Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Small Block Chevy Time-Lapse Rebuild

This is pretty neat!

They start with an oily, crusty "lump" of an engine, tear it down, bore, hone, and deck the block, rebuild the rods, put hardened seats in the heads, mill them, and then put it all back together all shiny and pretty.

I've lost count on how many times I've done this with Chevy, Ford, and Pontiac V8s, and an unknown number of 4 and 6 cylinder engines!

Nothing real high-performance, as it started as a 2-bbl, a two-bolt block with a cast crank and pressed-in rocker studs, but I'll bet it purrs like a kitten now....

Sunday, April 26, 2015

HackRF One First Use

Well, I was able to get it running on Windoze using SDR Console V2.2 (the olde V1.5 will NOT work), and SDR#.

No joy with HDSDR, at least not with any of the DLL's I tried, and I'm not about to risk trashing my Windows PC by trying to get GNURadio to run on it.

And I was finally able to get it to run on Gqrx on my Linux box by removing, and then reinstalling, Gqrx. Gqrx uses a block of code (gr-osmosdr) to communicate with the device, and if that code isn't on your machine when you install Gqrx, it won't detect and use it if you install it after Gqrx.

Once I did the "RnR" to Gqrx, the HackRF showed up in the list of drivers to use, and it's running happily right now, and I'm listening to KLOS with it.

The more I delve into the documentation (what there is of it), the more I realize that the only way you'll be able to make this little puppy sit up and shake, and roll over and bark, is to use it with GNURadio. ALL of the "Plug and Play" software out there treats it pretty much the same as a "$10 USB Dongle", and can't take advantage of the flexibility of what GNURadio can do with it.

And it's still just an 8-bit receiver, like a $10 dongle, even though it can generate some RF as a transmitter. Read the link to get a basic understanding of 8, 12, or 16-bits in this context.

Is it worth $300?

That's a tough question to answer. If you want something to plug-and-play, then you're probably better off with a $10 dongle, or one of the better ones available out there. It will plug right in to a Windows or Linux PC, and work with minimum effort.

If you have the time to spend to learn how to set up a GNURadio "definition", AND you understand what you want to do, then this might be for you.

And if you're really serious about a DIY SDR for whatever purpose, you'll find other choices out there that may suit your intended use better.

I haven't decided yet if I'll keep this little guy, or eBay it. I don't really need it for anything I'm doing, but it's a great platform to learn GNURadio on.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

HackRF One Arrived Today

For those that don't know, a HackRF One is a small, Software-Defined Radio, meaning that it lacks most of the hardware in a "regular" Superheterodyne radio (mixers, local oscillators, IF filters, etc), and performs many of the normal radio functions in software, using Digital Signal Processing routines.

I've been on-the-fence about buying one of these since they came out (like I need another SDR in the house!), but a recent post over at The Silicon Graybeard's place pushed me over the edge.

My previous SDR experiments I've posted here have been about using the "$20 USB Dongles" to do things like receive pictures from the APT weather satellites, and the "FUNCube Pro" dongle, which is around $175 these days, but offers vastly superior performance compared to the "pocket change" USB dongles.

The HackRF One module goes for around $300, plus shipping and any accessories you order with it, and it will be interesting to see how the receive section compares to the FUNCube Pro + dongle I have.

One of the more interesting things about the HackRF is that it will also transmit, albeit at very low power levels, typically from +5dBm, about 3.2mW, to +15dBm, about 32mW.

I wasn't making much progress with it until I finally got some "permissions" set right so a normal user could access the USB port it runs on, but now I've done my first "Hello World" with it, using GNURadio Companion, an application that generates Python code to interface to GNU Radio, and run the radio from the flow-chart style elements you enter in to it.

Here's a screenshot of my first experiment:

The FFT Plot is a slice of the local FM radio spectrum out here in La-La Land.

I can't take any credit for coming up with this, as I learned how to do this from watching the excellent tutorials on the HackRF website.

I've always been put off by GNU Radio, as I've only tried to run it from the Command Line, and always had pretty mediocre results. It's one of those programs that's too configurable, and if you don't understand what you're doing, your results will be disappointing.

Enter the GNU Radio Companion, and now that I've viewed a few of the tutorials, one of those little light bulbs went "CLICK!" in my head, and I'll probably be able to make some progress.

For being FOSS, GNU Radio is a full-featured, industrial-strength developer environment for doing SDR experiments with a staggering array of hardware.

And now that I've started learning how to use the GNU Radio Companion, I might make use of GNU Radio in a much more efficient manner.

Rats! More Plumbing Problems.....

WELL....the plumbing repair didn't work out. My wife started doing laundry last week, and the water started bubbling up again.

We had our plumber friend come over, and he installed another clean-out tee at the garage, and had a friend of his come over with the BIG power snake, and snake the line from the garage to past where it tees into the drain from the house.

They didn't really find any obstructions, and the line is clear from the garage to the street.

Final diagnosis is that the pipe is running up hill from the garage to the house clean-out tee, and water doesn't run uphill very well. It probably got in this condition from land movement and earthquakes over the seventy years since the pipe was installed when they built the house in 1942.

SO......about half the digging is done, and there's another 20 or so feet to go to get to the junction. Monday morning they'll be back out here to finish digging out the old clay-pipe line, and replace it with new ABS pipe, with the correct downhill slope to it, and backfill the trench.

And I was just getting the back yard to look decent.

At least we're getting a big break on the cost of the job, which usually runs about $100/linear foot of pipe replaced.

Since these guys are friends of out good friend, the whole job will "only" cost $1500 instead of $4000 for 40 feet of line replaced.

Oh, the joys of being a homeowner!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

240th Anniversary of The Battles of Lexington and Concord

A.K.A. "The Shot Heard 'Round The World".

And today is also the anniversaries of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the raid at Waco, and the #2 turret explosion on the USS Iowa.

Thanks to The Survival Blog for jogging my memory on theses events.

Not much else to post today, just waiting for the Long Beach Grand Prix to start......

Friday, April 17, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Busy Day on the Iowa

We had a special tour of 45 people who went through the USC Naval ROTC program today.

Some were retired, some were active duty, and all had a good time.

Only about half of them wanted to see the Engineering spaces and the Radio areas, so we broke them into three groups of seven, and rotated the groups through the Comm Center on the main Deck, the Transmitter Room down on Broadway, and the Aft Main/Secondary Plot, which is where the Ford Mark-8 and Mark-1 Fire Control Rangerkeepers (computers), and the Stable Elements are located.

Last week we had a group from a local radio club do the same special tour, and if interest keeps up, it *might* get added to the list of "Special Tours" that are offered.

No "official" word on it yet, but we're hoping.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we're giving the same tour to a VIP, a Radioman who served on the USS Missouri during WWII, and since there's only going to be him, myself, and another tour guide, I'm taking my camera!

It was just too busy today and last Saturday for me to be taking any pictures, but tomorrow will be different.

The Aft Main/Secondary Plot is pretty unique, as they took special care of it during storage in the reserve fleet. The paint inside the spaces looks fresh, the floors are super clean, and it's amazingly well preserved.

I'm going to go charge my camera batteries now and get things set out on the dining table so it'll be "In My Face" tomorrow morning. I really want to get some pictures!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Most Dangerous Man In The World

Bill smacks another one over the wall....

Friday Again?

Gee...just realized I haven't posted anything in a week.

Been pretty busy here, with both Iowa stuff and "Homeowner" stuff.

After spending both Saturday and Sunday on the Iowa giving tours and talking with WWII vets, I figured I'd have Monday to unwind.


The main drain line from our garage, where the laundry is located, out to the street broke, and had to be repaired. The house was built in the early 1940's, and they used fired clay soil pipe, rather than cast iron. The pipes just slip-fit together, and during 70 years of earthquakes and ground movement, they start to leak a bit. Trees, having water seeking roots, look at this as a new found oasis, and come running.

Sure enough, tree roots invaded the drain line, and grew so much they cracked the pipe. Every time we did laundry, water would bubble up through the ground when the washer emptied.

A few years before I met my wife, she had the same problem with the drain from the house to the street, and had most of the pipe repaired, and they added a clean-out tee where the pipe comes out of the house.

Fortunately for us, the guy who lives across the street is a plumber, and he offered to fix the mess if I helped him.

SO.......Monday morning I'm out there swinging a pick and shovel to uncover the pipes. Once we had them dug out, it was easy to see where the root entered, breaking the clay pipe, and exited, breaking the pipe again.

All of the houses in this tract started out as two bedroom, one bath, 950 square foot "starter homes", and they were all built identically, so our plumber friend knew exactly where all the pipes ran, saving us the time of digging in the blind to find them.

The piece of root we pulled out was about 6 feet long, and two inches in diameter, so it had been growing in there for quite some time.

After cutting out the sections of broken pipe with a neat tool that looked a lot like the exhaust pipe cutter I have, he replaced the sections with ABS plastic pipe and rubber couplings.

We then refilled the holes, and now the drain works as it should.

He only asked for $300 to do the work, but we paid him $400 because to us, it was worth the extra money, and he's a genuinely Good Guy.

I shudder to think of what it would have cost us if we just "called a plumber" to fix it!

This coming Saturday and Sunday will be two more days on the Iowa. Saturday we have a group of Naval ROTC people coming, but newly minted and retired, and a few of them want to see the radio and transmitter rooms, and then the same on Sunday, but with some WWII vets who were Radiomen on other ships, including the USS Missouri.

Should be another great day on the Iowa!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Two Days Upcoming on the Iowa.....

I'll be there all day tomorrow to escort the Northrup-Grumman (formerly TRW) Amateur Radio Club around, and then for special visitor we're having Sunday.

He's a retired Radioman from the Missouri, and is taking part in the Iowa's Oral History program where we're attempting to get as many WWII vets on tape as possible.

He made a request to see the Radio and Transmitter Rooms, and we're more than happy to acommodate him.

And I'll bet I pick up more than few tips on the transmitters and couplers!

Egad....'Tis a Trifle HOT This Week

 Or for what's remaining of the week. It was 97* today, and is expected to be 100+ through Sunday. The humidity is only 17%, so you step...