads that go with these.

    I have the Palm T3 with me now… I’m guessing it needs to be charged.

    K3OQ has a post about his upcoming trip to the Outer Banks. He also plans to activate The Bodie Island Lighthouse (USA-067). I had the opportunity to activate that light back in June of 2006. Beautiful area out there – very relaxing. One of the highlights of any hams visit to the Outer Banks is using the Outer Banks Repeater Association’s 2m and 70cm repeaters. I had a few great exchanges with Jack, W2EHD who lives in the area year around. The repeater system also allowed me to stay in contact with the XYL while I was off activating lighthouses.

    N9IK’s Radio Blog has a new post about his completion of the Rock-Mite 40 transceiver kit. He’s got some great pics of his work. I hope to develop my building skills to that level. Very nice work. I look forward to hearing about the contacts he makes with it.

    K9ZW tries to solve the age old question of the best way to organize QSL cards with his latest post. I’m curious to see how others keep their cards organized. I don’t have a ton of cards yet, but I would like a solid method of keeping my cards organized that will last for years and allow me to access them as needed.

    As always – I enjoy reading your blogs. It keeps my interest in amateur radio strong even if I don’t get on the air as often as I’d like.

    Monday ham radio

    I made the trip over to Ft. Story this morning to activate the Old & New Cape Henry Lighthouses (USA 122 and USA 121). I wanted to accomplish a couple things:
    (1) activate the lighthouses. I’ve activated them in the past with limited success and wanted to give ARLHS members a chance to earn the USAARS Lighthouse award.
    (2) test out my mobile setup using my different antennas.
    (3) attempt to use a logging program on my Palm Pilot.

    I ended up having five contacts – all on 40M even though the noise level was pretty high. I called CQ on 20M for quite some time but didn’t get any takers. I think I had two or three ARLHS folks qualify for the USAARS award. For the antennas, I started off with a trio of Hustler coils. The antenna went up quick on the 54″ mast and I had already tuned them to be a good match for the ARLHS calling freqs. I then switched to the Hamstick-like Workman antennas, first for 40M then 20M. No real difference in results. I’m going to stick with the Workman Hamsticks when I’m actually mobile and use the Hustler coils when operating from a fixed site. Using the Palm Pilot for logging is not easy. Adding headphones with a boom mike might help. Using the Palm Pilot takes two hands so it requires setting down the handmike, inconvenient for fast paced operation.

    Back at the home QTH I rolled up on 20M CW and got an answer to a CQ from DL4SEW, Stefan in Stuttgart. There was a lot of fading but I was able to get most of what he sent. This was my first QSO with Germany and my second with Europe.

    Back in the mobile and heading to Fort Monroe, I answered a CQ on 20M from YU1XA in Serbia. He gave me a 59 plus and was surprised I was mobile. It is just pretty cool talking to Serbia while driving down the road.

    APRS in the Toyota Tundra

    I’ve played around with APRS in the Toyota Tundra before. Now I’m upgrading the setup a bit. Instead of using the ICOM IC-T81A I switched to the Kenwood TH-D7A(G). To bump up the 5 watt output, I tossed in a Mirage 30 watt amp that I’ve had sitting on the shelf for the last five years. I’m still using my Garmin’s eTrex Vista, but now have the combo data/power cable. No longer do I need to worry about swapping out the 2x AA batteries.

    Tomorrow I’m going to try to integrate one of my old Palm Pilots (Palm m125) to run Pocket APRS.

    I also have to do some massaging with all the cables.

    Go here to track me while mobile.

    Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

    This is the first book I’m reading on my Sony Reader. I’m not really sure how I ended up with this book… I was noodling through Sony’s Connect digital bookstore and before I knew it, I’d downloaded the book. The author, Chuck Klosterman, is brilliantly insightful and a pleasure to read. The book consists of a dozen or so essays on Gen X culture and life in general. His writing style reminds me of a long, lost friend Scott Petri… witty, intellectual, and diabolically hilarious.

    More on the Sony Reader: I like it! Weight is nice. Size is comfortable. Best of all is the readability of the eInk…. it is almost like reading off of paper. I’ve loaded up a total of 70 some odd books to include two additional Klosterman novels. When I find an author I like, I tend to want to read all they’ve written: Nick Hornsby, Neal Stephenson, Bill Bryson…. and my maddening addiction to Rick Steves travel guides.