Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Time Flies.....

.....Like An Arrow, and Fruit Flies Like A Banana.....

 

Finally got around to getting the far end of my 88' wire antenna back up.

I added another section of mast, and reconfigured the pulley at the top with a shorter loop of line, and got this end another 5' up in the air. And it came out plumb, too!

The "bend" in the mast in the picture below is caused by the tension on the support rope.

I upgraded the attaching hardware, and replaced all the support rope. The rope was "two piece" before, and made it difficult to lower the antenna all the way to the ground for maintenance, and looked unsightly.

This hardware is way better than what I used when I first installed this mount. The brackets are from DX Engineering, and the screws are 2" long "Spax" construction screws.


 Since any tree limbs with a potential of hitting this came crashing down already, I'm OK with installing it with something much more robust than I used before.

I'm still debating whether to add another section to the center support.

Thursday will be get the truck washed, and start back in on cutting up the small branches and things to finish clearing out the yard. Then I get to split and stack wood on my racks in the garage, AFTER I sort through all the stuff on the racks. All of the very top shelves haven't been touched since we moved in and I put the racks in. Wonder what kind of stuff I'll find buried up there that I've misplaced? I have a brand-new Cushcraft MA5B HF Yagi I'd like to sell, and probably a bunch of other stuff I just tossed up there to get it off the floor.

Had the oil changed in the truck on Monday. We picked it up the last week of July, so we've had it about 8 months. Even though it only has a bit under 2300 miles, the "Oil Life Monitor" indicated that the oil had 20% "life" remaining, so I took advantage of the first service being complimentary, and took it back to the dealer. The Service Rep didn't try to "upsell" me on anything, so the cost of the visit was zero.

And they have decent coffee in the customer lounge area.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Cheap and Easy ADS-B Antenna

 This is right from "The Books". It's a simple quarter-wave, ground-plane vertical antenna. Nothing magic, and all it costs is a connector, adapter if you need it, and some 12~14 ga wire.

I started with a female, chassis-mount, Type-N connector, and five pieces of 14ga wire, each 3" long.

After I cleaned the wire, I soldered one of the pieces into the center conductor of the connector for my "Driven Element".

Then I tinned one end of the other four pieces of wire, tinned the corners of the connector, and soldered my ground radials to the connector.

Using a handy reference, I then bent the grounds radials down to a 45* angle.

Now all I have to do is trim the lengths.


Using the "1/4 Wavelength" formula of L=234/F, we get L=234/1090, which equals .21467 feet, times 12, equals 2.576" for the vertical element, and the same for the radials.

All "Trimmed To Length"....

Since the receiver has an SMA type connector, I needed an adapter to screw the antenna onto the radio....


And here it is, installed on the radio. As a bonus, it's easier to hang on the blinds!


So how does it work? I'm still having some issues getting the data from the dump1090 program to properly display on the map, but from looking at the data output in a terminal window, it shows LOTS more traffic than the Diamond SRH77CA dual-band VHF/UHF "Receives Through 900MHz" antenna I was using.


 Now to figure out why in blazes the data won't display on the map......







Thursday, April 22, 2021

ADS-B Project Update.....

 Since I don't leave this computer running 24/7, and I'd like to record the data from the ADS-B decoding program, I decided to build a "Raspberry Pi" single-board computer to run this continuously, similar to what I do with my weather station.

These are very versatile, inexpensive, little computers running the "Raspberry Pi OS", which is a derivative of the Debian distribution of Linux.

Cute little thing:

It has 4 USB ports, an Ethernet port, built-in wireless, and an HDMI port.

And here it is, all pit together and cabled-up:


 This is a screenshot from this computer, looking at the network address I'm using for this new little stand-alone computer. The "For Development Use Only" splattered on the map is because I don't have the "key" to allow full use of Google Maps. It's very easy to get one, no fee, but I'm looking into using an Open Source map.

I moved the antenna from hanging on the wall to being in the center of the window behind the desk, but it didn't improve the signals much. Tonight's little side project is to build a 1090MHz ground-plane antenna. If that shows promise, I'll see about mounting it outside with a short length of low-loss coax, as I should be receiving many more aircraft than I am.




Sunday, April 18, 2021

ADS-B Project

 One of the things I've been kicking around doing is setting up another small PC to run a couple of programs on so I can "watch" what air traffic is around us. The easiest way to do this is to monitor the ADS-B transmissions from the aircraft using a receiver and a PC to decode the transmissions, and then display them on a map.

For the receiver I'm using one of the ubiquitous "RTL Dongle" receivers and a vertical whip antenna, unceremoniously hung on the wall using the pull cord for the blinds.

This particular receiver has been optimized to receive the 1090MHz transmissions, as it has a bandpass filter and preamplifier tuned for 1090MHz.

Yeah, it's a kluge right now, with an inappropriate antenna, and a mess of adapters, but it's working better than I thought it would. Plans are in the works to build a proper antenna for it, but for now it's grabbing and decoding signals like crazy.

The main program is one called "dump1090", and it spits out all the data to a terminal window.


dump1090 also includes a lightweight webserver, so as soon as I can sort out some port assignment issues, I should be able to have this on the Web. Then I'll set up one of the small "bookshelf" PC's I have to run the programs, and make the data available to others.

After I get this working, I'd like to also build something to receive the ACARS transmissions. And then build a 137MHz Lindenblad antenna to receiver the APT satellites again. I tossed the "Eggbeater" antenna I was using for that back in Long Beach, and I'm still kicking myself.....



 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Well That Was Pretty Easy.....

 The water heater guy showed up about 45 minutes after they were "scheduled" to appear, but at least he called saying they were running late. I'd been worried that they wouldn't be able to get the tank drained, but he had a Milwaukee Transfer Pump that sucked the tank dry in about 15 minutes.

Amazing little thing, and a lot easier than blowing air into the tank, which he said they've done before they bought these little pumps.

After draining the tank, he had it out and sitting in the garage in about twenty minutes. They hit a snag picking up the new one, as the supplier they normally use closed early today, so they went elsewhere and we wound up with a better heater than we expected. This one has a 10 year warranty, whereas most have a 7 or 8 year warranty.

And it has blue LED lights......!

 

And they swapped out the flex lines, and installed a new inlet shut-off valve.

They're using crimp-type connections these days, vs soldering/brazing them on. These are rated for "Direct Burial", so they're pretty damn water-tight!

SLW is extremely happy, as she was able to fill the tub completely with HOT water, and take a nice, long soak.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Spring In The Rockies A.K.A. Here It Comes Again!

 Snow, that is. 

We've had some flurries the last couple of days, but this is the first time any of it has stuck around.

So far, we've got several inches, some of which melted as it was coming down earlier.

I sure hope this doesn't knock the buds off the crab apple tree like it did last year. The tree was just starting to show signs of activity the last few weeks, and the branches were getting some color. Hope the snow doesn't shock it into dropping everything like it did last year.


And there's 3~5" more forecast for overnight, with lows in the mid 20's. Gonna be a mess for the Friday morning commute. Lots of scanner traffic on the Larimer and Weld County road crew frequencies, mostly where they were de-icing. Bunch of calls for tow trucks, too, with one pick-up truck being "Several Hundred Yards Off The Highway". That's gonna be an expensive tow!

And SLW has declared to water heater to need replacement as a preemptive strike. I put a new thermostat in it last year, as it kept tripping the "Overheat" switch, which shut it down. I was going to replace both heaters, too, BUT (always one of them) I couldn't drain the tank. The drain valve turned easily, but after an initial trickle of water, it stopped draining. This heater was installed on 12-23-08 per the installation tag, so it's pushing 14 years. It's probably full of sediment blocking the valve, as the water here is pretty hard. It makes plenty of hot water for my showers, but SLW enjoys a good, HOT soak, and has complained since we bought the house that she can't get a full tub of HOT water.

Her standard of "Hot Water" is "HOT Water". I mean, like OUCH hot to me. I don't see how she can stand it, but hey, the O-6 wants HOT water, and By God, she's gonna get it!

The heater is down in the back of a closet in the basement:


WAY in the back:

The big white pipe running vertically in the foreground is part of the "Radon Mitigation System" the house has installed in it. I was thinking of various ways to drain the thing, short of drilling a hole in it, and my inner Engineer told me to:

1) Shut off breaker and water supply

2) Open hot water faucet in downstairs (lowest point) bathroom to drain as much "hot" water out of the upper stories as possible

3) Disconnect the supply pipe and connect an air fitting to it

4) Connect an air compressor to the fitting and apply air pressure to blow the tank empty via the open hot water faucet in the next room.

And they probably know a way to do it that takes five minutes......!



Monday, April 12, 2021

I Don't Always Spend My Time Sawing Wood.....

 Today I split a bunch! Since we have rain coming for the next week or so, I split up a bunch of the ash, which was bone dry, and lugged it into the house. I also levered the two remaining logs out of the yard, and on to the gravel beds, and I'll saw those up after the weather settles down. The ash should make for some nice fireplace wood for the upcoming cold, damp days.

By the time I finished, TLG was up from his nap, so we built a fort in the den. He's in there somewhere. After the flash went off he started laughing that I'd "Never Breech This Fort!". I have no idea where he learned that. He's been coming up with some amazing stuff for a 4-year old.

And since he's big time into Legos now, we built him a Lego Table. Lego wants like $80 for theirs, and SLW thought that a bit much. She found a nice little table and chair at nextdoor.com for $10, and then ordered $10 worth of self-adhesive "tiles" with the correct pins on them to snap Legos to. They arrived shrink-wrapped too tight, and were more bowl-shaped than flat. Hmm.....What to do? I took two pieces of the ceramic floor tile the previous owners left, and my heat gun, and put the Lego tile on one piece, heated it up for 60 seconds to soften it, and placed another piece of heavy ceramic tile on it until it cooled. Presto! Flat Lego tiles.

So for twenty bucks, he now has a nice Lego table.

 And yes, he helped build it!



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Still Sawing Wood, But 90% Finished

 The last "10%" will be rearranging some shelves in the garage to hold this bounty, and then moving it from the backyard to the garage.

All the apple wood is cut and ready for storage:

And the "Pile In The Corner" is getting more manageable:

And of course, my Field Supervisor is quite happy with the progress:

Still have a lot to do, including dragging in some the ash cuttings, which are very dry, and should burn fine. But, I can see the end of the tunnel, and maybe next week in between the raindrops I can get my 90' wire antenna back up.




Thursday, April 8, 2021

Slowly We Turned, Step By Step....

 And POOF! the big pile of branches was gone!

And they raked up the yard very nicely, since we had saved them the trouble of dragging all that stuff out of the back.


The back yard is cleaning up, too, since they carted off the branches we were too pooped to move yesterday.

 

BUT we have some more crab apple wood to cut up.

And some more big pieces of the ash tree to cut up. This has to be one of the worst pix I've ever taken. Somehow I bumped the mode to flash, and it wonked out in the bright sunlight....

Today was a "day off" to recuperate, and I'll get back to cutting this up tomorrow. I think the major part of it's finished, but I'll rethink that after I get all this stuff cut up and then have to move it!

Tomorrow all the trees get a "Root Drench", and the ash tree will get inoculated against the Emerald Ash Borer. Tree Guy said he didn't see ANY signs of the malicious green tree-killing beetle, so he says we should be fine.

Gotta head out and get some of these to feed and deep water the trees:





Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Almost Finished Clearing The Broken Tree Out

 And where's my Tylenol??

So far, we've spent about 12 hours on this unexpected "project", but we made a significant dent in it since Thursday when I started using the saw.

We went from this:

To this in the back:


And from this:


To this in the front:


Besides the one bundle-of-sticks in the second photo, we have this for the tree guy to haul away. The pile is about 20' long, 4' high, and 3' deep.

And we managed to salvage a bunch of firewood. This is *maybe* 20% of what we'll have when I'm finished. Still have some small branches and twigs to bust off this pile:

But this pile is about ready to stack. The one log that's split is where the upper third of the trunk broke and peeled away from what's left of the tree.

And I still have this big dude to dismember:

It's about 10' long and 8~10" in diameter, so I'll either have to saw or split the logs once I cut them to a manageable length.

Time for a hot shower and some dinner.......





Monday, April 5, 2021

It's A Boy!

 Well, The Kids just stopped by to pick up The Little Guy from his Sunday night sleep over, and they'd just come from the Doctor's office. We had a wonderful non-traditional Easter dinner, with home made carnitas for tacos, rice, refried beans, and all the fixin's. Hope your Easter celebration was as blessed as ours.

First, I'm impressed at how for Medical Imaging has come. The MRI scans of my hip last year were astounding (to me...) in their detail, and the ultrasound exams are FAR more detailed than The Old Days. You can clearly see that yep, It's A BOY!

So TLG is going to be a big brother, and now The Kids have to decide what to name him. The DIL had girl names picked out, but God gives what he does, and this time it's a boy.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Chainsawin' Away!

 Grooooan......my back and shoulders are going to hate me tomorrow, I just know....

So we spent about two hours last night limbing and cutting the smaller stuff up, as there was a thicket of it before I could even get within a couple of feet of the big stuff.

This is what it looked like after the storm:





After two hours last night of cutting off the larger branches, and clearing the front of the gate, we had this, a huge pile of branches in front of the gate:

And a growing pile of small stuff to be cleared away later:

And much better access to the main limbs so I could clear them of branches before doing the "logging ops":

The picture above is from this afternoon when I started again. The wife was doing KP, and I was on Bathroom Duty in the morning, so I didn't get started until after 1600. I was eighty degrees here today, with not a cloud in the sky, so by 1600 the backyard is shaded, and I could do this without cooking.

After about 90 minutes of work, with about 45 minutes being actual run-time on the saw, the batteries were down to one bar, and I noticed the oil tank was getting low, so I packed it in for a while. So it looks like two sets of batteries is when it needs oil, and when I pulled the drive sprocket cover it had quite an accumulation of oil-soaked wood dust and chips in it, so I'll pull the cover and clean it out every battery swap.

But it's getting cleaned up, and the Tree Guy should be able to get his bucket truck in here next week.



Sorry for the crummy pix, but I used the built-in flash, which doesn't cut it for backyard pix! I had to punch these up a bit with the GIMP, and my GIMP-foo isn't what it used to be.

We're going to have some nice firewood out of this:

And the saw works great! This sucker is just about 9" thick, and I easily got through it in maybe 25~30 seconds, with no strain on the saw:



No where's my Tylenol......


 

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