Fantastic Electronics Book

This hands down the best electronics book that I have ever purchased. Yes, even better than the venerable ARRL Handbook. I say this because today’s electronics is more about integrating pre-assembled boards and processing power than soldering discreet components.

I still encourage all hams to purchase the ARRL Handbook, ARRL Antenna Book and (especially) the ARRL ON4UN Lowband DX-ing Book, because they cover the things that this book doesn’t – RF from DC to daylight.

In the 90’s I did try to get back into ham radio by building several QRP Kits with discreet components – the SST, K1, KX1 and a few others, but there is no way that I would do that again – now everything I build will have a processor at its core, and the Raspberry Pi Zero W is by far and away my favorite platform, and Python and C are my favorite languages.

So, for “modern” circuit building, and even the theory part of the book, this one is my new favorite.

The u.RAT as an Educational Platform

What started out as a personal project – to use the Elecraft KPOD to control the Palstar BT-1500A, has turned into an educational platform that I can use to write articles and give presentations at Makers Meetups and Ham Radio Club and convention gatherings. I’m giving my first urat presentation at EBARC in San Pablo in just two weeks –  August 11. EBARC has a bunch of Diablo DXers, so that is “my club”. I presented at their February meeting and it was “Low Band DX Antennas”.

Here are the “facets” or educational aspects of this project, and its far more than I really thought much about when I started this project:

  • The Raspberry Pi Zero W and its uses, plus “headless” operation
  • Controlling Stepper motors with the Raspberry Pi, the GPIO and WiringPi – that emulates the Arduino
  • Embedded devices and the Internet of Things (IOT)
  • Ham Shack Remote control – wired or wireless
  • Antenna tuners and when you need a balanced antenna tuner
  • Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi
  • C and Python as Maker languages
  • USB device drivers and HID vs. HIDRAW
  • OLED devices on the Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Github and Open Sourcing a project
  • How antenna tuners work – and the different circuits employed
  • Antenna impedance matching and solid state amplifiers and what they “need” . ..

Now – this just leaves sitting on my fat behind waiting, bitching, pissing and moaning about “bad conditions” or pining for the fjords for that next ATNO. Holy smokes – this is a hobby, not a frickin job – so lets have fun!

I am going to add in wiring for my antenna analyzer – the Rig Expert AA-30 and then I can really start also teaching antenna feed points and matching circuits. I can teach all variations of an LC network. That leads to vertical feed vs. tuned feeder feed, etc. Then we can get into radials vs. non radial based low band antennas. Its the gift that keeps on giving.

I have gotten WAY more of my money’s worth out of this project – than sitting around doing the DXCC list chasing thing. Wow – DXCC can be a very limiting experience!

Heard Island Drops to #27 Most Wanted!

One of the measures of a good DXpedition is how far you knock that entity down the DXCC Most Wanted List. Heard Island just dropped down to #27, I’m hoping it drops into the 30’s at least.

40 is The New 20!

Yesterday I had some very strange propagation on 20M – it seemed even Caribbean Contest stations were working the 4’s and some East Coast, but struggled to work us on the West Coast. It was so bad I turned the radio off and went about the day.

Later at night, I worked SO1WS very easily with the DXE DV-40-P vertical array, and just now, I worked ZS5IE on the long path and we were 5×8 both ways – very strong.

This at the end of the path opening, but what is encouraging is that serious distance and rare DX could be worked on 40 when 20M is as crummy as it has been. 20M sure feels like the bottom of the cycle, and I am pleased that our 40M LP is coming back – after at least 2 months of it being gone.  There is still more space weather noise, but I expect that that will calm down. The SSN is only 12, which is about where VK0EK was for more of the time than I would have liked. But still – 40M is not as effected by sunspot levels as 20M.

40M saved my bacon at the bottom of the last cycle, and while I am at the end of my DXCC chase, I still love this ZS long path – even just listening to others work the path.

Standby: Wiring …..

I’m almost done wiring up the u.RAT Demo Board. In fact, it’s all wired, but I need to do one last wire tie pass, and I’ll show it off tomorrow.

The little clear poly Carbonite case looks great, and it will be fun to present and then let people play with it hands on.

Welcome August!

August is the start of my favorite time of the year, Autumn. The daylight changes dramatically during August, the first day looks like summer, the last like Autumn. It’s like the childhood anticipation to Christmas. In July, we lost 1/2 hour of sunlight, in August, we will lose 1 hour, so the change is fairly dramatic.

Propagation changes for sure, and it’s a good time of anticipation for low banders. Harvest season brings the best fruits, veggies, grapes and hops in September and beyond, some starting at the end of August.

I’ve used June and July for project development, most have resulted in presentations, and for more than 10 years usually presented at Pacificon in October.

We have the solar eclipse in August and every day and week is a march toward some interesting equinox propagation.

Bring it!

The Social Media Dustbin

I’m doing what I can to “take out the trash” as far as social media is concerned. Facebook and now Twitter are out of my life. I will not participate in something our Asshole in Chief abuses as he lets our government go to hell in a hand basket. I deep sixed eHam years ago. I also sold my car to protest with my wallet. Small gestures, but it feels good to do something instead of just bitch about things whilst on social media. Its a call to action, and the old saying “Be the change you want to see” is so relevant in this day and age. It is cathartic for sure.

Enter Github, Slack and Meetup – three incredibly useful social media channels where people cooperate and collaborate. Not only did they motivate me to dive head first into the Maker world, they also have me going out and meeting people in person – something far better than sitting behind Facebook and Twitter fuming and bitching.

So, I’m going to keep trading negativity for positive replacements, and do it mindfully and actively.