Archive for the ‘site’ category

Still Alive

January 1st, 2014

Despite the lack of activity on the blog, I’m still alive and QRV on the radio.  The blog had to wait.  Here are some recent activities around K8GU:

  • We moved from our 50’x100′ “city” (WM3O told me it was “suburban” because I couldn’t walk to an Asian grocery) lot to a nice “suburban” (semi-rural) lot of just over an acre in October 2013.
  • In order to work the November DXpeditions and contests, I hastily erected the hexagonal beam on surplus fiberglass poles, as well as the 80-m vertical and a 40-m dipole.  Also, put up several Beverages (yay!!!).  The hex has survived some modest wind gusts, which surprises the heck out of me.  I thought it would have been on the ground by now.
  • Managed to work K9W, T32RC, and T33A on 80m (as well as other bands), which made me happy.  Did not manage to work Z81X (on 80m) through the EU.
  • Put in a nice 19-hr effort in CQ WW CW, SOAB-HP “CLASSIC” (one radio, no spotting), about 1.5M.  It’s nice when WW is before Thanksgiving.
  • Repaired a number TS-930Ses for people.  I think mine will be on the bench soon since the sensitivity appears to be shot.

I’ve never been into making New Years’ resolutions, but some projects are in order for the next few months:

  • More TS-930Ses.  I have one still to fix in my queue, plus mine.
  • Keep refreshing LoTW until the 99 DXCC I presently have confirmed on 80m rolls over so I can apply for 5BDXCC.  I have cards for even more on 80m, but I’d rather do it all on LoTW.
  • Getting some VHF antennas up.
  • Editing my junquebox and ham equipment holdings, mostly parts.  Anybody need some big air inductors and variable capacitors?  6-el 220 beam?
  • Getting on 160 and 30 meters, better antenna for 40.
  • Working FT5ZM on at least one band/mode.
  • Re-installing antenna switching hardware.  Right now I have to run across the basement to move coax.
  • And, a special project that you’ve probably heard about but do not yet realize…details to follow.

So, Happy New Year and I hope your 2014 holds as much interesting and promising to do as mine does!

The Spam Report

January 8th, 2012

First of all, Happy New Year, loyal readers.  I have been exhorted by several enthusiasts of the blog to write more.  The months of November and December are busy around the Miller household with the CQ WWs, ARRL Sweepstakes, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and an annual professional conference on the West Coast between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, this is a drought time of year for writing.  A number of projects around the station have been started or completed and those will be written up as time allows.  Travel and potential DX operation is on the horizon, etc, etc.  However, today’s topic is WordPress comment spam.

I hadn’t checked the moderation queue on the blog comments for about six weeks until recently.  There were some 1500 comments pending.  Exactly two of them were from real commenters.  (Thanks, by the way!)  I could subscribe to a service (like Akismet) to stem the flow of spam, but I’m a cheapskate and skimming the spam is a bit like reading the police blotter in your local newspaper—a guilty pleasure.

The Internet democratizes the sale of nearly everything, legal or not, by providing a low-cost storefront for a business that can be based anywhere in the world, plus  (semi-)anonymous payment.  This is great for obtaining otherwise unobtanium surplus electronics and parts.  But, it’s also great for anyone selling anything else that is high-risk (for vendor or purchaser) or low-volume in a standard retail setting.  The difficulty for everyone is getting your business noticed.  Enter search-engine optimization (SEO):  techniques that game search engine algorithms to increase your visibility in a search.  Google’s PageRank, for example considers the number of links to a site as a measure of its popularity.  So, blasting every blog’s comment boxes with links to your site is a brute-force way to game that system (except the smart engineers at Google have weighted PageRank with the “quality” of the linking page and a whole host of other trade-secrets).  Some SEO schemes appear also to develop trees of “link farms” to improve “quality.”  But, this is just an arm-chair assessment.

Anyhow, the upshot is that there are a lot of keywords and links embedded in SEO spam.  The keywords generally reflect what’s offered for sale and they seem to reflect typical black and gray market goods—counterfeit designer clothing (Ugg boots are the informal favorite in my spam tin, with sports jerseys a distant second), pornography, and dubious medical products and home remedies (“tattoo removal creams” was a recent example).   Today, the bit bucket found a dozen or so messages such as these:

All point to the same site and contain keywords about amateur radio topics (except the SEO one at top).  So, I can infer that one of several things happened:  1. The site owner’s site got hacked and the SEO scumbags wove their material into it to make the SEO look somehow more “legitimate.”   2. The site owner acted (paid…*shudder*) on one of those spam e-mails every domain owner receives that offer to “increase traffic to your site.”  3.  The site owner is an SEO scumbag himself.

I’m leaning toward explanation #2, since the site itself makes him sound like the Homer Simpson line, “Oh, they have the Internet on computers now?!”  Whatever the case, this is inappropriate behavior and I refuse to mention the site owner by name, callsign, or link, lest the action be successful.  It’s the equivalent of splattering up and down the band on SSB when running high power to a good antenna.  You’re a lid.

Ok, I feel better now.

New Arrival

July 10th, 2011

Early Monday morning, the day after Field Day, we welcomed our son Evan into the family.  We were so right to stay home!  As good friends have opined “your life will change…for the better.”  So far, I would tend to agree.  The blog will receive (even more) infrequent updates, K8GU may be a little less active on the air, and there will be fewer homebrew projects over the next few weeks and months.  A few months ago after building some UHF antennas when I pinched the palm of my hand with a pair of pliers, I watched the blood blister heal and commented to Sarah on how amazing it was for several days straight.  “You think that’s amazing?  Well, I’m growing new life inside of me.”  We laughed, but it’s very true.  Every day is something new:  grasping, gazing, grunting, and gurgling.  This is only the beginning.  That’s pretty amazing.

Recent tinkerings (9 Jan 2011 edition)

January 9th, 2011

Several people have commented over the years that I should “write more” on the blog.  I usually respond that I could spend my free time tinkering/hamming or blogging, but not both.  Here are a month’s worth of blog posts as freestyle poetry:

  • A section on my workshop has been added to under Engineering.
  • Discovered that although the SoftRock VHF Ensemble II won’t fit (barely) into the Bud CU-473 diecast box I bought for it, it will fit into an extruded enclosure that housed an ancient X-band radar detector I picked up at Dayton in 2002 in hopes of stripping the Gunn diode assembly and getting on 10 GHz.  Bonus points for thriftiness.  Photos will follow once I finish the project.
  • Did not observe Quadrantid meteor pings with the SoftRock VHF Ensemble II, but did notice something interesting about the W3APL beacon.  Need to investigate.
  • Have more CE/K8GU QSL cards again, finally.  Tonight, I might finish the bureau (and, ashamedly one direct) cards languishing.  Some K8GU (and AA8UP, no kidding) bureau cards are sitting here staring at me, too.  Not a big project, though.
  • Operated the NAQP CW on Saturday (8 January 2011) for four hours and twenty minutes and made 318 QSOs x 128 multipliers for 40,740 points before log-checking discounts.  This total is pleasing to me especially considering that it was almost all leap-frogging SO2R search-and-pounce, which can be very fatiguing.  It’s fun to see the rate meter stay over 100 when you’re S&Ping.  Good Sprint practice.
  • Still the best 30 minutes on the radio every week:  I operated the NS Ladder on Thursday (6 January) night and made my customary 30 QSOs x 24 multipliers for 720 points.  Hopefully, adding 160 will give me some momentum to increase this score back over 1000.
  • We had a spell of 50F (10C) weather on New Years’ Eve.  So, I put the 2-meter beam back up on the chimney.  It was formerly mounted on a steel mast that was ratchet-strapped to the chimney.  A strong wind (>50 mph gusts) before Christmas bent the mast (actually a fence top-rail) and I had removed it.  I cut the bent lower portion of the mast off and attached the remaining top portion with rotator to a “girder” constructed from two pieces of treated 2″ x 4″ x 10′ lumber joined with a half-dozen lag screws.  Again, I ratchet-strapped the entire assembly to the chimney.  The present configuration is much stronger and less prone to damage.  The 3-element 50-MHz Yagi is still on the ground until I actually get the transverter finished, which should be soon (as it has been for 12 months now).
  • Repaired a SoftRock v6.2 downconverter for WF1L and learned that you can solder leads back onto SOIC packages if you’re careful.
  • Have had delightful exchanges with KN6X and ZL1CDP about repairing the TS-930S.  Some of these discussions (and their fruits) may make it onto the site at some point.
  • Back in December, I started integrating the W1GHZ transverters using UT-141 semirigid jumpers with pre-installed SMA connectors obtained on attractive terms from Max-Gain Systems.  Mitsubishi RA18H1213G (1296 MHz) and RA30H0608M (50 MHz) modules arrived from RF Parts.  May have a lead on something less expensive with more gain for 903 MHz via HA1AG.  The big remaining tasks in all three transverter projects are the sequencer and IF interfacing.
  • Also in December, I had dinner with NS Ladder father Bill, N6ZFO, in San Francisco at the Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar, which is a favorite of NA Sprint father, Rusty, W6OAT.  Yes, I did feel that I was in the presence of greatness.  (I had their excellent pork chops since I’m not into seafood, especially raw seafood.)  Like most contesters, Bill’s a super, fascinating guy apart from his radio contesting interests.

A Follow-up to “New QSL card”

November 19th, 2010

This is a follow-up to a post from Sunday.

On Wednesday night, Sarah handed me an envelope from the day’s mail that had the appearance of a QSL card.  I took out my knife and opened it.  It had a some sample QSL cards, along with a brochure inside.  I scratched my head for a moment and concluded that I had just received my first QSL card for a blog post.

This curious turn of events brings me around to a couple of points.  For those of you who don’t know, this blog is aggregated by (and it is syndicated on my Facebook profile).  My agreement with the owner of is that he provides me with visibility in return for select content from my blog.  The QSL printer who sent me the samples is one of his advertisers.  Thanks, by the way!  The cards were very beautiful and of high quality and I will consider him to print photo cards for my next DX operation.  In full-disclosure, I received nothing from the printer who printed my cards in return for mentioning them.  But, I should clarify that the blog is something I do for fun and I’m not really in the business of product endorsements.

A final point of clarification is that my beef with the available QSL cards was not so much the quality available, but amount of semi-relevant stuff hams try to cram onto the card.  I guess if 10 meters ever opened up again regularly, we might start getting asked for our “Ten-Ten” numbers again.  After listening to the V31BB clip about the secret decoder ring, I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I have one.  Strike that from the card!  The long and the short of the original post was that I wanted an uncluttered, distinctive card.  And, I think I found it.

Site Migration Notes

September 27th, 2009

It looks like the site migration has gone relatively painlessly.  Although, I think I lost 2-3 posts (the Square Rigger Briefcase and Angostura LLB posts are the ones I remember) in the conversion from Joomla to WordPress.  I need to reload the images from the original WordPress posts (from the days) into the new WordPress. The images from Joomla had to be moved into the WordPress posts by hand, but since there were only about fifty posts, this was not a big deal.

I used a modified version of this script to dump my Joomla articles into a dummy WordPress installation/database table that I set up on the server.  Then, I exported from that WordPress installation in WordPress XML format so I could test the import on my server here at home, as well as importing the old WordPress posts from pre-2008.  Bingo.  I just cleaned-out the old Joomla and WordPress files and database tables at then replaced them with the new WordPress installation.  I’ll be adding the images from the old WordPress posts back in slowly.

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

The Blogroll

December 21st, 2007

I haven’t had a lot of time to update the site lately. Work has been keeping me busy and on the road (er in the air) a lot. I thought I should share some blogs that I like to read in the blogroll…blogs that celebrate the hectic, the ordered, the self, the selfless, the quiet, the cacophony…

The Quiet Way: Dad’s blog about transition from almost 30 years of 8:00-4:30 to a different phase of life. We like the photographs.

The Road to the Horizon: If you’re a ham and you’ve worked any rare DX in the past 15 years, there’s a good chance you’ve worked Peter Cassier, ON6TT, as he travels The Road to the Horizon working for the U.N. or searching for the latest adrenaline kick.  He’s passionate about world problems that don’t get the press they deserve, too.

Those Damn Contesters Have Ruined Ham Radio: We’ve all heard that line before. Scott Robbins, W4PA, who’s a VP at Ten-Tec and an avid contester, shares his candid opinions and experiences on the hobby.

More to come!

Gallery update

July 3rd, 2007

Since 2001, I’ve had access to a server ( colocated at my alma mater.  However, due to lack of interest by current students, this server has become increasingly unreliable to the point of not being rebooted for almost a month after the latest crash.  I have moved the gallery to this server (as I have intended to do all along) and updated it with pictures from our recent travles.

The blog…

April 7th, 2007

It never seems that I have time to update the site as completely as I would like. Part of that is in no small part due to the fact that I have to edit lots of HTML using vi. Some sort of CMS (content-management system) was in order. I’ve decided to go with the blog format because it’s a little like a research notebook. I can keep my thoughts somewhat orderly and don’t have to make massive entries as I work on things.

This is my philosphy on the blog: it’s a way for me to organize my thoughts in a public setting.