Saturday, April 30, 2016

Busy Saturday

WELL....I had wanted to continue work on the Supra today, BUT...I had volunteered to help with "Volunteer Recruiting Fair" this morning on the Iowa, from 0800 to 1230.

Then one of the other Radio Guys who was at the table with me (we had ZERO visitors) asked if I could stick around for a while and get him checked out on the Ham Radio gear. That took an hour or so, but while I was running him through the checklist and making sure he understood everything, my cell phone rang, and it was another new radio guy who wanted to know how long we'd be hanging around......

Well, he showed up about an hour later, and brought the Hallicrafters SX-100 he bought last week with him. The radio is in stunning condition for being well over 50 years old, having been owned b a Professor at the Naval Postgraduare School up in Monterey, CA.

And he only paid $100 for it!

So he and the other guy got out the tube tester and proceeded to start checking the tubes in it, when another radio guy came in to operate the station for a few hours.

He saw I was there, and asked if I could mentor him a bit on operating the "Digital Modes" (PSK31, RTTY, SSTV, etc), so I spent a couple of hours with him going over the software we have on the station computer, the little SignaLink box that interfaces the radio to the PC, what the modes sound like, (we have tagged audio recordings of quite a few of them), and proper operating procedure.

Soon enough it was 1700, and since I didn't care to hang around and listen to the ABBA tribute band they had for "Music Under The Guns", I headed home.

The wife was out shopping, so I crashed out and took a nice little nap, and then we went out to dinner at Panera Bread.

So, had a good and busy day, but the car will have to wait until Sunday.

I have most of the EGR system cleaned out, and just have to check out and clean the vale itself, and the vacuum "modulator" that goes with it. After that I'll put it all back together, do the "engine stall" test, and should be good-to-go.

The Magnaflow P/N 332888 catalytic convert I ordered turns to NOT be usable on the car as it has an additional fitting on the side for an air-injection pump that my car doesn't have.

I'm not going to modify it because if I do that, and the smog inspector sees it's been modified, he'll tag the test report with a "TAMPERED WITH" flag, which will fail the car.

I emailed Magnaflow on Friday about this issue, but haven't heard anything back. If I haven't heard anything by Monday afternoon, I'm going to give them a call and find out if they make a CORRECT converter for the car.

The people who really know these cars well on one of the forums are split on whether I should replace the converter or not, and also split on if it will give me the cushion I need to feel comfortable about getting it smogged again. The consensus seems to be to just go get it tested after I clean out the EGR, and if it fails again, THEN replace the converter and try again. The problem with that solution is I'll have to cough up another $60 to test it again, as that EGR-repair-only "test" will burn my "Free Retest in 30 Days" from the place that failed it.

AND I'd still have to buy the converter and swap it out!

So, I'll hold off a while until I can find an EXACT FIT replacement converter, and get it retested with the repaired EGR AND a new converter.

I wouldn't mind doing a test before and after replacing the converter, but not without telling the guys on the forum to take up a collection for the $60 it would cost me!

I'm all for "Science Experiments", but not when they cost $60.......

Friday, April 29, 2016

Small Block Chevy Time-Lapse Rebuild

Yeah, I know I've posted this before, but being in a "car guy" mode these last couple of weeks, I thought I'd post it again.

Two-bolt main block, pressed-in rocker studs indicate it was never a High-Performance engine, but they have the Corvette "Rams Horns" exhaust manifolds on it, so perhaps it came out of a (very) early Corvette.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Toyota Smog Test FAIL Again

Well, she failed the smog test again.

This time it was for NOX emissions, and the HC and CO passed.

EGR is a technique used to lower the combustion chamber temperature, thereby reducing the amount of Oxides of Nitrogen produced.

It's a "known issue" with the 5M-GE engine that the passage through the intake manifold from the EGR valve to where it dumps into the throttle body gets plugged up.

A very simple test is to apply vacuum to the port on the EGR valve, which opens it, and dumps large quantities of exhaust gas into the intake manifold.

It should make the engine stumble ot stall, as the EGR is normally disabled at idle.

I hooked the valve to direct manifold vacuum, and I could hear and feel the valve "POP" open and shut.

NO change in idle speed or quality, indicating that the passage is plugged.

Not a terribly difficult job to do, but time consuming, and you have to do with engine COLD.

I'll also be replacing the catalytic converter, as the one on the car looks to be the original one, and after 30+ years, and 165,000 miles, it's about time to retire it!

Since I was driving on expired plates and didn't want to get pulled over and ticketed, I took the side streets to the nearest smog test place. As a result, the car didn't get the usual "30 minute highway blast" to get it FULLY warmed up, and get the converter nice and hot. A converter at the correct operating temperature is essential to get it working correctly, and an old one usually benefits from a good highway run before getting the car tested.

Hopefully a new converter and cleaning the EGR system will get rid of the vicious pass/fail/pass/fail cycle this car has been trapped in for the last 10 years or so.

And I'll also replace the distributor cap and rotor, as the one on the engine looks pretty old, and I have a couple of new ones I bought on sale at Rock Auto.

One other thing I'm considering is to put 5 gallons of lead-free, alcohol free 100 octane VP racing fuel into the tank before I take it back to get retested.

The octane requirement for these engines is only 91 octane, BUT when they were designed and built, the computers were calibrated to use GASOLINE, not some funky blend of gas and moonshine!

As far as I'm concerned, adding 10% booze to the gas I buy at the pump means I'm buying adulterated gasoline. There are a few "pure gas" stations here in SoCal, but none are close to where I live.

Luckily there's a VP distributor here in Long Beach, so getting a 5 gallon bucket is just a short drive.

One of the things about the 10% ethanol blends here in Kommiefornia is that the quality is all over the map. Sometimes the refiners will use a lower grade base stock, and ballast it with ethanol to get the octane up, and sometimes they won't.

And it's well known that 10% ethanol blended gas can damage the fuel systems on cars not modified to use it.

The whole thing is just another "feel good" program to con people into thinking "renewable energy", when we have plenty of oil in the ground here in the USA.

Of, well....enough ranting for now.

Off to the auto parts store (NOT Auto Zone!) to order a converter, and grab a new gas cap while I'm at it. The car passed the "EVAP" portion of the test fine, but the smog guy was suggesting that the old, crusty gas cap get replaced just for peace of mind, and I agree. It's just one of those things I kept forgetting to do.....

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hey, Kids....What Time Is It?


A blast from the past.....

There's a longer, much funnier commercial, but I can't embed it, so here's the link to it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

GQRX is Broken.....RATS!

Thought I'd try messing around a bit with a few of the USB "dongles" I have last night, and went to fire up GQRX on this PC.

It wouldn't start.

Running it from the command line revealed the following error: gqrx: symbol lookup error: /usr/lib64/ undefined symbol: hackrf_device_list

Google shows nothing posted about this error in the last year, and some of the comments I did find about it related to broken symlinks.

SO....I proceeded to remove ALL of the SDR, radio, hamlib, gnuradio, linrad, hackRF, and other numerous assorted and sundry files from this machine. This took a bit of searching, as removing the software with the YaST package manager still leaves some debris behind in hidden config files and libs.

Did a reboot, reinstalled only gqrx and it's requirements, and was greeted by the same error.

SO.....back to searching, or I guess I can build it all from source, which takes a while, and can be no guarantee of producing an error-free install.


Well, it seems this package provides functionality for a lot of things:

"OsmoSDR Gnuradio Source supports the OsmoSDR hardware, but it also offers a wrapper functionality for FunCube Dongle, Ettus UHD and rtl-sdr radios."

Now to find out why it's broken.... 


Well, I've got one of the little receivers working with a very basic Linrad configuration. Here it is receiving NOAA weather radio on 162.550MHz: 

 So, either Linrad uses completely different libraries, or something "fixed" itself.

Linrad is really cool software, and I should spend the time and learn how to use it better. At this point, it's a bit hard to adjust things and change/add things "on the fly". For example, while you can grab the side and/or top and bottom of the screen to resize it, those settings won't "stick" when you exit the program, and it will restart at the size you choose when you set it up the first time. A lot of things can get set in the "Global Parameters" setting, but require a restart to see the changes.

Guess I'm too spoiled by GUIs in my old age!

I'll try running GQRX again, but I have a feeling it's going to stay busted until an update rolls out.

Oh, and Gnuradio doesn't work anymore.

I try and start GRC from the command line, and it barfs back: Warning: Block key "blocks_ctrlport_monitor_performance" not found when loading category tree.
Segmentation fault

Seg faults are bad.................

Friday, April 22, 2016


Enjoy the weekend!

I'm tinkering on getting one of the "USB Dongle" SDR receivers to work on the %%##$$!! Polaroid Android (say that three times fast!) tablet that my dear little wife gave me for Christmas.

After that, there are several software packages I'll try and install to do some useful things, like receive ACARS broadcasts and VTS info.

I'd also like to "root" it, but after spending dozens of hours on trying to do that, I've just about given up.

I was able to get "developer's access" rights on it, but I can't find any rooting software that's compatible with the hardware.

I just might sell this one and get one that's known to be rootable, as theses things come with entirely too much crapware on them,and most of the "factory installed" stuff can't be removed without root access.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Antipodal Map

The other day somebody asked me how "far" I could "talk" using Amateur Radio.

The obvious answer was half-way around the world, depending on band conditions.

So then I started thinking (I know, a sometimes dangerous thing with me), where, exactly, was "Half Way Around The World"?

Well, the point that's "half-way around the world" from wherever you are is called The Antipode, and of course, there's an app for that:

It's a pretty neat little webpage, and it's located here.

I'm Such a Klutz......

Well....yesterday morning as I was having my 2nd cup of coffee, I turned around to do something, and dumped coffee over.

ALL over the desk, and my IBM "clicky" keyboard.

I've lost keyboards in the past when I've spilled various liquids on them, but hopefully the IBM will survive plain, black coffee after it dries out.

It really pained me to open up my last brand-new IBM keyboard, and put it into service, but I don't have any other decent keyboards with a PS2 connector, so I slit the plastic wrap open and put it on the desk.

The worst I've ever done was dumping an entire milkshake on a keyboard a year or two ago. I put that one in the dishwasher (I have a very understanding wife!) on low heat, with no supplemental drying heat, and after it came out I left it outside for a few days to completely dry off.

Surprisingly, it came back to life, very clean, and smelling nice, too.

Today is the 27th anniversary or the Turret #2 explosion on the Iowa. I was going to go down to the ship for the memorial service, but woke up a bit late.

A moment of silence, please.....

Thank you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Headed Out To A Supra "Meet and Greet and Eat".

Headed out to Wildomar, Ca in an hour or so to attend the Southern California Supra Meet.

Like most of the Supra meets I've gone to, the majority of the cars there will be the MKIV "A80" (1992~2002) models, followed by the MKIII "A70" (1986~1992) models.

The the MKII "A60" (1982~1986), and MKI "A40" (1978~1981) models are getting less and less common these days.

Since you can't tell the players without a program, here 'ya go:

"Mark I" Supra:

"Mark II" Supra:

"Mark III" Supra:

"Mark IV" Supra:

When I'd decided I wanted one of these, I settled on either a MKII or MKIII. The MKII's were "Spaceships" when they first hit the market, and I almost bought one in 1983, but held off as I'd only been here in Kommifornia for a year, and was getting settled into my new career at Hughes Aircraft.

Then I got married.

Then we had a kid.

Then we bought a house......

So it took me about 30 years to finally get one!

I looked at and drove several MKIII's, but decided against it because they'd gained about 500 pounds, and weren't quite as nimble as the MKII's. They had larger engines, though, and were available with turbochargers, so they were significantly quicker than the MKII's.

The MKIV's were completely out of my price range, having shot through the roof after they first appeared in the "Fast and Furious" movies.

The twin-turbo MKIV's are also stupid fast, having 300HP, and 320 ft-lbs of torque. "Car and Driver" said to think of them as a "Lexus for Smokey Yunick".

The bottom end of the engines are pretty bullet-proof, and can easily be cranked up to over 400HP with minimal effort.

Last year at the "Supras In Vegas" meet there were several slightly modified ones running low 12's at the strip, and a couple of track-only cars running in the 8's at over 135MPH!

On a good day, my MKII might break into the 16's, at maybe 85MPH, so you can see they really evolved in the ten years between the models.

The MKII is a sweetheart to drive, though. 2.8 liter DOHC electronic fuel injection, 4 wheel disc brakes, 4 wheel independent suspension, 5 speed manual transmission, and it all plays together extremely well. Not a very quick car (acceleration), and not a very fast car (top speed), but immensely rewarding to drive, and quite capable of hustling along at high speeds in comfort.

Just don't square off against any new cars, or you'll get your doors blown off, and the other guy won't even know he's "racing" you!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Got Nothin'.......

YAWN.........go read the good people on the sidebars whilst I try and think of something informative, clever, and amusing to write......

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Suggestions For Good Hiking Boots?

I've been buying my boots from Big 5 or Sports Authority for some time now.

Columbia, Hi-Tech, Denali, I've bought all of them, and I'm getting a little tired of the spotty quality on them.

The laces in particular have the life expectancy of a Kleenex during flu season, and an almost new pair (couple of months old) just had BOTH laces snap!

I bought some really good laces via Amazon a while back, so I'm covered there, and I have several hundred feet of "550" paracord, so I can always make "Heavy Duty" laces that will probably outlast the boots!

Not looking for $300 boots, just something better than the $50 "on Sale" ones I always seem to get.

I switched from wearing good "tennis" shoes and cross-trainers to the boots 10 or 12 years ago to get better ankle support. I busted one ankle and dislocated the other one (yep, at the same time!) around 1985, and as I got older and more active outdoors, I needed something better with more ankle support.

The soles on most of the hikers I've tried have always given me good traction on dirt and in the wet, so I don't need any exotic Tacticool soles, either.

Not looking for full height combat boots, either, just some decent "mid length" hikers.

Any suggestions?

Friday, April 8, 2016

GO NAVY! Bill Whittle Sails On The USS Pasadena SSN-752

Mr Whittle's latest, and it's a good one.

Thank you, Mr. Whittle, for letting us go with you.

And if you ever make it down to San Pedro, I just happen to know where this Battleship is......

Police Drones (And Others) Subject to Hacking

I'm shocked, I tell you.....shocked!

This does not surprise me in the least. Security in most wireless systems is an afterthought, if any thought at all is given to it.

Go here to ExtremeTech and read the whole thing.

The hack uses the classic "Man-In-The-Middle" approach, one of the oldest network intrusion hacks around.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sea Launch SOLD.....Again?

Story is here at SatNews Weekly.

Ongoing discussion at is here. 

And as expected, Boeing has filed to block the sale.

Well, this is another "interesting" rumor. Over the last several years, there have been continuing rumors of Sea Launch having been sold, or new investors coming in, or the Russian government taking it over, or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

The ships are still sitting there at the dock, and the staff is down to about 30 people....10 who take care of the facility, and 20 that push paper do administrative duties all day long.

There's no marketing to speak of, except by the Head Guy, who still attends the various conventions and symposiums of launch providers.

The launch vehicle, a Zenit 3-SL, is a Ukrainian built rocket, with a Russian engine, and those two countries aren't exactly on the best of terms these days, so customers have doubts over the availability of a launch vehicle if they sign a contract to launch.

Boeing is completely out of the picture (AFAIK) at this time. Boeing provided the entire Payload Accommodation (Fairing, interface structure, avionics, integration and launch support), along with other launch support personnel.

Boeing is still owed approximately $365 million in loan guarantees that two of the previous partners had agreed to, and then never made good on, when Sea Launch went into Chapter 11 in 2009. Boeing has been slowly going through the legal process to try and recover this money, and received a judgment in their favor several months ago.

A lot of the equipment on the ships that I worked on is 1990's design and implementation, and frankly, it's obsolete. Some of it is no longer supported by the companies that originally built it (a couple of those companies no longer exist, having been absorbed by others), and some of it was marginally supported at great cost.

Some of the systems I worked on weren't working properly, and there's a couple I know of that may not even turn back on.

There were plans to replace a lot of it, but as is so often the case, the money simply wasn't available after they came out of Chapter 11.

Refitting the ships to use a different Launch Vehicle has been discussed in numerous forums, and while it could be done, the cost would be significant.

Re-engining the Zenit is out of my area of expertise, so I can't comment on that other than to say all the support equipment on the Launch Platform was designed and built specifically for that Launch Vehicle.

Again, it all comes down to money. As we used to say when I was racing, "Speed costs money. How fa$t do you really want to go?".

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Please.....Stop Calling it "HAM" Radio. It's "Ham", "ham", or "Amateur" Radio

OK, I'm a gonna vent here......

When referring to Amateur Radio, please don't use the term "HAM", in all capitals.

All capitals implies that the term is an acronym, like NASA, and it's NOT.

Nobody knows where the term "Ham" originated from, although there are many stories floating around. Whatever the origin, it has never been spelled in all capital letters.

Please, use  "Ham radio", "ham radio", "Ham Radio", "Amateur Radio", or some other variant.

Every single time I see somebody write something like "Yeah, I'm a HAM radio guy", or "I'm into HAM", or that their hobbies are "Guns, Cars, and HAM", I just cringe. It's almost as bad as the people who post online using all caps.

I've been a ham since 1964, and this is something that's only popped up in the last few years, probably due to the easy access of the Internet, and all the corruption of American English that goes along with it.

So, please, take a little friendly Elmer advice, and don't use all caps.

Friday, April 1, 2016

15 "Life Hack" Uses for Binder Clips

I'd seen a couple of these before, but some of them are pretty damn clever!

And a few Words of Wisdom from Sheriff Joe:

 "A liberal's paradise would be a place where everybody has  guaranteed
employment, free comprehensive healthcare, free education, free food, free
housing, free clothing, free utilities, and only law enforcement has guns.
And believe it or not, such a place does indeed already exist:
It's called "Prison".

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County, Arizona

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...