Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year.....I Hope!

Thought I'd get an early start to the well wishes.

Don't stay out too late tonight, and DON'T drink and drive!

My wife and I were joking about how late we'd be able to stay up tonight. The consensus was maybe 11pm.

I have some errands to do today, and some other running around, but I'll be back here before 6pm.

And the weight loss is coming along nicely since my Doctor told me I had to drop 30 pounds by July. My wife has some very good diabetic cookbooks, and I knocked off eating most of the junky stuff I'd been nibbling on during the day. I think this will be the first Christmas season that I didn't gain 5 pounds, but rather lost 5 pounds!

I probably won't make it to the rifle range over the holiday, as I have a new project coming up, but I did field strip my M1, clean it, and properly grease it with some moly-based wheel bearing grease that most of my Garand books recommend. A dab here, a dab there, and an 'extra' dab where the Operating Rod slide back and forth in the channel.

Took me about 45 minutes from start to finish, but the extra time was spent learning all the parts, and inspecting them in their "as new" condition so I can spot wear patterns as they develop, and catch any parts that start to go bad. One of the things I have to do is get some spares for it so I can keep it running if it ever breaks down, something that shouldn't happen if I take care of it, and maintain it correctly. Still, I'm big on having spares (usually double spares!) on hand to minimize downtime if a failure occurs. It's worked well before, and I always replenish my stock of parts asoon as I draw one out for repairs.

So, hope you all have a safe New Year's Eve, and here's hoping we can get things back on-the-rails for 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How You Speak Reveals Where You're From

As if we all didn't know this.

Jeffro over at the Poor Farm found this, and it nailed my hometown so close it's scary!

For some reason when I copied the image it left the cities off, but the darkest red around and a bit South West of where Chicago is is where I grew up.

Yep, I knew "Joilet Jake" and his bother Elwood......

Greg Lake ~I Believe In Father Christmas~

One of my favorites, with Ian Anderson on flute!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Chamber Brothers "Time Has Come Today"

Love it or hate it, this song was one of the defining songs of "my" generation.

Working on the "Honey Dew" list today while the wife is out visiting friends.

Have to recaulk the bathtub seal to the tile on thee wall, fill in some holes the little dog created, and start cleaning up/organizing the Radio Room, which I have let totally get out of hand over the last several months of working on projects and such.

Hope y'all have a good weekend, and I'm off work for the next SIXTEEN days.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

YAY! Finished With Training Classes!

And I'm now "Certified" in various areas of Electrical Bonding, Resistance Measurements of Bonds, Connector Engaging and Disengaging ("Mate" and "Demate" are no longer allowed to be used!), Moldable Plastic Shims (basically epoxy spacers used in structural applications), Electrical Torque, Basic Torque, and Soldering.

I aced all the written exams, and the other students kept coming over to look at my finished soldered connections (turret terminals, bifurcated terminals, hook connections, solder lugs, and connector pins) to see how they should look, and were asking me as many questions as they were the instructor!

He was really good about it, and told my manager the other day that I was probably at least as qualified as he was to teach the class, a nice little pat on the back.

These are training courses I'd taken several times in the past when I worked for the company that started the enterprise, so they were nothing new to me, but more of a refresher, always good to take, as with shooting, some of these are perishable skills if you don't exercise them often.

And speaking of shooting, my two former workmates that I helped instruct during the recent "NRA First Steps Pistol" class have taking to their new hobby with great zeal and enthusiasm. One of them called me yesterday to ask about renting the range we use for a day so she could "sponsor" a "Day At The Range" for a group of friends. I checked with the range, and while they're willing to rent the range for $2500 per day, my friend thought that was a bit out of her price range, and decided to get an accurate headcount of attendees, and only rent two or three lanes for several hours. Most of the people she mentioned have some firearms experience, so I wouldn't be flooded with 10~12 complete rookies, not that I mind, but at least the people would have some idea of Range Safety and the Four Rules.

I'll still go over these important items with them before we step onto the range, and I'll see if I can get another instructor friend to give me a hand.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NOAA APT Satellites with A FUNCube Dongle, Gqrx, and WXtoIMG

WELL.....in case anybody's been wondering, I've been adjusting the parameters (high-tech talk for "messing around with") on the Gqrx SDR receiver program, while making some antenna adjustments.

I still don't have a 137MHz bandpass filter, but by carefully adjusting the software RF gain control in the receiver program, along with a few antenna tweaks, I've got this process fairly well nailed down.

First, the antenna.

I came home from work Friday ("Moldable Plastic Shim" class...MESSY!), and as I turned down the street, I didn't see the eggbeater sticking up.


WELL.....the dogs (Pebbles, I'd bet on it!) decided the extra length of RG-6QS coax I had coiled up where it came into the house looked like a great tug-of-war toy, and they (she?) yanked on it hard enough to destroy the connector before it pulled through my bulkhead pass-through, and pulled the antenna over!

Fortunately ( ? ) it laded across the telephone and FiOS cable drops from the utility pole in the back yard, and didn't come crashing down to the ground.

Since I had just cable-tied it to my "portable" satellite mount and antenna, I had to take all that stuff apart, cut the super-duty cable ties I used, and get everything separated,

Since I now had the mount completely stripped, I was able to get the mast with the eggbeater on it mounted parallel to the large diameter mast on the mount, and secure it with some large stainless hose clamps. I was then able to get the whole shebang vertical again, and this time I put four concrete blocks on the base to keep it vertical!

I took about 90 minutes to get  that "almost disaster" was averted, and the antenna back in the air where it belongs.

Gqrx Configuration

This is what I've found works acceptably well with a FUNCube dongle, and the antenna I have. This only applies to the "Gqrx SDR" program I'm running, which is freely downloadable for Linux of Mac OSX. He includes the source code on his website, so you might be able to compile it for Windows, but that's beyond this little post.

This first part concerns controls on the "Input Controls" tab.

#1. Calibrate the frequency! You do this by tuning in a known station, and adjusting the "Frequency Corr." to get the carrier of the station centered on the red fiducial line. I used NOAA Weather Radio on 162.550 MHz to do this. Click either the "up" arrow or "down" arrow to adjust the frequency as required.
In my case the dongle needed a -17ppm correction to center NOAA on the red line. Your dongle will be different.

The screenshot below shows the correct Frequency Correction, along with the RF Gain slider being reduced, and the "DC Cancel" box checked, so the next two steps are included in it,. You don't need to drag the RF Gain slider with your mouse. Just click it to change the focus, and use the left and right arrow keys for better granularity in adjusting it.

#2. Set the RF Gain slider (in the "Input Controls" tab) to no more than 5 "ticks" to the right of the "zero" setting. You might be able to get away running more gain if you live in an area with few strong signals, but here in the "RF Alley" of Los Angeles, any more than this will cause you grief if you don't have some decent bandpass filters between the antenna and receiver. I was able to verify this by inserting a DCI-146-4H 2 Meter bandpass filter between the receiver and antenna to listen to the Amateur Radio satellites with 2 Meter downlinks. It pretty much eliminated all the crud and spurs that get internally generated by the dongle when the RF Gain slider is higher than about half way.
The box with the "A" in it to the right of the slider sets the AGC to "Auto", but this isn't supported by all devices.

#3. Check the "DC Cancel" box. This (mostly) gets rid of the "spike" in the center of the screen when no signals are tuned in. The "Swap I/Q" and "I/Q Balance" controls aren't need for this application, so leave the check boxes UNchecked.

This part concerns the controls on the "Receiver Options" tab.

The sceenshot below shows how I have mine set up.

#4. Set the mode to "Narrow FM". Ignore the "Filter" choices as you'll be setting the to a "User" value. Click the little box that looks like a crossed screwdriver and wrench to open the "Mode Options" menu. Set "Max dev" to "APT (17k)", and tun the "Tau" to "OFF". "Tau" is another term for the de-emphasis time constant, and since we want the flattest audio we can get, turn it off.

#5. Grab one side of the gray window in the upper display (it shows the bandwidth), and pull it wider until the "Filter" box changes to "User (40k)". This indicates you have set the receiver bandpass to 40 kHz, wide enough to recover the audio properly, and a little bit more so the Doppler tuning isn't so critical.

#6. The "AGC" and "NB1/NB2" boxes don't need to be adjusted, as they have little effect on FM.

#7. Slide the "SQL" (squelch) slider all the way to the left to turn it off.
This part concerns the "FFT Settings" tab.

#8. These control the spectrum and waterfall displays. The "Averaging" slider controls how fast the spectrum display updates, while the "Panadapter" slider controls how much of the screen the waterfall takes up.
I leave the "FFT size" at the 4096 default, and the "Rate" at the 15fps default.
The "Zoom" "Color" and the "F" in the box are cosmetic, so play with them to see what they do.

This part concerns the "Audio" tab.

And here's the screen you get after you pick or create  file save location.

If you don't, the default is a null string, and the program will terminate if you click the red button under the gain slider to start recording the received audio. To select a director, click on the crossed wrench and screwdriver box to open the "Audio Options" menu. The default is the "Documents" folder in your /home directory, but you can save them anywhere.

This should get you set up well enough to hear the satellites, and record them, if you have a decent antenna.

Today's images came out quite well. I suppose I could write some scripts to automate all this, but that would mean leaving a PC running 24/7, something I'd rather not do.

Here's some images from today:

NOAA-18 "A" Channel enhanced:

NOAA-18 "B" Channel enhanced:

NOAA-18 color IR:

NOAA-18 Multi-Spectral:

NOAA-18 Sea Surface Temp:

NOAA-18 Thermal:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Too Busy To Write

Been going nuts with training classes at work in such mundane things as Fiber Optics, Electrical Bonding and Ground, and Aircraft Tubing and Hose Installation.


But so far I've scored 100% on all the written and practical exams.

Anyway....here's one of my favorites.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Good Decoded Image From NOAA-15

After penning my diatribe about badly these "SDR Dongles" need some front-end filtering, I noticed NOAA-15 was coming up with an almost overhead pass. Passes this high in elevation have very strong signals, and by turning the RF gain (software) control down quite a bit, I started recording the pass as it came over the horizin.

I was still seeing phantom signals in the waterfall display, but with the RF gain turned down, they weren't as bad, and none of them "broke through" and completely wiped out the receiver.

Here's the image, in what the decoding software calls "MCIR_Color" format:

It's no too bad, and the "Noise Bars" at the top are caused by nulls in the antenna pattern, where the antenna gain drops off. Due to where my antenna is mounted, and other factors, I don't get a strong signal at low elevations to the South, so the image doesn't extend very far South.

The black band running across the picture towards the bottom is the result of a strong signal blocking the receiver. Even with the RF gain cranked down to the point where I thought I might not get anything, something still clobbered the front-end of the little radio.

With a better mounting of my antenna, and some additional filtering in front of the receiver allowing me to turn the gain up a bit, I should be able to get almost horizon-to-horizon coverage.

Still, this one came out pretty well, and I was surprised that I was able to get something this good with the RF gain turned down so far.

THIS Is Why You NEED External Filters With "$20 SDR Receivers"

By now you're all used to me harping about how while these little $20 dongles are interesting, they need some external help to make them useful in real world situations.

WELL.....here's a little proof of what happens when strong signals outside of the passband of your interest occur, and I wasn't even using my "$20 RTL-bought-on-eBay" little stick radio. I was using my "$200 FUNCube Dongle", which has better RF performance. I'll try the $20 unit, but I'm pretty sure I know how that will turn out.....

I was setting up to record a pass of one of the NOAA APT weather satellites, and man, was I getting clobbered with out-of-band signals.

This screenshot shows what I was hearing while waiting for NOAA-18 to come up over the horizon:

The center of the screen is at 137.9125 MHz, and on either side of it, in the waterfall display, you can see some HUGE signals that are not even in the 130~140 Mhz band.

I'm not sure what the one right on the center is, but the one off to the right a bit is a paging transmitter. It was so strong, I could clearly hear it, and since I know what they sound like, that's how I know what it was.

One of the times it broke through I could also hear FM modulation riding in along with it, and it was a person I know on the 145.380 MHz repeater.

That's TWELVE MHz removed from the center frequency!

VHF paging transmitters operate in the 152~158 MHz range, TWENTY MHz removed from what I was trying to receive!

This would be COMPLETELY unacceptable performance in a "real" receiver, but I guess since these little guys are so doggone cute, cheap, and (relatively) easy to use, most people give it a pass.

Here's another screenshot of the actual satellite pass, again with extraneous signals shsowing up:

If you look at the waterfall, you'll notice that each of the non-desired signals also has a "mirror image" of itself higher in frequency, a sure indication that these are internally generated by cross-mixing with other signals that don't appear in the passband.

Where and how these spurious signals get generated is beyond this little blog post, and it can get quite complicated, so I wont go into it here.

SO.....what's the bottom line on all of this?

Well, for casual use, it's rather annoying, but if you jump on the "ZOMG!! A $20 DC-TO-DAYLIGHT SPY/INTERCEPT/MAGIC RADIO!!!!" bandwagon, like I see being promoted on several "survival radio" websites, you're severely deluding yourself.

If you're using these to listen to transmissions, you might be able to tolerate an occasional loss of audio due to something big clobbering the front end of these little radios. After all, the "Between-The-Ears DSP" that God gave us can do remarkable things to fill in the blanks, as anybody who knows and uses Morse Code can tell you.

If you're using these things to decode transmissions, then all bets are off.

You WILL suffer data loss, dropouts, and other mysterious artifacts if you use these things "As Is".

The recording of the pass I was trying to capture when the paging transmitter fired up was useless to decode, and that's after I spent some time over the last week or so playing with all the software adjustments that give you a certain amount of control over how these operate.

They're very sensitive to the amount of RF gain dialed in, and will go from being usable to being overloaded easily.

The fact is that these things were not designed to be wide-range surveillance or communications receivers, and they have definite shortcomings for that use.

The same thing occurs with most of the newer, wide-band hand-held transceivers  being sold today. My old Radio Shack HTX-202 2 Meter only hand-held was pretty much immune to any out-of-band interference, while my newer radios will definitely take a hit in performance when in the presence of very strong out-of-band signals.

It all comes down to the amount of discrete filtering on the front-end of the radio. Very small radios are difficult to impossible to stuff full of the coils and capacitors need to make effective bandpass filters that protect the front end from getting hammered by RF.

The preamp I have mounted at the antenna is an exceptionally good one, with a very low Noise Figure (about .7dB, measured), and also has *some* helical filtering in it, but it's not very much, and since I'm using it well outside of it's design parameters, it might not be helping very much.

So, until I can come up with a specific, dedicated filter and preamp, I'll just have to put up with the fact that a $20 dongle radio cannot perform as well as a "real" radio for certain uses.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day

I spent almost the entire day on the Battleship Iowa today operating the Amateur Radio station. 10 Meters started off with a bang, faded out around 1330 local time, and then I went to 15 Meters for the rest of the day.

Since I was there alone, I was pretty beat by 1600, so I shut down early, packed my gear up and came home.

I also had my radio club "First Saturday of the Month" breakfast, which I got to late because it was raining, and then the breakfast ran late, which made me even later to the Iowa.

Comm Central was dark when I arrived, and it took a while to find somebody who knew which switches turned on the overhead lights, so I set up by the light of the few fixtures that were on. At least I now know which switches control all the lights!

I only made about 75 contacts, as I try and spend some time with each person so I can explain to them what we're doing on the Iowa, and the status of the ship, and that slows you down from operating in full-blown "Contest Mode" where you can knock out 75 contacts per hour, and the really good operators top 100 per hour. That's not Amateur Radio to me, which is one of the reasons I don't usually operate in contests, although I have in the past, and probably will in the future, but not as a "120 Contacts per Hour" type of Ham.

I talked to people from all over the United States today, and most had forgotten that it was Pearl Harbor day until I told them why we had the ship on-the-air today.

The rest of them, most the Old Timers, and all of them Veterans, knew why we were on-the-air, and thanked me for taking the time to make sure the ship was represented.

Several of them had talked to other "Museum Ships" today, but I didn't have any luck in talking to our friends on the Hornet; band conditions just weren't favorable for the path from San Pedro to Alameda today.

All in all, it was a good day, and it's always good to be on the Iowa.

Friday, December 6, 2013

NOAA APT Decoding Success!


Got home from work and some errands just in time to catch the last "good" pass of NOAA-18 for the day.

I fired up my "Daily Driver" Linux box, and started the GPredict satellite tracking program. Since I already had the three operational NOAA satellites loaded, I saw that NOAA-15 was overhead, with NOAA-18 a minute or two behind.

Since I wouldn't have time to power up the Windoze 7 PC I normally use for my Ham Radio stuff, I took a chance and launched Gqrx, an SDR program that will work with either a FUNCube or RTL dongle. Since I already had the FCD plugged in, I set the mode to Narrow FM, and tuned to the NOAA-15 frequency of 137.620 MHz.

Since Gqrx either didn't remember the settings I used for the APT satellites, -OR- I had changed them, it took a minute or so to get them sorted out. There's an "APT" selection in the available filter parameters, but it's only 17.5 kHz, so I grabbed the filter window edge with the mouse, and stretched it out to 40.8 kHz, wide enough to cover all the "tracks" in the waterfall display, but not so wide as to let other signals in.

This screenshot was taken during the pass after I had everything set up, and was satisfied it was recording:

When the pass finally got weak, I stopped recording, opened Audacity, converted the stereo recording to mono, and resampled it down to 11025 kHz.

Then I fed it to WXtoImg, and it decoded clean!

This is the first decode, called "Normal":

The "steps" or "jumps" in the gray-scale data blocks along the edges are most probably caused by my manual adjustment of the Doppler as I was recording the audio.

Here's one in color, produced by using the information in each of the two pix above, along with certain data sent down:

For the sailors out there, here's the sea surface temperature:

And lastly, here's one called "Thermal":

There are a bunch more "Enhancement" options available on the version of WXtoImg that's on my Windoze PC, as that's a "paid for" registered version, while the Linux version is "freeware", and doesn't look like it even has a place to enter a registration code, so WYSIWYG!

I'll try to use the $20 RTL dongle on the next pass, about 40 minutes from now (0105 UTC), and see how that one receives. Since I now know how to change the "front end" sample rate on the RTL unit, I can cut down on the amount of spectrum it samples and converts, making it easier to tune the unit, and cut down on signals I *don't* want to receive.

I won't have time tomorrow to record any passes, as I'll be on the Battleship Iowa all day operating the Amateur Radio station for Pearl Harbor day, but I'm sure going to try and snag some nice, full passes on Sunday!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NOAA Satellite Recording Decoder Problem SOLVED! Well, solved for now........

Well, well, well.......

I "solved" my problem in kinda-sorta in a back-handed way, but at least now I know what I was doing wrong.

Earlier today I replied to Silicon Graybeard that I was going to try an old program I used to use to decode the audio recordings I made from the NOAA APT satellites. I tried installing WXsat on my Windows 7 PC that I use for my Amateur Radio activities, and it simply wouldn't run, regardless of whatever "compatibility mode" settings I tried. I then installed it on my Linux machine using Wine, and it ran!

The first snag I hit was that since this old program was meant for Windows 95, it couldn't handle long file names, and errored out when trying to load the recorded wave files I had. I renamed the files, and then the program informed me it could only handle MONO files. Using Audacity, I converted the recording to single track mono, and tried again.

It then threw another error, saying the files had to encoded at an 11025 Hz rate, which I remembered from looong ago, so back to Audacity to resample them from the 48kHz rate down to 11.025kHz.

Lo and behold, it accepted the file, and processed it, producing this image:

The right-to-left shift in image was caused by me doing something (I don't remember what) during the recording.

The "stripes" on the edges of the image are synchronization and telemetry frames, explained in this drawing:

Here's an image of both channels, which is easier to relate the above drawing to:

Switching to NOAA_IR (Infrared Mode), produced this image, where you can see the California coast down the approximate center:

SO....not having anything else to lose, I fed the  "remastered" file into WXtoImg, and it worked:

I still don't have the hang of flipping the images to "get them right", so until I get a longer recording, that shows more of the coast, I'm not sure what to do to "normalize" them so they look like I'd expect them to, like you're looking at a map in an atlas.

Now the interesting thing about this, is NOWHERE in the docs for WXtoImg can I find a warning, or caution, about how you have to feed the program an 11.025kHz, mono audio file, and in fact, all the things I found about "piping" the audio to the decoding program from the SDR receiving program via a Virtual Audio Cable say to leave things set at 48kHz.

It *might* accept a stereo file in some rate other than 48kHz, or it *might* accept a mono file at 48kHz, or it *might* require an 11,025 Hz, mono file, just like my "old" program.

Or, I *might* be able to get the SDR programs to save the audio from the dongle in the correct format of whatever, and not have to mess around converting the files after I've recorded them, I just don't know at this point.

And it's 2145 local time, and I have to be in to work tomorrow at 0600 for more training (we had Fiber Optic stuff today) and certification classes tomorrow, so good night, and hopefully I'll get a nice long pass recorded tomorrow so I can mess around with the decoding options now that I know I have something usable.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NOAA Weather Satellites and the FUNCube Dongle

SO.....When I got home tonight I decided to see if my FCD ("FUNCube Dongle) would work any better that the $20 RTL dongle I have.

The FCD has a much narrower bandwidth, about 80kHz, than the RTL dongle. The software I use with the RTL will allow you change the sample rate, which cuts down on the amount of spectrum it decodes, but I didn't see any difference in doing that.

I only had a couple of passes of the NOAA birds, so the only software I tried was SDR#.

The first thing I noticed was that it was very easy to set the filter bandwidth to include *only* the signal from the satellite. Doing this cuts out any strong signals that might degrade the desired signal, and it's always worthwhile doing if you can.

The screenshot below shows the received spectrum of NOAA-18 earlier today. If you look at the bottom pane of the display you'll see the "tracks" of the signal, and looking at the upper pane, you see the grey area corresponding to the receiver filter bandwidth, in this case about 50kHz:

All the extra area covered by the grey that doesn't have the "tracks" in it just allows unwanted noise to be recorded along with the signal.

Here's a shot of NOAA-15 a few minutes later after I adjusted the filter bandwidth down to 40kHz:

Notice how the grey area has narrowed, and includes just a bit of spectrum outside the "tracks". This is pretty much what you want, and is why my fellow Ham Operators love narrow filters when receiving weak signals; match the filter bandwidth to the incoming signal, and the extraneous crud gets cut off.

You can also clearly see the Doppler Shift causing the "tracks" to shift left-to-right as the satellite passes over. There's a single, bright, blue line running under 137.630 MHz, which is internally generated in the little receiver, and it doesn't change frequency, so it's a good fixed reference to compare the actual signal to, and observe the Doppler shift.

Now compare this to the next screenshot which I made over the weekend. This one was using the RTL dongle, with approximately 800 kHz of bandwidth in the display:

Quite a bit easier to determine what filter bandwidth to use when the display isn't crammed together so much! If I hadn't adjusted the bandwidth of the RTL unit for that particular pass, the display would have been about three times as crowded!

ANYWAY....today's experiment was to see if the FCD makes it easier to tune in the NOAA satellites (it does, although SDR# will let you adjust the bandwidth of the RTL unit), and to make an attempt to determine what a good filter bandwidth would be.

40 kHz looks about right, and that falls in line with all the things I've read about what filter bandwidth works best for receiving the NOAA APT satellites.

As far as using WXtoImg to decode the received signals.......well, still no joy. I'm going to take all the files I've recorded so far and run them through "xwxapt" on my Linux machine and see if I have any better luck. From listening to recorded APT signals at various places around The Web, mine sound at least as clean, and I'm pretty sure they should decode. I've done this before, with a Hamtronics R-139 receiver, a receiver specifically designed to receive APT transmissions, and it worked quite well with a homebrew turnstile antenna.

I just downloaded the older program I used to use "WXsat", and I'm going to give it a try, too.

And it looks like I might be cutting some PVC pipe this weekend to make another turnstile antenna........

Sunday, December 1, 2013

NOAA Weather Satellites and RTL-SDR Dongles, Part II


I raised the antenna yesterday to 20', and now I'm getting a SOLID signal. Some directions I pick it up at 2*, and other directions from about 6*.

The spectrum display in SDR# looks solid, and I figured out you need the squelch DISABLED, other wise you get 'popping' noises that mess up the recorded audio, and the filter set to 48kHz.

Here's a screenshot of the last session I recorded:

The highlighted area of the spectrum is the filter width, and you can see in the display panel below it that all of the signal is within the filter's bandpass. I was cutting it off before, and losing some sync and telemetry information from the satellite.

With the antenna at 20', these birds are LOUD, well out of the noise by about 20dB.

With SDR# you manually have to adjust for Doppler Shift, but it's pretty easy to check it every minute or two, and 'nudge' the frequency a bit.

The recordings I've made so far sound great, BUT WXtoImg doesn't process them correctly. All I get is the proverbial "Black Cat In A Coal Bin" pictures, with a bunch of white noise thrown in for good measure.

So, I'm able to record the audio files, but I still have to figure out what I'm doing wrong to decode and display them.

I might have a sample rate error between how I'm recording them, and what WXtoImg expects, or some other problem. I'm still hesitant to setup my Virtual Audio Cable paths to feed WXtoImg directly, as if I mess it up, I'll wind up spending more time than I want to getting them squared away for use with my Flex 5000 SDR transceiver.

Oh, well.....I'm about done for this weekend.

See you all later.

Can't Fill Jimmuh Cahter's Shoes

Says it all.....

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Morning "Get Yer Feet MOVIN!" Music

If this doesn't do it, maybe you're not among the living anymore!

Just got back from the World Famous W6TRW swap meet.

Got 200' of "550 paracord" for $10

Got 10 clipboards (nice ones) for $10

Bought a bunch of double-banana plugs-to-BNC adapters for $1 each

Bought 500 paper/plastic CD sleeves for $2

AND...bought a very clean Kenwwod R-2000 Communications Receiver for $75, an amazing bargin.

These are good little receivers, and the only thing "wrong" with this one is that the top shell of the case has the paint scratched up pretty badly in one place.

Since various vendors sell the correct color Kenwood paint in spray cans, it'll be a simple matter to pull the case, wash it, hit with my orbital sander, and respray it.

Now to get that antenna raised another 10' and continue with my FUNCube/RTL dongle experiments!

It's a beautiful day here in SoCal. Clear, cool, and there's a bit of snow in the local mountains.

Have a good day, everybody!

Friday, November 29, 2013

NOAA Weather Satellites and "RTL" dongles

This morning I decided to try and hear one of the NOAA "APT" satellites using the eggbeater I got going yesterday. I was going to raise it another 10', and anchor it to the eave, but it was raining all night long, and continued to rain until this afternoon, so I spent the time just using the antenna on a single 10' section of mast.

The NOAA "APT" (Automatic Picture Transmission) satellites have been around since the 1960's, and I used to record the audio from a modified scanner, and then process it with some free software, but I never had a dedicated antenna, so it was more for curiosity than anything useful.

This antenna works very well for receiving them, and they're LOUD! Unfortunately, the HDSDR software I use doesn't have bandwidth settings high enough to accommodate the wide signal the APT satellites use, so when I try and process the resulting audio file, I keep getting "Telemetry Not Found", and the program I use (WXtoImg) doesn't process the audio into a picture.

The SDR# software allows much wider received bandwidth, but by the time I finished messing around with HDSDR, all the high elevation passes were finished for today, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to try recording the signal using SDR#.

There's a tutorial on the RTL-SDR webpage on how to use SDR# for APT reception, but I'm a bit hesitant about mucking around with my Virtual Audio Cable settings, as I use those for digital modes with my Flex 5000, and it took quite a while to get them set up correctly. I'm pretty sure I wrote everything down about getting it working with the Flex, but I'll have to go through the binder I keep for the Flex, and make sure I have the settings properly documented before I start trying to use VAC with another program!

Between the two programs, I prefer HDSDR, even though the documentation is scant. It just seems more friendly to use, and if they included some wider filter options for things like the APT satellites, it would be just a killer program to go with your $20 RTL dongle. There's a fairly comprehensive "HOWTO", but it's written for an earlier version. Just ignore some of the screenshots, read the verbiage, and you'll be well on your way to using it effectively.

This is from the first time I tried using it on the NOAA satellites:

And this is a pass of NOAA 18 as it went over:

SatPC32, my satellite tracking program is running in the upper left corner showing where the satellite was when I grabbed this screenshot.

Immediately underneath the waterfall display you can see the spectrum of the satellite transmission. It looks like the bandwidth should be sufficient, BUT, due to my excitement at seeing the signals this strong, I was messing with the settings while recording the audio, resulting in a file the WXtoImg couldn't read.

Sigh......maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eggbeater Satellite Antenna Istallation and "Dongle" Success!

I spent most of today, up to Dinner Time, that is, refurbishing and installing the M2 Antennas EB-144 "Eggbeater" antenna that I had hanging in the garage rafters, along with one of my "spare" SSB Electronic 2 Meter preamplifiers.

This is the antenna, with the radial kit, after I cleaned it up, treated all the connections with an antioxidant:

I swept it over several frequency ranges, and was amazed at how flat this thing is. I almost thought something was wrong until I went significantly outside of the 2 Meter band, and saw a more "normal" sweep result, looking like a very broadband antenna.

An "Eggbeater" type antenna is, very basically, two vertical loops, rotated 90* to each other, and fed 90* out of phase to produce a circular polarization.

Each loop by itself would have an impedance of about 100 Ohms, and fed in parallel, that gives you 50 Ohms, a good match for commonly available coax.

Since satellite signals are fairly weak, a good low-noise preamplifier, mounted close to the antenna, makes a significant improvement. So, I pulled one of my "spare" preamps off the shelf, and mounted it in a Rubbermaid tote box:

The little box to the lower right corner is a Bias Tee, which I use to extract the DC power for the preamp from the incoming coax. There's a matching one down at the receiver where I insert the power. I usually run a separate cable for the power, but I wanted to try this since I have a bunch of those little AVCOM bias tees around. Yep, that's a good old PL-259 used for a power plug on the preamp!

I made up a cable connecting the antenna to the preamp input with a PL-259 on the antenna end, and a Type-N on the preamp end. Since this is going to be outdoors, I put a large piece of adhesive-lined heat-shrink tubing over the connection at the antenna, and shrunk it down:

After all the cabling was finished and checked, I tilted it up vertically, and cable tied the mast (a section of 1" rigid conduit) to a big aluminum saw horse I have:

Some of my other satellite antenna mounts are slightly visible behind this new one.

Does it work?

Well, for the first time I was actually able to copy two people having a chat on the VO-52 linear transponder satellite!

Looking at the middle panel of the display in the screenshot below, you'll see a red line, with a blue 'band' next to it. The red line is the center frequency, and the blue 'band' is the passband for an SSB conversation.

The top panel shows a "speckled" area, and that's the display of the two Hams I was listening to.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that there's a definite shift downward in frequency as time passes, indicated by the bottom of the display (newest information) being to the LEFT (lower frequency) compared to the top of the display.

This is the Doppler Shift, going LOWER in frequency as the satellite was moving away from me.

The sideways "Vee" to the right of the guys I was listening to is most likely somebody "ditting" their VFO to try and find their own downlink. Since the transponders on linear satellites use differnet uplink and downlink frequencies, most conversations are full-duplex, where you can hear your own signal coming back through the satellite, with a slight delay. Generally what people do is to find a clear frequency to listen on, and transmit a series of "dits" while adjusting the transmitter frequency back and forth until they hear their own signal.

The only other satellite passes that were "good" before I started this post were from FO-29, which has a UHF downlink, and this antenna doesn't work (well, actually the preamp filters everything out) on UHF, so I'm waiting until 0456 UTC for AO-73 to pass over, and maybe I can (finally!) capture some telemetry.

Tomorrow I'm going to raise this antenna to it's more permanent height of 20', and anchor it to the side of the house. The extra ten feet of elevation will get it above the ridgeline of our roof, and should make quite a bit of difference.

Hope y'all had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

WELL.....I didn't hear any telemetry, but I copied W9ND talking to several stations on AO-73, The Satellite Formerly Known As "FUNCUBE-1"!

This time all the activity is on the right side of the top display, and you'll notice (well, some of you will....) a curving, slanted line near the top of the display. This was somebody "swishing" their VFO trying to find themselves, and they "swished" right through the conversation I was listening to, and it was neat to see it even though I've heard it many times when operating satellites.

2110 local time here, and I'm going to hit the rain locker, and then hit the hay.

Good night, all......

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you and your families enjoy the day.

We're having my wife's oldest son over, and I'm going to work on getting the Eggbeater antenna up and operational.

I'm going to redo all the bolted and screwed together connections with some Penetrox, and then weatherproof them with some electronics grade RTV.

Then I'll mount the antenna and preamp on the mast I bought today, and enclose the preamp in a Rubbermaid tote box I picked up.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow I'll have a better antenna installed for the "Dongle" project that I've been reporting on.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"RTL" Dongle with HDSDR

Well, having played with both of the dongles, and most of the available free software, I've come to a few conclusions, so far.

The FUNCube dongles have a restricted bandwidth, with around 80 kHz of useful display.

This is both good, and bad.

It limits you to how much spectrum can be observed at any one time, which makes it easier to spot a signal in the relatively narrow transponder passband of a satellite (50 to 100 kHz, depending on the satellite), but it sucks for using it as an ersatz spectrum analyzer to see what's popping up in the section of spectrum that you want to monitor.

It also helps cut down "image" frequencies as far as I can observe. (It's probably what's called "aliasing" in digital sampling and Digital Signal Processing, but I'm a Radio Guy, so I'm calling it an "Image"!).

It's also NOT enough to decode Broadcast FM Stereo by a long shot, or even Broadcast Mono, if that's important to you, but then it was never designed to do that, so I'm sure not crying about it now that I know the limitation.

The "$20 RTL" dongles do about 2 Mhz of bandwidth (mine does about 2.15 MHz), which makes sense, as they were designed to receive Digital Television signals.

This is almost twenty-seven times the bandwidth!

It receives FM Stereo very nicely using SDR#, and not so well using HDSDR. HDSDR was coded for "Communications" use, so the demodulators, even the "FM Wide" can't cope very well with Broadcast FM.

BUT....it dows a bang-up job of observing a 2 MHz slice of spectrum, as seen in this screenshot:

The display is centered on 162.550 MHz, which is the strongest of the NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts here.

To the left are the other NOAA broadcasts at 162.400, .425, .450, .475, .500, .525, and ,550.

Off to both the left and right, you'll see some broad, blue bands in the waterfall (top) display. From a casual glance, considering their bandwidth (over 100 kHz), I suspect these are FM "images" caused by the poor filtering in the front-end of these little receivers. Somewhere around here I have an FM band-reject filter, and if I can find it, I'll stick it in and see if this goes away.

Almost all the way to the left, you'll see some activity, which turns out to be the railroad frequencies. There's  quite a few "RailFan" websites out there, and some people are fascinated listening to trains. I prefer to listen to aircraft, but to each his own.

Above the NOAA channels are various services listed as "Mobile", but since I don't usually explore this part of the spectrum, I'm not sure what's up there. I just picked this frequency to center on as I knew NOAA was there.

Here's a shot of 2 MHz worth of the FM band out here in L.A.:

And here's what 2 MHz wirth of the 2 Meter Amateur radio band look like:

So, to wrap up tonight's "experiments", I'm getting more comfortable using these little guys, and learning more about each of them, and the different software available for them. They both have their pluses and minuses, as does the software.

I suspect, and I've read, that to get the best performance out of them they both need some front-end filters for whatever band you want to use them for, but then you can say that about almost any receiver made.

More to come......

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fun with my "FUNCube" Dongle

Although I haven't had any success at all trying to receive telemetry from the new AO-73 satellite launched last week, I did manage to hear some activity on AO-7.

My setup is far from ideal, as I'm using my Comet GP-3 vertical antenna, with no preamp.

Here's a screenshot of the FUNCube dongle running under SDR#, and you can see the activity in the waterfall, towards the bottom of the display.:

After looking at this, and doing the post, I realized that "signal" couldn't possibly be traffic on the AO-7 transponder.


NO DOPPLER!  I'm used to my radio being controlled by SatPC32, which automagically tunes the radio to compensate for Doppler Shift in the received signal. Since this little receiver is NOT getting any tuning correction, a real signal would have a display showing a line starting at the right side of the waterfall, drifting down to the left side as the Doppler Shift affected it.

Straight Line = NO Doppler, meaning this signal was terrestrial in nature.

Oh, well........

And here's another screenshot showing approximately where the satellite was as displayed by SatPC32, in the upper left:

Since I have an "unused" M2 2 Meter "eggbeater" antenna out in the garage, and a receive-only 2 Meter preamp, I might just drag it out over the Thanksgiving holiday and stick it up on the "portable" tower I ginned up for Field Day.

I really need to set up a more permanent satellite station here at the house, but the snag with that is running the cables from where the tower sits in the driveway to the house. I need two runs of coax for 2 Meter and 70 centimeter antennas, two rotor cables for the Azimuth and Elevation rotors, and two runs of power cables for the preamps mounted on the antennas. I suppose I could run a single cable out of the house for the preamps, and split it once it gets to the tower, but the major hassle with this is figuring out a way to either run all the cables along the ground (maybe in a PVC pipe?), or else gin up a cable tray arrangement to keep them well above head level until they get close to the house, and then drop them down.

Or perhaps I could get a couple of section of the stuff we use at work when we have to lay cables in areas where people have to walk.

And here's a picture of an "Eggbeater" antenna, just in case you've never seen one. The left one is for VHF (130~150MHz), and the right one is for UHF (400~500MHz):

Our "Former" Dogs In Colorado

The soon-to-be daughter-in-law sent the wife some pix of our "former" dogs in their new environment.

The dark brown one with the "eye patch" and red jacket is Coco, and she absolutely HATED to get her feet wet when it rained out here. She'd go pee or poop on the driveway or sidewalk to avoid walking through the wet grass!

The lighter colored ("Fawn") one in the blue jacket is Diamond, who was the biggest (85 lbs!), most lovable "moose" I ever knew. Always wanted to be a lap dog, but geez....EIGHTY FIVE pounds of her?


And the one at the top left is "Obie", who my step-son picked up as a stray, and kept him where he worked as a "watch dog".

Obie only trusted Michael, and my wife, and Michael's GF Jeanine. For some reason he didn't like me, and would very quietly growl when I tried to pet him. The day he snapped at me was the last time I touched him, a few months before they moved.

Good dogs (except for Obie....), and even though we have two more here, I still miss Coco!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

*REALLY* Out of it Today

Took yesterday off work to go see the Doctor about these headaches I've been having. I *know* I've needed new glasses for some time now (the ones I have are 4+ years old...shame on me!), and finally called my eye Doctor for an appointment a couple of weeks ago.

They scheduled me for a December 27th appointment, so I figured I'd just grin and bear it.

WELL....the headaches were getting worse, to the point that my neck was hurting, and my eyes were watering, and my wife was starting to bug me about going to the Doctor, so I went to the walk-in yesterday.

The Doctor asked a bunch of questions about my 'eye history', did some simple tests, asked some questions, looked at my eyes, ears, nose, and throat (remember "ENT" Doctors?), and said I was probably right, but just to be sure, she called the Neurology Department to see if they could see me. The Doctor over in the other building was free, so I trudged over there, got checked for any easy-to-spot neurological problems, and got scolded for not taking care of my eyes better!

Since my eye care provider is affiliated with my primary medical group, both Doctors sent over a referral marked "Urgent", and requested they get me in ASAP for a full eye exam, and get me fitted for some new glasses.

I'm to give them a call this afternoon after the referral is 'in the system', and see if they can get me in before my scheduled appointment.

And I got a prescription for some muscle relaxants as the severe eye strain was causing spasms in my neck muscles, leading to some pretty stout headaches.

And I think I'll go back to bed for a while.....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NRA "First Sterps - Pistol" AAR

Well, I assisted in another class today, which included two people I used to work with.

The class went well, and the students were all excellent shots, which is unusual, and we graduated another 12 people.

After the class, my two friends and I went out to the range so they could try various pistols before they decided what to buy.

My former manager was talking "Glock!" all day long, until we got out on the range, and she had the opportunity to load and fire one repeatedly.

Turns out she hated it!

She had a hard time loading the double-stack magazine, and although she shot it very well, she said she just "didn't like it".

Her boyfriend was pretty neutral about the Glock, so I let them try my wife's S&W TRR-8 revolver, which they both loved, praising how easy it was to load (duh....it's a revolver!), how nicely it fit their hands, and how well balanced it was, which are the same reasons I bought it for my wife.

They were firing 38 Special out of it to get used to it, and then we switched to some Fiochhi ammo I had, which are pretty hot loads.

The first couple of BOOMS! were greeted by smiles, but after they'd both fired about 20 rounds each, they were getting tired of the recoil (and concussion....), so we switched to my Kimber 1911.

We spent some time going over the controls and the grip and thumb safeties, and then they took turns firing it.

Surprise, they liked the 1911! They could both load the magazines easily and rapidly, had no problem with the recoil, which they heard was very stout, and just loved the glow-in-the-dark sights it comes with.

Final gun of the day was my SIG P226, in 40 S&W. Again, they didn't like loading the double-stack magazines, and while they could fire it single action quite well, they both had a hard time adjusting to the first shot after using the decocking lever having such a long pull, followed by the second shot being single action. This is the same reason I don't particularly care for the P226, even though I think it's a very fine pistol otherwise.

SO....now that they've had their first class, passed their Kaliforniastan Handgun "Safety" Certificate tests, and fired a number of different '''pistols",what are they going to buy? I don't know, and I don't think they know yet, either. We're planning on some more range time together where I bring the two guns of mine they like the most, and they rent a couple of different types to try.

They both understand that to get proficient with a hand gun requires time on the range learning to use it, and that *whatever* they decide to buy has to fit their hands comfortably, "feel good" to them, be easy to load, easy to operate, and enjoyable to shoot.

I'm looking forward to spending some more time at the range with them, and I'll bring my wife along so the two ladies can discuss guns.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Pix of the Batlleship Iowa Comm Center

As promised, here are some pictures I took of "Radio Central" on the Battleship Iowa. Some people call it the Comm Center, some call it the Communications Center, and some call it the Message Center. I'm not sure exactly what the correct terminology is, so we just call it Radio Central........

No, it's not anything like the movies (That's usually the CIC, Or Combat Information Center), and it's really pretty stark. Even up to 1990, when the Iowa was put into the mothball fleet at Suisun Bay for the last time, things were pretty simple. Most of the routine message traffic was handled by Radioteletype, but voice traffic could be routed throughout the ship by the various switchboards located in the Comm Center.

Since ALL message traffic went through this room, it was highly secure, and unless you were the Captain, you'd better have a damn good reason to be in there if you weren't on-duty!

This room had the teletype terminals, a couple of newer CRT-based Data Terminals, all the receivers and teletype demodulators ("Terminal Units"), some test equipment, the patch bays and switchboards, and the "Coke Machine", a large rack painted red that handled secure voice routing.

I'm somewhat familiar with most of the equipment, but don't have a clue (yet!) as to how the switch gear and patch bays tied everything together, although I have a general idea of how it should work.

The transmitters are located down on the third deck, and I haven't made it down there. It's a 'restricted area', mostly due to the fact that few people are down there to help you if Something Bad happened, and to go down there requires you to use the Buddy System, take a walkie talkie, carry a flashlight, and have permission from the Security Department. I'll get down there one of these days, as well as to the area where all our coaxial cables terminate as I have a "Need To Know" how we tie our Amateur Radio equipment into the ship's antenna system. And since I found the antenna cables mislabeled, I think I'll have to walk the entire cable path to see if something got reconnected improperly between when the new Amateur Radio cables were run, and when we started using them.

This is what first greets you as you come in through the starboard hatch:

Dead Ahead are the newer CRT-based Data Terminals, along with their storage units and interfaces. To your right are the "Reperferators" used for making a local copy of received RTTY traffic.

Over to the left are some teletype units:

The Igloo cooler on the desk, and the Astron power supply, are for the radio gear I was using for the event.

And here's my Elecraft and operating position:

With three stations on-the-air simultaneously, the headphones were a must!

This is part of the area aft of the main room where the receivers are located. Some of the receivers are Collins Radio, some are Racal, and some are made by other companies. They're all the same type, and are functionally identical, just made by different manufacturers:

There are two RTTY Tuning Units located in the right hand rack, under the first receiver, located at the top of the rack. These are used to tune the receiver correctly so the RTTY demodulator can decode the signal.

Here's a more head-on view of the rack:

This is a view of the room to the left of the rack. The units with the knobs are part of the switching equipment for routing signals around, and the "Coke Machine" is to the left of them:

The doorway that looks like a large "X" is the entrance to the Server Room that runs all the commercial enterprise stuff that helps keep the Iowa going. Sometime back we had a fuse blow that powered up some of the outlets in the room, and boy did we scramble to get the portable air conditioners back online! It was a very hot day, and the room temp hit 97* before we located the blown fuse, and got the cooling units back online. If the servers would have gone down, the ticketing people would have had to turn visitors away, as one of the servers runs the ticketing services.

This is the "Coke Machine". I'm not sure exactly what it does, but from looking at the buttons and placards on the side, I think it routes secure voice comms around the ship. No need to worry about sensitive equipment falling into hostile hands, as ALL the crypto gear was removed from the ship!

This is the other side of the room, to your back of the first receiver racks. These racks hold more receivers, the preselectors for each receiver, and some audio patch bays for manually patching the receiver audio to various places:

I haven't actually read what's written on the "DANGER" tags, but I think it's more of a warning not to tamper with the way things are currently patched (the ship's intercom works, and is in use) rather than any actual danger, like if the voltages involved here were very high.

This is a test equipment rack to the right of the racks you just saw. The far right side of this rack has more RTTY stuff, but I'm afraid to admit that I've forgotten exactly what those boxes do, even though I used to know! It's been soooo long since I did any RTTY operations that I've forgotten a lot of things!

More switching apparatus for RF and audio signals:

And back out into the main Comm Center. This rack holds more teleprinters, more reperferators, and some "BITE", or "Built In Test Equipment" to monitor the operation of the gear. To the left, on the desk, you can see the Kenwood TS-850 used as the #2 station during the event:

 This is where we operate our newly acquired Kenwood TS-850. The antenna used for this position is a "Trussed Monopole" located behind the #3 turrent, and just forward of the Helo Deck on the fantail.
I can't say enough good things about the TS-850. It was a groundbreaking radio when it first appeared, and still holds it's own today, especially if you modify it a bit with some crystal filters and a narrower "Roofing Filter". Just a fabulous radio:

This is the #3 station we ran. It's an ICOM IC-718, a good little entry level HF radio. This station ran on the other section of the Disc-Cage antenna located on the bow of the ship. Directly behind the radio are a couple of more teleprinters, while on the right are two donated units. The big gray lump is a Model 19 in a noise reducing enclosure, and I don't remember the model number of the smaller beige/tan one. I do remember they were in use at Western Electric when I worked there in 1971. I had a Model 19 in high-school, but ti was so loud that my parents would only let me run it until 9PM, then lights out!

 This rack has some other "newer" equipment, some of the earl CRT-based Data terminals, along with their support equipment. I know very little about this gear, but I'm sure I'll learn more about it:

And it has the iconic "Battle Short" switches on it:

An alarm panel in the room:

This is an area under construction outside the port hatch of the Comm Center. It had been for berthing at one time, but I think I was told it's going to be converted into an office for some of the staff:

And speaking of berthing, here's one of the berthing areas:

At least the crew didn't have to hot rack, like the submariners did.

This looking down the passageway to the stern from the Comm Center. One thing you have to get used to on the Iowa is how small the "doorways" are. I'm used to working on a ship, so I know enough to ALWAYS pick my feet up when going over a transom, but I can hardly imagine all of the ship's crew scrambling, two-at-a-time, going different directions, through these when "General Quarters" was sounded:

Here's a shot of the activities going on during the "Veteran's Appreciation" celebration. The band was just getting tuned-up:

Looking aft towards the stern brow:

The USMC Recruiter's Booth.


Some exhibits from the Fort MacArthur guys were there. The middle vehicle was a half-track with Quad 50's on it. One of these saved my Dad's life in the Pacfic during WWII. He and some of his fellow SeaBees were pinned down by a Japanese sniper in a tree, and as the Quad 50 was rolling by they flagged him down, and told him what was going on.

A minute later the top of the tree, and the sniper, were gone:

The band:

The VA was there to assist any veteran's in need of help (I hope....):

I would have taken more pictures of the exhibits, but I was pretty busy doing radio operations, answering questions, and having a good time. One of these times when I go down to help with some other things I'm honored to help with, I'll take the camera again and get some more "behind the scenes" pix!


One of the things I forgot to mention were the two gentlemen I got to meet.

One had been a Radio Officer on the Iowa during the Korean War, and was piped aboard, and brought to the Comm Center to see his old stomping ground. He was quite a guy, and explained some of the things the equipment was used for to us youngsters. He also explained how things had changed during the 1980's modernization of the Iowa, was quite happy to see that the two antennas we were using were still in good repair, and were working quite well.

The other gentleman I met while ordering lunch from one of the trucks in the "food court". He was with one of the other Iowa staff who I vaguely knew, and the staff member complimented us on getting the Iowa "On The Air", and talking to other museum ships. Now that we've got the antennas squared away, we're putting out quite a Big Signal, even running only 100 Watts output.

The Veteran he was with had been a Fire Control Officer on the Iowa during WWII, and kept us fascinated during lunch with his stories. I remember when I was little, and even when I was older, that when I tried to talk with my Dad about WWII, he didn't really want to talk about it. I'd get him started on something and he'd be telling about his travels through the South Pacific, and then he'd just clam up. and wouldn't talk about it. Maybe the passage of time has healed certain wounds, or maybe my Dad saw very different things that the gentleman I had the honor of having lunch with, but he told us some great stories about being at sea, and in combat, aboard the Iowa during WWII. How the ship reacted when the great Naval Rifles were fired, how the enemy shells sounded when they passed overhead, how the 40mm and 20mm AA guns put up a wall of steel and lead that enemy aircraft could barely penetrate, and general life aboard ship during wartime.

Every time I meet one of these men, I'm just awestruck by them. They were "just" ordinary men as they all like to say, doing extraordinary things during extraordinary times. Their country called them, and they responded, and did a magnificent job.

They truly are The Greatest Generation, and should be an inspiration to us all.

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...