Archive for August, 2008

The Landlady is a Ninja

August 30th, 2008
Bad Ninja

Bad Ninja

I have a growing suspicion that the landlady is a ninja, except not a very good one. We never see her; but, we always see her stuff left around our place.

» Read more: The Landlady is a Ninja

Station Automation, Part 1.75

August 26th, 2008

Last night, I replaced a 2N3906 in the decoder/logic box that I apparently destroyed while testing the relays.  I’m pretty proud of my troubleshooting on that one…narrowed it down to the transistor in about two minutes.  Since W9RE had been driving the relays with another set of relays, he didn’t bother to put back-EMF diodes across the coils.  I think that should help protect my precious (by that I mean pain-in-the-butt-to-replace) transistors.  Both PIEXX boards are talking to the decoder correctly.  I just need to build some coax jumpers, install the diodes, and tidy-up the shack.
» Read more: Station Automation, Part 1.75


August 24th, 2008


Last night after cleaning the garage, we went out to a chain steakhouse (we almost never go anywhere like this) because we were hungry and didn’t want to cook. As we were leaving, we were discussing how the food was good, but it really just wasn’t that fabulous.  I guess you’ve grown-up when you can cook better for yourself than someone else can…

» Read more: Food

Garage Cleaning

August 23rd, 2008
Clean garage

Clean garage

We cleaned the garage today.  That was a good idea.  Fortunately, the landlady was here and we convinced her to part with some of the junk she inherited when she bought the place 3.5 years ago.  If only she’d dump that fridge…  Part of the impetus for the cleaning is the arrival of our new duplex neighbor tomorrow.  Hopefully she’s cool.

» Read more: Garage Cleaning

Rain + Public Transit Delay = Photography

August 21st, 2008
4 cheap

4 cheap

This morning, Sarah offered to take me to work when I told her I was riding the bus.  I declined, telling her that I was going to the Illini Union to work.  (I ended up watching Olympic womens’ soccer and working, but this is an aside.) “You must like riding the bus more than I do, ” she said.  I don’t mind riding the bus most of the time.  Most of the time, that is.  The morning commute was smooth.  I didn’t have to wait long for the bus and it whisked me to the doorstep of my office for the day, gratis.

Around 1:00, I got hungry and decided to go home for lunch and finishing my day’s work.   The bus comes at 1:21, according to the schedule.  I came out at 1:15.  Today is freshman move-in day; so, kids and their parents are everywhere.  Hence, traffic is a nightmare around campus.  I was not disappointed, the StopWatch marquee was displaying a 35-minute wait.  After I’d been standing there for a few minutes, it started to rain.  Then, it started to downpour.  Knowing that the StopWatch often gives you only 5-10 minutes warning when the 13 Silver line is coming, I elected to pull on my Gore-Tex and wait out the rain outside.  Gore-Tex is brilliant, except if you aren’t completely sealed in it.  After getting thoroughly drenched from the waist down, I went back into the Union hoping the A/C would dry me out a little bit.  It did.

The 35-minute wait came and went and the StopWatch reported “DUE” next to 13 Silver for a while before changing again to 15 minutes.  Gah!  It had stopped raining; so, I jumped at the opportunity to take some pictures of interesting people.  No sooner had I pulled out my camera than the gentleman in the photo above arrived at the bus stop.  He paced around nervously and it was hard to catch him facing me.  But, I was rewarded with an OK shot from the hip.  Nevermind that I’d accidentally left the sensor on ISO 1600 from last night.  Ooops.  At least it was fast.

So, I’m a little annoyed with MTD that the StopWatch can’t provide more accurate information.  I would have walked home had I known it was going to take an hour to ride the bus.  But, on the other hand, it was good to be out and about…

» Read more: Rain + Public Transit Delay = Photography

Station Automation, Part 1.5

August 18th, 2008

Over the weekend, I finished populating the KK1L controller board. Due to some boneheadedness, I managed to destroy two of the CMOS ICs. I have a large cache of 74xx and 74HCxx series parts, but no 4000 series. So, I ordered some more from Mouser. Turns out that NO9Z needed some more of them, too. At least the we had the foresight to socket the ICs. Half of the board works since the parts I destroyed were in the radio B circuit. Thank goodness for small favors.

The next problem was the PIEXX boards in the TS-930S’s. Chris at PIEXX had sent me the band data output information many moons ago. However, that’s the one e-mail account I apparently failed to archive over the past decade. Ooops. I filed a comment through the PIEXX website; but, I still haven’t heard anything. I also inquired on the TS-930S and SMC e-mail reflectors with no success. Armed with a volt-meter and a little knowledge, I was able to deduce the following on J19 (8P8C/RJ-45):

Pin Function
1 Band Data D (MSB)
2 +5V
3 Band Data C
5 Band Data B
6 ?
7 Band Data A (LSB)
8 ?

The band data are in the standard 4-bit Yaesu format enumerated beginning with 0001 on 160 meters.

Sarah was working on her Adirondack chair project on the front porch on Sunday afternoon; so, I elected to join her outside and build a 10/15-meter fan dipole. On 10/15 and 80/160, I’m adding a second relay box to select the correct W3NQN filter but share the antennas. Given the amount of activity on 10 and 15 right now and my preference toward domestic contests from home, this is an acceptable move. Ordinarily, I would like to have 80 and 160 separate; but, the geometry of our lot just won’t permit it without using a vertical on 80. Even when I stapled radials in the lawn, the man who cuts the grass managed to pull two of them up. Given that my primary foci are SS and the Sprints, the ability to be on both 80 and 160 is just not that important.

The fan dipole is coarsely tuned-up and ready to be installed. I have some ideas on where to put it; but, I haven’t made it up into the tree, yet.

» Read more: Station Automation, Part 1.5

Station Automation, Part 1

August 14th, 2008
Station Automation

Station Automation

As a part of my long-term station plan, I wanted automatic band switching.  So, when W9RE posted to the SMC reflector that he was selling his relay matrix, I jumped at the opportunity.  NO9Z and I had previously gathered the parts to build KK1L’s 2×6 system.  However, our friend who made the board was not able to load the Gerber drill file that KK1L had provided.  NO9Z reamed his holes by hand.  I wasn’t so patient; so, the W9RE box was a great opportunity.  That liberated about two dozen nice American Zettler relays, though.  These will be great for building other components in my switching system.

Sarah suggested this morning that maybe I should take it easy today since I looked beat.  So, I started populating the KK1L controller board so I can use it to drive the W9RE switches.  One of the greatest purchases I’ve made since becoming a ham has been my Weller WES51 temperature-controlled solder iron.  I breezed through several hundred joints this afternoon no problem.  In the last month, I’ve used two different loaner solder irons while on the road, both of which cost less than $10 and it shows.  There’s nothing like having a well-cared-for tool that’s perfect for the job.

I’m missing a few parts.  So, a trip to RadioShack is in order in the next few days.  But, I hope to have this running in time for the Sprint.  I have a lot of coax jumpers to make, which implies that I will be buying some connectors.  I have hobbies burning my cash flow from every direction these days…  I suppose I should try get one of the hobbies to start paying for itself.

» Read more: Station Automation, Part 1


August 14th, 2008


Last year we collected 40-something tomatoes from our six plants.  We were so proud of our little collection when we visited my aunt in Iowa with them.  We ended up canning five 5-gallon buckets full of tomatoes with her.  She’s on sabbatical this year; so, I don’t think we’re going to impinge on her.  But, we have a lot more tomatoes this year and we need to come up with something to do with them.  I think maybe I’ll make some salsa soon since we have a variety of peppers.  But, at some point, we’ll need to can them.

We picked about a dozen tomatoes last night.  The squirrels have probably eaten or spoiled half again that many.  It is pretty amazing that no matter where you live, you can almost always grow tomatoes.

» Read more: Tomatoes

Welcome to the new site

August 12th, 2008

I’ve decided to redo the site again. I haven’t managed to get my old WordPress blog posts imported into Joomla, yet. But, that will come. I have several options in that regard. Joomla is an excellent CMS as far as customization and ease-of-use. However, it’s not nearly as semantic-friendly as WordPress, which may prove to be its downfall for me. But, for now, that’s what I’m using. I plan to migrate the old articles from the original site into the Joomla format over time. I will symlink them to the old URL’s for bookmarks and search engines. Please bear with me as I rebuild…
» Read more: Welcome to the new site