Monday, July 25, 2016

Back in the LBC.....

Uneventful flight from Denver, long ride in a SuperShuttle from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, and one extraordinarily happy dog greeting us when we got here.

We had a great breakfast at The Silver Grill Cafe on Walnut Street in Fort Collins, and I *highly* recommend the place.

If you're ever in Fort Collins and need a good breakfast or lunch, go there, you'll love it. Great food, great service by a friendly staff, and reasonable prices.

Trust me, you could do far worse than this place, and spend more to boot.

And it's actually 10* COOLER in SoCal than in the Denver area!

Last night there was a severe weather alert on the radio with "golf ball sized hail, torrential rains, and wind exceeding 75 MPH" for the Fort Morgan area and Weld County, I could see the clouds that had been building up in the East all day, and they looked pretty nasty, but all we got in Fort Collins was a bit of drizzle. I have to start the process of dumping a lot of unneeded radio stuff on eBay. Mostly radios I either bought to restore, but they were too far gone for my skill level, and several that I got started on before I moved here, and LOST various bits and pieces of.

Well, I most likely have all the parts, but they've been separated from the radio far enough that they might as well be lost!

I've got two Knight-Kit Star Roamer short-wave receivers, a Collins 75S-1 HF receiver, a Drake R4-B receiver with a matching T4X-B transmitter, and a Heathkit GC-1 Mohican short-wave.

And I also have an ICom IC-970 2M/70cm all-mode rig that I have apart, but all the parts were carefully packed, and that one will most likely get put back together. It was from a heavy smokers shack, and was crusted with crud, so I *had* to take it apart to scrub it.

And I'm sure I'll find more "treasures" to get rid of once I start going through all the boxed up radio stuff that I never unpacked after I moved in here almost 7 years ago!

Had a great trip, but it's good to be back home, even if home is in Kommiefornia.....

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Few Pix from The Kid's House

Had a very relaxing day out boating on the Horsetooth Reservoir. Our daughter-in-law's father has a small boat that we've been out on once before, two years ago when we first came out here. It's a very pleasant day, and we usually motor out to one of the many coves, and pull in close to the shore, tie up to a tree, and have a nice picnic lunch.

While we were there, a group of people came in towing a large SeaDoo with some kind of large pipe coming out of the side. Turns out it's to power one of those watet-jet "FlyBoard" things, and once they got it assembled, the guy and his girlfriend took turns putting on a show for everybody moored in the cove.

I didn't get any pix because I was floating on a REALLY BIG inner tube, but everybody else did, and as soon as they email me the pix, I'll post them here.

Here's a pic of the garage/shop at the kid's place:

And here's the view to the North:

To the East:

And a bad, blurry pic of some barbed wire for wirecutter:

My wife has (finally!) received all her documents from the people handling her retirement pension, and she's mulling over her options for staying to the end of the school year next June, or possibly leaving earlier, about the beginning of 2017. This would give us plenty of time to get everything in order, get the house all squared away and on the market, and get a good chunk of our stuff "podded" and shipped ahead of us. Our in laws have offered us storage space to keep things, and have even offered to let us stay with them until a house out here closes, and we take possession.

So, we're laying the foundation for our move, and really looking forward to it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

House Hunting in Fort Collins

Well, we took the afternoon "off", hooked up with the realtor, and looked at five houses.

The first one was really nice. 3br, 2ba, nice family room, wood-burning fireplace in the living room, and a little gas "fireplace" (more like a stove) in the family room. 12,000 sqft lot, BIG garage with a workshop AND a third added-on garage bay at the very rear of the main garage.

Asking price was $289,900, and it had one offer.

Next place my wife fell in love with.

FIVE br, 3ba, fully finished basement ( with two of the fully-conforming bedrooms and 1ba in it), 14,250 sqft lot, but only a one-car attached garage, BUT it has another driveway alongside leading to a nice fenced-off "RV Storage Area", which would have plenty of room for an additional two-car garage/workshop.

$275,000 with three offers, but the owners were more than happy to allow us the run of the place while we looked.

Third place was a "Brady Bunch" tri-level ranch house, but my wife, who'd never been inside a tri-level before, decided she did'nt like AT ALL, so "tri-level" will get added to the "NOT" part of my searches.

It was around $280k.

Next place was kind of a modern style, with vaulted ceilings and lots of wood work, but was fairly small, on a small lot, with no room to really do anything with.

Very nice house, beautifully maintained, wonderful wooded lot with HUGE trees (the whole neighborhood was like this), but just not anything like what we're looking for.

Last place was a "Oh NOOOOOO!" kind of place. 3br, 1ba, dinky one-car garage that appeared to have been a living space at one time, and LINOLEUM FLOORS in two of the bedrooms!

One of the bedrooms had some, uh...."unusual" light fixtures hung from the ceiling, and my step-son busted up and said "GROW ROOM!" as soon as he saw them.

Even the realtor said the place was over priced, and we all had a good chuckle about it.

I had a fairly good idea of what areas I think we'd both be happy in, but my wife is still "learning" these things. She can't read a map to save here life, so when I show her things on Google Earth and Google Maps, she just can't make the connection to the real world.

The first three places were up in the North part of Fort Collins, and the LaPorte area, the area I'd really like, and she pretty much agrees with me now that she's had her "boots on the ground" in those areas. It's close to important services, like a good hospital (we're not getting younger!), a 20~30 minute drive into Fort Collins proper for "Major Shopping Excursions", and yet far enough out that it feels like rural living.

After living in the L.A. area for the last 34 years, I'm sure ready to get back to something like the area I grew up in, and she's pretty tired of the traffic, congestion, and crime, too.

Took a few pix of the area outside Bellvue where the kids are living now, and I'll get those posted tomorrow. I wouldn't mind living there, but my sweet little wife wouldn't like the isolation.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Arrived in Fort Collins

Got here about 1630 local time, and by the time we got the car and got to the hotel it was 1900.

My wife made all the reservations through Travelocity, and picked an "economy" car at Hertz.

Sorry, but I'm NOT driving a Chevy Spark!

I prefer something just a bit bigger than a motorized roller skate that loses big time in a collision with a large dog.....

SO....we went with a Nissan "Rogue", a mini SUV. It has a ton of room for a small car, drives pretty nicely, and was a good deal.

It's a bit low on power, but does 75 on the highway just fine, and moves out smartly around town.

As expected, Diamond and Coco (the two dogs the kids took with them when they moved) went absolutely bonkers when they heard our voices.

The wife and DIL are out "shopping" for a bit, and I'm catching up on all the email that came in while we were traveling.

More to come......

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Light Posting Ahead

We're headed out to Fort Collins Wednesday morning.

Planning on having a "mini private wedding reception" for my step-son and his (fairly) new wife. They had invited us out for a "real" reception, but things went sideways due to some, uh...."family issues", so it will just be the four of us.

They got moved into one of the houses her family owns because her brother and his wife closed on a home of their own, so we'll get to see their new place.

It's about half the distance to where they both work from their old place, so that's better for them in winter. We drove by it last time we were out there, and it looks pretty nice.

And it has a ton of unused storage room in some nice, dry, heated outbuildings, so it's a possible site to stage some of our stuff before we move next year.

And I've got 5 or 6 places I want to drive by and look at with the wife so she can look at the neighborhoods. As we found out last time, real estate pix posted on the websites can be quite "creative" in cropping out the neighbor's house with seven cars up on blocks, or the pig farm next door, or the trailer park across the street, or.....well, just about anything they don't feel would enhance their chance of selling the place.

Let's just hope things hold together for the next 12 months or so, so we can escape from The People's Demokratik Republik of Kommieforniastan!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Test and Review of Airspy vs SDRplay vs HackRF SDR Receivers

I had a HackRF, and sold it after a few weeks of playing with it. My biggest gripe was that it has an 8-bit Analog-to-Digital Converter in it, the same number of bits as a $15 "dongle" receiver. It was also as easily overloaded as all the dongles I've played with.

Earlier in the week, I used the $100 gift certificate I won to buy an SDRplay receiver from my local Ham Radio Outlet.

So far, it's been a royal PITA to get running on my Linux PC. I made the mistake of RTFM, and installed the MiricsAPI on this PC before I tried to run any of the Linux software I already have on this PC, like Gqrx and Linrad. The MiricsAPI installs some things that stop Gqrx and Linrad from working properly, and there's NO uninstaller to remove the API!

The Linrad developer was kind enough to contact me, and has given me excellent advice on how to get the SDRplay running on Linux, but until I can figure out how to get their damned API removed, I'm dead in the water.

I'd heard of the Airspy receiver before, but never really looked in to it, but it looks like one will be my next SDR purchase, at least until the piggy bank is full enough to get a Flex 6500 that will be the replacement for my Flex 5000A.

ANYWAY......while searching for ways out of this current dilemma, I stumbled back across the RTL-SDR website. I'd first found this website when I started messing around with the "$15 Dongle" receivers, and it was a wealth of information to get my feet wet.

A few minutes ago I found their comparison on the three receivers listed in the title of this post, and from my experience with 2 out the 3 receivers, I'd say they're bang-on!

IF you're considering something better than a $15~$20 toy, by all means check out the review.

There's a lot you can do with the dongles as long as you're aware of their limitations, but if you want something more, then check this out.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

SDRplay Receiver

Since I won a $100 gift certificate for HRO, I decided to use it on a little gadget I've had my eye on for quite some time now.

It's called an "SDRplay", and is a little software defined radio receiver,

I've experimented a bunch with the USB "dongle" receivers, and had a HackRF1 for a while. The problem with the dongles and the HackRF receivers is that they only use 8-bit analog to digital converters, resulting in a pretty severely limited amount of dynamic range, especially if you live in an "RF Alley" like the metro L.A. area.

Strong signals on far removed frequencies "break through", and I had to turn down the RF gain and the IF gain in the software to get decent performance out of them.

Running them with my 144 MHz "eggbeater" antenna and an SSB Electronic preamp, which includes a helical filter, made them perform much better for 2 Meter Ham Radio work, and 137 MHz APT weather satellites.

The SDRplay uses 12-bit ADC's, so it should be quite a bit better.

I haven't tried the SDR play on my Windows PC yet, but it looks like it's going to take some fiddling around to get it to work on my Linux PC.

It gets properly detected when I plug it in to the USB port, but Gqrx and Linrad both barf when I try and make it receive.

And yes, I followed the instructions to the letter from the SDRplay website about installing the drivers and API.

Just have to do some more digging around, I guess....

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fracking Computers.........

No, this isn't about oil extraction.....

The other night, OpenSUSE installed some updates on this PC that broke the audio. This is rather unusual with OpenSUSE, because they usually run their "A Game", and I haven't suffered a "bad" update in years.

Of course it just might have something to do with the fact that I have various audio things things installed in a rather "unstock" configuration because the OEM setup doesn't include all the various codecs and other stuff I use for messing around with SDR things.

SO....since it's been a couple of years since I built this PC, I decided to upgrade to the newest version of OpenSUSE.

Off I went to Best Buy to grab a couple of new hard disks, as anytime I upgrade, I install new drives. That way I have my previous OS and all my applications available so I can extract bits and pieces of things, and all my documents, pix, and other stuff is untouched by the upgrade to the new OS.

Tore the PC apart, dragged it outside and blew all the dust bunnies out of it, installed the new drives, dragged it back in here, nd proceeded to install OpenSUSE "Leap" 42.1 on it.

I also took this time to install new video cables between the PC, KVM switch, and monitor. Sometime last year my KVM switch took a dump, and I replaced it with a new one of the identical type from Monoprice.

It caused nothing but grief with the video switching, so I just ran the video cable from the monitor directly to the PC, dragged another monitor in here to use with the Windoze PC, and used the KVM switch for just the keyboard and mouse.

Last night I installed new, very high quality "Dual Link" DVI cables in place of the DVI cables that came with the KVM switch. All seemed good until after the installation of the new OS, when I started to have numerous problems with the keyboard not responding, the mouse not responding, and the video doing strange things.

The KVM switch uses a USB connection between the PC and the switch to handle the keyboard and mouse, so I moved that cable to a USB 3.0 port on the back of the PC, and all seemed well.

This morning the weirdness started again, so I decided to just reinstall the OS, carefully picking only software that I needed, and leaving out some of the other stuff for now. Not quite a "Bare Bones" install, but not the "Kitchen Sink" install I usually do, either.

It seems more stable now, but has hung twice when I open the Dolphin File Manager (Windows Explorer for you non-linux folks).

The next thing to do is to TURN OFF all the fancy schmancy eye candy bullshit that everybody includes these days, like window transparency, window fades when switching tasks, the bouncing mouse cursor that shows you when it's busy, and all the other useless, annoying shit that's turned on by default to show you just how clever and creative the programmers are.

And I'll go to NVIDIA and grab the latest driver "blob" for this fairly high-end video card rather than use the Open Source video driver that's included. A lot of people in the Open Source community bad mouth NVIDIA for not releasing their source code so the community can do a "proper" Open Source driver, but that doesnt bother me.

I just want my system TO WORK, and if that means using a closed-source driver module, tough shit. At least I'm assured that the driver works, works properly, and won't get all weird on me during an upgrade.

And if this doesn't clear up the lingering issues I'm having, then I'll try running the video directly from the card output to the monitor again, and see if that makes it fully stable.

Oh, to my Doctor's appointment, which is why I'm not on the Iowa today.....

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Email From a Buddy

A gun is like a parachute.
If you need one, and don't have one,
you'll probably never need one again."

The definition of the word Conundrum is:
Something that is puzzling or confusing.

Here are six Conundrums of socialism in the United States of America:

1. America is capitalist and greedy -
yet half of the population is subsidized.

2. Half of the population is subsidized - yet they think they are victims.

3. They think they are victims - yet their representatives run the

4. Their representatives run the government - yet the poor keep getting

5. The poor keep getting poorer -
yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.

6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about - yet
they want America to be more like those other countries.

Think about it!
And that, my friends, pretty much sums
up the USA in the 21st Century.
Makes you wonder who is doing the math.

These three, short sentences tell you a lot about the direction of our
current government and cultural environment:

1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics,
but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few

Funny how that works. And here's another one worth considering.

2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of
money. But we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money!
What's interesting is the first group "worked for" their money, but the
second didn't.

Think about it.....and Last but not least :

3. Why are we cutting benefits for our veterans, no pay raises for our
military and cutting our army to a level lower than before WWII, but we are
not stopping the payments or benefits to illegal aliens.

Am I the only one missing something?

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you
are doomed to live under the rule of fools." - Plato