Summer Fun

A year ago this past February, I was ending one job and weeks later would start at Credit Karma. I took that time to landscape, and I rebuilt that rock wall and put down a pebble patio. Then I planted a bunch of plants.

A year later and it’s a lush garden, and now we are adding garden “chotskis”. This little bike has a solar panel and it’s headlamp turns on at night.

This is the fun part of summer, and we have nice sun during the day and fog at night. No humidity and temperatures 50 degrees at night and 70 – 75 during the day. It will get hotter – in the 90’s but with a cool 60’s at night – during July, August and September. Here’s the crazy thing – it will be 70 degree’s max in San Francisco where I work – but be in the 90’s when I get home at Summers hottest. For now, we are in heaven, and May and June is a lot like the nicest of Fall weather that I have experienced here and on the East Coast growing up.

Such is life in northern California and in the fog belt. I wouldn’t want to live where it’s blistering hot or humid, or both for all the money in the world. (I paid my dues growing up in New Jersey – hi hi)…

Arduino for Ham Radio – by Glen Popiel, KW5GP (ARRL)

Projects (from ARRL website):

  • Random Code Practice Generator
  • CW Beacon and Foxhunt Keyer
  • Fan Speed Controller
  • Digital Compass
  • Weather Station
  • RF Probe with LED Bar Graph
  • Solar Battery Charge Monitor
  • On-Air Indicator
  • Talking SWR Meter
  • Talking GPS/UTC Time/Grid Square Indicator
  • Iambic Keyer
  • Waveform Generator
  • PS/2 CW Keyboard
  • Field Day Satellite Tracker
  • Azimuth/Elevation Rotator Controller
  • CW Decoder
  • Lightning Detector
  • CDE/Hy-Gain Rotator Controllers

Projects (from ARRL website)

  • Auto On/Off Mobile Power Control
  • Station Power Monitor
  • AC Current Monitor
  • Load Tester
  • Voice Memory Keyer
  • Wireless Remote Coax Switch
  • Wireless Remote Telemetry
  • GPS-Based Ethernet Network Time Protocol Server
  • Yaesu FT-series Transceiver Rotator Controller Interface
  • Yaesu G-450A/G-800SA Rotator Controller Rebuild
  • Yaesu Rotator Controller Modification
  • 1 to 30 MHz DDS VFO
  • Antenna SWR Analyzer
  • 40 Meter QRP CW Transceiver
  • 40 Meter QRP JT65 Transceiver

These are two superb books. The projects are very real and very useful for Hams, and even if you don’t find any of the projects exactly to your needs, the approach Glen takes to describe the hardware and then the “sketches” (code) is just excellent. You will learn more from these books than many other Arduino and Maker books because the projects are oriented toward very useful and pragmatic projects. You will learn how to code and about electronics all at once – which is pretty amazing, actually.

The other thing about Maker projects is to never take any of them too literally. What I mean by this is that with just a little creativity – you can take one idea and with slight modifcation – adapt it to another project. If you think in “patterns” you can really go far. For example, you could take a circuit that reads a voltage and then displays it on an OLED (i.e. an Arduino based volt ohm meter) – and use that idea to do what I did – read a micro voltage off a 1970’s ARRL Handbook Field Strength meter and with the Arduino’s A to D converter – convert that analog signal to a digital reading that you then can display.

Glens writing style and presentation is perfect and engaging. The other fellow who has written great Arduino and related Maker books is Simon Monk – but his projects are more general in nature – I guess you could say pure Electronics science vs. the ARRL books – which are specific and applied Electronics for the Radio Amateur. But don’t forget – you can take general electronic circuits and adapt them to your ham radio needs. In other words, think out of the box!

I’m very excited to try the Code Practice oscillator and the 40M QRP rig.

VOACAP Online – Excellent New Features

The new VOACAP Online Interface includes coverage maps – and you should switch to using the new URL (below) as the old ones will be ramped down in July

Since I’ve recently learned React.js and built my first web app at work (an Enterprise Data Dictionary that spans 4 data sources – MySQL, Postgres, BigQuery and Google GCS), I know first hand how difficult it is to take lots of data and try to build an “information architecture” and then a UI that makes the very complex easy.

Peri, OH6BG, James, HZ1JW and Juho, OH8GLV have done just that. After several iterations of the UI, this most recent release offers a very easy and intuitive entry point – a very pleasing looking map and a row of button at the bottom of the screen.

The new URL is –

First – set your location and the DXpeditions location (I’m using Bouvet), then set your antennas, and finally, click on the many options to present data in a way that helps you make decisions – as a DXpedition Organizer – when the best time to go would be, and for the DXer at home – the best time and band to chase them.

My favorite is what seems like an improvement on the Dean Straw, N6BV chart. For years, I liked charts and graphs, but more recently, found that (for me) I can very quickly assimilate so much information in this format. BTW – I sure wish 3Y0I activates in October of this year!

This is another really cool visualization and might be more your cup of tea. In fact, you should spend time trying all of the buttons at the bottom and seeing what might help you the most. And actually, the real improvement – for me – is how you set a few things and then very quickly can contrast and compare out formats that suit you the most. And because its so easy and fast to do this – I do not feel compelled to walk through every one – you will have fun just diving in and trying it for yourself!

I am confident that at least one visualization will become your new favorite.

Ham Radio: A Multi-Faceted Hobby

DXers like to say “The reward is the journey“.

That phrase reminds me that it applies in many “threads” that apply to many facets in the hobby. Its a multi-dimensional hobby might be another way to look at it.

There are many journeys on many paths in Ham Radio

You might be interested in collecting Morse Code Keys and experiencing a bit of nostalgia, and at the same time – deciding on what latest and greatest SDR technology to invest in. These two “threads” or “paths” may or may not converge, and neither have to be related if you don’t want to. But maybe you found a WWII Spy Straight Key and you use your new SDR radio to chase SKCC using your Morse Code Key collection. Then what could be separate threads or paths converge.

You might build a 1970’s era Analog Field Strength Meter, and

Use an ESP8266 MCU to process the voltage supplied by the Field Strength Meter.

The combinations are only constrained by your imagination, and the number of different facets or aspects in Ham Radio keep the hobby relevant – no matter how many curmudgeons you meet who seem to wear virtual Tee Shirts that say “Ham Radio is Dying:.

Covet Thy BS7H QSL Card!

At the beginning of the last bottom of a sunspot cycle – 2007 – Scarborough Reef was activated. I had a simple 20M Moxon only up 35 feet or so – so not quite as good as my Urban Beam that I have now – but close. Thanks to Martti, OH2BH’s persistence and sticking with me – I finally got in the log. I’ll never forget the nasty “frying pan” noise due to conditions that seem very much like they are now, 11 years later.

DX Engineering had what is now a “Mystery DXpedition” advertised on their web site – apparently, someone was planning a DXpedition there.

There is one web site that offers a really lame attempt at sarcastic comedy regarding an April fools style Scarborough Reef DXpedition announcement, but the real news is that there is no news – not for Scarborough, not for Bouvet.

As every month goes by I get more and more convinced that at least a couple entities on the DXCC List will never be activated again. I still think Scarborough will end up as a Chinese base or at least an unattended monitoring post of some sort.


Art Worth Stealing?

Aunt Mabel and Uncle Thaddeus – 2008, R. Holoch 

At the bottom of the last Sunspot Cycle (23), I spent a lot of time under the house in what used to be a work area – making Assemblage art. It was a phase, and I was very productive. I had one show at a funky gallery in San Francisco (The Mission District). One piece was stolen – its called “Aunt Mabel and Uncle Thaddeus” and it was a Rusted Tin piece – the size of an Altoids tin, and the theme was one I always had good luck with – a sort of New Orleans “Voodoo” or Creole “Black Magic” theme.

The Hypnotist – 2008, R. Holoch

Voodoo – 2008, R. Holoch

I’ve given many of the pieces away – I only have so much room in my small-ish house and after a few fell and smashed to pieces, I decided they would be better enjoyed by anyone who asked for one. When I worked at Lithium in Emeryville (before they moved to SF) – I would bring a couple in and anyone who noticed them and ranted and raved about them walked away with one. You should have seen the happy faces!

The Zenith of my DXing Career: FY2016Q1-ish

I’ve been reminiscing my years from 2001 – 2012 (Honor Roll) and beyond:

and while there have been other years where I worked many more ATNO’s, none were so “concentrated” with Top 10 Most Wanted as what happened in the first Quarter (ish) of 2016. These Top 10 Most Wanted were activated:

  • Heard Island
  • South Sandwich and South Georgia
  • Palmyra
  • Juan deNova

Add in the Deletion of Kingman Reef, and for me, I landed Heard Island and South Sandwich (much more rare than South Georgia), and got a “gimme” with Kingman.

The real big story was Heard Island and my involvement – and winning DXpedition of the Year. It still gives me a big smile when I think about how much was going on at that time and how it all converged.

When I get to VK0EK and Heard Island on that blog – I will offer some back stories I’ve never blogged about. I’ll never forget riding my bike to work (I had a contract at GE in San Ramon for a big chunk of final planning for VK0EK and then worked at an SF startup Travana – now long gone). But some of the mornings where I got phone calls and had to stop my bike and why I got those calls will be interesting blogging me thinks.

Stay tuned – it will be a while before I get to Heard Island in the DXCC Sleuth . . .