Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Field Day Pictures

We had a great time (again!) this year at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, a.k.a "The Upper Reservation at Fort MacArthur". The weather was great, we had plenty of food, nobody got injured, and we made a lot of contacts.
I had 50 "in the log", but when I cross-checked it, I had 5 duplicates, for a final count of 45, and a final valid score of 144 points..
I've never had 'dupes' at Field Day, and since they were all by the same guy, I'll write it off to his grabbing every contact he heard!
I think we easily could have made 65~70 contacts, but the HO-68 satellite wasn't operational this year, and since we made almost half our contacts on that one last year, it was sorely missed.
Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Over For Another Year

And we had a great time, as usual.
I don't have the final tally yet, but the 20 meter CW station made around1000 contacts, the 20 meter phone station made about 1200, the 15 meter phone station made 380, and the satellite station (my son and I) made 49 this year.
We actually have 53 callsigns, but couldn't make the complete exchange with them, so we can't count them.
If HO-68 had been working this year, I think we could have made at least 70 contacts, maybe more.
I'll post some pix after I finish unloading the Jeep, and download them from my camera.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Field Day Update

As of Saturday night when we shut down for the day, we had 35 contacts in the log, which is as many as we had in total last year..
I'm going to try and get back Sunday morning by 8am, and with luck we'll make 5~10 more. Last year we made about 15 on Sunday morning, and if we get that many again, we'll have around 50 in the log.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Geert Wilders Acquitted

Mr. Wilders has been a controversial figure since about 2007. After much legal wrangling, and having the judges in his first trial removed, he was finally acquitted of all charges.
Read all about it here, on the Wikipedia.
Better read it quickly, as Wikipedia has a way of revising history.....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Analog Electronics Loses Two Giants

I've always been more of a "analog" guy than a "digital" guy. It's probably because of when I grew up, and the fact that radio is really an analog mode.
On June 12th, Jim Williams passed away. I didn't know Jim, but he was one of the founding fathers of modern analog circuit design. He wrote many, many applications notes for Linear Technology (I'll bet I read most of them), many articles for EDN magazine, and published numerous books.
This morning I heard that another giant among analog engineers had passed away, Bob Pease.
I met Bob several times at conferences, and while I can't say he was a friend of mine, I always found him very charming, with an amazing sense of humor and wit. His column, or one of his "Pease Porridge" specials, was the first thing I turned to when my new Electronic Design arrived in the mail, and if they didn't run it that month, it really bummed me out.
Bob was driving his beloved 1969 VW Beetle, and was killed in a car crash coming home from the memorial for Jim Williams.
God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen!
The world is a far better place for having had men like you in it, and you will both be sorely missed.
My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to your families.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

To all my fellow Dads out there....Have A Good One!

My wife treated me to dinner at the Outback, and tomorrow I'M DOIN' NUTHIN'!

Well, going to play with my radio stuff and do that last full-up test to make sure it's ready for Field Day, check the laptops to make sure they're all AOK, run to Harbor Freight for a few things, and then maybe DO NUTHIN!

Enjoy the day, my friends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gettin' Awfully Crowded Up There....

Well, we finally got the Weather Radar operational. We still have to calibrate it, but at least now it works as intended with no unusual burps, hiccups, or farts. We're going to write it off to corroded connections, and not being active for over 18 months. The brushes on the drive motors weren't seating correctly after sitting in one position for so long, and most of the oil had drained off all the moving parts, making it hard to turn for portions of the azimuth. It's splash-lubricated, and we did "prop it" a few dozen rotations by hand, but it really needs to be operated to keep the cobwebs out.
Since I'm one of the guys in the Range Group, I get all kinds of COLA (COLlision Avoidance) notices from NASA, and "other" organizations. They pointed me to this article on the Spaceflight Now website about all the junk accumulating Up There.
It looks grim, and unless some entrepreneur can figure out a way to clean things up (Salvage 1, anybody?), we're facing a real possibility of a cascade failure, with collisions begetting more junk, begetting more collisions, etc, etc, until orbital space is unusable.
What a mess!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's That Time Again....

Field Day, that is.
After spending about 10 hours replacing the connectors on the cables between the rotor control box and the rotors themselves, I decided to mount the elevation rotor back on the mast and test them. They worked fine, so the next step was to put the cross boom through the elevation rotor, and mount the antennas, hook everything up, and play radio for a while today.
WELLLLL....right about the time I tipped the tower over (again!) to get the elevation set right on the antennas, I noticed I had mounted the elevation rotor UPSIDE DOWN,
The sad thing is that it's marked "UP" right on the top of the rotor, and I missed it.
A few P-Touch labels later, AND flipping the elevation rotor around, I finally had things bolted together and up in the air.
Only had one satellite with a decent pass, VO-52, and right about the time I made a contact with a guy back in the midwest, the satellite was low enough in elevation that the antennas were pointed right at the roof, and I lost him.
Oh, well....I have all week after work, and all next weekend to get things debugged. It should be easy, as once I got the operator-induced mechanical problems solved, the antennas moved properly under control of the tracking program running on my laptop, and the radio tuned correctly, too.
And I only suffered one minor injury. Somehow when I was wrestling with the tower, I scraped a good sized chunk of skin off the back of my right hand.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Busy, Busy!

Between work and getting prepped for Field Day, I've been pretty busy.
One of the things I was griping about here, was the fact that the drawings we got from the vendor that built and installed our "C-Band, Pulsed Doppler Weather Radar" weren't done very well. I started redrawing them the other day, and found some glaring errors in them. Since we're still having problems, we decided to pull the interface box out of the dome, and bring it down to the bench where I could look at it.
I would have gone up there myself, but it's a 40' vertical climb, and I start getting pretty queasy above 15' or so. If the ladder is inclined, like the ladder on the mast of our other ship, I'll scoot right up there, but there's something about a "free" vertical climb that high that bothers me. I've got my own safety harness and shock absorbing lanyard I use when I do my Ham Radio stuff, but we're not allowed to use our personally-owned Personal Protective Equipment of that type on the job. All our "work" harnesses are all out being inspected and certified after sitting for two years, so when they get back I'll have an "approved" one to use.
Back to the wiring....
I opened the box up, and besides the extremely poor workmanship inside it, it doesn't match the drawings AT ALL!
Major screw-up on the vendors part for giving us these "As Built" drawings that are a hodge-podge of the drawings from the original system, and their "best guesstimate" of how the box was built.
So, I've spent the last two days making 25 pages of notes, wire lists, connector pinouts, and verifying each and every wire and connector pin with my Ohmmeter.
We also took several dozen high resolution photographs of this 18"x 24"x 12" box for future use. It's going to take me another couple of days to generate correct, accurate drawings suitable for archiving and troubleshooting, but it will finally be done. I had started this before I was laid-off, and had a good idea of what needed to be done, and some wirelists, but opening up the box and tracing the circuitry inside was a shock to us all.
The really funny (ironic? karma?) thing about all this is that the other night I was looking at the drawings I made in 2002 for the connections between the control box and the Azimuth and Elevation rotators for my Amateur Radio satellite station. I had some problems with the Molex connectors I used (they're just not made for repeated mate/demate cycles, and the female pins get loose), and I bought new connectors of a better type to replace them with. I figured it prudent to check my drawings before I just started cutting connectors off the cables, and....UH-OH!
Now, I have a 100% functional system, and it works exactly as it should, but my own drawings didn't match my "As Built" hardware!
Boy, talk about egg on my face!
So I now have a complete, correct set of drawings with pin numbers, wire colors, and wire function, for the cables and connectors used in my antenna system.
I guess when it rains it pours....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2012 Elections Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

So think about this for a bit, courtesy of my buddy Ken over at Knuckledraggin My Life Away:

An old West Virginia Hillbilly saying: Ya can't get the water to clear up until you get the pigs outta the creek.

*If any other of our presidents had doubled the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?*

*If any other of our presidents had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had criticized a state law that he admitted he never even read, would you think that he is just an ignorant hot head? *

*If any other of our presidents joined the country of Mexico and sued a state in the United States to force that state to continue to allow illegal immigration, would you question his patriotism and wonder who's side he was on? *

*If any other of our presidents had pronounced the Marine Corps like Marine Corpse, would you think him an idiot? *

*If any other of our presidents had put 87,000 workers out of work by arbitrarily placing a moratorium on offshore oil drilling on companies that have one of the best safety records of any industry because one foreign company had an accident, would you have agreed? *

*If any other of our presidents had used a forged document as the basis of the moratorium that would render 87,000 American workers unemployed would you support him? *

*If any other of our presidents had been the first President to need a Teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes? *

*If any other of our presidents had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take his First Lady to a play in NYC, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had reduced your retirement plan holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought it a proud moment for America ? *

*If any other of our presidents had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had visited Austria and made reference to the nonexistent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip? *

*If any other of our presidents had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved? *

*If any other of our presidents had stated that there were 57 states in the United States, wouldn't you have had second thoughts about his capabilities? *

*If any other of our presidents would have flown all the way to Denmark to make a five minute speech about how the Olympics would benefit him walking out his front door in his home town, would you not have thought he was a self-important, conceited, egotistical jerk. *

*If any other of our presidents had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, wouldn't you have winced in embarrassment? *

*If any other of our presidents had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?*

*If any other of our presidents' administrations had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11? *

*If any other of our presidents had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans, would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence? *

*If any other of our presidents had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have ever approved. *

*If any other of our presidents had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved? *

*So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive?
*Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 24 months -- so you have that much time to come up with an answer .*

*An' how about all those vacations he & Michelle take constantly, (with a more than a full entourage) paid for by American tax-payers? *

Every statement and action in this email is factual and directly attributable to Barrack Hussein Obama. Every bumble is a matter of record and completely verifiable.

Field Day Preparations

Was going to get started yesterday on Saturday, but I had a breakfast meeting with my club, and then I finished installing all the software on the PC I use to run my FlexRadio 5000A. The motherboard in that PC had been giving me random BSOD's, even from when it was new. It finally bit the dust early last week and wouldn't boot up at all. I ordered a new motherboard for it a couple of weeks ago, and installed it last Saturday. I left the Windows 7 installation alone, and while it worked OK, I just get all queasy inside running a new motherboard with the previous installation of Windoze. I think Windows has gotten much better in that respect, as I've done the same to to Vista installations, and after spending 20 minutes or so sorting itself out, they booted up and ran fine. Still, I prefer a clean installation when making a major hardware change.
SO......Spent some time cleaning up the garage this morning (ALWAYS a losing battle here at Casa de Radio!), and getting things rounded up (a.k.a. "One Big Pile") to make sure I have all the bits and pieces to put the portable satellite station back together.
The first thing I did after that was crank up my little Honda EU2000i generator, which hasn't been run in almost a year. I always put StaBil in the fuel, but it still took about 10 pulls to get it running, and it wasn't too happy at first. It took longer on the choke to keep running, and surged badly for about the first ten minutes of running. I ran it about 30 minutes with a 1000 Watt load, and shut it down to cool. Now it starts on the first pull, like a good little Honda should.
I really like this generator; it has an "Economy Mode" that conserves fuel, and with the light loading on it at Field Day, it will run a good 8~9 hours on one tank (1.1 gallons) of gas. Plus it's really quiet compared to some of the cheaper gensets on the market that use "lawnmower" engines. I've had people ask me if it was running, because the noise it makes was drowned out by the Coleman, Sears, and Harbor Freight generators!
Anyway.....back to work rounding up my stuff. I suppose if I did The Big Push I could get things running today, but I'd rather take the time to *make sure* all my gear is in good shape, and ready to go.
And I still haven't got the trailer licensed. That's on my To Do list for this week!

Meet Luna!

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