Monday, August 19, 2019

68 Orbits And Counting.....

Geez.....If I would have known I was going to be around this long, I would have taken better care of myself!

We're heading out for dinner this evening to the Sonny Lubick Steakhouse in Old Town. This place has become our GOTO place for a nice dinner, and the place to take family for those Special Occasions. Excellent food, wonderful service, and just an all around Nice Place. Highly recommended if you're ever in Fort Collins. We'd heard it was good, but it took us about 18 months after we moved here to get one of those circular TUITS, and go there. It was (and is) the best steak I've had since we moved here.

And speaking of meat.....







Then after we get back, I can finish packing up the FlexRadio, which is going to a new owner in Oklahoma. Unfortunately he lives "Out Where The Buses Don't Run", and that means I have to ship to his P.O. Box, and that means no FedEx or UPS, and that means a wait in line for me at the USPS. I had it packed and sealed, but considering the treatment I know it's going to receive at the hands of the .gov "employees", I'm going to add as much heavy-duty bubble wrap as I can stuff into the box before I reseal it, and add some straps of fiberglass reinforced shipping tape around the box to toughen it up a bit.

Hope y'all have a good week!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Shack Cleaning Time

Radio Shack, that is.

I'm getting tired at looking at piles of good, usable "STUFF" that I'm never going to do anything with, along with stacks of "Projects" that would either be completely useless to me these days, or impractical to use.

I really don't think I'm going to setup an EchoLink node anytime soon, so I might as well get rid of the controller kit (with the optional AGC module!), and maybe get back the postage I paid to have it shipped here!

Then there's the equipment I'm most likely never going to use again, like my Drake TR-270 VHF/UHF rig, my Yaesu FT-847 "Satellite Rig" and all the accoutrements to set up a fully-functioning *automated* Ham radio Satellite Station, along with my Kenwood TS-790 VHF/UHF/1.2GHz multi-mode transceiver, and the "Lightly Used" Kenwood TM-D710 mobile radio (with built-in TNC!) that I bought on a whim and used for a few months in the home shack.

My FlexRadio Systems 5000A is currently on eBay, and will sell, so it's outta here. It's still an extremely good radio, BUT....you have to use it with a PC, and these days, I'm just not into waiting for the PC to come up, update, and settle down, before I can turn on the radio. And since it's Windows ONLY, that would mean dragging my other PC up here, yada yada yada, and it's just not worth it.

So getting rid of this stuff now will free up some floor space and shelf space in the basement workshop, put some coin in the coffers, and save my wife the trouble of getting rid of it when the inevitable day comes.

I'm not getting any younger, and I'd hate to see the stuff just given away, or worse yet, wind up at the curb or in a dumpster.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Holy Smokes....What A Light Show!

Ye gads is there a lot of lightning tonight. From the NWS weather radar, it looks like the Greeley area is getting clobbered. As Well Seasoned Fool has told me many times, "Most of the really bad weather stays East of the I-25", and while the weather may start turning bad slightly West of I-25, it builds up really fast as it moves Eastward.



I haven't heard any thunder in a while, but wow....the sky gets lit up every 5 seconds, almost fast enough that the glow from the previous stroke hasn't completely faded.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Pleasant Weather

Been cool and rainy the last day or so, a nice break from the 95* days and humid nights we were having.

I'll only mention Mr. Epstein's passing in passing. He was a scumbag in this life, and will be judged by a much higher authority than I.

So life goes on, and there's a touch of Fall in the air.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Small Victories

The little Zotac "Z-BOX" PC running the weewx software has been running rock-solid for over a week now. Even with the console located down in the basement, my Davis Vantage Pro2 has been reading 96% or better Received Signal Strength on the 900 MHz radio link. Granted it's only a packet radio burst, and it's Spread Spectrum, but considering it's 100% solar-powered, and about 100' away, and it runs something like a One Milliwatt transmitter, I'm impressed.

Success #2 is that I got "Shockwave Flash" up and running as a Firefox plug-in. Since Adobe is discontinuing support as of December 31 2020, most Linux distributions no longer include it. I'm not sure what kind of Open Source ,if any, replacements are around for it, and Adobe is "Strongly Encouraging" web designers and other developers to stop using it. Maybe they'll open the code up like other companies of orphan products have done, but since it's Adobe, I doubt it.

Then I hung some of the local metal art we bought at the Larimer County Fair on Sunday while the wife was at the Doctor's today.

Yesterday I "officially" sited where the two wood posts are going to be planted for the antennas, and cleared out the gravel and cut the anti-weed fabric that was under the gravel. I'm going to try and get the holes dug and the posts set this week. That will get the two 4x4x8' posts, and the 5 bags of concrete out of the garage, followed shortly after by the autocoupler enclosure and mounting planks. It's more than just "Pick A Spot And Plant The Post" for this. I made sure that the new holes are at least 30" from any existing set posts because I want "undisturbed earth" for the new poles, and I wanted to move the 20 meter vertical so it was at least a half-wavelength from both the house, and the steel support mast for the wire antenna. I know the house distorts the radiation pattern for the vertical (duhhhh!), and I'm sure the metal mast for the wire antenna will have some effect, but it's what I have to work with.

The important thing right now is to get the doggone posts in the ground, and get the antennas transferred to them. Winter will be here faster than I know, and I don't want to get caught flat-footed like I did last year.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Day at the Larimer County Fair

We had a blast.

The Little Guy had fun sitting on some of the tractors, going to the petting zoo, watching "Twiggy The Water Skiing Squirrel", going on some rides, playing in the bounce houses, watching the "Extreme Stunt Dogs" show, going down a BIG slide, and lots of other things.

The pix are from my wife's cell-phone because, as you just guessed, I FORGOT my camera.....again!

Most of the tractors on display were at the Greeley Farm Show a couple of weeks ago, and signs for the "Longs Peak Tractor Club" were on display.

The smoke in the background is from one of the half-dozen or more BBQ/Grilled food vendors that were there.



Here he is checking out the newest in ATV's.



He *might* grow into it....



And since there's a carnival, gotta go on some rides...




Not sure who enjoyed the slide more, TLG or Gramma.




Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!



The Larimer County Sheriff's Department had their "Mounted Police" out, and TLG even got to pet a horse, which he had to be coaxed to do, but then laughed.

One of the things that really caught his eye, and he wanted to do but he's still too small, was a pedal-powered tractor pull. The kids would pedal like crazy, and as the little tractors dragged the sled along, the weight would move forward, making it harder and harder to pull the sled. ONE kid did a "Full Pull", and the crowd went crazy. Pretty cute to see a kid-sixed pulling sled connected to a small John Deere pedal tractor!

And there was live music with local bands. I'd never heard a country version of the BeeGees "Stayin' Alive" before, but they played it extremely well, along with other "countrified" songs, including one by Steely Dan, but I can't remember which song they played.

Oh, and country versions of Foo Fighters, Guns 'N Roses ( ! ) and several other songs I've heard on the radio, but don't know the name of the group.

Yes, food was everywhere! The winner of the fried food category (for me.....) was the Deep Fried Oreo Cookies.

No, I didn't try one. Deep fried foods and I don't play nice, so I wimped out and had a gyro salad from Kosta's, a Fort Collins favorite.

And on our way in to the fairgrounds, we signed the "Recall Jared Polis" and the "US citizens ONLY allowed to vote" petitions. The petion people were still at their posts as we left, and every single person they asked to sign said either "Sure!", "You Bet!", or "HELL YES!!", which pretty much describes how people think about Emperor Polis outside of the Big City/Elite-Only areas.

Even my wife busted up at the guy who said "HELL YES!!".

And we bought some local hang-on-the-wall 'metal art', and a few other little items from local "artisans". We'd much rather keep our money in the community for stuff like this than buy some 'Chinesium' junk from Amazon or eBay.

So all-in-all, we had a wonderful day at the fair, had some good food, saw some cool stuff, and TLG conked out *completely* on the drive home.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Headin' Out to the Larimer County Fair on Sunday

I haven't been to a "County Fair" since I was knee-high to a married grasshopper. Well, maybe a couple, but I swear I went to see the Tractor Pulls.

And yep, we're taking The Little Guy.

The Larimer County Fair is held in the same complex as the Budweiser Events Center, known around here as "The Ranch". It's in the complex where the local radio club has their yearly Hamfest/Swapmeet, so I know the shortcut to avoid getting off at Route 34, and having to go through those $$@@##!! traffic circles immediately off I-25.

In the old days they'd have called it "County Fairgrounds", but these days it's the "Larimer County Events Center".

Oh, well.....

And being that we're going on Sunday, I'm hoping it's not too crazy-crowded.

We'll just be doing the free stuff, not going to the carnival or the rodeo, and I'm sure we'll get to try some County Fair food!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood".....

Well the wife and I had a nice little outing today to go see a movie, Quentin Tarantino's latest.

I don't write movie reviews unless it's about a movie I enjoyed, and this one is a good one.

It's well crafted, well cast, beautifully filmed, and has a great late 1960's soundtrack.

It basically concerns the lives of two buddies, an aging actor western/cowboy actor played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his best friend and stunt double, played by Brad Pitt, and what happened on the night of the Tate-LaBianca murders.

It runs a bit long, but not quite a 'bladder buster'.

If you enjoy Tarantino movies, this one is a must see.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Up and Running Solid.....For Now.....

Geez...I used to be soooo good at this stuff.

Anyway......The replacement wireless adapter is running rock-solid, the weewx software is pretty much configured the way I want after going through a few oopsies, and I cleared up a communications issue between the little PC running the software, and the Davis Instruments console. Turns out the "Archive Interval" has to be the same in the software and the console, or you get gaps in the plots that make them look pretty strange.

And after running it for a few days testing, tuning, and tweaking (the software, not me) it, I enabled the section in the "wwewx.conf" file to send the data to the Weather Underground website. I used to send it to the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP), but that's when I had the station connected to the APRS network back in Long Beach. Since I'm "antenna poor" here, I'll just send it to the Interwebz for now. I can always enable the section that sends the data to the CWOP, but I'll probably have to set up a new account, as my callsign and location have changed from when I last had a wx station online.

Since I'd really like to get the console for the weather station back up here so it's viewable without running down to the basement, I'll have to clear an area near the wife's PC to set things up.


Monday, July 29, 2019

GROAN.....This Is Getting Irksome.....

The brand-new Netgear "Nighthawk" WiFi adapter I bought last week just went casters-up.

The used one for this computer arrived this morning, installed easily, and gives me the full 250+MB download speeds I get with an Ethernet connection.

The one I bought a year or so ago for the wife's PC is also working A-OK. I tried both of them on the weather server and it popped right back up on the WLAN, and the one from the weather server is dead as doornail on this PC. No blinky lights, and it's stone cold while these normally run warm-to-the-touch.

Time to box it up and drag it back to Best Buy......

Friday, July 26, 2019

Hello?....This Thing Working? Can Ya Hear Me In The Back?

Well, we're up and running on the hot-rod PC from Long Beach with the fresh installation of Kubuntu 19.04.

And I'm slooowly migrating all the data I've accumulated on the laptop in the last year and a half from the laptop to here.

Now that I have a running, apparently stable, system, I reconnected the other drive in here, and now I have all my music back, so I can update the music on the memory stick I use in the Jeep.

Busted out my last brand-new keyboard ( a "das keyboard" from Newegg), and had to run out to Best Buy and get another mouse and a cheap set of speakers.

I still have the IBM Model M "clicky" keyboard I was using in Long Beach, and as soon as I get that one scrubbed up, I'll swap out this keyboard with that one.

And even though the laptop is a YUUGE one, it still has a smaller footprint than a full size 'desktop' PC with a 24" monitor sitting on top of it. I just might buy a "tower" case  to put this hardware in, and that could sit on the floor next to or under the desk here in the sunroom, freeing up some very valuable real estate on the desk here.

But that's a project for another day. Right now I still have to make sure I can get back into all the websites I need logins for.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Murphy Shooed Out, Weather Station On-Line, New Linux Distro for Me

OK, now where was I........

The whole thing with Murphy starts with the weather station. Since I want to put it on-line, I need to use the Davis "WeatherLink" data logger/com port. The one that was plugged in to my old system console was incompatible with the new console that came with the new weather station. I'd read some rumblings about this on some of the weather forums, but didn't give it much thought until I plugged the old data logger into the new console, and it displayed an "Incompatible Device Attached" warning. Sigh....went out shopping for one, found an 'open box' special on eBay for a great price, got it, plugged it in, and all is happy.

The software I'd been using to collect, display, and archive is still available, but it's not supported very well any longer, some of the specialized graphics libraries he used are difficult to find, and in general, the software is withering away.

After searching for a while, I settled on a package called "weewx", written entirely in Python, great "customizability" for adding things, and well supported. So I dusted off one of the little Zotac "Z-Box" mini-computers I had dedicated to this project, and proceeded to install the newest, latest, and greatest, version of OpenSUSE on it.

I couldn't get it to run right........and I've been using the various versions of SuSE since 1990something. This is also the same distribution I attempted to install numerous times since we arrived here on the hot rod desktop PC I was using way back in Long Beach.

Hmm....wonder what changed? I wasn't sure if it was a hardware problem on the desktop, but when two other PC's had problems with it, I starting thinking it was time to jump ship and find a new distro.

After going to Distrowatch and seeing what's out there these days, I settled on the Kubuntu distribution. I've used Kubuntu (Ubuntu with the KDE desktop environment) before, and liked it. I prefer the KDE desktop over the Gnome desktop for a variety of reasons, and it's nice to have your distribution 'built' from the start with whatever once you like.

Well, all three of the PC's are now happily running Kubuntu, after chasing my tail for a couple of weeks trying get OpenSUSE to run properly.

One of the rabbit-holes I fell into concerns getting the little PC on the network. Since I pretty much can't run Ethernet cable(s) willy-nilly here like I could in Long Beach, I'm stuck using wireless. For this PC, connection speed isn't critical as it'll never be downloading or streaming huge chunks of data, and the uploads it makes are HTML pages to maybe a handful of visitors. Not exactly a bandwidth hog! Well......I have this Linkys USB wireless dongle, and it should just plug in and run, right? WRONG.....it's a "Windows ONLY" device, and drivers don't exist for it. Turns out this particular device can be made to work, but it's a PITA, and after several days of frustration trying to make it work, I threw in the towel and drove over to Best Buy to get a USB WiFi adapter that was "MacOS Compatible". Since MacOS went to a Unix-based core, if it "Works With A Mac", it'll work with Linux. It still required a driver download, but that was painless compared to my attempts at trying to get the other one to work. And it's a "Dual Band" device, meaning I can use the 5GHz portion of our modem/wireless router, which supports the "n" standard of the 802.11 WiFi spec, meaning it can really pump data through. Even though I don't need it for this PC, it was available, it works, and we already have one for my wife's PC. It works so well, in fact, that I just bought another one today for the hot-rod desktop that will be coming back up here and relieving this laptop of duty.

Here's a screenshot of the server down in the basement as seen over our network on this laptop.



Works a treat, the little mini-pc only draws 10 Watts, and since it's fanless and has a solid-state drive ("SSD"), it's dead silent.

It's still limited to our internal LAN here until I get the router configured, the firewall on the little PC configured, and figure out some kind of 'Dynamic DNS' arrangement set up so it will be reachable by name from outside.

So that's why the Supra isn't finished, the antenna posts aren't set yet, and the big Yaesu is still in the OR. I get sidetracked too easily at times!

Rutger Hauer Passes......

Great actor, and he'll be missed.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fun Day, Murphy Visits, Good Food

The wife and I took our Little Guy to the Greeley Old Time Farm Show today, and we had a blast. We drove up to The Kids' new digs in Laporte, checked their new place out now that the move-in-mess has been dispatched, saw The Dogs; Diamond, Coco, and Obie, the three we had back in Long Beach before The Kids moved out here and brought them, and picked up The Little Guy to head out for the day.

Photo courtesy of VisitGreeley.org


 
On the way there, Murphy paid his first call, distracting me as we left, and leaving the GPS unit on the counter. No problem! It's in Greeley right off Rte 43, East of town, at a YUUGE RV campground that's on both sides of the road, and it's on the South side. How hard can that be?

Uhhhh......well......

I finally got it hammered in to my Local Wetware Database, that "Crossroads Blvd" is NOT "Rte 34". For some reason, I got off I-25 at the Crossroads, instead of going a mile or so further South, and getting off at the correct exit.

Long story short, the GPS "guidance" (note the lower case "g" and quotes...) took us about 30 minutes out of the Best Way from where we were, but we made it there.

And it was great! An astounding collection of tractors from the 1920's up to the 1970's, all in pristine, operating condition, with friendly owners willing to talk your ear off about them. I saw names I remembered from childhood, and learned some new ones. We missed the Really Cool Stuff that happened on Saturday, like most of the demonstrations, but we're definitely going back next year. The 1800's operating sawmill was down due to a warped blade (yep, there's a place in Montana that still rebuilds those blades!), but the 1840's wood-framed Drill Rig was set up, and I got to learn a new type of drilling: "Percussion Drilling" vs modern "Rotary Drilling" ( cue up the Howard Hughes footage..). This rig "just" picked up a specialized piece of pipe (the "Chisel"), and dropped it down over, and over, and over again at several hits per minute. Depending on the soil, they could go up to 300' deep, many times deeper than a hand-dug, stone-lined well.

And the only Hit-and-Miss engine  still there was out of commission with some kind of gremlin. One of my best friends in high-school was really into these, and they're a riot to see in operation.

And The Little Guy got sit in the seat of a 1920's Farmall "Cub", that probably looks better today than when it rolled out of the factory, and is still in use! It's the same little "Cub" that was pulling a wagon with 4 car-type bench seats in it, loaded with people.

Just incredibly neat

Well, wow, Jim, that's really cool, but where are the pictures?

Murphy had me distracted enough before we left that I also forgot the camera bag on the kitchen counter.........I just don't function very well at 0830 without coffee!

And my cellphone was in the charger.

And for some reason, my sweet little wife, who's normally snapping like crazy with her phone whenever TLG is around, didn't take any pictures today......

Oh, well.........Murphy again, I guess!

So we stopped at Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers on the way home, and other than the place being more crowded than I'd ever seen, we had a pleasant lunch. Freddy's is pretty good, and is the first "Good" burger place we found out here. Great fries, very good frozen custard, shakes, and malts, and great burgers. Probably a Good Thing it's all the way on the other side of town, or my diet could be in jeopardy!

More about Murphy later. I'm bushed......

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apollo 11

I'd write something about it, but I'm limited to an old man's remembrances of a time long past in a country that sadly doesn't exist any longer.

And others write far better than I.....

Friday, July 19, 2019

My *NEW CAR* Is Ready!



Ladies and gentlemen, GM proudly presents the all new, mid-engined, 2020 "C8" Corvette!

Read all about it here at the Hagerty website.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Meanwhile, Out In The Garage.....

I pulled the wiper arms, windshield trim, windshield header panel, and ventilation grilles, in preparation to clean and refurbish all these bits:



The wiper arms are pretty crusty, and will take some work with the Dremel to get clean, and the windshield trim is a disaster, compared to when it was new. The trim originally had a matte black coating, but that came off in huge chunks the first time I scrubbed the car. I was going to get it powder coated, but I've decided to do it Old Skool, and scuff the trim up with ScotchBrite, and spray it with some matte black epoxy paint I have.

I'll do the same to the header panel and wiper arms after I clean them.



So now all the stuff seen here at the base of the windshield:




Is gone:



I scrubbed out the channel behind the trim as well as I could, looking carefully for any rust popping up:



Unfortunately I found some, on the driver's side "A Pillar" windshield post:



I'm really hoping this is just surface rust caused by the trim rubbing through the paint, but won't know for sure until the windshield is pulled. Safelite has quoted me $335 to come out and replace the glass with a new one, but I'll have to talk to them to see how much extra they'll charge to pull the glass on one day, and install the new glass at a later date after I've cleaned up the rust. Since it's a second truck roll, I'm sure they'll be a charge.

The windshield in the car has 35 years worth of pits, chips, nicks, and scratches in it, and tint has developed that lovely "Old Toyota Yellow Brown Patina" in place of the OEM blue tint. Time for a new one.....

Monday, July 15, 2019

Good News for Little Miss Pebbles

Took her back to the Vet today to see how the meds are working, and this time the Surgeon checked her out. He said she's doing very well, and he thinks that maybe (fingers crossed) she just sprained or twisted her leg causing the injury, rather than actually tearing the ACL in her right hind leg.

And in spite of not getting her daily walks on the nature trails, she's lost about 8 ounces due to our diligently watching her food and limiting her treats.

So we'll continue with the Gabapentin for pain until it's gone, and he'll switch from Rimadyl to a much less expensive generic when what we got from him is used up.

She's definitely feeling better, and wanted to play last night, so we played a bit in the den with a squeaky toy, but I didn't toss it around the room like I usually do because I didn't want her zooming around and getting all worked up.

The lightning detector project is coming along now that my neighbor loaned me a couple of Arduino project books. One of the projects uses the same AS3935 sensor, and has the code I needed to read out and display ALL the registers in the chip instead of just grabbing the "Lightning Detected" and "Estimated Distance" registers. It also uses a different display that isn't limited to 2 lines of 16 characters, and it also includes the calibration routine to properly set up the sensor. It's a far more sophisticated project than the little "kit" I bought, and was pretty much what I was looking for.

The enclosure and Proto-Shields for the Arduino arrived today, along with a "BrutusBot" tracked vehicle semi autonomous "robot" that The Little Guy should get a kick out of as it scoots along avoiding obstacles.

Waiting for some penetrating oil to soak into the splines on the Supra's wiper arms. I may have to go buy a small puller to get them off after being rather firmly attached for the last 34 years!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Collings Foundation "Wings Of Freedom Tour" Is In Town

And I found out about it by hearing and seeing the P-51 and B-24 fly over today on their way to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport down by Loveland.



BUT...we have a birthday party on Saturday, and I'm sure Sunday will be a zoo there.

Maybe next year!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Ms. Swan Got A Scrub!

And man, was she dirty. I used the pressure washer with just water to wet her down first, then switched in the tank of Turtle Wax Max soap, and soaped her up good.

Yeah, I know.....sounds kinky!

So after scrubbing her with a big wash mitt, and a good rinse, she almost shines again!




However, before those festivities began, I pressure washed the engine bay. I'd applied a full can of Gunk to all the problem areas the night before, and another can right before I backed her out. And since the pressure washer has two tanks, I had the #2 tank for of some degreaser/cleaner, and switched to that before I blew all the Gunk, Grime, and Grunge off the engine.




It still needs a bunch of hand detailing in there, but at least all the crud I missed the first time is gone, which will make it much easier to do the planned mechanical work.

Next project is to remove each fuse, clean the contacts with DeoxIT!, and put the fuses back with a dab of silicone dielectric grease, something I've been doing to every connector pair I've had apart. Should probably do it to all the connectors, but these are high-quality, O-Ringed connectors, and every pair I've separated has been very clean inside. Anyway, this is brought on by the fact that when I started her yesterday, the voltmeter indicated 12.8 Volts, rather than the 14.1 Volts considered 'normal'. I figured great, the alternator went AWOL over the winter, but today it was indicating 13.8 Volts, and would go to 14.1 with some revs, so that kinda points to a connection problem that "cured" itself with a bit of vibration and/or thermal cycling. I was planning on replacing the alternator with an upgraded one from a 1992 Camry V6 that has 100 Amps output compared to the 60 Amps of the OEM unit. They're about $50 more than the OEM alternator, and are 100% compatible with the car. These cars all have a trait of weak alternators that dim the headlights at idle, and this cures the problem, and provides plenty of extra current for the electric fan(s) I want to install so I can delete the engine-driven fan and free up a few HP.

And cleaning up the garage yesterday really helped with locating stuff that was misplaced. I found several boxes of things I was going bonkers trying to find, and they turned up buried under some stuff on the totally wrong shelf from where they should have been. When I shelved all the "Garage Items", I wasn't too careful where I put stuff, and it bit me.

Now to get started on that FUGLY front bumper. Sorry, Ms. Swan, but you really need a "Nose Job"!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Garage Cleanup Time!

So this afternoon I cleaned a winter's worth of stuff from around my poor old Supra, and backed her outside.




Then I took stock of what had to be done with the shelves, and set to it.

Before:







After:



Doesn't look like four hours worth of work was accomplished, but since half of the stuff on the shelves was just tossed up there to get it off the floor when I built the shelves, there was a lot of sorting going on as I emptied the shelves.

All the antenna/radio stuff is now on specific shelves, all the car parts have been sorted and shelved according to what they are, several boxes of stuff that should have been in the basement are now down there, numerous boxes were consolidated with the empties flattened and tossed, and (once again!) I found a bunch of stuff that was MIA.


Tomorrow I'm going to Gunk the engine again, and give her a bath and pressure wash of the engine bay.

For now, she's back in the barn sleeping.....


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Coaxial Cable Entrance Box est Finee!

Yeah, I know....."The Older I Get, The Better I Was" and all that. Time was, though, when I could have terminated these four connectors, and had my tools all put away in under two hours.

Today? Not so much. Took me a total of four hours, start to finish, to get the connectors installed and the tools put away.

Of course that includes going out with the dog twice, going to the basement and/or garage numerous times to retrieve tools I thought I had in my "Connector Installation Field Kit" (they're back in the tub where they belong now), finding the new tips and installing one in my 40 Watt Weller iron, moving the wife's car into the garage after hearing the weather/hail report (BTW...the weather reporting station at the Fort Collins/Loveland airport went down Tuesday afternoon and is still down!), and briefly stopping for a hot dog and some of that great macaroni salad my wife made.

ANYWAY......the connectors are installed:


And sweeping them from 3~600MHz with a dummy load on the other side showed.....a nice, flat, 1:1 VSWR over the range, just as it should.

I put the cover on it, and I'll call it completed until I decide to modify it!



Coming up next is where I get off my duff and plant the posts. I'll get a hold of my ham neighbor and see when he has some time to help me this week.

I'll sure be glad when this project is wrapped up and I can get back on the Supra!

Think I'll back her out tomorrow and hose her off..........

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

Lawnmowers are running, people are gathering, and soon mass quantities of hot dogs and hamburgers will be consumed.

BBQ?



CHECK!


Fuel State?



READY!


Colors?



Proudly Displayed, SIR!

And it's a gorgeous day today in Northern Colorado. Partly cloudy, 82*, 44% relative humidity, light variable winds.

And as I used to hear years ago in my headset, "Altimeter Two Niner Seven Zero".

But we have a Tornado Watch until 2200, and a possibility of severe thunderstorms with hail, so I cleared the garage out so my wife can get her car inside tonight.

Y'all have a Safe And Sane Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Another "45 Minute" Job Takes How Long?

Almost three hours, and it was a comedy of errors.....

When I mounted the box and drilled the holes through the wall the other day, I used a 'minimum size' hole. And seeing as the holes on the two boxes aren't perfectly aligned, their effective size is lessened. The first time I tried to push the bales through the wall was no joy. The cables never made it to the other hole, and wound up coiled inside the wall.

I grabbed my drill and a 1/2" paddle bit, and bored out the holes. Then I used a length of #10 wire from my scrap box as a fish tape, pushed it through the wall, taped the coax to it on the outside, and pulled them both through the wall. Between going back and forth to the garage to get stuff, and shepherding the still lame dog in and out (she's much better with meds), this simple little job took waaay longet than it should have.

The outside box:



Connectors were given a squirt of silicone dielectric grease, and torqued down snugly. A drop of green "penetrating" LocTite was applied to keep them snug through the temperature fluctuations they'll see. I'm going to cut up some styrofoam to fill the box with for insulation, one of the main reasons I wanted to keep the through holes as small as possible. Probably should have drilled one big hole dead center in the box, but oh, well....20-20 hindsight. The loops in the cable are for stress relief.

And on the inside:



Yeah, three hours futzing around to get this far, and I still have to install the connectors on the cables.

At least they're adequately long. I would have been pretty upset if they were an inch too short.....

Monday, July 1, 2019

Lots 'O Lightning!

The little lightning detector has been going off constantly for the last couple of hours, indicating lightning discharges anywhere from 5km to 17km away.

And they're getting hammered up in Bellvue and Laporte, where the kids live.

Down here? Not so much, so I just spent a couple of hours watering the lawn and getting sprinkled on while doing it! Last year I tried to rely on Mother Nature, and she doesn't always cooperate when it comes to rain. We're in a "Precipitation Shadow" here, and while it can be coming down in buckets 8~10 miles away, we might get sprinkles. So rather than watch the grass croak again this summer, I'm watering it every 2~3 days, and only skipping those days where there's rain coming down.

And it's sprinkling again.....

Friday, June 28, 2019

Coaxial Cable Entrance Box Installation

Plans are still on to bore the holes either Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting.

It was 96* here today, and the NWS is forecasting 94* on Sunday....BUT.....There;s some weather forming up right now, the winds have picked up, the temperature is falling, and the barometer is 29.85 and rising. The lightning detector has been going off sporadically, indicating distances of 15~30kM, and I've seen lightning in the distance. So we'll see!

There's still plenty to do, and one of the tasks on the punch-list was getting the cable entrance finalized, and installed. It was originally going to have a single connection to the wire antenna, and have the Choke Balun/Line Isolator inside. and the control cable for the autocoupler.

It looked like this, before 'mission creep' set in:


WELL.....one the things I learned in getting the wire antenna up, and reading tons of books on antennas and transmission lines, is that the choke balun/line isolator MUST go at the antenna. It's entire purpose is to keep currents off the outside of the shield, and since those currents originate at the transmission line/antenna interface, that's where you put it. Now I've read this for years, but didn't understand the exact mechanism of how the currents got on the outside of the shield in the first place. Like a lot of Hams, I pretty much assumed the currents on the outside of the shield were induced on the shield by the radiating element's RF field.....WRONG! The currents get on the outside of the shield At The Feedpoint. It's a subtle thing, but the RF energy not only "sees" one side of the antenna as a conductor, but also "sees" the outside of the shield as another parallel path, and unless you choke the current at the feedpoint, the outside of the side becomes part of the antenna, and can cause a lot of mischief.

SO.....the Line Isolator has been removed from the outside-of-the-house enclosure, and has been relocated to the enclosure for the SGC autocoupler, as close to the input of the tuner as possible. The "permanent" 20 Meter vertical was also being put through it's paces and measurements during this learning period, and it has a Home Brew choke balun that looks like this:


Quite simple, almost 'free', and very effective. Just a coil of coax, nicely wound (NOT "Scramble Wound"), and secured to the antenna as close as practically possible to the feedpoint.

So the vertical is proved in, and will get mounted to it's new 4x4 post in the next week or so. It'll just get removed from the tripod, and attached to the post as-is. It works. It ain't broke. I don't need to "fix it", and the only way to "improve" it would be to raise it higher and add another radial or two.

The new wire antenna has been fabricated, the enclosure and mounting structure for the SGC autocoupler has been fabricated, and it'll be ready-to-install as soon as the quickrete sets on the post.

So the whole question of the cable entrance box gets easier, as I now have the outside box pretty empty, except for connectors, and inside box was always going to be pretty empty, except for the connectors.

Well, I got off-the-dime last week, and finished making some more back-up plates to support the connectors in the box.

Here's a pair of Type UHF bulkhead connectors installed using the home brew aluminum plates:


Lather, rinse, and repeat until both boxes have four of these connectors in them. Oooops.....didn't take any pix of them before I mounted them outside and inside 'cuz I was on a roll!

Outside box, solidly mounted:


From a bit further back:



And on the inside:



The connectors are on the bottom of the enclosures for weather proofing and appearance reasons, and wonder of wonders.......I was within 1/8" of getting things to line up perfectly.

So this item is pretty much crossed off. I still have to make four RG-8X 'jumper cables' to pass through the wall and a few dozen other things to do, and the poor Supra still has the winter dust on her.

Gotta get back on that car! Winter caught me off guard last year, and now I have to get that Supra Swing back.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Got the Auger Started for the First Time

After returning from the DVM yesterday, I went out and put gas in the Jeep, and filled my little two gallon gas can. I already had 11 ounces of oil and a half-ounce of StaBil "Marine 360" in the can, so it gave me two gallons of treated, 25:1 two-stroke 'premix'. My neighbor's snow blower is a two-stroke, and he just buys the little cans of premix. I looked at those, and all the ones I could find were 40:1 or 50:1, which is way too light on the oil for this engine. They make a HUGE deal about 25:1, stabilizer-treated fuel in the operating manual for this thing, so I got another gas can, a quart of Lucas semi-synthetic two-stoke oil, and a small bottle of StaBil, and dedicated them to the auger engine.

I put about half a tank of fuel in it, and pulled it over a few times to get fuel into the carb and priming bulb, then set the choke to "Start", turned on the ignition, and gave it the pumps on the bulb. I pulled it over a few times, and nothing. Checked everything again, and pulled it over some more. Still nothing. I fiddled with the throttle and choke, pulling it over with the choke set to "Run", and still nothing.

Well, between giving it a few more shots of gas with the primer bulb and fiddling with the choke, I flooded it. I could smell raw gas, so rather than get a can of Ether and risking a muffler explosion, I just put everything back. Tonight I vowed to "Get It Running or Take It Back", so I started by pulling the spark plug out and looking at it. It wasn't soaked, but it definitely looked wet, so I blew it off with some brake cleaner and checked the gap, which was OK. Making sure the ignition and choke were OFF, I pulled it over easy to clear the cylinder, and see how it felt. As expected, it pulled over very easy with plug out, and while I didn't see anything like liquid come blowing out of the plug hole when I cranked it (yep, I've seen that), I'm pretty sure I flooded it last night. So, I put the plug back in with a dab of anti-seize on the threads (NEVER put a steel spark plug into an aluminum head dry! Just don't do it!), checked everything again, flipped the switch ON, but left the choke OFF (hey, it's 80* here today!), and gave it a pull. It popped a bit, so I gave it another pull, and it came to life with a nice, smooth idle. I ran it for about 20 minutes at various throttle settings to break it in a bit, and then grabbed a handful of throttle.

This little thing SINGS! I haven't owned a two-stroke since my last Yamaha RD-400, and I'd forgotten how responsive they are.

So it runs OK, hardly vibrates at all, isn't really too loud (I'll still wear ear muffs, though), and doesn't appear to smoke very much, even at 25:1 oil mix.

I predict hole boring and post setting for this weekend!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Back From The DVM.....

And it looks like Pebbles has a partial tear in her right rear Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), similar to what many athletes suffer during their careers.

We have no idea when or how she injured herself, but a good SWAG is she was chasing something in the backyard, and hit one of the divots or bare spots at full chat twisting her right rear leg enough to injure it.

So, since it appears to be a partial tear, the DVM has recommended we keep her on the gabapentin for pain, and prescribed her carprofen (an NSAID) to reduce the inflammation.

We take her back in two weeks for a follow-up to see how the treatment is working, but for now, he said to keep her on "Rest and Relaxation", and to clear the yard of rabbits and squirrels before we take her out, lest she pop into Attack Mode, and attempts Warp 9 trying to catch a critter.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Uh-Oh.....Dog Has to Go See the Vet.....

Little Miss Pebbles has been having some problems with her left hind leg. She started limping a bit last week, so we checked her out as best we could, and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. So, we started giving here an 81mg Aspirin three times a day, and she responded well.

Then Thursday night she started limping really bad, and by Friday morning she couldn't put any weight on that leg. We called the Vet and they said to bring her in Monday afternoon, and to STOP giving her Aspirin because it can cause stomach ulcers, even if you give the dog a 'coated' Aspirin. So we went over to the Vets and they gave her some Gabapentin instead. By Monday all the Aspirin should be out of her system, and they'll prescribe something else after they examine her.

The Kid's dog Diamond had a similar problem last year, and The Kid's Vet told them it was a ligament or tendon injury, and short of a $4k operation, all they could do was give her some meds and let it heal. Diamond is 95% OK now, but still has slight limp.

We'll have to wait to see what the Vet says about Pebbles.

Friday, June 21, 2019

First Day of Summer, Winter Storm Warning, and Field Day 2019

Expecting rain through Sunday, so no post hole diggin' this weekend!

And as we welcome Summer to the year, the NWS in Denver has issued a Winter Storm Warning, with up to 10" of new snow above 9000', along with a Tornado Warning for Elbert County, which is East of Colorado Springs. Must be GloBULL Warming!

And this weekend is the ARRL Field Day, and as last year, I'm sitting this one out. Strangely enough, I didn't get any announcements from the local club concerning the when/where of the event this year, but from their website, it's in the same location as last year. Seeing as how the weather is going to be miserable for Ham Radio Field Ops, I'm not planning on making the 45 minute drive out to observe.....

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Diggn' Holes, and Settin' Poles!

WELL.....getting ready to do so. It's been raining here the last few days, so hopefully the ground is soft.

We have the Technology.....


And besides the QuikCrete mix we have the 4x4 posts, and the ground rods. Other grounding and bonding hardware, and some 4 gauge solid copper wire, are out of the picture.....



So as soon as the weather cooperates, I'll be digging a couple of holes for the permanent antennas.

But seeing as we went shooting two weeks ago, and the guns hadn't been cleaned, we took some time today to attend to that chore. I didn't snap any pix when we were doing the wife's revolver, as I was in Instructor Mode, but I took a couple of my incredibly filthy Kimber on the bench.....



All the supplies were on-hand, and it only took me about an hour to completely scrub the slide, barrel, and all the other fiddly bits.

All nice and clean, and ready for reassembly.



So how did we do at the family range? meh.....not very well. The small holes are from the wife's 357 and my 45 at 25 yards. We're both terribly out of practice, and used to shooting at more typical "Home Defense Distances", on the order of 10 yards.



The BIG holes are from 100 yards with my slug gun. Not too bad for a standing unsupported position with some wind blowing. This gun will do ~1" groups shooting from a rest at 100 yards, and if I would have properly used the sling on the gun, I would have done much better. BUT...not having shot the gun in over two years, I'd say I could still put meat on the table if required.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Arduino Based Lightning Detector

Moving to Colorado from Southern California resulted in huge changes to the "Radio Environment" I'm used to tinkering in. When we first came here, I talked to some local Hams about the effects of snow on antennas, and they all kind of chuckled and said "The wind will kill your antennas much faster than a snow/ice storm", which was change #1. We can get days of 40+ MPH winds with gusts to over 60MPH, so I adapted to the new wind loads, and beefed up all my mounting structures. We also get much more rain than in SoCal (DUH!), but that's easy to manage with proper weather proofing procedures, so no big change there.

And then we have the lightning, which didn't occur very often in SoCal, but can be a daily event here at certain times of the year. The NWS has charts of thunderstorm activity, and we historically get "60 Days" per year. We don't have as much lightning as SiliconGraybeard has where he lives, but we have enough that I think it's prudent to take some precautions.

Lightning protection is a complex subject, and I've worked at places that had extensive Perimeter Ground and Chemical ("Wet") Ground Systems installed, but that gets really expensive, and would involve tearing up the yard to install such a system. For a home-based Amateur Radio Station, it's nice, but not required.

I've gathered up most of the bits and pieces to provide a minimal (to me) amount of lightning protection, and that part of the station will be installed when I set the 4x4 posts for the permanent antennas. Each antenna will have an 8' ground rod at it's base, with a PolyPhaser Lightning Surge Protector mounted on the rod. The coax will come from the feedpoint, through the PolyPhaser, and on to the entrance panel mounted on the house wall. This should provide some protection from nearby strikes and induced surges, and the antennas will be disconnected and grounded when thunderstorm activity is in the area.

Like this, but with only a single Surge Protector per ground rod:


This probably wouldn't last more than a few tens of microseconds if it took a direct hit, but I have several 60'~70' trees in the immediate vicinity, and according to the "Cone of Protection" method, they should get hit first, and these will be for protection from induced surges.......I just hope they never "get used".

So even though I have some precautions taken, it would be nice to know if/when lightning is in the area. We had high-end lightning detection equipment at Boeing, so I knew equipment was available, but at what cost? Investigating further, I found there were several lightning detection methods in use, with the most common one being a glorified "Crystal Set" very broadly tuned in the 300kHz~500kHz range. There's a burst of wide-band radio energy during a lightning event, and the little "crystal radio" detects it, and then blinks a light or sounds a buzzer. Well, it turns out that there's now a complete lightning detection system on a chip, made by ams AG of Austria. It includes the circuitry for a 500kHz radio receiver, and some fancy Digital Signal Processing to discriminate real lightning from man-made noise. Pretty spiffy, and SwitchDocLabs sells a "kit" (here we go again.....) with a lightning sensor module, a display, a preprogrammed Arduino module, a piezo tweeter, a WiFi module, an "I2C-to-USB" module to commincate with and program the Arduino, and all the cables you need to plug it together.

Here it is up and running on the radio desk:


The three boards in front of the Arduino module are the lightning sensor, the tweeter, and the display.

This is the complete lightning sensor. The chip is about in the middle of the board, and the itty-bitty ferrite bar antenna is at the board edge, with a white sticker on it.



This is the Arduino board with the interface module plugged in.


Most of the time it just sits here displaying "Waiting For Lightning". When it detects a strike, it changes to "LIGHTNING!!", the backlight turns red, and a range estimate in kilometers is displayed.

So far, every time I heard thunder, the board had alerted a few seconds earlier, and when it's alerted and I didn't hear anything, the NWS radar indicated rain activity.

Looks good so far, but I want to read the datasheet 'between the lines', and see what other information I can get from the sensor other than "Event Detected" and "Estimated Range = xx km". At the very least, I need to be able to record and timestamp whatever it triggers on so I can merge that data with the data from the weather station.

Time to crack open the "Arduino for Dummies" book!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Moving Day for The Kids

So we have The Little Guy for most of the weekend. Our DIL's father and mother bought another property in Laporte, a duplex, and now that Dear Old Dad has finished the place (with ample help from The Kids), it's Moving Day!

The kids were living at what I call "The Country House" up in Bellvue, where we first stayed. Their place was a converted double-wide that had another structure attached to it that had the kitchen, dining room, laundry room, and another bathroom. In the back was the big shop with the little 'bachelor apartment' where we stayed the first month after our CALEXIT. Would have been a killer place for a single guy to live in! Anyway.....the house the kids were in only had one bedroom, and now that The Little Guy is well into the toddler stage, everybody decided he needed his own room, hence the Great House Hunt. They're not quite ready to buy their own place just yet; they'll be in the market seriously in a year or so. So when this place popped up for sale at a very good price, her parents jumped on it. Her dad had his crew tear the insides out down to the studs, and they completely replumbed, rewired, redrywalled, repainted, recarpeted, etc, etc, etc the whole place. The roof is only two years old, so they didn't replace it, but otherwise the entire duplex has been gutted and rebuilt.

And The Fence Guy came in a rebuilt the falling down fence around the property so the dogs can run, and The Little Guy can be kept away from the creek that runs through the back of the property. Well, kept away from it until he can climb the fence, and then EXPLORE!

Expecting some rain this afternoon, per the NWS, but I'll believe it when I see it. After last year's fiasco with the lawn, we're sticking to our watering schedule, rather than relying on Mother Nature to do the watering for us.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Oooops.....No Auger, So Garage Shopped

They sold out, and the next shipment is due in Sunday afternoon.

But I got two 4x4x8 posts and three 8' ground rods inside the Jeep, along with the ground rod driver bit, two bags of dense shade/bright sun grass seed, six bags of soil, 1 cuft each, 3 bags of QuickCrete, and some other misc stuff, without punching out my new stereo or ripping up the dash.

I could have fit the auger in there, but no joy at Harbor Freight. I picked up several 4" magnetic parts dishes (never have enough of them!), a new "Bauer" True RMS Digital Multimeter for the garage, another magnifying lamp to clamp on this radio desk so when the wife or The Little Guy wander up with something to "fix" I can see what I'm doing, a combination tire inflator/gauge with a nice hose whip on it to replace my $6 HF hose whip that disintegrated after 10 years, some air fittings, and some of the HF "Thunderbolt" AA and AAA batteries.

And I shopped air compressors and floor jacks while I was there. These are two items I "need" replacements for, as my little "air compressor" is barely good enough for filling tires and blowing (light) dust off things, and my aluminum "1.5 Ton" rated floor jack struggles to lift ONE front corner of the Jeep. These are the "1.5" ton aluminum "Racing Jacks" you see for $60 at HF, and that's about what they're worth. It picks up the Supra and the wife's Hyundai Elantra just fine, but starts to grunt lifting the rear end of the Jeep, and really groans picking up ONE front corner. The wife agrees 100% about the jack, seeing as it's a Safety Item, so I know which one I'm buying "As Needed". It's a 3 ton, low-profile, long-reach model, and even has a foot pedal to pump it up, something I haven't seen on a big floor jack in like forever.

Makes it easy on us Olde Fartes....

Air compressors are another matter. The little "hot dog" (one small tank) oil free compressor I have is better suited for an air brush than garage duty, but I'm severely spaced constrained. If I clean off the bottom shelf of the workbench, I *think* I can fit one of these down there:

Otherwise I'll have to get something like this:


Since I won't be running air tools, I can squeak by with one of these small jobs. The highest air demand will be from the small touch-up spray gun I have, and these two compressors are rated to deliver more air than the gun requires. And either one will be far better for tires and blow-gun stuff than the itty-bitty compressor I have now.

So no hole digging this weekend, and I'll use the time to get Ms. Swan out of the garage so I can sweep it out and do some shelf reorganization that'll require the ladder on that side of the garage.