Saturday, May 8, 2021

Fixed The Faucet Splitter

 In fact, I went and did it right after I posted. Took about 45 minutes, and at least 20 of that was spent looking for my cordless Dremel tool. I gave up, and brought down the plug-in Dremel tool, which had an flexible shaft attachment with a flap whell in it, so I started there.

Cracked/split fitting:

Buffed with the flap wheel:

The legendary "TIX Solder" and flux:

And for a source of Thermal Energy, I have my trusty Weller SP-80, 80-Watt Soldering IRON:

This ain't yer Daddy's wimpy Temperature Controlled Soldering Station! No siree, this here's a gen-you-eine Soldering IRON, and it has a SOLID COPPER tip about the size of a 50 cal slug:

 It's 2" long, and a half-inch in diameter. In the battlespace of "Heat The Connection As Rapidly As Possible", it wins handily in this application.

Applied the flux after cleaning the brass again with an alcohol wipe, plugged in the iron, and went for a cold soda from the fridge. Applied the iron to heat the metal, and then flowed in the solder. After cooling, I cleaned all the flux reside off, and carefully re-tinned the tip of the iron with plenty of rosin-cored solder to get any of the other flux off. It has chloride compounds in it, and they're very corrosive if not cleaned off.

Ready to return to service:

Hey, I broke it, so I get to fix it!

Friday, May 7, 2021


 And work continues on getting the backyard cleaned up, the damaged gutter repaired, the weeds beat back, and the trees fed and watered.

Dropped 475 bucks at the Home Depot last week, and I've been putting the items to good use.

The gutter guys came by today, and quoted us $600 to replace the damaged gutter and downspout, paint the gutter, and replace the busted "gutter guard" that keeps leaves and other trash out of the gutter on that end of the house.

Mixed up a batch of "Roundup 365", and sprayed the gravel beds, back porch and driveway joints, and the window wells so nothing gets started in them.

Fed the maple tree and crab apple tree with my "Ross Root Feeder", and watered the ash tree with my "Corona Deep Root Irrigator", so they're good for a couple of weeks.

Got the hoses, sprinklers, shut-off valves and other miscellany out of storage and ready to go. One of my two-way water faucet adpators surprised me the other day when I hooked up the hoses, turned the water on, and it started spraying everywhere. I'd left it screwed on the faucet, under the styrafoam "freeze protector", but it had some water in it, it froze, and split the cast brass body. I'll have to dry it well, clean the metal, notch it out with my Dremel, and then solder it up with some "TIX Solder", and return it to service.

Itty-Bitty, Teeny-Tiny split, easily repaired. Should hold 60PSI no problem, but couldn't withstand the pressure generated by freezing water. Probably a post will follow.

I sure don't remember my Dad doing anything special to the outdoor water faucets when I was growing up in Northern Illinois, and it gets pretty cold in the Wintertime. I remember people having frozen pipes, but they were usually the water pipes to the house from the city water system. Here we put little insulated houses on the outdoor faucets, and use special "Freeze Rated" types. They're also anti-siphon faucets, which is a Good Thing, as sucking dirty yard water back into the house is probably a Bad Thing.

And I've been sawing, stacking, moving, and sawing some more on the pile of wood we "harvested" from the fallen tree, and the sections of the crab apple the arborist generated. Looks like we'll have several Winter's worth of firewood, perhaps more. I suppose I should look into the Do's-and-Don'ts of storing some of it outside, off the ground, and somewhat covered, as otherwise it'll take over all the storage space in the garage, and that's hard-won territory I'm not willing to give up.

Beautiful day here today, high 70's and partly cloudy. Wanted to spray the weeds, but the NWS is calling for rain, so I'll have to watch the weather radar closely. I just hate spraying 30 bucks worth of chemicals on the yard and have them washed away the next day. I'd get the granular stuff, but that means getting a spreader, storing the spreader off-season, maintaining the spreader.......naw.........I'd sooner pay more per application, and be done with it until the next time.

And I'm perusing and craigslist for a snowblower, "global warming" be damned. I know what I want, I have a truck now, and as soon as I find one, it's coming home with me.

Honest, Beans, I'm on the hunt now......

Y'all have a good weekend!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Rain Came Early.....

 Well, the big storm we were expecting has passed through. We received about .2" of rain in several hours, and there were times it was raining pretty hard, with little mini hailstones in it. There were flash flood warnings out for all the burn areas from last Summer, especially the Cameron Peak area. Mud and debris flows are expected, and there could be up to 12" of snow in the Rocky Mountain National Park area. The in-laws up in the canyon are ok, as it was their turn in 2012, and they were spared this year.

The creek that runs behind The Kids place is going full-bore, and TLG is suitably impressed.

Also made significant clean-up/re-organization of SLW's side of the garage, something that hasn't been properly addressed since we moved in 3-1/2 years ago. The wire rack to the immediate right of the ladder was put in the first few weeks we were here, along with the other four on the Toyota side of the garage. I'd pieced together one of those really flimsy grey metal shelf units, the kind with square nuts and slotted screws I'm sure you've seen, for her to put her "garden" stuff on. We had three of them abandoned here, and I made one "good" one out of the three. Well, she's outgrown it, and now has her woodworking stuff to store, too. So I pulled everything to the right of the first wire rack out, cleaned the area, went and bought another rack for the garden/lawn/woodworking rack, put it together, and then put everything back. She picked up about 8" of additional room between all the "stuff" and that side of her car, and everything on the new rack is organized. Yes, I still haven't got the flash settings figured out for a good fill, and I was too beat to photochop it after goofing off for several hours with TLG, so it's time to RTFM again.

 Two of the four identical racks on the other side of the garage got the empty/sort/organize treatment, and I wound up with more than one full "6 Tier" rack completely empty. I loaded all the crab apple wood on the bottom two shelves to dry with about a half shelf empty, and have four more completely empty shelves to stack the ash wood on. I'm still going to have beaucoup ash left that I'll probably have to figure out how to properly store outside.

The antenna is working great after getting it back in service, which is getting me fired up to sink the three 4x4 posts I have, and use them to mount the three antennas I "need".

Well Seasoned Fool asked the other day what I was using for lightning protection, an excellent question. For now, I disconnect the cables where they come into the house. After I get the poles planted, each pole will have an 8' ground rod driven in the soil next to it. The ground rod will have a "PolyPhaser" Surge Protector mounted to it with a solid copper plate. All three rods will be connected with a #2 solid copper wire. The feedline (coax) comes straight down to the surge protector, and the output cable from the surge protector to the house makes a 90* turn, and runs along the gravel beds to the feed-through box I built last year.

There's nothing you can do to stop a direct hit. You can divert some by providing an "easier" path to take, like by having the coax run straight down to a surge arrester connected to a good ground system, and then make a fairly sharp 90* bend and run along the ground.

The other thing I'm working with here is that the antennas are not higher than the houses or trees, and the higher structures provide a "cone of protection" to things lower than they are.

BUT.....lightning can do very strange things, as I've seen. The setup I'm using is to keep static electricity from building up (protects the radios and operators), while providing some level of nearby strike protection.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Time Flies.....

.....Like An Arrow, and Fruit Flies Like A Banana.....


Finally got around to getting the far end of my 88' wire antenna back up.

I added another section of mast, and reconfigured the pulley at the top with a shorter loop of line, and got this end another 5' up in the air. And it came out plumb, too!

The "bend" in the mast in the picture below is caused by the tension on the support rope.

I upgraded the attaching hardware, and replaced all the support rope. The rope was "two piece" before, and made it difficult to lower the antenna all the way to the ground for maintenance, and looked unsightly.

This hardware is way better than what I used when I first installed this mount. The brackets are from DX Engineering, and the screws are 2" long "Spax" construction screws.

 Since any tree limbs with a potential of hitting this came crashing down already, I'm OK with installing it with something much more robust than I used before.

I'm still debating whether to add another section to the center support.

Thursday will be get the truck washed, and start back in on cutting up the small branches and things to finish clearing out the yard. Then I get to split and stack wood on my racks in the garage, AFTER I sort through all the stuff on the racks. All of the very top shelves haven't been touched since we moved in and I put the racks in. Wonder what kind of stuff I'll find buried up there that I've misplaced? I have a brand-new Cushcraft MA5B HF Yagi I'd like to sell, and probably a bunch of other stuff I just tossed up there to get it off the floor.

Had the oil changed in the truck on Monday. We picked it up the last week of July, so we've had it about 8 months. Even though it only has a bit under 2300 miles, the "Oil Life Monitor" indicated that the oil had 20% "life" remaining, so I took advantage of the first service being complimentary, and took it back to the dealer. The Service Rep didn't try to "upsell" me on anything, so the cost of the visit was zero.

And they have decent coffee in the customer lounge area.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Cheap and Easy ADS-B Antenna

 This is right from "The Books". It's a simple quarter-wave, ground-plane vertical antenna. Nothing magic, and all it costs is a connector, adapter if you need it, and some 12~14 ga wire.

I started with a female, chassis-mount, Type-N connector, and five pieces of 14ga wire, each 3" long.

After I cleaned the wire, I soldered one of the pieces into the center conductor of the connector for my "Driven Element".

Then I tinned one end of the other four pieces of wire, tinned the corners of the connector, and soldered my ground radials to the connector.

Using a handy reference, I then bent the grounds radials down to a 45* angle.

Now all I have to do is trim the lengths.

Using the "1/4 Wavelength" formula of L=234/F, we get L=234/1090, which equals .21467 feet, times 12, equals 2.576" for the vertical element, and the same for the radials.

All "Trimmed To Length"....

Since the receiver has an SMA type connector, I needed an adapter to screw the antenna onto the radio....

And here it is, installed on the radio. As a bonus, it's easier to hang on the blinds!

So how does it work? I'm still having some issues getting the data from the dump1090 program to properly display on the map, but from looking at the data output in a terminal window, it shows LOTS more traffic than the Diamond SRH77CA dual-band VHF/UHF "Receives Through 900MHz" antenna I was using.

 Now to figure out why in blazes the data won't display on the map......

Thursday, April 22, 2021

ADS-B Project Update.....

 Since I don't leave this computer running 24/7, and I'd like to record the data from the ADS-B decoding program, I decided to build a "Raspberry Pi" single-board computer to run this continuously, similar to what I do with my weather station.

These are very versatile, inexpensive, little computers running the "Raspberry Pi OS", which is a derivative of the Debian distribution of Linux.

Cute little thing:

It has 4 USB ports, an Ethernet port, built-in wireless, and an HDMI port.

And here it is, all pit together and cabled-up:

 This is a screenshot from this computer, looking at the network address I'm using for this new little stand-alone computer. The "For Development Use Only" splattered on the map is because I don't have the "key" to allow full use of Google Maps. It's very easy to get one, no fee, but I'm looking into using an Open Source map.

I moved the antenna from hanging on the wall to being in the center of the window behind the desk, but it didn't improve the signals much. Tonight's little side project is to build a 1090MHz ground-plane antenna. If that shows promise, I'll see about mounting it outside with a short length of low-loss coax, as I should be receiving many more aircraft than I am.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

ADS-B Project

 One of the things I've been kicking around doing is setting up another small PC to run a couple of programs on so I can "watch" what air traffic is around us. The easiest way to do this is to monitor the ADS-B transmissions from the aircraft using a receiver and a PC to decode the transmissions, and then display them on a map.

For the receiver I'm using one of the ubiquitous "RTL Dongle" receivers and a vertical whip antenna, unceremoniously hung on the wall using the pull cord for the blinds.

This particular receiver has been optimized to receive the 1090MHz transmissions, as it has a bandpass filter and preamplifier tuned for 1090MHz.

Yeah, it's a kluge right now, with an inappropriate antenna, and a mess of adapters, but it's working better than I thought it would. Plans are in the works to build a proper antenna for it, but for now it's grabbing and decoding signals like crazy.

The main program is one called "dump1090", and it spits out all the data to a terminal window.

dump1090 also includes a lightweight webserver, so as soon as I can sort out some port assignment issues, I should be able to have this on the Web. Then I'll set up one of the small "bookshelf" PC's I have to run the programs, and make the data available to others.

After I get this working, I'd like to also build something to receive the ACARS transmissions. And then build a 137MHz Lindenblad antenna to receiver the APT satellites again. I tossed the "Eggbeater" antenna I was using for that back in Long Beach, and I'm still kicking myself.....


Friday, April 16, 2021

Well That Was Pretty Easy.....

 The water heater guy showed up about 45 minutes after they were "scheduled" to appear, but at least he called saying they were running late. I'd been worried that they wouldn't be able to get the tank drained, but he had a Milwaukee Transfer Pump that sucked the tank dry in about 15 minutes.

Amazing little thing, and a lot easier than blowing air into the tank, which he said they've done before they bought these little pumps.

After draining the tank, he had it out and sitting in the garage in about twenty minutes. They hit a snag picking up the new one, as the supplier they normally use closed early today, so they went elsewhere and we wound up with a better heater than we expected. This one has a 10 year warranty, whereas most have a 7 or 8 year warranty.

And it has blue LED lights......!


And they swapped out the flex lines, and installed a new inlet shut-off valve.

They're using crimp-type connections these days, vs soldering/brazing them on. These are rated for "Direct Burial", so they're pretty damn water-tight!

SLW is extremely happy, as she was able to fill the tub completely with HOT water, and take a nice, long soak.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Spring In The Rockies A.K.A. Here It Comes Again!

 Snow, that is. 

We've had some flurries the last couple of days, but this is the first time any of it has stuck around.

So far, we've got several inches, some of which melted as it was coming down earlier.

I sure hope this doesn't knock the buds off the crab apple tree like it did last year. The tree was just starting to show signs of activity the last few weeks, and the branches were getting some color. Hope the snow doesn't shock it into dropping everything like it did last year.

And there's 3~5" more forecast for overnight, with lows in the mid 20's. Gonna be a mess for the Friday morning commute. Lots of scanner traffic on the Larimer and Weld County road crew frequencies, mostly where they were de-icing. Bunch of calls for tow trucks, too, with one pick-up truck being "Several Hundred Yards Off The Highway". That's gonna be an expensive tow!

And SLW has declared to water heater to need replacement as a preemptive strike. I put a new thermostat in it last year, as it kept tripping the "Overheat" switch, which shut it down. I was going to replace both heaters, too, BUT (always one of them) I couldn't drain the tank. The drain valve turned easily, but after an initial trickle of water, it stopped draining. This heater was installed on 12-23-08 per the installation tag, so it's pushing 14 years. It's probably full of sediment blocking the valve, as the water here is pretty hard. It makes plenty of hot water for my showers, but SLW enjoys a good, HOT soak, and has complained since we bought the house that she can't get a full tub of HOT water.

Her standard of "Hot Water" is "HOT Water". I mean, like OUCH hot to me. I don't see how she can stand it, but hey, the O-6 wants HOT water, and By God, she's gonna get it!

The heater is down in the back of a closet in the basement:

WAY in the back:

The big white pipe running vertically in the foreground is part of the "Radon Mitigation System" the house has installed in it. I was thinking of various ways to drain the thing, short of drilling a hole in it, and my inner Engineer told me to:

1) Shut off breaker and water supply

2) Open hot water faucet in downstairs (lowest point) bathroom to drain as much "hot" water out of the upper stories as possible

3) Disconnect the supply pipe and connect an air fitting to it

4) Connect an air compressor to the fitting and apply air pressure to blow the tank empty via the open hot water faucet in the next room.

And they probably know a way to do it that takes five minutes......!

Monday, April 12, 2021

I Don't Always Spend My Time Sawing Wood.....

 Today I split a bunch! Since we have rain coming for the next week or so, I split up a bunch of the ash, which was bone dry, and lugged it into the house. I also levered the two remaining logs out of the yard, and on to the gravel beds, and I'll saw those up after the weather settles down. The ash should make for some nice fireplace wood for the upcoming cold, damp days.

By the time I finished, TLG was up from his nap, so we built a fort in the den. He's in there somewhere. After the flash went off he started laughing that I'd "Never Breech This Fort!". I have no idea where he learned that. He's been coming up with some amazing stuff for a 4-year old.

And since he's big time into Legos now, we built him a Lego Table. Lego wants like $80 for theirs, and SLW thought that a bit much. She found a nice little table and chair at for $10, and then ordered $10 worth of self-adhesive "tiles" with the correct pins on them to snap Legos to. They arrived shrink-wrapped too tight, and were more bowl-shaped than flat. Hmm.....What to do? I took two pieces of the ceramic floor tile the previous owners left, and my heat gun, and put the Lego tile on one piece, heated it up for 60 seconds to soften it, and placed another piece of heavy ceramic tile on it until it cooled. Presto! Flat Lego tiles.

So for twenty bucks, he now has a nice Lego table.

 And yes, he helped build it!