Saturday, April 28, 2012

Twenty Years Ago Today In L.A.

Today is the anniversary (if you can call it that) of the "Rodney King" riots here in La-La Land.
BonnieGadsden ran a series on it a couple of weeks ago, based on a series of forum posts by Texas Arcane long before there were blogs.
While there's been some "discussion" over the accuracy of the original posts, the important thing is to get the gist of it, and not quibble over some of the technical details.
This IS what will happen when TSHTF out here, and in every other big city.
Doesn't matter if it's caused by some "injustice", the power grid going down, a Massive Solar Flare or an EMP, or the total collapse of the U.S. economy. The cause of it will only partly determine the amount of time it takes to start and get up to speed.
And if the government is "down" or "off-line", it won't settle down until the damage and casualties reach absolutely staggering levels.
Be prepared, it will come sooner and faster than you think.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Already??

Wow....time sure flies when you're having fun.
Working on another project for a friend of mine at work that should be interesting.
His younger sister is Autistic, and just loves playing records and singing with them. Her last little portable phonograph, like the type lots of us had a kids, bit the dust last month. I helped him find several suitable replacements on eBay, and he turned them over to me the other day so I could go through them, and make sure they work properly.
These are really simple little devices, with a single tube (25C5 in one, a 25EH5 in the other, both Beam Power Pentode tubes) grid-driven by the output of the cartridge, and feeding a transformer coupled speaker. Both had bad tubes (one very leaky, the other with a burned out filament), and bad filter capacitors. The filters in these are a dual section "cardboard tube" type, of 30uF/50uF @ 150VDC rating. Rather than get *exact* replacement parts (at $30 a pop!), I'm substituting two modern electrolytics of 33 and 50uF@200VDC ratings, for a total cost of about $4. These will work at least as well, and probably last much longer owing to the newer technology employed in their manufacture, and the higher voltage ratings.
I'll also replace both of the coupling capacitors, which are the old style paper caps dipped in wax. These are notoriously UNreliable, so I'll be using modern film types, rated at 630 Volts. As incredible as it may seem to those of us who actually fix things, and understand about the various types of parts used, I've seen these old, crummy paper caps sell on eBay for up to $30 each! Seems the "audiophile" crowd believes they have those magic properties that give you The Tone in your amplifiers.
Hmm....maybe I should list the ones I remove??
One of the players has a Selenium rectifier, and I'll replace that with a modern Silicon rectifier, and add a 33~47 Ohm 5 Watt series resistor to compensate for the lower Forward Voltage drop of the Silicon rectifier.
Selenium rectifiers can have nasty consequences when they fail, besides the stench they release. The Selenium compounds they produce are toxic, and replacing the old rectifier eliminates this hazard.
This should be a fun little project, and since I've never seen a schematic of one anywhere online, I'll draw one up, and post it here, along with a few pictures of the players.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Radio Dazed....and Confused!

WELL....started out trying to fix a VCR for my brother-in-law. They have a huge stack of unlabeled tapes, some with grand-kid stuff on them. They want to have them transferred to DVD before the tapes deteriorate too far, but they only VCR they have died. Since it has all the classic symptoms of a dead power supply, and 30 minutes of Googling confirmed it, I swapped out ALL the electrolytic capacitors in the supply, even though they passed visual.
No dice, it's still dead.
I loaned him a working VCR I had wrapped up and stored in the garage for just such occasions when he was over here Sunday after church, so at least they'll be able to sort out the tapes before they bring them over here so I can do the transfer to DVD for them. I have a Sony Professional VCR, and a PC I built specifically to do this, so once I get them on disk, I'll use Adobe Premiere Pro to author some nice DVD's with fancy title cards, fades, etc for them.

Seeing as it was only 7:30 when I put the toe tag on the VCR, I went back to doing what I had originally planned for tonight, upgrading my Elecraft KPA100 100 Watt amp that I use with my K2 portable HF transceiver.
I built the amplifier when they were at "Rev. C", and now they're up to "Rev. G", so I have some upping to do.
WELL....I destroyed the thermal pads under the two driver and two final transistors when I lifted the main board off the heatsink, and even though the kit says it includes them, all it had was ONE pad for one of the final output transistors.
I sent them an order, and the parts will be here in a day or two, so that just gives me some extra time to do the work carefully, since putting the heatsink back on is one of the very last steps.

Oh.....and I get to do one of my favorite radio activities.....winding two toroids.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Radio Daze

ARRRGH! I'm trying to get my Kenwood TM-D710 set up for remote operation without spending $500+ on a neat little box called "Remote Rig".
#1, I'd need one on each end, and #2, I doubt if I could get our IT guys on the ship to open up the specific ports I'd need to control the radio with these boxes. I already know the ports for Echolink are blocked, and they're unresponsive to opening them up for me. I can probably go to a Higher Authority to get them to listen to my request, but I'd rather use something else than fight the bureaucracy that's been growing since we came out of Chapter 11 last year.
I built a small "Shuttle" PC that I'm running OpenSUSE 12.1 on, and it doesn't have a serial port to connect to the radio. Now I don't normally have anything against running a USB-to-serial converter, but I'd prefer to have a "real" serial port to use in the PC. I bought several different add-on cards, and NONE of them will work with the latest Linux 3.1 kernel. Usually Linux is quite good at low-level hardware like a serial port card. These things work 100% in my Windows 7 PC that I use for some other radio stuff, like controlling my FlexRadio 5000A and my scanners, but the included drivers for Linux will NOT compile on the Linux box I built to use for this specific purpose.
So, I went off to Newegg again, and found some even simpler serial cards, and ordered a couple of different ones of those. The problem is that the "bridge" chip, an MCS9865, that connects all the 16550 UART chips in these things isn't properly recognized, and since I can't compile the damn drivers (it errors out with no specific error message....WTF?), it looks like I'll have to drop back 10 and punt.
For now I'll go back to the USB converter while I wait for the new cards to get here. If I can't 'talk' to the radio, I can't do what I want. The audio part is handled by the sound card in the PC using pretty standard VOIP stuff, but I need a way to positively control the radio, short of having my wife come into the Radio Room and turn the thing off if it gets hung in some weird state.
And on a more positive note, I completely finished and calibrated my LP-100A RF Vector Watt meter. It works 100%, and is an excellent station accessory for the Flex 5000A.
And yes, it's connected to one of the extra serial ports I added to the Windoze PC I use to run the PowerSDR software that controls the Flex.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Upside Down Land

Shamelessly borrowed from a wise man....OldNFO.

You know you live in an Upside-down Land if...
A Muslim officer crying "Allah Akbar" while shooting up an army base is considered to have committed "Workplace Violence" while an American citizen boasting a Ron Paul bumper sticker is classified as a "Domestic Terrorist".
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
You can get arrested for expired tags on your car but not for being in the country illegally.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if...
Your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more of our money.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
A seven year old boy can be thrown out of school for calling his teacher "cute" but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if.....
The Supreme Court of the United States can rule that lower courts cannot display the 10 Commandments in their courtroom, while sitting in front of a display of the 10 Commandments.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Children are forcibly removed from parents who appropriately discipline them while children of "underprivileged" drug addicts are left to rot in filth infested cesspools.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Working class Americans pay for their own health care (and the health care of everyone else) while unmarried women are free to have child after child on the "State's" dime while never being held responsible for their own choices.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Hard work and success are rewarded with higher taxes and government intrusion, while slothful, lazy behavior is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, Medicaid and subsidized housing.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
The government's plan for getting people back to work is to provide 99 weeks of unemployment checks (to not work).
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Being self-sufficient is considered a threat to the government.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Politicians think that stripping away the amendments to the constitution is really protecting the rights of the people.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
The rights of the Government come before the rights of the individual.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Parents believe the State is responsible for providing for their children.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
You can write a post like this just by reading the news headlines.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
You pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big screen TV while your neighbor defaults on his mortgage (while buying iphones, TV's and new cars) and the government forgives his debt and reduces his mortgage (with your tax dollars).
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Your government can add anything they want to your kid's water (fluoride, chlorine, etc.) but you are not allowed to give them raw milk.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Being stripped of the ability to defend yourself makes you "safe".
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
You have to have your parents signature to go on a school field trip but not to get an abortion.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
An 80 year old woman can be stripped searched by the TSA but a Muslim woman in a burqa is only subject to having her neck and head searched.
You know you live in an Upside-down Land if....
Using the "N" word is considered "hate speech" but writing and signing songs about raping women and killing cops is considered "art".

NOW, it's time to change this and regain control of this country... We are better than this, and it's time for us to step up and VOTE!

Remember, Re-Elect NONE! Get rid of all the incumbents from the White House on down, regardless of party...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Doolittle Raid 70 Years Ago Today

Growing up and watching movies like "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" and "Destination Tokyo", and with my Dad being a former SeaBee, I had nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for our fighting men.
They truly were "The Greatest Generation" of humble men who did what they had to do, didn't seek any fame our fortune from it, and then went back to civilian life.
70 years ago today, a small group of these valiant men took off in their B-25 "Mitchell" bombers from the deck of the USS Hornet, and flew just above the waves to attack Tokyo.
The attack didn't cause much damage, but was tremendous boost to U.S. morale, and scared the Japanese enough to recall a portion of their fleet to guard the home islands.
Today, only five of the original 80 flight crew members are still with us, the rest having passed on to the pages of history.
The Washington Times has a very nice tribute to these brave men. Go over and read it, and learn a bit more about this mission.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Busy with Arduino and RF Vector Impedance Meter Projects....

FINALLY got all the little Arduino boxes built, and moved on to the RF Vector Power Meter I've been building for a year ( ! ) or so. This is the one that I went on a rant about winding the toroids for sometime back. WELL....I finished the toroids, and that meant I could finish the coupler. Last night I mounted the main board in the enclosure, and tonight I'm going to make some preliminary measurements in preparation for calibrating it.
I had to order some Schottky diodes to build an accurate RF voltage probe with. I have dummy loads that are almost exactly 50 Ohms from 1MHz to beyond 1GHz, so I have my "Known Impedance" to work with. Once I build the RF probe, I'll be able to accurately measure the voltage across the load, and calculate the power developed by my Elecraft K2, which will allow me to calibrate the "Power" part of the meter. I also have some 50 Ohm delay lines of known length, so I'll be able to calibrate the "Vector" part of the meter.
Knowing the forward and reflected power, the meter will calculate VSWR, and by knowing the phase angle between the voltage and current on both the forward and reflected ports, it can calculate the complex impedance of the antenna system, or anything else that gets connected to it.
And after I've cleaned up this project, I'll get back to finishing up the Collins 75S-1 receiver I've had torn apart for almost TWO years. I never meant for this one to take so long. I got it for about $75, and it was filthy, and didn't work quite right. I replaced all of the defective tubes, recapped it, and replaced some out-of-tolerance resistors. It was working much better, but before I did the alignment, I decided to "clean" it, and before I knew it, I had it torn down to almost the bare chassis. I replaced all the ceramic insert RCA jacks on the back panel (some had broken inserts; all were rusty), which meant drilling out the rivets, unsoldering/resoldering a whole bunch of connections, and then touching up the solk screened designations on the rear panel where I bumped them with my Dremel tool while I was grinding a dimple into the rivet head so I could drill out the rivets.
This one definitely got out of hand, but it should be really nice when I'm finished. The paint was in excellent condition under all the grunge, the knobs buffed out beautifully and I repainted the indicator lines and put new spun inserts in them. I even took Scotch-Brite and Nev-R-Dull to all the crystal cans for the heterodyne, BFO, and calibrator crystals.
Back to the workbench!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


OK, the YF and I finally sat down and watched "Serenity".
Kinda made us both regretting we didn't watch my boxed set of "Firefly" FIRST!
And now I finally get all the quotes I've seen floating around The Net these last few years.
I'm definitely going to take "Firefly" with me when I go out on the next launch, along with "Miami Vice", and "Dead Like Me", neither of which I've seen all the episodes of.

Bill Whittle on "The Narrative"

Found this over at USA_Admiral's place, who in turn found it at Adrienne's Corner.

It's stunning commentary, as usual, from Mr. Whittle.
And as he reminds us, The Signal WILL Get Out......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughts For The Day....

Have a good weekend.
Playing radio/computer on Saturday, and watching the Long Beach Grand Prix on Sunday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Simple, Expedient HF Antennas

Don't worry, I'm still working on the series of articles I promised, oh, a year ago?
I've rewritten it several times, and it's 90% to the point of adding the illustrations to it.
I'll probably take photos of the various types as I build them out in the back yard, as I don't draw things "on the computer" very well, and I don't want to swipe random pix off the Web.
When this is finished, I'll post the sections of it, and if I can find a free place to upload a pdf for free access, I'll do that, too.
So hang in there, it's "In Work" as we used to say at Boeing!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Origins of "73"

The telegraphy abbreviation "73" has long been used between operators at closing to signal "Best Wishes". It also gets used on radiotelephone, and should never be used as the plural, as in "73's".
I know some Old Timers who insist if you're going to use it for voice, you should say each number separately, as in "Seven Three, Old Man".
I, personally, don't have a problem with hearing someone say "Seventy-Three", but the plural form just grates me.
Since my YF (wife, to non-radio people) edits the club newsletter, and is always looking for articles, one of our members sent in a scan of a page from the April, 1935 edition of "QST", the magazine of the ARRL.
Since the scan wasn't very high quality, I cut-and-pasted the print into a Word document, and then cleaned it up by hand.

On the Origin of “73”

The December Bulletin from the Navy Department Office of the Chief of Naval Operations contains some extremely interesting information about "73."

The origin of "73" as the telegrapher's conventional signal of greeting has been ascribed to a dinner given to Andrew Carnegie on his 73rd birthday by the Order of Military Telegraphers. The dinner referred to was given on November 27, 1908, and the signal "73" was played upon in connection with his 73rd birthday. However, investigation indicates that the term "73" was used for many years prior to that time.

The following material, believed to be authentic, is quoted from the "Telegraph and Telephone Age," dated 1 June,1934:

"It appears from a research of telegraph histories that in

1859 the telegraph people held a convention, and one of its

features was a discussion as to the saving of 'Iine time.' A

committee was appointed to devise a code to reduce standard

expressions to symbols or figures, This committee

worked out a figure code, from figure 1 to 92. Most of these

figure symbols became obsolescent, but a few remain to this

date, such as 4, which means 'Where shall I go ahead?' Figure

9 means 'wire,' the wire chief being on the wire and that

everyone should close their keys. Symbol 13 means 'I don't

understand'; 22 is 'love and a kiss'; 30 means 'good night'

or 'the end.' The symbol most often used now is 73, which

means 'my compliments,' and 92 is for the word 'deliver.'

The other figures in between the foregoing have fallen into

almost complete disuse."

Mr, J. L. Bishop, Chief Telegrapher of the Navy Department Communication Office, quotes from memory the signals that were in effect in 1905:

1 Wait a minute.

4 Where shall I start in message?

5 Have you anything for me?

9 Attention, or clear the wire (used by wire chiefs and

train dispatchers).

13 I do not understand.

22 Love and kisses.

25 Busy on another circuit.

30 Finished, the end (YA) (Used mostly by press telegraphers

to denote the end of a story or closing out).

73 My compliments, or Best regards.

92 Deliver.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Shack Updates

I put aside the little Arduino project I'm helping my friend with so I could do some "Shack Renovation" this weekend.
Actually, it was more a "Clean-and-Toss" event, where I cleaned up a bunch of stuff, got some stackable storage bins, tossed out several LARGE cardboard boxes that I had "stuff" stored in, and in general neatened things up a bit.
One of the things I did was to get my ICom IC-R7100 and Uniden BC796D receivers set up, and fed them both off the little multicoupler I built sometime back.
The simplest way of looking at a multicoupler is to consider it a "Splitter with Gain", although it does more than that. It also provides 30~40dB of isolation between the receivers, which is good for keeping things like Local Oscillator leakage down to a minimum.'s not working the way I intended, and rather than spend HOURS fixing it (trust would take me longer to "fix" it than it did to *build* it), I decided to just leave the Uniden scanner connected to the Discone, and get a little 3-element Yagi that I can point at the airport so I can use the ICom to listen to all the airport stuff.
Yes, I know, it's a terrible waste to use an IC-R7100 to "just" listen to the local airport, but until I get the damn multicoupler working (looks like the amplifier isn't), that's what I'm going to use it for.
Well, me being me, I decided to build an airband Yagi, rather than buy one. I tend to be CHEEP about these things, and I've got piles of 1/8" and 1/4" brass and aluminum rod for the elements, and a ton of PVC pipe to use for a boom.
ANYWAY....snooping around the web for a while, I couldn't find any cookbook dimensions to build a 118~137MHz Yagi, so I figured I'd gin my own up. Gee...there's all these neat antenna design programs for Linux, so I'll just grab a couple and........
NONE of them do what I want! Oh sure, they'll all give me great plots of gain, directivity, and patterns, but that's AFTER I've figured out all the element dimensions!
So, it looks like I'll have to start with a dipole cut for 127.5MHz, and then go with the old rule-of-thumb making the reflector and director 10% longer/shorter than the driven element, and then tweak the dimensions of where the elements are spaced on the boom until I get something that looks like it will work.
Maybe I should have just keep going building another one of the Arduino units. I've built three so far, and they all work "As Advertised".

OK....found a website that does *exactly* what I needed to do. It let me design a 2-element Yagi, that has about 3dB gain, and fits on an 18" boom.
You just enter the center frequency, a gain you'd like, a few other specifics,and it generates the element lengths, and spacing.


NOPE 2012

Really great bumper sticker.

You can buy them here.

George Carlin on Environmentalism

I used to be a huge George Carlin fan. Then he seemed to get really bitter, almost "unhinged" toward the end of his life, and it turned me off.

Here's some truly "Classic Carlin" with his take on the Enviro-Nazis.
As per Carlin at his best, he's 100% spot-on.

Thanks to Jeffro for finding it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1992 L.A. Riots

There's a series of posts over at BonnieGadsden that I encourage you to read.
For those of us who were out here in "LA-LA Land" during the riots, it's a chilling reminder of just how fast society can break down.
I was living in Redondo Beach at the time, right on the beach (Catalina Ave.) with two of my buddies. We were far enough off the freeways that we felt fairly safe, but the sight of all the smoke rising in the distance, and the constant reporting on the TV still gave us pause to wonder just how bad it would really get.
It took Governor Wilson three days to request assistance from the National Guard, and it wasn't until the fourth day that the Humvees started rolling into the city, and a semblance of order was restored.
I have a lot of Korean friends that I've made since then, and they still talk about it. Since the police (at least the LAPD was) were holed up in their stations, you were on your own, and the Korean shop keepers took defense of their property and families into their own hands.